Javier Morales v. Seattle Sounders - 03.30.13
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Morales "pretty close" to full return

SANDY, Utah — There is little doubt that when healthy, Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales is one of the brightest playmakers in all of Major League Soccer.

The problem then, lies in the phrase: "when healthy." When the Argentine star re-signed with RSL this offseason, both parties were ecstatic, and big things were expected. Unfortunately, during the first week of training camp, Morales suffered a torn meniscus and underwent surgery to repair it in his right knee.

"I think it was more hard than my ankle because I was ready for this preseason, for this season and then that happened in the first week," said Morales of the injury compared to the 2011 season when he suffered a dislocated ankle and missed most of the year.

Morales has been working his way back to full fitness, and has appeared as a second-half substitute in each of the last two games, playing 28 minutes in RSL's 2-1 win over theSeattle Sounders, and 45 minutes in the 1-0 loss at the Colorado Rapids last Saturday. So he is trying to be ready for a full 90 minutes this week when RSL heads to Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, but there is still a problem with that even if he is fit enough.

"I'm pretty close," he said. "The only problem with the next game is it is on turf. So I don't know if it is going to be good for my knee or not."

Another issue, is Morales needs to be 100 percent recovered from any injury simply because of the "Hack-a-Javi" tactic many teams employ against him.

"It's tough, but I knew it was going to be like that," he said of all the fouls suffered, called or not. "My first game against Seattle, as soon as I went to the field, somebody tackled me. It's going to happen. I just have to be strong and be ready for those tackles."

So how frustrating is it to be trying to come back from an injury and being hit, tackled and kicked almost anytime you get the ball?

"A little bit," said Morales. "I have to be smart and know that can happen, so I have to be ready."

It's tough for his teammates and coaches to watch as well.

"It's extremely frustrating because the league continues to say that they want creative soccer, that they continue to say that their philosophy is about attacking-minded, creative soccer, but don't continue to do enough to protect those players," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.