Kevin Molino - Minnesota United - July 12 - close up

Real recognizes real.

Kyle Beckerman, ahead of Real Salt Lake’s Group D matchup Friday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes; TSN in Canada) at the MLS is Back Tournament, highlighted Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino as a top player.

Beckerman, fresh off appearing in his 21st MLS season, offered praise for Molino, who has three goals and one assist on the year, including a stoppage-time winner in the Loons’ 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City.

“When he’s healthy he’s a top player and extremely silky, can score, can assist,” Beckerman said via video conference call. “So, he’s definitely somebody to keep an eye on, but they have numerous players and I think they’re also playing with a lot of confidence, they have a lot of momentum coming from the first two games of the season. Now with a late win the other day, I’m sure the confidence is flying high.”

Molino entered MLS with Orlando City during their 2015 expansion season, and then was traded to Minnesota in 2017. He tore his ACL early in the 2018 campaign, but has since recovered and proven dynamic centrally or out wide.

RSL head coach Fredy Juarez said he’s been tracking the Trinidad and Tobago international since his USL days. He also highlighted Jan Gregus’ long-range shots from midfield, Romain Metanire’s tireless engine on the right flank and Mason Toye’s threat up top as other areas to watch. There’s also the looming status of forward Luis Amarilla, Minnesota’s prized offseason acquisition who had to be withdrawn from the starting XI minutes before their tournament opener due to an abductor injury.

“The results from last year and the results from starting this year have shown they’re a good team, and it’s not a one-man team,” Juarez said. “This is a very good team. They will defend if they have to defend and they will bring it to you if they need to bring it to you.”

Minnesota aren’t the only in-form team, though. RSL topped the Colorado Rapids2-0 on Sunday evening, and first place in Group D will be on the line. Depending on the other results, they could even book passage into the knockout rounds.

Beckerman and Juarez acknowledged as much, hoping their self-belief can squash the dynamic presence Molino offers.

“We know, us as RSL, if we want to compete against them, we have to outmatch their energy,” Juarez said. “That’s got to be the foundation, the bare minimum, of this game. From there, hopefully the tactics we choose are the right tactics."