Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales and the Portland Timbers’ Diego Valeri are more than just two of the top playmakers in all of MLS – they’re countrymen, former teammates and friends, too.
Morales and Valeri played together briefly in Argentina for Buenos Aires-based club Lanus in 2003. The pair – who have a good mutual friend – spoke with each other this offseason after Valeri made his move to MLS, with Morales giving him the scoop on the league and life in the States.
“We have the same friend, and so we talked between him, but I talked to him after he signed with Portland," Morales told reporters earlier this week. "We are pretty close. We are not good friends, you know big friends, but we are pretty close.”
“After he signed we talked on the phone,” Morales continued. “He asked me a lot of questions: ‘How’s the league? How’s the country?’ A lot of questions for family; I tried to help because I know that he is a great player, but he is a great guy too.”
There’s no doubt that both Morales and Valeri will have a huge say in the outcome of Friday’s RSL-Portland matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium. Both have excelled this season, with Morales notching six goals and nine assists in league play compared to Valeri’s five goals and 11 helpers.
The 33-year-old Morales and the 27-year-old Valeri were both dynamite in the Aug. 21 3-3 draw between RSL and Portland at JELD-WEN Field. Both ran the attack for their respective sides, with Morales scoring and stealing the ball from Valeri to create RSL’s first goal and Valeri tallying a goal and assist of his own.
“Both [are] extremely intelligent players,” RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis told media earlier this week. “I think both see the game very similarly; maybe a little bit different qualities in the two of them, but effectiveness [is] extremely high for both of them. Two of the best players in the league I think for sure.”
Tickets are still available to see Morales and Valeri face off in Friday’s RSL-Portland contest. Get yours at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, online at www.RealSaltLake.com/Tickets or over the phone at 801-727-2700.