SANDY, Utah — When Real Salt Lake signed former Cuba international Yordany Álvarez prior to this season, they did so with the thought that he would be a terrific backup to starting holding midfielder and captain Kyle Beckerman – and he has been.
Álvarez (above, left) has filled in for Beckerman in the starting lineup five different times this season, playing fairly well in four of them. But as RSL prepare to play a crucial CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday night against Panamanian champion Tauro FC (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), with Beckerman back in Salt Lake thanks to a red-card suspension, Álvarez is also back in Utah, unable to get clearance to travel with the club to Panama.
"Unfortunately, with Yordany being a refugee and only carrying a green card, he is unable to get a passport," said RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey. "We knew this could be an issue, and we feel we have followed all the proper procedures to try to get him travel documents, but unfortunately, it just didn't get done in time.
"We knew this was something that could be an issue with Yordany," added Lagerwey. "In the future, I think he is hoping that he could perhaps become a US citizen and would be able to get a passport so this wouldn't be an issue in the future."
With Álvarez and Beckerman both still in the States, RSL will move versatile midfielder Ned Grabavoy to the holding midfielder spot on Tuesday night. Grabavoy has filled in for Beckerman at that position in previous seasons before the signing of Álvarez, and the team always has complete confidence that he will continue to play at a high level wherever the team needs him.
"I've learned a lot from Ned," RSL midfielder Jonny Steele said after training earlier in the week. "He is a true professional. He has taught me a lot about what it means to play in MLS. He is a great attacker, a great defender and he always comes out on the pitch and puts his best foot forward."