There were major questions surrounding Javier Morales at the close of the 2012 season, as he was out of contract.
Would he come back to RSL for the 2013 season? If he did come back, could he regain the form that he once had? Or had Father Time simply caught up with him? Thankfully for RSL, the answers to those questions were yes, yes, and no.
On Jan. 17, 2013, it was announced that Morales signed a new two year deal that would keep him with the team through 2014. With the question on his return settled, the next question was could he return to his pre-injury form. There was no question that he struggled in 2012 coming back from his devastating ankle injury in 2011. Everyone wondered if he could get back to the Javi of old.
He answered his doubters by playing in what may of been his best season in an RSL jersey. His performance on the field led many (myself included) to pick Morales as the team MVP.
He ended the season with 8 goals, which was the second highest on the team. That total was also the best goal total he has had in the 7 years he has played with RSL. He led the team with 10 assists and was third on the team with 47 shots taken. He was the true catalyst of an RSL offense that smashed team records for goals scored in a season..
His true effect on the team can really be seen when you compare how RSL played when he was on the field compared to when he was off. Morales played 2,281 minutes on the season. During that time, RSL averaged scoring a goal every 44 minutes. This was the highest team scoring rate for any player on the team. During the time that Morales was not on the field RSL averaged scoring a goal every 130 minutes.
While there is no denying the effect that Morales has on the pitch, he also has a positive effect off it as well. There were many stories that surfaced last year about how important Morales was to the locker room. Jason Kreis once said in a post-game press conference, "He (Morales) is really the glue culturally in the locker room between the Hispanic players and the American players. He is such an important figure for us." Morales really plays a mentor role for all the younger Hispanic players on the team.
As the 2014 season begins, the question is can Morales keep playing at such a high level? He will 34 years old at the start of the season, and one has to wonder when he will start to slow down. He will once again be called upon to lead the RSL attack at the top of the diamond formation. His leadership will also be greatly needed once again as the team will be missing players for an extended time for the World Cup.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2013 season and previewing the 2014 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.