CARSON, Calif -- Soccer doesn’t always have to be complicated. Sometimes, it can be as simple as the joy across Kyle Beckerman’s face after he smashed in the goal that brought Real Salt Lake level with the LA Galaxy on the final kick of the game in Saturday's 1-1 draw.
The point put RSL back above the playoff line as Western Conference teams jostle in a competitive race for spots in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. The importance of that draw was evident as Beckerman celebrated and head coach Mike Petke hugged everyone on the sideline.
But it was also evident in a quiet moment, outside the locker room after the game, when Petke and Nick Rimando had a quiet embrace and the head coach told his veteran goalkeeper how proud he was.
“Not to get sappy or anything,” said Petke after the game, “but this is why I’m in this sport. This is why I love doing what I’m doing. This is why the players are in it, to win games and feel moments like this.
“I’ll be the first to state here, it felt like we won tonight -- with a tie. We were a man down for 75 minutes and for us to get the goal in stoppage time shows we didn’t give up.”
RSL were pressed early, and Petke admitted they were expecting that, based on how LA have played early in games in recent weeks. In the opening 20 minutes, before and after the red card to RSL defender Marcelo Silva for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity on Giovani dos Santos, there was a period where Salt Lake faced seven unanswered shot attempts. Rimando, for his part, had to make three early saves.
With six saves on the night, Rimando was a huge part of RSL staying in the match long enough to grab the stoppage-time equalizer. Afterwards, he reflected on the importance of the moment.
“We all know how much his team means to Mike [Petke],” said Rimando. “It really would have felt like a huge loss if we didn’t get something out of this game. The way we played, the courage we had, I thought was enough to get at least a point.
“[Petke] believes in us, and he believes in me. He makes it known.”
Going into the final month of the MLS regular season, as one of four teams with a fair claim to the final two Western Conference playoff spots, in a year where RSL underwent a rebuilding process of sorts, speaks well of the veteran leadership in the squad. It’s poetic that captain Beckerman grabbed that vital goal.
“We’re just trying to stay steady,” said Beckerman, “whether it’s goals or just being a steady presence out there. That’s all it is, we’re just trying to build this team back. Staff a couple years ago they did some bad things to this team. We’re trying to build it back, and Mike [Petke]’s got us in the right direction.”