RSL's Javier Morales, left, celebrates during his hat trick performance in Houston on Sunday. (David J. Phillips/AP)
It’s somewhat unfair when the quality of hat tricks is all that separates three contenders for Player of the Week, as in Major League Soccer’s 10th week of the season.
Javier Morales scored one on Sunday after Harry Shipp and Bradley Wright-Phillips delivered theirs in the same match a day earlier, marking the first time in MLS history two players notched three goals in one game. Wright-Phillips’ was his second of the season.
It’s tough to pick just one winner out of the bunch, but Morales’ performance was so dominant that even a hat trick from an opponent wouldn’t have kept the Houston Dynamo in their 5-2 loss to Morales' Real Salt Lake. Mark Sherrod came close, scoring twice, but the damage was already done by the time he started scoring.
Morales needed just 15 seconds to dink a shot from outside the penalty area over Tally Hall’s head and into the net, and he scored again just over a quarter of an hour later. He bookended his second and third goals with a dominant midfield performance that Morales has produced on an almost-weekly basis for RSL in the last couple years.
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He drew a red card from Servando Carrasco, effectively ending Houston’s hopes of getting anything out of the game if Sherrod hadn’t been insistent on keeping it within one goal until the last 12 minutes. Morales set up Luke Mulholland for a goal in the 78th minute, slipping a through ball between Dynamo defenders to give him a breakaway.
Then, after giving his team a two-goal handicap to start the match and staving off the Dynamo's comeback with his assist, he finished it with a penalty in the 89th minute to seal the victory.
The main aspect that sets Morales’ performance apart from Shipp’s and Wright-Phillips’ is his control. From start to finish, his fingerprints were all over RSL’s win over Houston, as if he was the puppeteer of his own marionette theater production.
Morales is joined by 10 others on the Week 10 MLS Best XI:
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Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 10
• Bill Hamid (D.C. United): Despite flapping at a couple crosses, Hamid made several important late saves to earn a shutout and 1-0 victory over the rival Philadelphia Union.
• Jordan Harvey (Vancouver Whitecaps): Harvey had a good game on both sides of the ball in a win over Columbus, showcasing the skill set of a modern fullback.
• Jeff Parke (D.C. United): Against his former team, Parke anchored a defensive line that just squeaked out a shutout on the road.
• Alvas Powell (Columbus Crew): Thrust into a difficult situation when an early Michael Harrington injury called him into action against L.A., Powell was one of Portland’s best players.
• Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution): Fagundez finally got off the mark, scoring his first two goals of the season in a 5-0 win over Seattle.
• Marvin Chávez (Chivas USA): Not only did Chávez score twice against his former club that had just traded him, but he also celebrated both tallies, contrary to the usual convention.
• Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake): Morales scored a hat trick on the road and drew a red card against the Houston Dynamo to lead his team to a 5-2 win.
• Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire): Shipp continued his early bid for Rookie of the Year with a hat trick against New York in a 5-4 win. He was also credited with the assist for Patrick Nyarko's audacious angled chip from long range.
• Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders): Martins leads MLS in assists after setting up both of Seattle’s goals in a 2-1 midweek win over Dallas on Wednesday as the best player on the field a day after being left off Nigeria’s World Cup roster.
• Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): Somehow, Wright-Phillips’ second hat trick of the season wasn’t enough to get New York a win over lowly Chicago.
• Mark Sherrod (Houston Dynamo):
Sherrod clawed to keep his team in the game against RSL, scoring twice to make it 2-1 and 3-2, and his second goal came after Servando Carrasco’s red card reduced the Dynamo to 10 men.