VANCOUVER, B.C. – It was 25 minutes of magic.
Newly signed Designated Player Pedro Morales made the most of his debut substitute appearance for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, picking up a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.
Now he's looking forward to demonstrating what he can do from the opening whistle against Chivas USA at StubHub Center on Sunday (7 pm ET; MLS Live in US; CTV 2 BC in Canada).
While the player himself modestly suggested it isn't decided whether he's starting this weekend, his coach Carl Robinson has already told reporters there's no question he'll be on the field to begin the game.
“I hope to first get the chance to start,” Morales told MLSsoccer.com in Spanish through strength and conditioning coach Jon Poli after Tuesday's training session at the University of British Columbia. “But most importantly, just continue to learn the aspects of the team, get to know my teammates, and get more comfortable.”
If Morales still needs to get comfortable, and there's more to come, the MLS Western Conference better take notice. Not yet fully fit, the Chilean sauntered into Sunday's game and set Kenny Miller up for a well-taken breakaway goal with a wonderfully weighted ball over the top of the Red Bulls' backline.
Then he wandered into the area with just a couple of moments on the clock to bag his own marker after a nice cutback from Nigel Reo-Coker.
The scary part is that it looked as if Morales never broke a sweat after coming on – perhaps it's just his relaxed style, but the playmaker always seemed to be open, and once in possession it felt as if he had unlimited amounts of time to pick and choose his next move.
“He makes all the players better around him,” Robinson said Tuesday. “His understanding, his decision making, the pictures he has in his head is phenomenal. It really is fantastic. Our players are actually enjoying playing with him and that's a great sign.”
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Even in training, Morales' quality is clear. While certain players were clearly going full throttle to win a starting place this weekend during a scrimmage on Tuesday, the 28-year-old coasted around into pockets of space, always open, trapping pacey crosses from teammates as if the ball was a bag of sand.
“I was truly surprised myself as to how well I did,” Morales said of his seemingly instant chemistry with his new teammates on his debut. “I was very surprised with the reception [from the crowd], and incredibly happy.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.