SANDY, Utah — There was certainly a local feel in the US national team's 4-1 win over Cuba on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium in the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. That's because three members of the American side all play their club soccer in the same venue as Real Salt Lake trio, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defender Tony Beltran and midfielder Kyle Beckerman all started and played the full 90 minutes to help advance the Yanks to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
"I think there are not many days where you have an opportunity to play in front of your home crowd in an international match," said US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the postgame press conference. "That's why Tony got this opportunity. He did well. I think it took him time to get into the game. The second half was much easier than the first half. But I think for these guys it's special. It's in front of their home fans, their families. An opportunity like today with Cuba, you take that and you give them a game."
Both Rimando and Beckerman started in the US's opening match against Belize last Tuesday in Portland, and both have earned their fair share of caps with their country, but for Beltran, it was only his second cap, and hopefully, he said, not his last.
"Not many players get the chance to play for their country, and the next step, not many players get to do that in their home stadium." said Beltran. "It was a very special day for me. I wanted to take full opportunity at this chance. But with each game, each training session they give me with this group, I want to show what I can do. I want to show I belong."
Rimando has shown well in the first two games, despite allowing a goal in each. But he said Saturday was extra special for him.
"There were a lot of emotions going through my head as I was coming out and getting the warm welcome from the crowd and to know my family was in the stands. It felt great," said Rimando. "It felt like I was home and it is something that I will remember for a long time."
"Both those crosses that he’s whipped in have been superb, and that makes my job easy where I pick out a certain run and just try to get across my defender," said Wondolowski of the two assists from Beckerman.
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Beckerman, however, was quick to deflect the credit the other way.
"It was a play where Tony had it down in the corner. He played me a great ball where I was able to take a touch, get a step on the defender. I looked up, saw Wondo making a great run, put it there and he did the rest."
Whether the three see any more time together remains to be seen, but for one day, one game anyway, the represented their home team and their country at the same time.
"It was amazing," said Beckerman. "To share it with Nick and Tony was awesome."