Gold Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann has high USMNT hopes for RSL's Tony Beltran, "a special talent"
SAN DIEGO – If there’s one player who has an especially valuable opportunity with the US national team over the next few weeks, it’s Real Salt Lake's Tony Beltran.
With several players on the roster eager to impress Klinsmann ahead of the next round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, Beltran's opportunity in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup and in Friday's pre-tournament friendly against Guatemala (11 pm ET, NBC Sports Network / Live chat on MLSsoccer.com) is unique.
The 25-year-old plays at right back, a position that has proven a problem area for Klinsmann throughout his tenure as national team coach. With mainstays such as Steve Cherundolo hurt this year, and promising talents like Timmy Chandler struggling to juggle club commitments and personal matters, the position seems to be one of the few on the national team without a set starter. Seattle midfielder Brad Evans started at right back during the recent stretch of qualifying matches.
WATCH: Beltran talks about his USOC golazo
At the team hotel on Tuesday, Klinsmann discussed his strategy of building depth for the national team: “What we’re trying to do is to build competition in every position, and [Beltran has] done well the last year.”
Despite the praise from Klinsmann, Beltran, who has been called up by the US manager three times this year, says he’s still fighting to stay in the mix.
“It’s tough sometimes with the national team, especially since I’ve been involved only this year, knowing where I stand,” he explained to MLSsoccer.com. "But I think that’s the entire point, there’s no guarantees."
Still, Beltran’s potential on the international level is clear to Klinsmann, who called him a “special talent.”
With the new national team responsibilities being added to his usual RSL duties, Beltran appreciated the change in routine and motivation the US call-up has provided him.
“I think [the call-up is] another incentive,” Beltran explained. “I’m constantly challenged by my club coach Jason Kreis. There’s really no other incentive needed, but this is.”
The defender does mull the possibility of being part of the US squad for Brazil 2014 and although he admits it serves as motivation to continue to work hard, he’s appreciating his national experience and trying not to think too far ahead.
“The moment is fleeting," Beltran said. "And I’m enjoying it while I can."