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RSL legend Javier Morales calls it a career, but what’s next for the legendary playmaker?

Former Real Salt Lake star now has his sights set on becoming a coach

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Former RSL midfielder Javier Morales (11) waves to the crowd after scoring a goal for Real Salt Lake in a game against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, July 18, 2015.

Javier Morales wasn’t immediately available on the day that for so many years, through season after season of what became trademarked magnificence, he feared.

In the hours after one of Major League Soccer’s best-ever playmakers made it official, putting an end to a transcendent career that lasted nearly 20 years — 10 of which came as Real Salt Lake’s midfield star — Morales was in class.

Because when you call it, when you force yourself to face that reality head on, you have to have a plan in place.

So as fans flooded his social media accounts with love and praise after the announcement, Morales was instead zoned in, participating in a FIFA-sanctioned coaching license class online that took up a good chunk of his Thursday afternoon.

“We have to do something now,” he told The Tribune when reached by phone. “The dream is gone, so now we have to start to do something else.”

The 38-year-old turned the last page in his own book, closed it shut himself, and is now in the midst of a transition so many who knew him expected for quite some time. He’ll forever be remembered in MLS as “The Maestro,” a man never blessed with elite athleticism or speed, but with superior skill and smarts that allowed him to routinely slice open defenses for a decade as RSL’s primary offensive threat.

In 248 regular-season matches in Utah, Morales totaled 49 goals and 81 assists, a franchise record.

Toward the end, even before he left RSL at the conclusion of the 2016 season to go play one final year at FC Dallas, he felt a change.

“The last couple years, to be honest, I was thinking more as a coach instead of a player,” Morales said.

Which is what he will do next.

Where his first coaching job comes remains to be seen. He had multiple offers from MLS clubs to sign on and give it one last go in 2018, but Morales refused to uproot his family once again for another year or two.

“I’m here in Dallas now and I’m waiting for a job,” he said. “I’m trying to see where is going to be the best opportunity for me and my family. I don’t want to move again to another place just for a year or two years.”

As for a possible reunion at RSL, coaching in some form or fashion with the club he helped lift off the ground after his arrival in 2007?

“It’s a lot of guessing,” he said. “You never know. I’m here, but if I move from Dallas or another place, it’s going to be because the opportunity to work in what I’m looking for as a coach.”

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Javier Morales celebrates as the Real score the first goal of the night, in MLS soccer action, Salt Lake Real vs. The Colorado Rapids, in Sandy, Utah, Saturday, October 24, 2009

As he prepared to make the announcement, he scrolled through old photos of his days in Salt Lake City, trying his best not to be overcome with emotion. He passed through the old Rice-Eccles Stadium days, the MLS Cup crown in 2009, the storied run in CONCACAF Champions League in 2011 and many more.

“When I think of Javier, I think of just how special he was,” said former RSL center back Nat Borchers. “He was the one player on our team who could unlock the other defense, and it’s so hard to find a player like that. He had all the gifts you’d want from somebody in that position.”

RSL defender Tony Beltran said Morales “was the kind of player who made me want to be better.”

“The first phrase that jumps to mind is RSL’s most-gifted player and most influential player of all-time,” Beltran added.

When RSL needed magic, it usually maneuvered toward its Maestro. Morales pieced together a phenomenal three-year stretch in the twilight of his career, scoring 25 goals and notching 34 assists from 2013 to 2015, routinely answering the call when called upon.

“I think he was, at the height of his game, unstoppable,” said Borchers.

To Morales, RSL’s five-year run from 2009 to 2013, a span that featured four respective cup finals, will always be the highlight of his playing career. The 2011 club that reached the CONCACAF Champions League final, he said, was the best team he ever played on. So now, as he waits to see who comes calling to give him his first coaching shot, Morales is left to reminisce, but also look forward.

On Thursday, his son, Santi, asked his dad if he expects to receive a phone call from RSL to honor him at an upcoming match this season now that Morales has officially hung up his cleats.

“I’m so happy with what I’ve done, I’m so happy with what I’ve from from the people, from the fans, especially in Salt Lake, and that is something that nobody can take away from me,” he said. “That is something that I already have.”

Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune Santiago Morales reaches for his father Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales (11) after RSL defeated the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Wednesday June 22, 2016.


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