LEHI, Utah — It’s no coincidence that Real Salt Lake’s success over the last few seasons has coincided with the emergence of midfield architect Javier Morales. Likewise, the improved play of FC Dallas over the last two seasons can closely be linked to the arrival of their playmaker, David Ferreira.
As RSL prepare to host FCD on Saturady at Rio Tinto Stadium, talk is heating up about possible MVP consideration for both Morales and Ferreira. The latter even picked up a vote of confidence from an unlikely source, LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan.
In his second season in the league, Ferreira has eight goals and 13 assists on the season. Meanwhile, Morales has posted six goals and eight assists.
“I think they are pretty similar players in that they are both extremely smart in the decisions they are making in their passes, and when to shoot and when it’s time to dribble,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis. “All of those decisions with the ball are very, very good.”
The two sides choose different formations, with RSL exclusively employing their hallmark 4-4-2 diamond while FC Dallas go with a more traditional 4-4-2, sometimes a 4-3-3 and even, on occasion, a 4-5-1. The styles are correspondingly different with Dallas using traditional wingers, while RSL rely on wingbacks pushing up the flanks to provide some width to their play but prefer to build up through the spine of the pitch. These differences expose differences in the teams’ playmakers.
“Javier is a little bit more of a natural midfielder, and Ferreira is a little bit more of a natural attacking-minded player,” Kreis said. “When they are playing in a 4-5-1, he looks like a second forward for them. I think that’s the reason why you see he’s got a few more goals than Javier. But in our buildup of play Javier’s probably more important for us.”
Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman will be tasked with marking Ferreira at times on Saturday.
“He’s actually short, but he’s really strong,” Beckerman said. “He’s got that low center of gravity where he’s able to bounce off of challenges pretty good. He has good vision. He can score goals. He can set up goals. So he really has it all in the offensive category.
"So it’s going to be about trying to limit him getting the ball at all. That’s really the only way that you can try and stop him. Once he gets the ball, if he gets time and space, he can be super dangerous.”
Despite their differences—and similarities—one thing is for sure: Both Morales and Ferreira will be key to the success of their team on Saturday.
“I think it’s going to come down to who is going to be able to get the lion’s share of possession," said RSL defender Nat Borchers, "and I think that the team that’s able to dominant possession is going to get the result."