Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The past few weeks have been pretty busy for Kyle Beckerman, and they have seen the veteran midfielder go through a whirlwind of emotions.
From trying to help Real Salt Lake get out of their current funk to playing in high-profile international friendlies and competitions, Beckerman has had his plate more than full recently. The 30-year-old has logged thousands of miles in travel during that span and accumulated a steady dose of minutes without a moment's respite, leaving him to feel the affects of such a tough haul.
"I think it's taken a year off my life," joked Beckerman. "It's been a lot of fun. It's been challenging, but a good challenge. I know it's not going to last forever, so it's good to be apart of all that type of soccer. For us, it's the highest level we can get to, so the more you can play in that environment, the better. But it does take its toll."
Aside from playing through what may have been the most taxing stretch of games for him this season, Beckerman has also had to fight off the disappointment of being ejected from Real Salt Lake's 2-0 home victory over Panamanian club Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Beckerman scored the insurance goal in the second half of that Aug. 21 match at Rio Tinto Stadium but he was given a red card shortly thereafter for a studs-up challenge, resulting in head coach Jason Kreis admitting he was somewhat concerned considering it was Beckerman's second dismissal from a game this year. The other occurrence took place in July in RSL's embarassing 5-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Still, Beckerman's grittiness and fieriness are traits that make him respected and appreciated by teammates, even if their head coach wants Beckerman to be a bit more cautious of the position he puts himself in.
"The edge is something that when they're on your team, you're happy, but when you're playing against, you're not so happy," said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "Teams know what Kyle is about, and, for him, he knows that he needs to tone it down a little bit, but at the same time, it's who he is, it's how he plays and we're comfortable with him on the field being that feisty guy, because we feed off of him."
Other teammates who recently may have fed off of the RSL captain's energy, hustle and tenacity are the U.S. men's national team players who played alongside Beckerman in the Americans' historic 1-0 win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca earlier this month. Beckerman was key in helping limit the Mexicans' chances in a game which they dominated possession, and he is hoping to get a chance to carry the momentum gained from that match over into the remaining qualifiers.
"I'll just try and be ready for whatever role it is, if that's to play 90 or to come off the bench or whatever," said Beckerman. "I just want to try and get in there and help the team. It's going to be difficult, no team is an easy game anymore, so it would be cool if I could be a part of it."
As for Real Salt Lake, the club is in need of bouncing back after enduring a forgettable August in which it went 0-3-1. Beckerman is aiming to help right the ship as RSL tries to close the gap between themselves and the Western Conference-leading Earthquakes, who have a seven-point lead despite having played one less match than Real Salt Lake.
Beckerman attributes RSL's struggles to not being able to field their strongest starting lineup on a consistent basis, but he also acknowledges that the players who are out there must get the job done if Real Salt Lake are to get back to their winning ways.
"If we were to have the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, I think we've maybe played 120 minutes together, so we've kind of been held back in trying to get into that rhythm with that team," said Beckerman. "But you still have to carry on. If it's not going to happen then that's not your starting lineup anymore. We've gotten into a rhythm and hopefully now we can get back in and find a way to get results."
Real Salt Lake will need to start finding the back of the net with more frequency to do that, even if it means having to push more numbers forward. That might leave them more exposed in defense, but that is where Beckerman will have to continue to step in and put forth the type of workmanlike performances he is known for.
"He's got the captain's armband for a reason," said Rimando. "He's a player that we all follow. He can get hot at times but it's just how intense he is and I think we feed off that and, again, you know what you're going to get. He's consistent on the field, he'll work his butt off until he has to be dragged off that field and I think that in (tough) environments we do get results because of his work."