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Why stats from Galaxy loss show how much RSL needs Javier Morales

Javier Morales is arguably Real Salt Lake's most important player. Without him, the team struggles. It's not a surprise, but we're breaking down why that's the case.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake need Javier Morales as much as ever, and while it's easy to talk about how defensive concerns made things difficult for the team against LA Galaxy, the truth of the matter is that Javier Morales is more than just an important player — he's essential.

1. Chances created

During the first 50-some-odd minutes of the match without Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake created one chance — and that was from a throw-in taken Olmes Garcia. To say that wasn't quite good enough is an understatement. In the final 35 minutes of the match, Javier Morales created two chances and Abdoulie Mansally and Garcia both one had one apiece.

But those are only the chances that can be measured by shots taken — there were two more that Joao Plata nearly finished.

2. Involvement in build-up play

This is Javier Morales's passing chart from Wednesday. Notice how high he's playing, and how his passes are going into dangerous areas? That's a difference maker for this team.

Javier Morales passing


Now, take a look at the player he replaced, Luis Gil. Notice that he's not involved heavily, and that his passes are not generally penetrative? Luis Gil has many good qualities, and we're confident he will be a very good player at some point. But for now, he's not a suitable replacement for Javier Morales, and he's not showing any clear signs of doing it any time soon.

Luis Gil passing

3. Engaging play further up

First up, we have a heat map for RSL's midfielders from before Javier Morales's entrance into the match. Play is centralized right around the midfield stripe, and it's not generally pushing further up than that.

Heat map, pre-Morales entrance

It's interesting, then, to see where play centralized after Morales came on — and that it's again just midfielders. Notice how play centralizes less centrally, and less deep? This is why RSL needs Javier Morales.

Heat map, post-Morales entrance