The Magic Man
Real Salt Lake’s top scorer and assist-maker Javier Morales has been absolutely on fire this season. With eight goals and 11 assists in MLS play and an additional two goals and two assists in Champions League and Open Cup action, he has been a firestarter for RSL’s attack. While garnering two assists in a 2-1 Champions League win on Thursday, he suffered a hip flexor strain that limited his mobility on the field.
So, will Morales play or won’t he as RSL meets the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday in a nationally-televised match on Fox Sports 1 at Avaya Stadium? If he doesn’t, where will Head Coach Jeff Cassar turn to find the play-making magic?
While RSL has gotten goals and assists seemingly at will from Morales, the Earthquakes have their own star who is quietly having yet another tremendous season in Chris Wondolowski. While the headlines have gone to Sebastian Giovinco and Kei Kamara and David Villa this year – and justifiably so – Wondolowski continues to churn out huge scoring seasons.
This season, the 32-year-old forward has 15 goals, including six in his last seven matches, bringing his career total to 108. His total this year is the most he’s tallied since matching the MLS record with 27 goals in 2012, as he followed that up with 11 goals in 2013 and 14 goals last season.
Hot And Cold
Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in the last four matches at 3-0-1 across all competitions, while San Jose is winless in its last four at 0-2-2. RSL is targeting its first three-game winning streak of the season and hopes to leapfrog San Jose in the standings and get back within three points of the Portland Timbers for the sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference after Portland’s surprising win on Saturday over the Columbus Crew.
As the theory goes, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. So will these streaks continue?
On The Road Again
RSL has had an up and down season away from Rio Tinto Stadium. On the up side, RSL didn’t allow an away goal until its fourth road contest of the season, shutting out the Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City to start the year. The down side came in eight-game stretch from May 16-August 29. Salt Lake lost all eight of those matches by a total tally of 23-7.
RSL rebounded from that stretch with a convincing 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on September 12. If that is a sign of the Claret-and-Cobalt rekindling some of the momentum on the road that gave it the strong start, it will certainly make the last month of the season interesting.