A lot of Real Salt Lake fans probably found themselves smiling when Jurgen Klinsmann announced that his January training camp roster would include RSL outside back Tony Beltran. This means that, as training camp gets underway in earnest today, Beltran will find himself donning the stars and stripes for the full national team for the first time (he previously played for the U.S. at several youth levels).
At this point he is probably a long shot to make the team that will play at Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier on Feb. 6, but this call definitely serves notice that Tony's hard work and success for RSL has not gone unnoticed. Reading between the lines, it also provides a bit of vindication for Jason Kreis and Garth Lagerwey, who thumbed their noses at conventional wisdom when they drafted Beltran back in 2008.
I remember that day well; I was watching the draft live from the RSL office in Trolley Corners with a handful of fans and staffers when RSL's first pick came around. With baited breath we all waited to hear what our new coach and new GM would do with their first draft pick ever. As Commissioner Garber said that with the third pick in the draft, Real Salt Lake select Tony Beltran from UCLA, a collective "who?" went up from the crowd. I had seen Tony play in person once before (at a U-20 World Cup game in Montreal), but I still had reservations. I wasn't the only one - soccer pundits around the country immediately opined that Beltran could have been had much lower in such a deep draft, maybe even with RSL's next pick at #14 overall, which RSL would end up using on David Horst.
Over the next few years, the wisdom of that selection became apparent as Beltran steadily increased his impact on RSL. As the "experts" began to see the genius of the choice, eventually the unconventional methods Kreis and Lagerwey use to evaluate draft picks came to light. For example, they conduct a sit-down interview with every potential draft pick on their radar - sometimes over 50 players. Kreis once told me that he was impressed by Beltran because he wore a suit to his interview. What their methods revealed is that the men in charge of RSL don't care just about a player having a certain set of soccer skills, but also what kind of person that player is. In hindsight, the selection of Beltran made such a splash around the league that today almost every MLS club also does sit-down interviews with potential draftees.
The odds are pretty good that we'll see Beltran get capped for the Nats in the near future. The January camp roster will take on Canada in a friendly match in Houston on Jan. 29, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Tony takes the field in that game.
He has a bit more work to do to get in with the "A" national team - hence his being a long shot for the Feb. 6 match at Honduras - but he does have the benefit of playing outside back. That's been one of the U.S.'s weakest positions for quite some time, so Klinsmann is more likely to have an open mind toward changing things up and there's less of an established pecking order. Steve Cherundolo is one name you can probably pencil in at right back, but nobody else in the pool has really separated themselves from the rest. This means Beltran will go in with the opportunity to make his presence felt. After the U.S. roster was announced, he said "I go into camp as I do anything in life, ready to learn and work hard." And knowing what Salt Lake fans know about Tony, we can be certain he'll do both.
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and will cover the team for ESPN700 AM.
It's been quite a busy Sunday for RSL, with the big announcement that Tony Beltran and Kyle Beckerman were called up to the U.S. National Team for its January training camp dropping just before noon in Salt Lake.
Beltran's and Beckerman's call ups aren't Sunday's only RSL-related news, however - a couple of other nuggets bear repeating, too.
First up is the report from Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl on Fox Soccer's Goals on Sunday that Rio Tinto Stadium is one of three finalists - along with Kansas City and Denver - to host the U.S.'s Hexagonal home opener against Costa Rica on March 22. The U.S. hosted a Hexagonal match at Rio Tinto in 2009, with the Yanks downing El Salvador 2-1 in Sandy. Hosting a second qualifer at the RioT would be a dream, especially when you consider that RSL's Beckerman, goalie Nick Rimando and Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio would likely be involved in the match. U.S. Soccer will announce which stadium will host the game this week.
Goals on Sunday host Rob Stone dropped the other RSL-related nugget, reporting that Rimando was invited to the January U.S. camp, but was held out due to injury precaution.
Let's hope for that March qualifier and a speedy recovery for Rimando. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil featured in the U.S. U-20 National Team's 2-1 loss to Canada at the Marbella Cup in Marbella, Spain on Wednesday, coming on as a halftime substitution and playing the final 45 minutes just days after he went the full 90 in RSL's 2-1 win at L.A.
Wednesday's defeat drops the U.S. U-20's to 0-1-0 in the Marbella Cup. Head Coach Tab Ramos's side next plays on Friday, when the team will take on Scotland in the second of three friendlies at the Marbella Cup. The U.S. U-20's will close out the tournament by playing Azerbaijan on Oct. 16.
Not quite sure how this slipped by us over the weekend, but RSL midfielder Will Johnson picked up a yellow card in Canada’s 1-0 World Cup Qualifying win over Panama in Toronto on Friday and will be suspended due to caution accumulation for the Canucks’ match at Panama on Tuesday.
Johnson didn’t travel with the Canadian team to Panama because of the suspension, instead returning to Salt Lake City to rejoin RSL. The feisty midfielder had the day off on Monday but will train fully with the first team starting on Tuesday.
Johnson wouldn’t have missed any RSL games had he traveled to Panama. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), goalie Nick Rimando (U.S.) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) are all still with their national teams and all have matches on Tuesday night.
The Claret-and-Cobalt return to action on Sept. 18, when they’ll travel to Panama – with Johnson – to take on Tauro FC in a virtual must-win CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage match.
Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea got most of the accolades, but RSL captain Kyle Beckerman was one of the U.S.’s best players in the Americans’ historic 1-0 win at Mexico on Wednesday night.
Just how good was Captain Kyle? Let’s dig in and find out.
According to Opta data on MLSsoccer.com, Beckerman completed 25 of 30 passes on Wednesday night, giving him a completion rate of 83.33 percent. His 25 passes completed was second on the U.S. team behind left back Edgar Castillo and his completion rate was fourth on the squad amongst players who attempted at least 20 passes.
And those passes weren't dinks and dunks, either. Beckerman hit just four backwards balls during the game - one of which, it should be noted, he put out of bounds for a Mexican corner kick - meaning he hit 26 passes up the field. One of those attacking passes helped set up the U.S. goal, with Beckerman slipping an inch-perfect ball past a sliding Mexican defender and to Shea on the left wing in the 80th minute to start the play that led to the Americans' tally. Oh, and he nearly scored one himself, too, just missing the top corner with an audacious long distance chip in the first half.
Beckerman also put in excellent work on the defensive side, leading the U.S. squad in both tackles won and interceptions, registering three of each.
Perhaps even better than his distribution and defensive work was Beckerman’s solid positioning. I can’t remember an instance in which the holding midfielder was caught out of position, providing solid cover in front of the back four – especially on the U.S.’s right side, where star Mexican winger Andres Guardado was operating – and pressuring the ball nicely out of the compact shell the American defense was in for much of the game.
But the part of Beckerman’s game that impressed me the most on Wednesday night was how quick he was on the ball. One of the biggest criticisms of Kyle is that he’s too slow on the ball – and too slow with his decisions – to be an effective international midfielder. His performance on Wednesday should – I repeat, should – put those critiques to bed. Beckerman was quick with his decisions all night, receiving the ball, picking his head up and finding a teammate in short order. He kept things moving far better than fellow center mid Jermaine Jones, who was nowhere near as good as Beckerman in possession at Estadio Azteca.
Congrats to Kyle for being a big part of history on Wednesday night. We’ll likely see him suit up for the U.S. again – maybe alongside Michael Bradley? – when the Stars and Stripes take on Jamaica in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers next month.
In case you've been living under a rock for the last few days and don't already know, the US national team is set to take on Mexico in a friendly (term used loosely) on Wednesday night at the famed Estadio Azteca. RSL's Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are both with the US team, which - of course - has never beaten Mexico in Mexico, going 0-23-1 against El Tri south of the border.
US Soccer has produced quite a few videos ahead of the match - the one above features Beckerman rather prominently. Be sure to check it out.
Television coverage of Wednesday's match begins at 5:30 p.m. MT on ESPN 2.