VANCOUVER, B.C. – Pedro Morales may only be 10 games into his first Major League Soccer season, but the Vancouver Whitecaps' Designated Player has already shown what a pivotal piece he is likely to be in the team’s playoff push.
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson has described Morales as a player who makes those around him better, and the numbers bear that out as the team’s co-leader in goals (three) and assists (three). Perhaps the most surprising stat, however, is that despite all of Vancouver's dangerous attackers, Morales also leads the team in shots with 30.
"I'm a very technical player with what I consider very good vision," Morales told MLSsoccer.com through a translator when asked to describe himself as a player. "I like to get forward and score goals."
Saturday's 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders was the Chilean's first experience of the atmosphere and passion of a Cascadia derby, which he feels will "slowly get there" to be among the biggest rivalries in football. And he'll get a taste of another Cascadia rivalry Sunday when the Whitecaps visit the Portland Timbers (9 pm ET; MLS Free Stream of the Week, TSN2 in Canada).
Morales, who picked up an assist on Erik Hurtado’s goal, described the game as a "battle.” That passion almost boiled over in the 51st minute with a mass confrontation that has now seen both sides warned and Morales fined for his role in proceedings.
It was an incident that stemmed from Seattle midfielder Gonzalo Pineda slapping the ball out of Robinson's hands, which brought some simmering tension in the game to a head.
"It's just one of things that happen in soccer," Morales said. "But honestly, I didn't like the way the player disrespected the coach, so I got a little heated, but it was nothing major."
Morales made the move to Vancouver from La Liga side Málaga just before the start of the season. After a career that has seen him ply his trade in Chile, Croatia and Spain, Morales is feeling right at home in MLS.
"I feel comfortable," Morales said. "I hope the league keeps growing as it is. There's lot of good players, and it's very competitive."
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Helping Morales settle in to his new surroundings are the number of other Spanish speakers within the Whitecaps squad, a number that could grow in the summer transfer window.
Amongst that number is Vancouver's assistant coach Martyn Pert, who feels that Morales brings a lot more than just goals and assists to the club.
"He brings a good spirit to the group," Pert told MLSsoccer.com. "He's humble. Having a DP that's humble is important. He really feels part of the dressing room and really acts part of the dressing room.
"He's got qualities, and he brings out the qualities in players because he can move the ball quickly. He just does things that you don't see. Maybe as coaches you look and think maybe go there, maybe go there. He does something different and it comes off. He's an exciting player to watch."