Photograph by Charles Barnard
I told you I was wrong.
Morales has been amazing this season. Even though he missed the first four matches of the season, he is tied for the team lead with four goals, and leads the team with six assists. When he is on the field, RSL scores at a rate of a goal every 51.29 minutes. When he has not played, the scoring rate was only a goal every 95.80 minutes. The difference between the two of 44.51 is the second highest on the team just slightly behind Ned Grabavoy.
It is not just his stats that are great. He just looks better this year. He looks faster than he did last year and more fluid as well. He finally looks like the Morales of old. In my mind, he is the first half MVP for the team.
But in the past few weeks, I have learned that his greatest value might not be on the field at all for RSL. It might be in the locker room. Head Coach Jason Kreis said in his last post game press conference "He (Morales) is really the glue culturally in the locker room between the Hispanic players and the American players. He is such an important figure for us".
Brian Dunseth expanded upon that with me. "Javier is the one earmarked for all the foreign players. He came in and learned English as quickly as possible. He is also a dominate player on the field. He went on to say how the culture with the club has been built up by the coaching staff and many of the players and that "Javier helps set the culture from the foreign perspective".
General Manager Garth Lagerwey recently spoke to the Real Nation podcast about Morales and some of the thoughts behind resigning him. "During our negotiations one of the things we bore in mind was the positive impact that Javy would have in the locker room in terms of unifying what could deteriorate into Anglo and Hispanic cliques...In terms of mentoring the younger Hispanic players I think he has been tremendous as a role model. I think you can't put a price on that."
I truly did not understand the value that Morales has in the RSL locker room. But it makes great sense. The chemistry of this team is outstanding. There doesn't seem to be any of the divisions between the English and non-English speaking players that you might see on other teams. And, it sounds like Morales is a key to this.
Lagerwey and the rest of the RSL Front Office made the right move by bringing Javier Morales back by signing him to a two year contract. Morales could very well be the most important player for RSL. As I said in the beginning, I was wrong. And I am so glad that I was.