SANDY, Utah -- On Saturday night here at Rio Tinto Stadium, there was a collective muttering of "Oh, yeah, that’s what Real Salt Lake look like when they have their first-choice midfield."
It took half an hour to get all the parts moving as they were supposed to, but once everything was synced up, RSL showed why they were the trendy pick to win the league entering the season. They dominated Seattle in a comprehensive 3-0 win, taking 55 percent of the possession and completing passes and an 80 percent clip.
And it was capped off by a vintage performance from Javier Morales – two assists and hard work on both sides of the ball – the midfield playmaker who’s still working his way back to full fitness.
“I think it’s taken me a long time to come back like normal, but I think tonight that I felt very, very good,” Morales said of his 79 minutes. “I’m very happy about that, but more for the team. We played a very good game, and we won – so that is the most important thing.”
While the team will be happy with the three points, the fans were thrilled with two spectacular RSL goals.
The first – the game’s opener – came in the 41st minute. The Claret and Cobalt took a throw-in and strung together 14 straight passes, a sequence that was finished off when striker Álvaro Saborío tapped Chris Wingert’s cross into the net.
The key play, though, came from Morales. Operating in the center-left channel, he got the Seattle defense backpedaling and, once they committed, found Wingert in space on the overlap. Morales hit the fullback in stride, splitting Seattle defenders James Riley and Jeff Parke.
“What Javi does is take hard plays and make them look very, very easy,” Wingert explained. “That’s not an easy pass he made, but that guy’s got the best vision around. Once I got the ball, I knew that if I hit it hard to the back post, either it was going to go in, or they were going to knock it in, or someone would be there to put it in.”
It was Saborío who got the final touch, his first of two goals on the night. The first was not without controversy as it appeared he was offside when Wingert played his cross. But replays showed that the referee was right to allow the goal.
Saborío's second contained not an ounce of controversy. In fact, it should be immediately added on his lifetime highlight reel.
Again it was Morales who made the play, outwrestling Lamar Neagle deep on the right flank and then hitting a cross low and hard across the six-yard box. Saborio cut across Parke and back-heeled it past a stunned Kasey Keller for the 2-0 lead.
When asked if that kind of finish came down to pure instinct, Saborio smiled and shrugged.
“I just tried to touch the ball and put it in,” Saborío explained. “When you have guys like Javi and Kyle [Beckerman], it’s nice. All you have to do is make the run and they’ll make the pass.”