MONTERREY, Mexico – Real Salt Lake accomplished much of what they wanted to with an exciting 2-2 draw at Monterrey in the first leg of the Champions League finals on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, they lost key ingredient to their success in the process.
Thanks to a disputed yellow card midway through the second half, RSL captain Kyle Beckerman will be unavailable for the second leg.
In the 65th minute, the veteran midfielder went in for an innocuous challenge and came away with a yellow card to show for it. Since it’s his second caution in the knockout rounds, Beckerman will be forced to miss the match at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27.
That reality could be felt against the backdrop of an otherwise satisfying result on Wednesday in Monterrey.
“It’s huge,” said striker Fabian Espindola after the draw.
Aside from being a key component of the defense and an important linking piece to the attack, Beckerman’s loss is significant as he is in many ways the emotional leader for the team.
“He’s a guy that makes us tick, both on the field and off,” said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. “And he’s bummed right now in the locker room. To see his head down is something that you never see, ever. But again, we keep saying that we pride ourselves on depth, and now we have a couple of players that can fill that position.”
The call was clearly a controversial one, and could prove to be a pivotal one in the series.
“I think it’s a travesty, to be completely honest,” said Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis, “because that, for me, was a fair tackle. It wasn’t even a foul. That was mindboggling to me. I’m extremely disappointed with the referees.”
Beckerman expressed his disappointment and frustration about receiving the discipline.
“It was a 50-50 ball, and I went in,” described the RSL captain. “The other guy went down like he’d been shot. And the referee bit on his acting.”
Beckerman will be joined on the sidelines by Monterrey striker Aldo de Nigris and midfielder Jesús Zavala, who also earned yellow-card suspensions for the second leg.
Penalty was right call
That yellow-card controversy came just two minutes after the first bit of controversy on the night. In the 63rd minute, defender Jamison Olave appeared to clear a cross and was whistled for a handball infraction, bringing with it a penalty kick that ultimately gave Monterrey a 2-1 lead.
However, Rimando had a birds-eye view of the play and believes the proper call was made.
“It was bad luck for Olave,” said the RSL ‘keeper. “He clears it and it hits his leg, and hits his hand. You know it’s a PK. You’re going to give that to the home team for sure.”