Sandy • On an otherwise forgettable night for Real Salt Lake, Javier Morales' return from injury was a memorable one.
During Chicago's 3-0 win over RSL on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, Morales played the final 30 minutes in his first game since May 7.
The creative midfielder from Argentina was injured nearly five months ago, when a reckless tackle by Chivas USA's Marcos Mondaini resulted in a fractured and dislocated ankle.
In 23 games without him, Real Salt Lake went 10-7-6.
Against Chicago, Morales entered the game when RSL trailed 2-0 and was down a man because of Kyle Beckerman's red card.
He received a raucous ovation from the franchise-record crowd of 20,762.
The welcome back gave Morales goose bumps.
"Unbelievable," he said. "I don't know how you say it in English, but my skin, you know? ... That was my best feeling in my career."
Coach Jason Kreis agreed, calling the reception "fantastic."
More importantly, Kreis watched Morales during his second-half stint and thought the injured ankle held up well.
"I was very pleased he got out there and he seemed to make it through OK," Kreis said. "[He] had some good touches. ...
"I think emotionally everybody was really, really pleased to see him get back out there. He looks a little rusty, but what do you expect?"
Going forward, it appears Morales will be a factor in RSL's playoff push, especially in the aftermath of consecutive losses to Chicago and D.C. United by a total margin of 7-1.
"He could be critical," Kreis said. "Not only is he an emotional leader but he's a leader-leader for us. ... He brings together a lot of players on this team."
Morales entered the game in the 60th minute.
Almost immediately, he took a free kick and placed the ball in front of the goal, but Fabian Espindola's header went wide.
In the 66th minute, Morales put another long free kick into the box, although this one was handled more easily by the Chicago defense.
In the 78th minute, Morales chipped his third free kick into the box and Jamison Olave appeared to score. But the perfect pass was nullified by an offside call.
"Given the circumstances down a man there was not a whole lot of space for him to maneuver in," said teammate Nat Borchers. "But I thought he did well."
Significantly, Morales was challenged a handful of times by Chicago defenders and his ankle held up well.
"I said before the game I don't care about tackles," Morales told a group of reporters. "I was not thinking about that. I have to play now. ... I have to be ready. I have to be strong."
Morales was more concerned about RSL's loss and disappointing the fans.
"I was looking forward to making everybody happy but it didn't happen. â¦ " he said. "So maybe next time."
Moralesat a glance
• Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales plays 30 minutes in his first game since May 7.
• Morales calls the reception he received from RSL fans the "best feeling in my career."
• Real Salt Lake went 10-7-6 in the 23 games Morales missed because of his ankle injury.