Lehi • Javier Morales is hoping to "break the record" of about four months for the fastest recovery from an injury like the one the Real Salt Lake midfielder suffered last weekend, coach Jason Kreis said.
Whether he does or not, though, he will be out a lot longer than the player who shredded his ankle.
Officials at Major League Soccer will suspend Chivas' Marcos Mondaini on Thursday for a total of four games and fine him $1,250 for the red-card tackle, according to ESPN 700 Radio, which would make him eligible to return against the Portland Timbers on June 4.
The punishment falls far short of the record 10-game suspension and $5,000 fine levied against Colorado's Brian Mullan last month for a similarly devastating tackle on Seattle's Steve Zakuani, though neither league nor team officials would confirm the report.
While his teammates returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since his injury, Morales was home recovering from surgery to repair his left ankle, wrecked when Mondaini tackled him late from behind in a 1-0 victory for RSL last weekend. His team will play the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, hoping to improve on its 11-8-8 all-time record in all competitions without Morales.
"Sounds like he's in good spirits," midfielder Kyle Beckerman reported, having spoken to Morales on the phone.
In the meantime, midfielder Collen Warner said he's prepared for an increased role in Morales' absence, while Kreis explained that fellow reserve Nelson Gonzalez is back training fully with the team after spending much of the season so far getting fit following his offseason wedding and honeymoon.
"Those are once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we don't want to take away from," Kreis said. "So we knew that we were going to have an unfit Nelson join us. … We made a commitment to him and to ourselves that he wouldn't be in consideration to play until he reached a certain weight level and a certain fitness level."
Gonzalez reached those levels a couple of weeks ago, putting him in position to finally earn some playing time again particularly when the midfield is further depleted when the Gold Cup begins next month and pulls away others such as Will Johnson for national-team duty.
But Warner seems most likely to enjoy more minutes in place of Morales, having impressed coaches in his limited opportunities.
The former first-round draft pick out of the University of Portland said he's ready if the coaches need him, and would feel pressure only to help RSL rediscover its offensive flair not to emulate Morales' personal style.
"In my own right, I feel like I'm good enough to play," he said.
Kreis probably thinks so, too.
He said the loss of Morales will force RSL to prove itself worthy once again. The team is 5-1-0.
"We'll see now," he said. "We'll be put to the ultimate test on whether we can continue on and be an extremely good, elite team in this league without Javier Morales. I believe the answer is yes."