SANDY — The Iron Man version of Javier Morales that fans grew accustomed to seeing on the pitch almost every game in 2010 might be back.
After playing 90 minutes last Saturday against Chicago and then 120 minutes in a U.S. Open Cup match against Atlanta on Tuesday, the 33-year-old Real Salt Lake midfielder gave another 90-minute performance in Saturday’s 3-0 win over San Jose.
After the match, the chipper Morales sounded like a player wishing for 30 minutes of overtime.
“We are very professional team, so we take care of our body especially after playing 120 minutes. I (am) really happy 'cause I played three games in a week,” said Morales.
RSL coach Jason Kreis wavered a bit on whether he should start Morales, but he got the clarity he needed in a post-training conversation with Morales on Friday.
“Javier said, ‘I feel great, I’m having a great time and I feel like I’m really fit and I want to keep going,’” recounted Kreis of the chat. “A player like that says that to you and you don’t have much hesitation. He’s a very honest person and he would tell you if he wasn’t feeling great or feeling up to it.”
Kreis is certainly glad he started Morales.
Not only did he help RSL control possession throughout a fantastic first half, he recorded a goal and an assist in more sustained dominance against the Bay Area rivals.
There’s something about the blue in the San Jose Earthquakes uniforms that brings out the best in Morales. The goal was his sixth in 12 career matches against San Jose, while the assist was his sixth career assist against the ‘Quakes.
When asked what it is about San Jose that brings out the best in him, Morales just said, “Maybe I’m lucky.”
GETTING BACK AT EX-MATES: Four days after scoring what turned out to be the game-winning overtime goal in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, newcomer Khari Stephenson was rewarded Saturday with his first start since March 16.
He was no doubt thrilled to be in the starting lineup against the team that cut him loose after the 2012 season. The Jamaican native spent 2010-12 with San Jose, starting 48 matches and registering eight goals.
“It was definitely a great feeling to get the win and little more special for me because it was against my old my team,” said Stephenson.
NIGHT CUT SHORT: Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert were all in the starting lineup on Saturday just four days after playing 120 minutes against Atlanta on Tuesday.
Wingert, however, was the only one of the three who didn’t last the full 90 minutes.
Wingert’s groin started bothering him a little bit in the first half, and he was eventually replaced by Abdoulie Mansally in the 58th minute.
Wingert doesn’t believe the injury is anything significant, and the substitution was more precautionary as RSL held a comfortable 3-0 lead at the time.
SUNDAY REMATCH: The Real Salt Lake Reserves and the San Jose Reserves will square off Sunday morning at America First Field in Sandy at 11 a.m. RSL’s reserves won 1-0 in an earlier meeting between the squads.
The match is free and open to the public.
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