Real Salt Lake's Yordany Alvarez hitting top form just when team needs him most
SANDY, Utah – When Real Salt Lake take the field Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium against Chivas USA (9 pm ET, MLS Live), they must do so without talismanic captain Kyle Beckerman.
The dreadlocked midfielder has been ruled out due to a dislocated rib, an injury suffered in training last week and one that limited him to 31 minutes against Vancouver. And while his absence is certainly not preferred, RSL have had a player ready to step in and play in the holding midfield position for the past couple of years – Yordany Álvarez, who came in last week and played one of his best matches for the Claret and Cobalt.
"He did really well," said coach Jason Kreis following training Friday afternoon. "I think he's been playing really well in the training sessions and in the reserve games for a while now.
"Sometimes you just feel like guys are just really ready for their moment. I felt like Yordany was ready for his moment last week – so much so that I really considered just leaving Kyle out completely just to rest him even if I didn't think he was that injured. I think he is just in a good moment in his career and in his playing."
Álvarez knows that it is highly unlikely he is going to replace Beckerman in the starting lineup full time, but he prepares himself like he will play every week. It is this mentality that helps him stay focused and ready at a moment's notice.
"I prepare all week, out here," Álvarez told MLSsoccer.com after training at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday. "I feel good and I'm excited for Saturday.
"I'm always ready," he continued. "When [Beckerman] doesn't play, I am here for this team."
Another factor that Álvarez and the rest of the RSL players hope will turn things in their favor is the fact they are playing only their third game at home after starting the year with five of their first seven games on the road.
"It's huge for us," said Kreis of returning to Rio Tinto. "To be gone for so long and to travel across the country as much as we have at the beginning of this season, it's a wear and a tear and a grind. You want to be back with your family and playing in front of your family in the stands. We're happy to be here and were hopeful to give the folks a good performance tomorrow night."
And the coach knows it will take that type of play from his squad as they face a Chivas squad that has surprised many early on, sitting second in the Western Conference with 10 points from six games.
"I've seen a team that is very, very hungry to perform," said Kreis of Chivas. "They work extremely hard and buy into their coach's philosophy."