SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales won't be surprised if he's fouled — repeatedly — in the MLS Cup final on Saturday.
Does he think he'll be a target when RSL take the field against Sporting Kansas City (4 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas, TSN2/RDS in Canada)?
“I don't know,” Morales told reporters. “Maybe. But I play a lot of games like that.”
As a matter of fact, when Salt Lake won the MLS Cup four years ago, Morales had to come out in the 22nd minute with a sprained knee after a clumsy tackle by LA's David Beckham.
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“Yeah, I expect to play 20 minutes this final,” Morales said with laugh. “No, I hope to play the full game.”
He said his sole goal is to win the cup. If he could play just 10 minutes in this final but RSL walks away with the cup, “I'd take that deal.”
Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, however, is certainly counting on having Morales in the match for more than 10 minutes. He's also expecting that the man who drives the Claret-and-Cobalt attack will receive a great deal of, ahem, attention from SKC.
“I think that we go into the game knowing that it's going to happen,” Kreis told reporters. “We are ready to deal with that and go on.”
And by “deal with that,” he means — keep cool.
“We'll just control what we can control, which is how we react to it,” Kreis said.
Morales echoed that thought.
“We have to be smart,” said the Argentine midfielder. “We have to know that they are are going to be aggressive, that it's going to be a physical game. We have to be relaxed and try to play our soccer.”
One thing Kreis is not planning to do is llobby referee Hilario Grajeda before Saturday's match gets under way — specifically asking him to be on the lookout for aggressive play aimed at Morales.
“I would be wasting my breath if I asked for the referees to protect Javier,” he said. “We've done that far too often, and we never get the right result.”