SANDY, Utah — When Real Salt Lake head to Portland on Saturday for a game that could go a long way toward deciding the top spot in the Western Conference standings, they will be without the services of Javier Morales.
The star midfielder will be serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. But even if he were eligible to play, it's doubtful he would — he's also nursing a nagging ankle injury.
“He's healing,” RSL coach Jason Kreis told reporters on Tuesday. “He got through half a session today. We're thinking that the next time he is available to play in the game, hopefully, his body will let him.”
Kreis isn't tipping his hand as to how he'll handle Morales' absence on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week). Luis Gil played in that spot when a team made up mostly of reserves went to Vancouver and won on Sept. 28.
“I'm comfortable there and I'll be ready for it if it is me,” Gil told MLSsoccer.com.
Kreis would only say that he's “looking at several possibilities. We feel that every player on this team has contributed to positive results.”
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy said the entire team will have to up their level of play to adjust for Morales' absence because, “Anytime you're missing a big-time player like that, it's a little bit difficult.”
“Javi's a great individual player,” he said. “A guy that can unlock things kind of out of nowhere. I don't know what the change will be, but obviously we all need to try to pick things up in the midfield and try to create some chances and be dangerous in the final third. Because that's really what Javier does for us.”
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Kreis and his players all were quick to point out that this is hardly something new. RSL has dealt with injuries, call-ups and suspensions all season long.
“It's just another game where you're not quite at full strength,” Grabavoy said, “but I think there's some guys that have proven over the last four, five weeks that they deserve some time. Some guys that are hungry.”