Javier Morales: With CONCACAF Champions League in Sight
He seems like nothing is missing from his life, radiant and happy under the sun. Javier Morales did not choose an exotic or paradise location to vacation in. For the Real Salt Lake midfielder, it is enough to be surrounded by his family and share the year-end Holidays with them in his native Lomas de Zamora, a suburb of Buenos Aires.
Unlike 2009, the 30-year-old Argentine will not have a championship to which uncork the champagne to this December 31st. But upon toasting with his wife, Noelia, and their 3-year-old, Santiago, there is no question about what he wishes and longs for in 2011. He has already won the MLS championship, but he now wants to expand the domains of his Royal team by achieving the CONCACAF Champions League Championship. But for the time being, Morales shared with FutbolMLS.com his feelings on this year that is ending and what is to come in upcoming year.
What is your account of this season?
To my knowledge, this year was more positive than last year when we came out Champions. In 2009, we played very irregularly and our run to the playoffs was very fortunate. This season, however, was much more serious and more complete because we played in both the CONCACAF and the MLS league. We gained a solidified style of play, and that’s beyond the fact that we didn’t come out Champions; we had a better year overall.
In what aspects did your team strengthen?
For a player, it’s always hard to “believe it,” maybe the players that do “believe it” are the ones that achieved great things, but that’s what happened to our team. After coming out champs in 2009, we believed more in our own potential and this year we developed to a much better level.
For that reason, did you expect more?
Yes, but that’s soccer. We lost the championships on small details, more specifically in that [first] game with FC Dallas, with my ejection from the game and the last minute goal on their part.
Alvaro Saborio will stay in the team. According to you, how much influence did ‘el Tico’ have on the level of RSL?
A lot. It’s been two years since I’ve been saying that we’ve had a good team but struggled to finish. We didn’t have a forward that scored 12, 13 goals, and we now have found him in “Sabo,” who came with all of his experience and brought a lot to the team, especially with his goals. He scored 18 goals during the season and that is something to respect, that is why it is awesome that they were able to reach an agreement with him and that he is staying with us.
You now know both sides of the coin in the playoffs. Do you like the system?
I like it. It gives a bit more emotion to the tournament, but the best team doesn’t always come out as champions. For example: Los Angeles Galaxy. They had a great campaign, but they didn’t come out champions because they got to the playoffs when they were going through a rough soccer moment, and that affects the way a team plays in important games. We got there in a great soccer moment, but we didn’t play well against Dallas and that cost us dearly.
Is Colorado a just champion?
Yes, because it became champion, but they weren’t the best team. For me, its different things. Colorado is champion because it got to the playoffs riding a great soccer high moment, and had the quota of luck that is needed during playoffs. Now, if we start talking about the better team, I think there were other teams that were better.
Who did you like?
I liked Los Angeles. They had regularity, even when they lost players to the World Cup and when they lost David Beckham to injury. Dallas had a great campaign also, and so did Colorado, they had high-lows, but during the year, they had two determined forwards.
How do you see this upcoming year?
With more expectations, more teams and more games and more cities to visit. MLS just keeps getting better and better, it becomes more complete and competitive. That is why I’m so happy that everything keeps rolling forward.
What are your expectations for 2011?
The first thing that I think of is CONCACAF Champions League. It is something that no one has achieved (in the US) and we would love to be the first ones. We are very excited, especially after that great group stage we had, but we will be playing with a bit of a disadvantage because they will be the first games of the season.
Does that worry you?
Yes, but we will be first up against Columbus who will be in the same situation.
Do you remember when you got to MLS, and now you look around and see what the league has become? What is your reflection of it?
I came into a soccer that was just beginning. I don’t know how much more it can grow, but the truth is that this league just keeps getting better. We bring in 20,000 people every game, we see people getting more involved, and that’s what I like. I’m not saying that we will be coming down here (Buenos Aires) and scoring 4 goals against Boca, Velez, or Estudiantes; it would be impossible. But neither do I think that River can score 5 goals against us. All I’m saying is that we are becoming more competitive; today we can compete.
You have been living for 3 years in Utah. Have you found your place in the world?
Yeah, although that is hard to do in soccer. Everything ends at one point. Now, I feel very comfortable and I would like to keep going for a few more years. At one point we spoke with management about making a long term contract, but it was a passive talk. Perhaps it will happen in the future ...
Do you think about having your revenge in Argentina?
I don’t know. I can say that what I miss about Argentine soccer is the atmosphere of the stadiums that are very fun. I’m not saying that in the MLS they aren’t, because we have a spectacular atmosphere. Perhaps over here it’s different because it’s my country and I would like to play a game or two to again feel that spark, but I would then want to return to Salt Lake. In truth, I have no overwhelming longing to return.