LEHI, Utah – If the Seattle Sounders have watched Real Salt Lake play in the late stages of the season, they may not be all that worried about the upcoming playoff series between the two clubs. After all, RSL are winless in their last six games, which included a four-game losing streak prior to two consecutive draws.
But now they have Kyle Beckerman back — the veteran midfielder who is, according to defender Tony Beltran, "infinitely important" to RSL.
“Kyle is the heart and soul of this team,” Beltran told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday’s training session. “He’s a fantastic player and it’s a pleasure to come out here and train with him every day, so it’s going to be great having him back. [It will] give us a good boost.”
RSL’s midfield has been stretched thin this year due to numerous absences, most notably Javier Morales’ lengthy recovery from a broken ankle sustained in May. They've mixed and matched with players like 17-year-old Luis Gil, the ageless Andy Williams and second-year man Collen Warner. Through it all, Beckerman has been stalwart for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
“Kyle’s made pretty big strides this year,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “In a lot of ways up until the suspension [he] was our most consistent performer this year, and was in talks for MVP consideration and I think he deserved that. He had taken a lot of the burden of not having Javier on his own shoulders, and had stepped up his game in how he was creating for us, and his play on dead-ball situations.”
Beckerman and Morales played together in RSL’s Sept. 28 match against the Chicago Fire, but Beckerman was sent off in the 11th minute for a head butt on Daniel Paladini. The RSL captain was suspended for the remainder of the season, meaning that Morales and Beckerman have barely had any time to reconnect.
They’ll need to get back on the same frequency quickly. RSL’s midfield will be crucial to their success in the postseason, and Beckerman will be an important piece of that puzzle.
“In my opinion, Kyle’s individual game has taken a big step forward,” said Kreis. “And now he has an opportunity to lead this team to the next level – and to have everybody back together and for him to be the leader, and to really make a statement right now.”