Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman did not feature in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night, with U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann opting to play Jermaine Jones all 90 minutes at the base of the USMNT’s midfield diamond.
Klinsmann seemed to think highly of Jones’ performance in the U.S.’s rather listless win, praising the German-American midfielder in his postgame press conference.
“Jermaine has played throughout years different roles, maybe as an eight, meaning a little bit higher up, similar to Michael Bradley today,” Klinsmann said. “If we play a diamond like we did then it’s really important that he stays there and protects our two center backs, builds a triangle with them.”
“With his passing technique he can open up and switch a game right away, though today it was very difficult because he couldn’t hit any high balls [due to the wind]. But he understood that role. He said ‘Oh, I’ve played that I don’t know how many times, it’s not a big deal.’ And the way he recovers balls and is physical with the opponent is just one of his strengths that we hopefully see in Brazil, as well.”
Beckerman, of course, knows the base of the diamond position better than anyone on the U.S. roster, spending the last eight seasons playing the holding role for Real Salt Lake. He played as the holder in a diamond midfield for the U.S. in its 2-2 draw against Mexico on April 2, a role that seemed to allow Michael Bradley to advance further up the field than he did on Tuesday night while playing with Jones.
We’ll see if Beckerman gets a chance to start in any of the U.S.’s remaining tune-up matches ahead of the World Cup. The Americans will play three friendlies before opening Group G action against Ghana on June 16, taking on Turkey in New York on Sunday, facing Nigeria in Jacksonville on June 7 and playing Belgium in a closed-door match in Brazil on June 12.
The latest edition of ABC 4's Crossbar Challenge dropped on Real Sports Live on Sunday night, with Dunny taking on the always-intense Cole Grossman on the heels of his start against Colorado and ahead of his start in Saturday's draw with FC Dallas.
Check out the extended, Director's cut of this week's Crossbar Challenge above. Don't have 27 minutes? Watch the shorter version here.
Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten on the 2014 season on Saturday, hosting FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:
Can RSL tie the all-time record for longest unbeaten start to a season?
With a result on Saturday, RSL can move its unbeaten streak to 12 games in 2014. Should the Claret-and-Cobalt pick up a result, they’d tie the 1996 and 2010 LA Galaxy and 2000 Kansas City Wizards for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season in MLS history. It should be noted that all three of those teams had much better records through 12 games than RSL will, with the ’96 Galaxy posting a 12-0-0 mark in MLS’ shootout era and the 2010 Galaxy and 2000 Wizards both posting a 10-0-2 record.
Can Cassar continue his rise up the record books?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar could also make a bit of history on Saturday night, as a RSL result would tie him with 1996 LA Head Coach Lothar Osiander for the longest unbeaten streak to start a MLS managing career at 12 games. Sadly, Cassar can’t touch Osiander’s record through 12 games – the Galaxy’s inaugural coach was 12-0-0 in 1996.
Cassar faces off against former team
Saturday’s match will be a reunion of sorts for Cassar, who played for Dallas from 1996-97 and 2003-2006 and served as an assistant coach for the Hoops for the first half of the 2007 season before moving to RSL in May of that year. Cassar was hampered by injuries and served as a backup at times in Dallas, playing just 33 MLS matches in his six years in Texas.
Former teammates Cassar and Pareja set for matchup
Cassar and FC Dallas Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s relationship goes way back, with the two playing together in Dallas from 2003-2005, before Pareja retired to become an FCD assistant. Pareja spent the last two years as head coach in Colorado before moving this offseason to Dallas, where he played and coached from 1998-2011. The former Colombian international started his FCD tenure brightly but his side has fallen off of late, losing five of its last six matches.
Will Morales stay hot?
RSL maestro Javier Morales has been red hot recently, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s last two matches. He’ll look to continue that recent success Saturday night against FCD, against whom he has three goals and six assists in 11 career regular season matches.
What you might not know is that Beckerman’s and Rimando’s call-ups mark the third-straight time that RSL has put at least one player on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup squad. That’s right: RSL has put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup squad in all three World Cups that the club has existed for.
In 2006, RSL sent defender Eddie Pope to Germany with the U.S. In 2010, it was forward Robbie Findley that made the trip, heading to South Africa for the Americans’ run to the Round of 16. Both players featured for the U.S. at the World Cup, with Pope starting two of the U.S.’s three games in 2006 and Findley getting the nod in three of the U.S.’s four contests in 2010.
RSL is one of just two clubs to put a player on the U.S. team for each of the last three World Cups. The only other? LA Galaxy, which has sent a player to the USMNT in each of the five World Cups it has been around for.
RSL is one of just three teams to put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup roster for every World Cup of the club’s existence, joining LA and the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny, which put a player on the 1998 U.S. World Cup roster before folding after the 2001 MLS season.
U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided to leave Landon Donovan off the USMNT's World Cup roster. He explains it above.
Real Salt Lake registered its first ever win in Texas last summer, when the team overcame the absence of four key players due to international duty to win 3-0 at FC Dallas on July 13, 2013.
Despite playing without Gold Cup participants Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Tony Beltran, RSL still romped over FCD, getting a spectacular one goal, two assist performance from midfielder Javier Morales and tallies from Ned Grabavoy and Olmes Garcia to beat Dallas 3-0. The win was RSL’s 100th in regular season play and the team’s first in 23 matches in the Lone Star State. The match also marked Jeff Attinella’s debut, with the then-third-string ‘keeper coming on for an injured Josh Saunders, who suffered a torn ACL in the game.
RSL will again be without Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio this Saturday, when the Claret-and-Cobalt will host FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium. Check out the highlights of last July’s win before Saturday’s match, and let’s hope for a similar result this weekend.
RSL defender Chris Wingert was last week's guest at Real Salt Lake's Friday Fan Forum. The New York native dishes on his childhood, how he got to RSL and trying to beat fellow defender Tony Beltran in a beep test. Get to know the Claret-and-Cobalt veteran a bit better by checking out his answers below.
And make sure to make it to this Friday's Fan Forum with RSL midfielder Cole Grossman. Friday Fan Forums take place after practice at Rio Tinto Stadium. Practice will start at 11:00 a.m. and normally lasts an hour, but the end time may vary.
Chris Wingert Fan Forum
I used to practice a lot with my dad at home. He’d take me out the majority of days that I didn’t have team practice or a game when I was young. He was always asking me to go out and train and I can remember up until about 9th grade sometimes I would resist a little bit and it was always us trying to find a balance between pushing without pushing too much. He was always supportive. Once I got into 10th grade I was really focused on trying to make the youth national team and I started asking my dad to go out and train. To this day I don’t think he’s ever said no to me.
I get nervous before every game. There are obviously different levels of anxiety and being nervous. But I think a little bit of that is good and usually once you are in the game you are able to focus and when you’re in a sport like soccer, you’re able to run around a little bit and some of the nerves go away. My college coach used to tell me that if you can just win a ball right away that it will get rid of your nerves a little bit, and I thought that has always helped – whether it’s to win a header or tackle or just get on the ball right away. In general it’s ok to do things with fear, it’s ok to have fear in anything in life. You can still go out and try to accomplish your goal.
I’m from Long Island, NY. It’s far, far away from here; greatest place on earth. I’m a little biased though.
I don’t know if I hate facing anybody, but in terms of who gives us problems and is just a real concern for us, I would say Robbie Keane. I think he’s probably the best around and just a really sharp guy in the box and we have to be wary of where he is.
My favorite food is New York pizza. I try not to eat too much pizza when I’m out here or anywhere really, but when I’m at home I can’t help it. A lot of carbs: pizza, bagels, egg sandwiches; that’s my go to when I’m at home with my family in New York.
We’ve had a lot of good games over the years. Certainly the Championship in 2009 was a great one. One of my favorites for sure was beating LA Galaxy here because it was at home – that was one of the highlights of my career.
We spend a limited amount of time worrying about our opponents. We’ll have a meeting in a little while and scout the team a little bit. We’ll try and talk about what formation they could possibly play and what their lineup might look like and go over some tendencies. As a defender, I definitely try and study a few things about the right-midfielder or right-winger that I might match up against the following day. But the majority of the time during the week is spent working on ourselves and worrying about us.
Tony [Beltran] covers a lot more ground than me, he makes me look bad. I’ll tell you a funny story. Tony went to St. Johns too, just for a year and I had already left. We would always have to go and run three miles in 18 minutes, it was our big test in the beginning of the year. It was incredibly hard to do and even if I was in the middle of the season here I don’t think too many guys could make that run. I was home a couple weeks ago and our college coach said, “Yeah, Beltran had the audacity to come in here and run a three-mile, 17 minutes.” That is unheard of because it’s like three 5:20 miles in row. We always do the beep test and a couple years ago I worked my butt off and I was living in Park City at altitude and I was going to try and win the beep test. Tony was coming off surgery and so he hadn’t really worked out at all. The two of us were left at the end and I was working so hard but he just waited till I finished and then he ran one more so he could beat me.
I’ve been so blessed and fortunate for things to turn out the way they did. I got released from Colorado [Rapids] and was heading to LA to sign with them. Their right-back Chris Albright had torn his ACL and they needed somebody, so I was headed out there. Robin Fraser, who’s our old assistant coach, called me and we were really close. Robin asked me, “Would you rather come to RSL?” I heard a lot of good things about Jason Kreis so I obviously ended up coming here. Even though they were record-wise the worst team in the league at the time and people were calling me crazy for not going out to LA (Beckham was arriving the same day); I had a feeling that Jason, Robin, and all the staff were going to turn things around. I wanted to be somewhere for a long time and Jason told me that that place was here. He told me, “Come here and we’ll be successful and we’ll turn things around.” He did. Fortunately for me, my best friend, our captain, and one of our best players in the history of this franchise got traded here three days later which was complete coincidence.
When we win I have a lot of fun at games. Nah, I’m always having fun. I love the game. Of course it’s disappointing if we’re not getting the result we want, sometimes that stuff happens. I try not to let if affect me as much as it does. I wish it didn’t have such an effect on my mentality that next week but we appreciate when you guys come out. When we’re playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans that is a dream come true. I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing and I’m going to try and do it as long as I can.
I think Germany will win the World Cup. I don’t want them to win – obviously, I’d love the US to win and go as far as possible. I usually end up rooting for England and Holland a little bit, but if I had to put some money on it I’d bet on Germany.
Could we see a bald Jeff Cassar this fall?
If RSL makes the MLS Cup Playoffs, we just might.
The RSL boss told the guys from Extra Time Radio on Monday that he and follicly challenged RSL Goalkeeper Coach Daryl Shore made a bet a couple months back that should RSL qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs, Cassar will shave his head.
That could lead to a bit of symmetry on the RSL bench, as Cassar is currently the only member of RSL’s coaching staff with any amount of hair; Shore and fellow assistants Andy Williams, Craig Waibel and Paul Dalglish are all bald or sport a shaved look. It should be noted that RSL Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Barlow has a nice head of hair.
“I wanted to have the best hair on the staff, so I set the bar really low,” Cassar joked during his ExtraTime interview. “But I made a bet with Daryl Shore, one of my assistant coaches, that if we make the playoffs I’m going to shave my head.”
We’ve got a preview of what Cassar could look like with a shaved head above. Gotta say, don’t think bald is Jeff’s best look.