SANDY, Utah — With the disappointment a week ago of losing out in the CONCACAF Champions League finals, Real Salt Lake had to reset their aspirations a bit this week.
But their hopes of winning a Supporters’ Shield and an MLS Cup took a major blow Saturday when playmaker Javier Morales went down with a gruesome fractured ankle in the first half of the team’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA.
Andy Williams described the mood at the halftime break, just moments after the injury.
“The locker room was pretty quiet,” midfielder Andy Williams said of the locker room at half. “It just sucks.”
Midfielder Will Johnson — who went on to score the game-winning goal in the 87th minute — said the injury weighed heavily on RSL players’ minds throughout the match.
“It wasn’t easy to play,” he said. “Not just because it was gruesome, but because he’s such a good friend, and such a big part of this team. It’s really hard to see someone you like so much and know he’s going to be out for a really long time. It’s hard to talk about.”
And after the match, the mood was understandably somber. There was very little talk in the locker room about the play on the field, and most of the discussion revolved around the injury to Morales.
“We won,” said young midfielder Collen Warner, who may be called upon to help pick up the pieces in absence of Morales. “But it feels almost like a loss.”
RSL head coach Jason Kreis, meanwhile, said he didn’t feel like the tackle that led to Morales’ injury was extremely egregious.
“It was from behind,” said Kreis, adding that the league was trying to stamp out such tackles. “It was in the attacking third. And Javi was clearly getting ready to shoot, so I understand the urgency of the situation for the defender trying to make the play.”
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman felt confident that this would be dealt with appropriately after review by the league’s Disciplinary Committee.
“This year it seems like it’s just happening in bunches, but I think the league is handling it well,” Beckerman said. “They’ve been on top of it. Before the season started, guys knew that bad tackles weren’t going to be tolerated.”
Like the recent cases of Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani and FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira, Beckerman also pointed out that this injury happened to another player important to his team and to the league.
“It’s tough, man,” Beckerman said. “He’s the best player on our team, and one of the best in the league. So it’s not only bad for us, it’s bad for the league that he’s not going to be playing.”