As Real Salt Lake legend Javier Morales prepared for his first return to Rio Tinto Stadium in a visitor's’ uniform on Saturday night, the current FC Dallas midfielder admitted there may not be many more.
“To be honest, it could be the last one," Morales told the Salt Lake Tribune, "so I have to enjoy it."
On paper, those words make sense from a 37-year-old playmaking midfielder who plays in one of the world’s most demanding leagues in terms of physicality, travel and weather.
But they are stunning for those who watched Morales roam MLS midfields with ageless and interminable energy over the last decade to build RSL from an expansion side into one of the league’s perennial contenders.
“When you start to get older or reach the end of your career, you try to enjoy the little things like training, games, traveling because you’re going to miss that,” Morales told the FC Dallas web site. “I have been doing this since day one, and my thought is you never want to end this career, but it’s going to happen. So you have to be ready, but in the meanwhile, you have to enjoy the time here.”
It will be the warmest of welcomes from the Rio Tinto faithful, who have not had a lot to cheer about in their first season without their talisman. Salt Lake is even offering a Morales bobblehead -- donning an RSL kit -- with the purchase of two tickets to see the man who scored 49 of his 50 league goals, and made all 81 of his MLS assists so far, with the Claret and Cobalt.
May the giveaway provide some needed comic relief on what could be a heavy night.
"I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to the people on the field," Morales told the Tribune. "And now I will be there with another jersey, but I don't know how I'll feel about it. I will try to show it because always people in Salt Lake, RSL fans, they treat me the best way. I will try to enjoy to be there one more time."