LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake know they'll be missing a big part of their recent success without Javier Morales in the lineup. The Argentine midfielder will sit out Saturday's second leg of their Western Conference semifinal against FC Dallas due to the red card he picked up in last weekend's second leg.
Morales has been the man who has pulled the offensive strings for RSL this past season as they've defended their MLS Cup championship. But the Cobalt-and-Claret aren't panicking simply because they've got plenty of experience without Morales and are confident they can pull a win from Saturday’s do-or-die tilt.
Last year, Morales missed four matches and sat out most of the MLS Cup game due to injury. This season, the midfielder has also missed four games. In that span, RSL garnered a 2-1-1 record.
The loss – just one of four for the regular season – came against Los Angeles on April 17 before RSL got their legs under them. The draw came just a few weeks ago against Colorado in a game that saw RSL field a lineup replete of reserve players.
And in the two wins, against Toronto and Chicago, RSL showed they could play without Morales.
“I don’t think [being without Morales] affects the way we play,” said Kreis after Tuesday’s practice. “Of course, Javier’s a fantastic player and can be a difference-maker at times, but we’ve got four other guys that can step in and do a great job.”
Usually filling in for the Argentine when he’s not available is veteran Andy Williams. While their styles differ somewhat – Williams is known for his well-timed, well-placed long deliveries to players making runs, while Morales is adept at working in tight passing situations – both can use their creativity to unlock a defense, can control the ball well and are even better at setting up their teammates. Most of all, both can strike when the opponents least expect it.
Because of Morales’ absence, it’s also likely that Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson will be on the field together, which leaves rookie Collen Warner as the main attacking midfield option off the bench.
“We’re not going change how we do things or what we do,” said Kreis. “We’re still a very possession-oriented team, we’re still a very dynamic team that’s going to demand a lot of movement in our midfield. And the guys that step in to do the job, we have no doubts that they can do it.”