Santa Clara, Calif. • It's been a running jingle throughout the seasons. Opponents hone in on and sometimes resort to hard tackles against Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales because, well, he's really good.
But just as familiar as that strategy has become for RSL is the inevitable response that was primely on display Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium in a near-record-setting 5-0 loss to San Jose.
When Morales was tackled in the 58th minute, Kyle Beckerman apparently took exception to Sam Cronin not kicking the ball out while Morales whose ankle was broken last year on a similar, but more vicious play writhed in pain.
"Javier got crushed," Beckerman said. "Maybe he was getting his leg broken again like last year."
So, Beckerman retaliated in a manner that has become all too familiar for RSL. It led to a skirmish, which turned into a ruckus and somehow avoided turning into a brawl.
Beckerman was ejected, which he and coach Jason Kreis both said was the reason for the lopsided defeat. It raises the question of whether the way RSL reacts to hard shots against Morales is as much of a problem as the tackles themselves.
RSL reacted similarly against Portland a week earlier on a play that sent Morales sprawling and also led to multiple yellow cards.
Kreis and Beckerman were both, however, unclear on the reasons Beckerman was ejected.
"I'm not exactly sure why the referee decided to throw our player out and none of their players out," Kreis said. "That's a question for him. I wish I could ask him that now."
Kreis also said he didn't think Beckerman's retaliation was an "overly dangerous tackle," but acknowledged the referee may have seen or heard something he could not from the coach's box.
Beckerman said a hard tackle on Morales doesn't necessarily have to escalate into a bigger kerfuffle but that Saturday it was unavoidable.
"If the referee's going to try to be the main man of the game," he said, "it's going to be tough. We don't mind losing but we want to lose by the other team beating us, not with just game-changing plays by the referees. It's petty, you know? We want it to be a fair shake and just a good soccer game for the fans."