LEHI, Utah – It’s been nearly seven months since Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman were last on the field together for 90 minutes and a Real Salt Lake win, a 1-0 victory over Colorado on April 13.
In the intervening time, the LA Galaxy charged to their second straight Supporters’ Shield title; RSL lost in the CONCACAF Champions League final; and, of course, Morales suffered a broken ankle that sidelined him for the bulk of the year.
The Claret-and-Cobalt’s 2011 campaign, it turns out, did not go as scripted. Into every season, a little rain must fall.
“It has been very hard, I think, very hard for all of us on the team,” Morales said after training on Thursday morning. “But now the playoffs have come, and it’s a different season. Now we have a chance to improve, and if we improve, we have a chance to advance.”
Just getting Morales and Beckerman back on the field together in the central midfield should add a dollop of improvement to a team that went winless in their last six games of the regular season. The two have been the starting duo since 2007, when they both arrived at RSL, only relinquishing their roles temporarily due to injury or suspension.
And now they’re both ready to go on Saturday night against Seattle (10 pm ET; Fox Soccer, TSN2) – Beckerman rested after serving a three-game ban, and Morales sufficiently recovered to most likely play from the start in what is looking like the team’s biggest game since the loss to Monterrey in the second leg of the CCL final.
“It feels great,” Beckerman said of the chance to step on the field with Morales again. “We haven’t played in so long, so when we get to play together it’s a lot of fun. We seem to get the team going on full cylinders. ... Hopefully it comes out in the playoffs, but we’ll have to wait and see on Saturday and Wednesday.”
While they haven’t gotten a chance to do their thing in a game that counts, they have gotten to go at each other – and at their teammates – in practices over the past month. And Beckerman likes what he’s seen of the Argentine enganche.
“He’s close,” Beckerman said of Morales’ form since the latter’s return to the field. “He’s definitely close, and every game he gets closer. Extend the season, all the way to the finals, and he might even be back to normal.”
For Morales’ part, he says it will take longer than that – probably “three or four months” – to be back to normal. But for now, he’s just happy to get a chance to play alongside the RSL captain again.
“I told him I’m mad with him," Morales joked. "I told him, ‘I waited a long time to play with you, and you get a red card!' But, yeah, he’s the leader of this team. He’s a great player, and it will be good again.”
Beltran going all-out in practice
With Morales looking fit, the only injury concern in RSL camp is for fullback Tony Beltran. The speedy back has been nursing a left adductor strain but went full-tilt in practice on Thursday for the third day in a row.
“I’m not quite 100 percent,” Beltran said. “I’m thinking more like 85, 90 percent right now. I just put myself out in training, and they’ll evaluate me, and if they think I’m ready to go then I’m gonna go out there. And if I have a little bit of pain – so what? I can play through it.”