It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’d been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright…
When I’m home everything seems to be right.
–“A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles
Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando walked out of Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil on Tuesday afternoon, having watched from the bench as their United States Men’s National Team comrades fell to Belgium 2-1 after 120 minutes. Doubtless feeling deflated by the squad’s exit from the World Cup at the hands of a country best known for its waffles and enduring fatigue from a long trip back to Utah, the two then needed to decide exactly how much gas they had in the tank for Real Salt Lake’s Independence Day match against the New England Revolution. The pair chose the route any leaders would: they would play for as long as their team needed them.
So, with the two RSL stalwarts back in the stating eleven for their first MLS action since the team’s 5-2 win in Houston on May 11, the squad played its most RSL-like match in over a month, fully controlling the first half before holding on for a 2-1 win on the strength of two penalty kicks.
RSL opened the scoring in the 35th minute. The Revs’ Darrius Barnes undercut Chris Schuler as the RSL center back leaped for a Joao Plata corner kick, and Javier Morales converted the ensuing spot kick.
However, Barnes promptly atoned for his defensive miscue, providing New England with an equalizer just moments later. After Morales was shown yellow for his tackle on Patrick Mullins in the RSL defensive half, New England’s Chris Tierney played a near-perfect free kick to the back post, where Barnes coolly headed the ball past Rimando to level the score line.
RSL were perhaps a little unlucky not to lead at halftime after owning almost 70% possession, but the squad was fortunate to come away with all three points after a much closer second half. Joao Plata ultimately scored the game-winner in the 65th minute, another RSL penalty kick, earned via a questionable foul called against New England for taking down John Stertzer in the box.
RSL still needed to weather a few more New England challenges. Chris Tierney played a dangerous cross from the left flank in the 69th minute, but Patrick Mullins was unable to redirect the ball from six yards out to net a game-tying goal, and the ball rolled harmlessly over the endline. Kelyn Rowe followed suit two minutes later, putting another pinpoint pass from Tierney over the bar from close range.
RSL takes the field July 12 in Los Angeles against the LA Galaxy.
Takeaways and Analysis
- For the first time in over a month, Real Salt Lake looked like the team that started the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak. The passing and creativity were excellent. Friday’s superb performance can be attributed largely to the return of Beckerman and Rimando from international duty. But I tend to think that Beckerman’s effect on a game is one part “play” and two parts “presence”; Beckerman’s skill as a defensive midfielder certainly impacts the game, but perhaps more importantly, RSL just plays with more confidence with its captain on the field. Confidence breeds creativity, and creativity leads to scoring and wins. Therein lies one of Kyle Beckerman’s greatest virtues: by lifting the play of his teammates, he has a greater impact on each game than his skill alone would otherwise permit.
- Kyle Beckerman was only planning on playing about 60 minutes of Friday’s game after an overnight flight on Wednesday, arriving back in Salt Lake City on Thursday. But when the game was tied in the 60th minute, duty called, and Beckerman went the full 90.
- Heart-stopping moment of the match: Jose Goncalves’s left-footed shot in the 53rd minute struck the upright before bouncing off Rimando’s back and skittering slowly across the face of goal before being cleared by Tony Beltran. The play was inches from being an own goal. Watching the ball roll along the goal line was reminiscent of Javier Morales’s shot off the post in MLS Cup 2013…so let’s just rip that scab off again….
- Friday’s match marked the third time in RSL history that the team has been awarded two penalty kicks in the same game. RSL almost received a third PK when contact in the box appeared to cause Luis Gil to go down in the 25th minute, but referee Allen Chapman allowed play to continue on that occasion.
(image courtesy of Alan Fullmer)