SANDY — As far as Javier Morales is concerned, the 2012 season has been a waste.
For weeks and weeks and weeks he’s been trying to recover from a quadriceps injury that simply wasn’t there. It was all in his head — or better yet, in his back.
It turns out the recurring pain in his quad muscle was the result of a compressed nerve in his back, and it’s been going on since the preseason.
“I’m not happy 'cause I lost a lot of games," Morales said. "I lost a lot of training for something I don’t have in my body. I’ve been working on my quad for a long time, but the problem wasn’t there. I wasted my time.”
Morales first learned of the nerve problem late last week when he visited a doctor in Mexico that was recommended to him by a friend. After five days of treatment and physical therapy on his back, he was feeling great and played 45 minutes in Tuesday’s Reserve League game pain, worry free.
The troublesome quad issue has limited Morales to just six starts in 15 matches this season, along with appearances in four other games.
The most recent flare-up was May 9 in Chicago, when pain in his right quadriceps forced him to leave the match in the 28th minute. Until last week though, Morales hadn’t been getting treatment on the direct source of the injury.
A discouraged Morales refuses to point fingers regarding an injury issue that might have been avoided, and said the only thing that matters is getting the proper treatment moving forward.
Outside of the frustration of missing so many games and training sessions this year, Morales admits it’s been hard to see his reputation as a staunchly fit and hard-working player get dragged through the mud throughout his injury spells.
“I read the papers. I read the Internet and a lot of people were talking about me and my injuries, and that I have a lot of soccer in my legs, I’m getting old. Some crap like that,” said Morales. “People were talking about stuff I don’t like. I work hard every day.”
For a player who recovered from a broken ankle in four-and-a-half months last season when many figured he was done for the year, Morales expressed frustration that people questioned his resolve to get fit and strengthen his quadriceps.
And for those questioning that the 32-year-old’s best years are behind him, he’s anxiously getting treatment for the proper injury and will have a chip on his shoulder for the remainder of 2012.
“I’m feeling good and I can keep playing for a long time,” said Morales.
A loss of core strength in Morales’ body because of last season’s broken ankle could directly be related to what the doctor in Mexico believes are nerve problems in his back.
Whether he plays this Saturday at Chivas USA remains to be seen. Morales believes that the team has been playing well without him much of the season, so he doesn’t see the need to rush back until he’s 100 percent.
Assuming the compressed nerve continues to respond well to the physical therapy and Morales returns to full fitness soon, that may mean bad news for the rest of Major League Soccer.
Real Salt Lake owns the best record in the league at 9-3-2, and it’s done so without consistent contributions from a player that teammate Nat Borchers calls the best offensive player in MLS.
“Once he gets back to full sharpness we’re going to be tough to beat,” said Borchers.
Fellow RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy knows the injuries have been most frustrating to Morales, but also admits they’ve taken their toll on the rest of the team.
“We know we need Javier healthy and firing on all cylinders because he’s an unbelievable player. The system is really set up for him to do his thing and run that offense with those two forwards and create stuff,” said Grabavoy.
Morales is as anxious as anyone to finally be healthy and contributing again.