Real Salt Lake has made some moves in the recent weeks that will shape this team for the next few years. There is still a gigantic decision looming, however, that will dictate just how successful this team is on the pitch in the coming years. This is ‘The Javi Decision’.We are all very well versed in the history of Javier Morales with Real Salt Lake. He is, to me, probably the single greatest reason for RSL moving from awful, to okay, to great. He was the number 10 you dream about having. He ran the show.
Times have changed, though. Javier suffered that horrific injury to start 2011 and, sadly, has never been the same player he once was. He showed last year that he can still cut it in this league – but he isn’t anywhere near his dominance he once showed. He doesn’t embarrass players every game and he doesn’t have that burst of speed that made his whole game so magical. He isn’t making RSL the envy of the league. Instead, we, like him, have become a good but not great team. We’ve fallen from our high point.
It is because of this that I view the decision to keep or let Javi walk as so gigantic. RSL (read Garth Lagerway, Bill Manning, and Jason Kreis) have worked their tails off to keep him. I understand why. Despite his drop in form, Javi is still a pretty good player. And the RSL system/team could (hypothetically speaking) be great if the right pieces were around him. However, I feel the price that RSL is going to have to pay (between $200K and $300K) just is too much for what Javi has done since his injury.
In sports, it is all about ‘what have you done for me lately’. Well, lately, RSL has really struggled offensively. Javi is our keystone for the offense. It is not a coincidence that RSL has faltered as Javi as faltered.
In my “Armchair GM” posts I said that I’d be all for keeping Javi if we could somehow convince him to stay with a paycheck of roughly $200K. From everything I’ve read and heard, this isn’t the territory that RSL is marketing to Javi. All reports have him possibly signing a 200-300K contract with a heavy bonus possibility should he get a certain number of assists, goals, and minutes. I’m not fully against this, I just view it as the wrong direction for RSL.
With the moves of Johnson, Espindola, and Olave, RSL has started a rebuilding phase. Not a complete destruction of the old team rebuilding phase, like that of when Kreis first go here; but more of a tinkering with some big pieces while keeping other big ones around phase. So the fear, understandably, is that if RSL loses Morales along with these other players, they will falter like so many teams that try the blowup mode. I understand this fear, but feel it to be far too cautious for a team that has the saying “Fortune Favors The Bold” as a motto
What I feel RSL needs to do is let Javi go. Or, more accurately, Javi needs to decide to leave.
This will be best for RSL in the long run.
Here is why:
- It forces RSL to find a new attacking mid
- An attacking mid of Javi’s quality will be hard to find; there is no doubt in that. In fact, I feel the largest reason for offering Javi such a high contract and giving the bonuses that it would have is that the staff fears they couldn’t find another player like him soon enough, if ever. I view this more as a challenge to this staff to prove that they can once again find that diamond in the rough. If we want to be a team that changes its identity in the big game (read: our offense shows up) then you need to think about changing the driving force of that offense. A new guy would be a challenge for RSL, but it would also be a sign that they are serious when they say they want trophies.
2. It makes this team have to get younger
- The midfield for RSL next year, should Javi stay, would be Kyle Beckerman (turns 31 next season) Ned Grabavoy (turns 30 next season), Luis Gil (19), and Javier Morales (turns 33 before season). That’s an average age over 30. We don’t need or want that at RSL. We have to be young and athletic. That is what this system demands. Losing Will Johnson is going to kill this team if they think they can just replace him with the same players and Luis Gil. We have to get younger. Losing Morales would force that hand.
3. It opens the possibility of a Designated Player
- Without Morales and his salary hit RSL would have quite a bit of wiggle room to bring in a play-maker. RSL has already stated they are going after a higher profile (at least stat wise) striker with the money they opened up. If you open up enough for a designated player, as Javi would essentially do, then there is pretty much no reason to not get a DP. RSL’s diamond system/formation dictates that you must have a special player take responsibility of the top of the diamond. This attacking mid has to have the vision and creativity to make everything go from toothless possession to lethal attack. These kind of players aren’t cheap. They are the players that you pay to see when you go to games. RSL needs a new one.
RSL losing Morales, should it happen, should be something celebrated for fans. Yes, I understand that it is going to be rough to lose a guy we’ve all fallen in love with. But this is sports. This isn’t a place where sentiment gets you far, if anywhere. You have to keep moving or you’ll be eaten. RSL, if they are serious about winning trophies, would be wise to let Javi walk. It’s time for RSL to find a new offensive play-maker and, by extension, a new identity.
The Javi decision, to me, will dictate the success of RSL in 2013. With Javi, we’ll be a good team. We’ll qualify for playoffs, possibly go a bit deeper in the USOC, and maybe even make a run in the playoffs (that’s all about getting hot at the right time) but I seriously doubt we’ll win anything more than the RMC. If Javi is gone, it could go one of two ways. I’m very aware of that. RSL could really suck. We could lose our identity and not have a midfield presence. However, it’s just as likely (in my eyes, given who we have scouting) that we could turn into a dominate team once again.
The ‘Javi Decision’ is all about potential. If RSL takes it safe, I’m fine by that. The safe route makes sense and has a small chance of success. However, if we want to make an effort to return to the top of this league, changes are needed. If you change the biggest piece of the puzzle, something different will have to happen.
RSL should welcome the change. RSL should seek the change. Because, if they don’t, I don’t see how this team can win trophies.
15 to 32