RSL: Javier Morales ahead of schedule?
Usually, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis responds to questions in articulate, measured tones, leaving no doubt as to his meaning.
There was also no doubting Kreis' one-word response, which should delight RSL fans, when asked if he expected midfielder Javier Morales and defender Chris Wingert to be available this week against either New York or D.C. United.
"Uh-huh," Kreis said moments before boarding a plane at Salt Lake International Airport.
A few seconds earlier, Kreis said that Morales, who has been rehabbing a badly injured left ankle, is "very close to being ready to play."
As for Morales, he played the question closer to the vest, saying he was maybe two or three games away from playing for the first time since suffering a fracture and dislocation May 7.
Either way, Morales, who has missed 24 games, was happy to be part of the RSL (14-7-6) contingent that was hoping to extend its four-game win streak Wednesday in New York against the Red Bulls or at United on Saturday. RSL beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I stayed at home so long, my wife said, 'Go support the guys,' " Morales said. "This is good for me. The hard part is to stay home and watch the games. Now I'm traveling with the team and feel much better about it."
The feeling is certainly mutual.
While it will likely take time for Morales to find his game legs, he should be fit enough to play at least a half. Morales has been practicing with RSL for several weeks, the last week in full-contact mode.
"You can feel the vibe among the team and fans, everybody getting excited to have [Morales] back out on the field," said Wingert, who also hopes to play this coming week. He has been nursing a fractured wrist. "It would be tough to say he'd be 100 percent as soon as he gets back out but I think his presence out there will give a lift to our whole team.
"Our team is very capable of not only winning games but winning a championship without having any one guy on our team. That being said, it would be crazy to say we have our absolute best team without a guy who's probably our best player."
Morales has yet to take a solid tackle in practice. Who can blame RSL players for feeling a bit skittish about sliding into Morales feet-first?
"Yeah, but that's normal," Morales said. "Everyone has a picture [of the injury] in their mind. â¦ When we play other teams, they will come after me, so I need that."
RSL at New York
P Wednesday, 6 p.m.
TV • KMYU 2.2