SANDY, Utah—Injuries were never an excuse during a four-game losing streak, but the steadying influence of Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman helped guide Real Salt Lake to a 2-1 victory over New York City FC on Wednesday night.
Rimando missed three games after a hamstring injury against Atlanta in April, while Beckerman hadn’t played since the Atlanta game after sustaining a knock in practice the following week.
“We have been fighting and wanting this win,” Rimando said. “Even though we went down 1-0, you saw the pride that we took.”
Rimando set the MLS career saves record after making his 1,475th stop in the first half. A goal by Sean Okoli in the 4th minute made it look like much hadn’t changed from Salt Lake’s previous four losses, but Rimando didn’t let anything else past, even when David Villa and Jack Harrison came on as early second-half subs.
“Play as long as I have been playing, and those records are going to come,” Rimando said. “Yeah, it’s special to me, but the three points is most important.”
The saves record was the final major goalkeeping career mark Rimando didn’t already have to himself, but a career's worth of saves weren’t as important as stopping what was getting to be an ugly four-game skid.
“After going down early they had a different mentality tonight. You could see it was something a little different tonight in their reactions. No one hung their head and they clawed back and got the equalizer,” said RSL head coach Mike Petke. “They went and got the go-ahead and they closed the game out really well.”
Adding Rimando in goal and Beckerman in midfield helped keep RSL in their right mind after another early goal. The intangibles of on-field leadership made the difference.
“Kyle wasn’t as clean in the first half,” Petke said. “He was so excited and wanted to set the tone in this game. Kyle’s a special leader because he leads by example. He’s not a big barker. He yells when he has to, but he puts the work in every day.”
Rimando held the defense together and said they were “tight, organized and communicating” – just like Petke had stressed the past few days in practice. No doubt Rimando had a hand in that as well.
“Nick brings experience and his ability, look at how many saves he’s had,” Petke said. “He’s a leader in his own right as well.”
The added leadership, even on a short turnaround from Saturday’s 4-0 loss at New England, was the biggest part of keeping RSL even-keeled and steady after the early goal. The scorelines for the last four losses were more indicative of mental mistakes than the actual play on the field, said Petke, but having Beckerman and Rimando on the field held Salt Lake’s attention, at least after the first goal.
“Mentality went right,” Petke said. “That was a big part of it.”