Javier Morales coming back to Salt Lake City for the first time was always going to be just a little bit weird, and Saturday’s match promises to be every bit as weird as you’d expect.
For one, he’s been talking to local media — that’s fitting, given his importance here. But there’s a growing sense that there’s a lot more to this than just a former player coming back with an opponent.
It felt different when Nat Borchers came back with Portland Timbers, or when Will Johnson came back with ... Portland Timbers. Maybe that’s because we had that history with Portland, and maybe we just don’t have the same thing with Dallas. And maybe it’s because my memory’s a bit colored by the fact that both of those players scored against us — that’s certainly possible.
But Javier Morales felt like REAL SALT LAKE personified. He wasn’t part of that TEAM IS THE STAR mentality. He was that mentality — at least publicly. And while he was the star, he also wasn’t the star in the same sense that a Juan Manuel Martinez was THE STAR or that so many players in so many places are. Javier Morales was flashy with a goal in mind, and that was usually feeding somebody else for an opportunity. He was a star who, by necessity, lacked that selfishness.
We don’t need to rehash why he left. Honestly, that’s not important now. The way I see it, we have two options:
1) We can accept that it happened and instead focus on something new, or
2) We can continue focusing on the one thing we simply cannot change.
Blame has been cast around more than enough, and it’s certainly rearing its head again. It doesn’t do me any good to continue trying to assign that, because really, that was — what — five months ago? Six? At some point, you have to move forward with things. If we can’t do that as a fanbase — and I have serious doubts that we really can and that I can, because we’re all fans, not rational, level-headed people. We can put on that facade, though. Maybe that’s all we can do.
Still! Let’s soldier on. Needless to say, I’m not going to assign blame — but, hey, let’s at least hear from the Maestro himself. (SIDE QUESTION HERE: When did we start calling him the maestro?)
This is from his interview yesterday with ESPN700’s Bill Riley.
I think that was clear — it’s pretty easy to explain. When I had my last meeting with RSL’s director, he didn’t offer me a contract to stay in Salt Lake, so he told me that I had to find another club for the next year, and that is what happened. That’s what I did. In that moment, I was thinking to keep playing.
To be honest, I didn’t expect that. Like I said, after almost 10 years playing for RSL and almost the end of my career, when I signed my last contract, I thought I was going to finish my career there. What I thought in that moment, because my last season in Salt Lake wasn’t as good as before, so I thought they were going to offer me a less contract, less money, something like that. But that never happened, so I left the team.
OK. We got it out of the way. And certainly, some people will disagree with his version of events, and that’s fine. We’re not here to worry about it. On with some quotes. This one’s about what it’ll be like playing here in the shameful colors of FC Dallas.
To be honest, when the schedule showed up a couple months ago, that was the first name that I looked for ... I won’t lie about that. I don’t know how I will feel about that when I get there. I didn’t expect anything; everything is going to be new for me. I think it’s going to be weird.
Weird is right, Javi. Let’s move on before I think too hard about this.
I want to ... just try to live in the moment and see what is going to be. I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans on the field, and now, I know that it’s going to be with another team, but it could be my last time playing on the pitch in Rio Tinto.
Just one more quote coming up here. He says he’ll be back someday. When? Who knows.
Like you said, I was born in Argentina and I’m an Argentine guy, but I think is Utah is my home. My wife and my kids, they are in Salt Lake. My kids are there and they are so happy. They see friends, they play soccer there, and I think part of my life is in Salt Lake, so it’s my second home. Who knows? You never know. This is sport and this is soccer. I don’t know in what situation, but for sure, I will be back someday.
Alright. Yeah, I’d take him back. I’m ready to take him back now. Let’s start with an own goal or three.
Craig Waibel, for his part, had some nice words about Javi in an interview on ESPN 700 himself.
He’s a hero of the club, and he will be honored at the end of his playing career regardless by our club. If his name doesn’t go up in our stadium, I’m not sure if we should just paint all the walls bare. He’s undoubtedly a hero of our club and a legend of our club. He will definitely be honored at the end of his playing career — we have had some talks about this week, I don’t know if we’re ready to announce anything, but acknowledging him is definitely something we want to do as an organization, and something we plan to do on the weekend, for sure.
“We have had some talks about this week” is fun, but part of me wonders how much we should celebrate Javier Morales as a club right now. I hope it’s nothing too outlandish — like, you know, unloading a bunch of Javier Morales bobbleheads when he comes to town.
What’s that you say?
Regardless, it’s really up to us to celebrate Javier Morales now. Real Salt Lake will have plenty of opportunity to do that when he returns to the club after he retires from the field having scored a grand total of zero goals against us in competitive play.
Oh, and yeah. Let’s not let Javi score on Saturday. That would really be a way to stick the knife in.
Anyway, that’s all. Here — let’s end it with some music I’ve been listening to lately. (And if you’re the guy at Graywhale Records who told me to listen to Low, thanks.)