VANCOUVER – Admittedly, there is a language barrier when you talk to Vancouver Whitecaps star Pedro Morales.
As comfortable as he is on the pitch with the ball at his feet, the Chilean midfielder does struggle a little bit when trying to speak English. So when Whitecaps-teammate-turned-interpreter Omar Salgado relayed Morales’ message, you wonder if something did get lost in the translation.
“Soccer can take over hockey one day in Canada. It should happen in ten to 20 years,” Morales proudly stated before the Whitecaps boarded their flight to Chicago where they’ll play the Fire on Wednesday night.
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A nervous laugh from Salgado suggested he wasn’t putting words in his captain’s mouth. Enquiring minds from the media were also caught off guard by such a bold prediction. But Morales, who spent two years at Spanish outfit Malaga before joining the Whitecaps in February, truly believes soccer’s popularity in other parts of the world may one day lead to bigger and better things in North America.
“I can feel the excitement of the fans at BC Place for every game. The soccer environment in Spain is coming to countries like Canada and the U.S.,” Morales said confidently.
A magician on the pitch, Morales, perhaps, does have a trick or two up his sleeve when it comes to growing the sport in Vancouver. Right now, though, the Whitecaps would be just as happy to see some growth in their MLS point total, something that should happen if Morales continues to perform even half as well as he did on Sunday against FC Dallas. The Chilean scored the game tying goal from the penalty spot against Dallas, and registered a club record 12 shots at net.
“I think Pedro has done amazingly,” Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted said.
“Last game, you saw him dictate it in the centre of the field. Doing the things he does best, putting people through and threading those passes. I had a good view from my position to stand and marvel at what Pedro did on the field.”
Morales sprayed balls at will against Dallas and wandered from sideline to sideline as he found pockets of space to lead the Whitecaps’ attack. It’s something he’s done routinely since arriving this off-season.
“Nothing surprises me with Pedro. I keep saying it every week: he seems to be getting better and better,” coach Carl Robinson stated.
“He seems to have risen to the occasion with getting the captaincy as well. He plays at his own pace, he does things with the ball that not too many other people can do and he makes us a better side.”
But despite such high praise from his manager, Morales was left off the MLS All Star team, an oversight that didn’t sit too well with the club or its supporters. So don’t be too surprised if they lobby hard for him to win the league’s Newcomer of the Year Award—something that would satisfy Morales’ desire to be one of the best players in the league and put his stamp on the sport in his new home of North America.
“I like it and I feel good. I feel like I have a lot of confidence. My coach is perfect for me to help with the adjustment,” Morales explained when talking about making the move to Spain from Vancouver.
“We have tied a lot of games. We haven’t lost many games and that’s important. We will make the playoffs this year. I have what it takes to help the team make the playoffs.”
And as bold as his prediction was, that “soccer can take over hockey one day in Canada,” an MLS playoff berth for the Whitecaps this season might be an even bigger ask. But if anyone can pull a post-season rabbit out of his hat, it’s Morales the Magician.