Brilliant Morales keeps RSL nearly unbeatable
SANDY, Utah – Another game at Rio Tinto, another Real Salt Lake win. Same old, same old.
But Saturday night was extra special. And it wasn't just that RSL knocked off the leaders of the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew, with a convincing 2-0 victory. It wasn't just the statements made by the Crew, which drew the ire of the Real Salt Lake players and, in particular, coach Jason Kreis.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Beyond the trash-talking and the magnitude of the win, the real story Saturday was Javier Morales. The Argentine was quite simply sensational during each of his 63 minutes on the field. He scored both goals on the night, and the first one was positively divine.
Morales received a pass in the 11th minute toward the penalty area from Fabian Espindola, with whom he had teamed up on a short corner kick. Instead of picking up the ball immediately for a cross into the box, Morales let the ball continue to drift to his right, closer to the center of the pitch.
As if sizing up his pray, he then picked out his moment and pounced on the ball, driving it to the far post. It bent around a line of four players who were making runs back to his left and, as a lane cleared, the ball zipped past them, just inside the far post, and found the corner of the net, leaving goalkeeper William Hesmer stunned.
In the 60th, Morales added a stunning free kick strike to finish off a brace. Not only was he the man of the match, but he outplayed fellow Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto and helped his team to enjoy the bulk of possession out on the field. And although Schelotto was a hero of Morales' as he rose up through the ranks in the Argentine Primera División, Morales told reporters he doesn’t concern himself with comparisons to his one-time idol.
“I play for Real Salt Lake," he said. "I play for my team.”
His coach and teammates raved about his performance after the match. After having played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday, and also last Saturday, Kreis was a little unsure if he had enough in the tank to live up to his normal standards tonight.
“I kind of expected a little bit of a letdown," the RSL coach admitted, "so I was really pleased to see how up for this one he was.”
Turns out he was ready for the match. In fact, this was one of his finer moments in an RSL uniform, and captain Kyle Beckerman understands how valuable that is.
"When he’s like that," Beckerman said, "we’re a pretty tough team.”