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What if... Javier Morales never left?

A season after he left, we look at what may have been with one of the most important players in RSL history.

MLS: FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a Real Salt Lake fan, you know about Javier Morales. Morales is an RSL legend. He was in Salt Lake for 10 years, played in 261 games and scored 52 goals in an RSL uniform. When you think of Javier Morales maybe you think about the epic bicycle kick goal from 2013, the devastating injury from 2011, or maybe you think about the disappointing way he left at the end of 2016.

Now, someone’s probably going to be upset by the way we’re using the term “left.” You’re right, he got told he was not going to be offered a new contract so he went and found a team that wanted him. He didn’t want to leave, but he decided to leave Salt Lake to pursue the next step of his career. His upsetting departure from Real Salt Lake left a gaping hole in the midfield — and a lot of RSL fans’ hearts — at the end of 2016. After a season with our newest midfielder, Albert Rusnak, we wanted to look at what might have been.

What would 2017 have been like with Javier? Without Albert? Would Jeff Cassar still be in Salt Lake? All of these questions, and many more have been running through the minds of RSL fans since the day Javier walked into Rio Tinto, not wearing a Real Salt Lake kit.

What would 2017 have been like with Javier?

This is the biggest question. We’re going to look at this as though we had both Morales and Rusnak on our squad. You have to think that with Mike Petke as coach, Rusnak is still starting most games. This may have differed if we still had Cassar, seeing as he wasn’t as particular with playing our youth. Rusnak is talented and a lot younger than Morales.

Seeing how much playing time Petke was giving to the young guys throughout 2017, it only seems reasonable that Morales would have sat on the bench, maybe subbing in occasionally. That being said, would that have frustrated him or helped him to become more of a “super-sub” like Alan Gordon? Personally, I think this would have helped Morales to become more of a super-sub. He’s an incredibly motivated person who wants to help his team. He’s dedicated to doing what he can when he gets chances. Going off the personalities of Morales and Rusnak, if we had them both on our team for 2017 it could have been lethal.

What would 2017 have been like without Albert?

Rusnak was one of our most vital pieces this season. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. Without Albert Rusnak this season would have been drastically different. His combinations with Jefferson Savarino and Luis Silva to score goals was something that I just don’t see Morales being able to replicate.

If Morales hadn’t left and Rusnak wasn’t signed, I think RSL would have had a significantly harder time creating opportunities and scoring goals this season. Though that’s hard to say, seeing as how much respect there is for Morales, he is simply just less explosive than Rusnak showed in 2017.

Would Jeff Cassar still be in Salt Lake?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Morales was not the only problem in 2016. Although the Front Office gave Jeff Cassar some time in 2017 to see if things would get better, they still didn’t. I don’t think having or not having Morales would have changed the entire team and the results they produced. No one player should be or is the glue holding everything together. Soccer is a team game and the 11 players on the field should be working together. Morales couldn’t have saved the team in the early stages of 2017 alone, he needed his coach and his teammates.

All in all, there are a lot of what ifs when you look at 2016 and 2017, but I’m sure Morales staying could have had it’s benefits, but who knows, we may not have Albert Rusnak if we didn’t lose Javier Morales. How Javier he will probably always hurt just a little bit, but that doesn’t mean that it was all bad.