Long time Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales has signed the first MLS free agent deal of the 2016-17 off season with FC Dallas. The 36-year-old Morales brings an element of experience to a Dallas side known for harboring young talent. He spent 10 years in Utah, where he scored 49 times overall.
Javier Morales Signs With FC Dallas
Morales brings championship experience to an FC Dallas team short on players who have been there before. Maxi Urruti and Atiba Harris were the only Dallas regulars last season who had made an appearance in and MLS Cup final before. Morales started the 2009 MLS Cup Final, which Real Salt Lake won over LA Galaxy. He also started and scored in the penalty shootout during the 2013 final, which RSL ultimately lost to Sporting Kansas City.
Although he was shocked that Real Salt Lake declined his option, but the move made sense. RSL is a team trying to get younger. They don’t need a 36-year-old in their midfield. Dallas, on the other hand, can benefit from a man of Morales’s experience. They are already a young team that has come within touching distance of the final several times. For a team that has seen their fair share of playoff woes over the last couple seasons, Morales could be the final piece that gets them over that post season hump.
Morales Fills a Midfield Need
Morales also fills a gap in central midfield. For all of Dallas’s attacking talent, they really lacked a midfielder who could dictate play in the center of the park. The pairing of Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo was a fairly defensive minded operation. Gruezo, while completing 82.2 percent passes, provided zero goals and zero assists going forward. Acosta did add a couple goals and three helpers, but he’s a weaker passer.
Morales brings a central midfielder who can keep his mind on the attack. His 85.4% pass success rate coupled with four goals scored are an element Dallas can use. Yes, their front line can be excellent, but some accurate passing from the midfield will only make them better. Plus, a midfielder who isn’t afraid get up front and score a goal for himself will only help deflect attention from the true threats on the attack.
He May Not Start
The question with Javier Morales is whether or not he can continue to hold up through the long MLS season. He did start 24 matches for RSL last season, but he isn’t getting any younger. It’s entirely possible that Dallas doesn’t see Morales as a regular starter on their squad. Yes, his passing and goal scoring ability make him in some ways a better option than Gruezo or even the promising Acosta. His old legs, however, may not be able to keep up.
Morales can make himself useful as a substitute and depth starter, though. If Dallas finds themselves needing a goal late in a big game, Morales can step in for one of the more defensive minded midfielders and make an impact on the attack. He can start a home game that Dallas is expected to control possession where his defensive weaknesses won’t have as great of an effect. Even if he isn’t a regular fixture in the starting XI, he can still be a useful piece to the puzzle.
Javier Morales brings some experience and attacking flair to a midfield, and a team, short on players with mass MLS experience. Morales brings the experience of having played for an MLS Cup winner to a team that may just need that final piece to get over their recent playoff demons.