He has been a professional since 1998, but Javier Morales never managed to net a hat trick.
"Even in the low divisions," said the Real Salt Lake midfielder.
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On a steamy Sunday night in Houston, the 34-year-old Morales changed that, and in dominating fashion. He scored 15 seconds into the match, scored twice more and assisted another goal in RSL’s 5-2 rout of the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium.
It was a historic night of firsts for the club, as well as Morales.
RSL won for the first time ever in Houston, where it had gone 0-8-1 before Sunday night’s victory and Morales notched his first-ever hat trick. His chipped goal 15 seconds into the match was the fastest goal in RSL history, topping the previous high of 27 seconds by former RSL defender Matias Mantilla in 2008. Goal-less through the first nine matches of the season, the veteran attacker scored the fourth-fastest goal in Major League Soccer history, volleyed in his second in the 17th minute and added his third in the 90th minute on a penalty kick.
"You don’t expect to score a goal in the first 20 seconds," Morales said, "but we do expect to win the game. We start to push forward in the beginning of the game, and we got two goals."
From there, RSL pressed on against a 10-man Dynamo team that was handicapped after Servando Carrasco was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Morales in the 27th minute of play. Morales continued on with one of the best nights of his professional career with a window-tight assist to midfielder Luke Mulholland in the 78th minute.
But the chip over Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall will go down as one of Morales’ most brilliant efforts in a career filled with several of them.
"He does that in practice a lot where he’ll act like he’s going to hit it hard, and then do that," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Never on me, though."
Morales’ fantastic effort mere seconds into the match was noticed by Houston coach Dominic Kinnear. The fact one of RSL’s best players had a wide-open opportunity on goal less than 20 seconds into Sunday’s outing.
"We have to give Morales credit," Kinnear said. "I mean, it’s a great goal by him. He put it pretty much where he wanted to put it. It takes good skill to do that, especially the first touch of the game."
Captain Kyle Beckerman, Morales’ teammate since 2007, said the Argentine "can do special things."
"When you score a goal like that, and scoring goals, then getting assists … that’s our guy," Beckerman said. "That’s what he’s on our team for. That’s who Javi is, and it was as great game for him."
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