FRISCO, Texas — Javier Morales was noticeably distraught in the locker room Saturday evening after Real Salt Lake's loss at FC Dallas.
His 69th minute red card didn't necessarily prevent RSL from getting a result in Game 1, but it didn't help either. Even though Dallas picked up a red card of its own six minutes later to level the playing field again, with only 10 men Real Salt Lake struggled with fatigue down the stretch and eventually gave up a game-winning goal in the 88th minute.
Morales is automatically suspended for Game 2 as well.
"It will certainly hurt, he's a very, very important player for us as we know, but we've had him out for a stretch this season and we got results without him as well," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "So we believe in what we've built here in this group and we don't think next week should be any different."
Morales' second yellow card in the 69th minute was a deserved card after a dangerous play on Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty. His 49th minute yellow card was just silly.
Following a stoppage of play at midfield and then a light collision with FC Dallas' David Hernandez, Morales lightly tapped Hernandez on the face — with the Dallas midfielder returning the favor.
As innocent as it seemed, the referee thought otherwise.
"From the interpretations we got from the referees, if you do that it's automatic, it's a yellow card," said Kreis.
Now Real Salt Lake is in a must-win situation at home next week without the services of its most creative attacking player.
DOING JUST FINE: Will Johnson didn't start Saturday's game because of the hamstring he tweaked earlier in the week, but that wasn't his decision.
"I felt fine. The professional opinion of the medical staff was I play 30 minutes or less," said Johnson. "My nonprofessional opinion was I play 90 minutes. Obviously I didn't quite win that battle."
Johnson entered the match in the 68th minute for Andy Williams and was his usually active self.
"I'll be 100 percent and ready to go next weekend," he said.
SHREDDED FIELD: Real Salt Lake is used to playing on a pristine pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium. That wasn't the case at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday.
The field was quite shredded in the midfield and near the sidelines because of a high school football game played there the night before.
"It was footballed out. The whole middle of the field a bunch of cleat marks all over the place. I guess it was fine for them," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
RSL's captain gave off the impression that he and his teammates struggled with the bumpy field.
COMMISSIONER'S THOUGHTS: MLS commissioner Don Garber addressed the media at halftime Saturday and shared his thoughts about potential changes in the offseason regarding a balanced vs. unbalanced schedule, a single table, amongst other things.Comment on this story
"Nothing is off the table, we want to be sure we continue to evolve our competition and put on great entertaining matches and have every game count and have our season be meaningful," said Garber.
As for the oddity of having Colorado and San Jose playing in the Eastern Conference playoffs — a year after Real Salt Lake won the Eastern Conference title — Garber admits it needs to change.
"There's a better way to do it than we've done this year. We had bad luck with the way the season ended up, that was unusual and we need to fix that," he said. "We need to look at making it more easy to understand throughout the year as opposed to having to post it on our website and even have people in the league office read it to understand what's happening."