SANDY, Utah — Suddenly, in the second half of Wednesday's 2-1 win over Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake started creating chances and started moving the ball and connecting in a way that had eluded the team in the first half. What happened? Midfielder Javier Morales was subbed in.
“Javier did a great job tonight,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers. “He's coming off an injury. He's sharp. He created a lot of chances for us tonight, and that was really the difference in the game.”
Morales is still bothered by a nagging ankle injury, which is why he wasn't in the starting lineup in Real Salt Lake's regular-season finale.
“Javier was on limited minutes,” head coach Jason Kreis told reporters. “If we were two, three goals up, maybe we don't use him at all.”
However, it was scoreless at halftime. In the first half “the energy wasn't good enough,” Kreis said. “And it warranted a change at halftime.”
In the 49th minute, Morales started the play that ended in a Chivas hand ball and Salt Lake's Álvaro Saborío putting a PK into the back of the net. Three minutes later, Morales took the ball into the box and, when he was dispossessed, Joao Plata banged the ball in for the Claret-and-Cobalt's second goal.
“We were pretty aggressive in the second half,” Morales said. “We got that PK, so we scored a goal. And when you score a goal, everything's a little bit easier. So we possessed the ball a little bit more, we created more chances and we scored another one.”
The way Kreis saw it, Morales' play made everyone on his team play better.
“I'm glad that Javier did come on and give us a spark, but I don't credit the whole thing to Javier,” he said. “I think the whole team decided to pick themselves up in the second half.”
As for that ankle injury, “It's getting better,” said Morales, adding that he started to get tired the last 10 minutes of the game. “But I have 10 more days 'til the next game, so I think I will be OK.”
RSL got the win and clinched no worse than second place in the Western Conference, but it came at a cost. Both defender Lovel Palmer and Plata came out of the game with hamstring injuries. There's no immediate word on how serious those injuries are.