SANDY, Utah — During the offseason, Tony Beltran focused on raising the level of his game. Hard to argue it wasn't a winter well spent.
The outside back has started all six games so far this season and punctuated his superb early form by notching two assists in the win over Colorado last Saturday.
“I feel like it’s a big year for me, and I wanted to raise my game and I wanted to feel more confident,” Beltran told reporters after the victory. “I wanted that to show on the field. I’m proud of my play so far, but I think it can get better, and I want to keep it consistent.”
The team has asked more of Beltran with the departure of Robbie Russell, a player with whom Beltran often found himself sharing minutes.
“We had a good thing going in the past with the rotation, and I have contributed a lot of minutes with this team – a lot of important minutes,” said Beltran. “But this year the team’s going to need a little bit more from me.”
RSL believe Beltran can now push on and provide even more of a threat down their right-hand side. In fact, they believe he can become a standout defender in the league.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL v COL
“We have challenged Tony in that he has the ability to be an All-Star in this league,” GM Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com.
However, in order to get there, there are a couple of areas for Beltran to focus on. One area in which the 24-year-old defender needs to keep working is to get forward into the attack on a more regular basis.
His two assists on Saturday mark the first time he’s recorded more than one in a season, let alone a single game. He had a total of three setups in his prior four seasons in the league.
“I think when I first came here I was a little bit raw, and that was a big area that I needed to improve,” admitted Beltran. “My second and third season in particular, I did a lot of repetition work, and I feel that’s really paid off and, hopefully, I can deliver some more good balls this year.”
However, it’s also important for Beltran to be able to stay on the field. He’s had a few nagging injuries in the last couple of seasons that have meant periods on the sidelines.
“Part of being an All-Star in our league is being healthy and getting out there every week and doing your job,” said Lagerwey.
So far, Beltran’s off to a great start in that area. He picked up a knee injury in the opener which may have forced him to miss a game or two as a result, but he’s been able to play through the issue and Beltran’s All-Star potential has shone through.
“I just wanted to raise my game to the level of one of the top outside backs in this league,” said the UCLA product. “I’m getting a little bit older now, and it’s my time to step up.”