A Real Salt Lake official confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday what fans have been hoping for since May: Javier Morales is coming back, perhaps as soon as Saturday against D.C. United.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis told ESPN 700 Sports Radio on Tuesday that doctors have cleared Morales to play this weekend, though the midfielder will not take part in Wednesday night’s game against the New York Red Bulls. Morales suffered a broken ankle on May 7 during a match against Chivas USA.
“Hopefully, if the next couple of days go pretty well, we’ll have Javier in contention for some minutes,” Kreis told ESPN 700 Sports Radio. “There’s still some steps to be taken there, too, though, because in speaking with Javier, he’s still not feeling 100 percent ready, and so over the next couple of days we’ll test him in a couple of different ways and see if we can’t get him get him ready for Saturday night.”
Morales traveled with the team on its East Coast swing, and it's clear he would be a key addition. It’s unclear what Morales’ role might be on Saturday, however, or who might make way in the lineup if he does come back. Youngster Luis Gil has manned the attacking midfield role of late.
“I think you can just feel the vibe among the team and the fans that everybody is getting excited to have him back on the field,” Chris Wingert told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that our team is capable not only of winning games, but possibly winning a championship without any one particular guy on our team. But with that being said, it would be crazy to say that we have our absolute best team without a guy who is probably our best player.
"It’s not like basketball or even maybe football with the quarterback, where one guy changes the game as much, but Javi changes it as much as anybody," he said. "So we’d love to have him back out there.”
Prior to Morales’ injury, RSL had compiled a 4-1-0 record in MLS. They've gone 10-6-6, without him, but suffered through a stretch of four losses in five games from late July to late August. The team currently sit in third place in the Western Conference with 48 points.
“We still want to see a little more in terms of our possession game,” defender Nat Borchers told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve had kind of a war of attrition in terms of the space on the field. We’re getting the ball forward and just kind of battling it in our opposition’s end of the field, as opposed to playing more out of the back, and getting more flow in the midfield.”