FRISCO, Texas – Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales says he’s not convinced deserved a second yellow card in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference simifinal at Pizza Hut Park.
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Referee Kevin Stott punished the Argentine playmaker with his second caution in the 69th minute after his high leg caught FCD midfielder Dax McCarty in the chest. But Morales has a different perspective on the play.
“When I’m bringing down the ball, [McCarty] came running in,” explains Morales. “I had my leg high and he hit my leg. When I saw the referee coming to me with the yellow, there was nothing I could do but leave the field. That’s it.”
RSL manager Jason Kreis said the referees explained to him that the first yellow card only 20 minutes before was an automatic after Morales and FC Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez exchanged slaps in the face.
Thus, for the second consecutive postseason, Morales has to dramatically bow out of the playoff spotlight. In 2009, an injury early in the MLS Cup final forced him to abandon the championship match in tears.
“I feel bad for what happened,” Morales said. “I’m not doing well deep inside. But I look at my teammates and they are confident. I think that we can win.”
Morales’ red card is the first for an RSL player in all competitions in 2010.
After failing once again to secure a positive result in Dallas, the defending champions are now faced with making up a one-goal deficit in the aggregate-goal series next Saturday without their leading assist man.
RSL have a 2-2-1 record in the five league matches Morales did not start this year.
“It’s tough, he’s our best player” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “But … we’ll just have to [go out and win] Saturday.”
“Certainly it will hurt,” Kreis said. “He’s a very, very important player for us, but we’ve had him out for a stretch early this season and got results without him as well, so we believe in what we’ve built here in this group and next week shouldn’t be any different.”
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