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Hack-a-Javi? RSL's Morales weekly target for opponents

SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales is a playmaker. He facilitates the offensive attack, creates opportunities for his teammates and gets the ball where it needs to go. In short, he is the creative hub of one of the league's best teams.

He is also a target of opposing defenders. Which means he sure does get fouled a lot.

“Teams are trying to stop Javier by trying to foul him and hit him after the play,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “It’s a shame because we want to see good soccer here. We don’t want to see players in this league get kicked like that, so hopefully the referees will keep an eye on it and maybe it will help guys stop from kicking him so many times.”

Because Morales is so good with the ball at his feet, there certainly are more opportunities for him to get fouled. He sits eighth on the fouls suffered list for the league, but a closer look at those stats show he is being fouled at the second-highest rate in MLS.

Montreal’s Davy Arnaud leads the league with 52 fouls suffered. However, that's come in 1,540 minutes of action — one foul for every 29.6 minutes on the pitch. New England playmaker Benny Feilhaber has suffered 42 fouls in 1,101 minutes, or one every 26.2 minutes. Morales is next in that category with his 35 fouls suffered in 1,006 minutes, or one every 28.7 minutes.

In RSL's 3-0 win over Portland on Saturday night, Morales suffered five fouls, but there were several other occasions when a foul could have been called. RSL got so fed up with what they perceived as rough treatment of their playmaker that things got downright testy following a 64th-minute foul by Diego Chara, who just happens to lead MLS with 43 fouls committed this season. Several players from both sides joined in and three yellow cards were shown — to RSL’s Will Johnson, Chara and David Horst of Portland.

“Hard tackles … it's soccer, it's life,” said Horst, a former RSL player. “It’s going to happen, there’s going to be hard tackles. I’m protecting my teammates; they’re protecting their teammates. It’s nothing personal with any of them.”