RSL back at full strength in middle

Seeing his 55-game starting streak quietly come to an end last weekend proved more than enough to drive Kyle Beckerman crazy.

Beckerman and fellow midfielder Javier Morales were required to watch Real Salt Lake's home match against Colorado from the sidelines after both players accumulated enough yellow cards to mandate an automatic one-game suspension.

"It was the worst week I've had in a long time," Beckerman said. "The day of the game was terrible -- just having to be around everything and not being able to play. I've been antsy all week and ready to get back."

RSL is hopeful that the weeklong sabbatical for Beckerman and Morales will deliver a pair of players who are recharged both mentally and physically and have returned to the form that made them such important elements to the team's success just a season ago.

Both Morales and Beckerman have endured their share of low moments in the early weeks of 2009. Opposing defenses are taking greater note of the midfield duo, giving them less time and space to operate.

Morales has taken note of the increased defensive attention they are receiving. What he and his teammates have not done is adapt to those changing circumstances.

"It's not an excuse that the league knows me and they're now marking me more," Morales said. "For me, I need to play better. But, at the same time, we're a team and not individuals. As a team that level is being raised and needs to be raised."

Beckerman and Morales have earned critics among segments of the media and the team's fanbase for what are seen as a series of mediocre performances. Still, the high-profile duo have RSL coach Jason Kreis firmly in their corner.

Kreis is reluctant to assign blame to his top midfielders when multiple players have exhibited mental and tactical breakdowns at different points during the team's current seven-game winless streak.

"It's a difficult and dangerous thing to single out anybody," Kreis said. "There aren't many guys that are playing up to their potential."

Kreis turned a few heads with his decision to give Morales and Beckerman a week off from training to go with their one-game suspension. Even if it seemed like a reward for yellow cards on the surface, a different train of thought guided his decision.

Both players were not at 100 percent physically and Kreis thought they could benefit from some rest. Indeed, Morales described himself as being banged up after the match at San Jose and Beckerman admitted to having some nagging foot and ankle problems.

Kreis hopes a week of rest for both midfielders will pay dividends for the team as a whole when RSL hits the road to take on Los Angeles this Saturday.

"I'm very hopeful that we made the right decision there to hold those guys out and let them heal a little bit from all their bruises and fatigue," Kreis said. "I'm hopeful we can get their best this weekend."

One thing the twin absence of Beckerman and Morales might have accomplished is infuse a new dose of confidence into RSL.

The Claret-and-Cobalt switched to a 4-3-3 formation against Colorado to cover for the missing midfielders. Working out of that shape, Real stepped up the attack quite well and seemed to create scoring chances with much more ease.

RSL is confident it can perform even better sporting a complete lineup against the Galaxy.

"Even without them, we did a good job," forward Yura Movsisyan said. "We got guys who can step in. But you know what? It's a boost to have those guys in there. They're a big part of this club and a big part of this team."

John Coon is a contributor to

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