SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy described things best about his teammate Javier Morales after the playmaker's goal and assist performance in RSL's 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I think Javier knows he's back. I know he's back," said Grabavoy. "I'm out there playing with him, and he is a difference maker without question. Me and Kyle [Beckerman] have always said, 'When the midfield is playing well and doing all the right things, and Javier is Javier, we are a really tough team to beat.'"
Morales logged 300 minutes in the last eight days as RSL had a three-game week, posting two wins and a draw, including a 120-minute overtime performance in US Open Cup play only four days ago.
"I think it's pretty remarkable that Javier, at his age, and all the injuries and stuff that he's been through, this past week, he went 90 [minutes], 120 and 90," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "He is one of only two players on our team to do that, him and Beckerman. My hat's off to both those guys. That's not an easy task, and they both did extremely well through all of those minutes."
After the difficult game Tuesday, the coach even considered holding out his star. But after talking with him, he thought better of it.
"Javier said, 'I feel great. I'm having a great time. I feel like I'm really fit and I want to keep going,'" said Kreis. "A player like that says that to you, you don't have much hesitation. He's a very honest person and he would tell you if he wasn't feeling great or he wasn't up to it."
Morales knew he wanted to play and prove to himself and others that after suffering through numerous injuries, he is finally all the way back to his MLS Best XI form of 2010.
"We are a very professional team, so we take care of our bodies, especially after playing 120 minutes," said Morales. "I'm pretty happy because I played three games in a week, and I'm 33 years old, so I'm happy for that."
His teammates are happy for it as well. They know how much better they are when he is playing at the top of his game, especially his cohort in the middle of the RSL diamond midfield.
"It's been a long process him getting back to full fitness, and it looks like he's there," said Beckerman. "It is just a comforting feeling knowing he is going to be there game in and game out. We just need to keep it going … He's playing great. He's scoring goal, he's setting up goals. He is our piano player and that's what we want him to do, keep playing the piano."