Real Salt Lake: Protecting Morales key against SKC
Sandy • The last time Javier Morales was on the pitch in an MLS Cup final, he celebrated a title hours after he left the turf at CenturyLink Field in Seattle in tears. The Real Salt Lake star picked up a knock early in the 2009 final against L.A., and was forced to leave the match in the 22nd minute.
So what are the midfielder's expectations leading up to RSL's second MLS Cup appearance in five seasons?
"I expect to play 20 minutes this final," Morales quipped Wednesday. "I hope to play the full game, but in my mind, it is to try and get the cup."
But facing Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City in Kansas City on Saturday, Dec. 7, presents a plethora of challenges for RSL. And one is keeping Morales standing tall and not on the grass. Sporting's physical play the team led the MLS in fouls committed in 2013 has been showcased throughout the league this season and Morales felt the brunt of it during the lone matchup of the two team's this season, RSL's 2-1 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium in July 20.
How does RSL plan to protect Morales, one of the more instrumental offensive players in MLS in 2013 with nine goals and 13 assists? Head coach Jason Kreis says it can't.
"I think that we go into the game knowing it's going to happen," he said. "We are ready to deal with that and move on. I would be wasting my breath if I asked for the referees to protect Javier. We've done that far too often and we never get the right result."
Yet another two-week break between playoff matches could prove vital for RSL as it waits on the progress of forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Chris Wingert who have missed games due to injury. Saborio, RSL's leading scorer this season, missed the Western Conference final series against Portland due to a hip flexor. Kreis said the Costa Rican star when through half a training session Wednesday.
"He's moving forward," Kreis said.
As for Wingert, the road back from a broken rib and pneumothorax suffered in leg one of the Western Conference final against the Timbers on Nov. 10 will be contingent on how the broken rib heals. The RSL outside back spent some time in the hospital after the injury with blood in his lungs. Wingert said he's been in constant contact with the team doctors and training staff about how he feels, adding that the rib is feeling better and his lung is healthy.
"Hopefully I'm healthy enough to at least make it a tough decision on Jason and the staff," Wingert said.
What are you thankful for, coach?
A day before Thanksgiving, and in the midst of a memorable postseason run, Jason Kreis was asked what he's thankful for this holiday season.
"How much time do we have?" he said. "I'm thankful for a group of outstanding men that are pretty good soccer players as well. Thankful for the camaraderie and the togetherness that they continue to show day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, month-in and month-out, through what has been an incredible 2013 MLS season."
RSL at Sporting KC
Saturday, Dec. 7 2 p.m.