The surgeon who repaired the shattered left ankle of Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales on Monday said the star midfielder has a history of recovering quickly from injury and could return to the team before the end of the Major League Soccer season.
"We'd love to see Javi back out there, and we're going to give him the best chance at that," team doctor Andrew Cooper said.
Cooper performed a two-hour surgery on Morales to repair the two broken bones, dislocated ankle and torn ligaments he grotesquely suffered in a red-card tackle from behind by Marcos Mondaini during a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA on Saturday that stunned coaches, players and the 14,365 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"Distraught is not too strong a word" to describe the team's reaction, general manager Garth Lagerwey said.
But Lagerwey said the successful surgery represented a "positive result" and said the timetable for recovery "is such that we might get Javi back this season. That is, if rehab goes to plan, very encouraging. That's the most important thing to come out of this."
Morales was expected to remain overnight at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center before going home Tuesday. The surgery offered "no surprises," Cooper said. "It was kind of exactly what I expected."
Cooper said Morales won't be able to do much for the next six weeks, before he's able to start bearing weight again and strengthening his ankle though he will still wear a protective boot. After about three months, he will begin working on "functional return" with light jogging and other motor skills.
"That's the hardest part to predict," Cooper said.
The earliest Morales is likely to resume soccer-specific activities is four months from now, Cooper said Â the start of September.
The MLS regular-season lasts until Oct. 22, with playoffs to follow.
Even if the 31-year-old Morales cannot return this season, Lagerwey said his absence will make RSL stronger by forcing other players to handle his role.
"We should emerge from this injury as a better team," he said, the way it has in the past.
But Lagerwey stayed away from harshly criticizing Mondaini or Chivas, saying that while the tackle on Morales was "horrific," he knows that coaches Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney both former RSL assistants Â "would never field a player that would attempt to injure any of our players. I know that with a million percent certainty."
League officials are expected to decide in the next couple of days whether to punish Mondaini beyond the one-game suspension and $250 fine that automatically come with a red card.
"I don't think there was malice behind it," Lagerwey added, "and I'll let the league decide what punishment is appropriate for a horrific, non-malicious tackle."