Real Salt Lake will take a six-game winless streak into its MLS playoff series-opener against Sounders FC on Saturday in Sandy, Utah.
However, five of those results came without the services of All-Star midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who received a red card for head-butting Daniel Paladini in the Sept. 28 match against the Chicago Fire.
Beckerman was ejected in that loss and was suspended for three games around one absence because of U.S. national team duty. RSL went 0-3-2 without him.
He will be back when the Sounders and RSL open their two-game, aggregate-score series at Rio Tinto Stadium. And so will fellow midfielder Javier Morales, who suffered an ankle injury in April and returned just as Beckerman was lost.
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“I think that both players are extremely important for us,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “Neither one has played together, I don’t think, since the very beginning of the season. That’s not an ideal situation for us.”
Not ideal, but Sounders coach Sigi Schmid doesn’t think it should pose a major problem, either.
“It’s basically the same team they had when they won MLS Cup two years ago,” Schmid said. “There’s not a lot of changes. … (Even though Beckerman and Morales) haven’t played together very much this season, there are still 60-70 games that they’ve played together over the last two years that they can rely upon.”
Despite the missed games, Beckerman was RSL’s regular-season leader with nine assists. He also added three goals, which is tied for third on the club. However, his value to his team extends beyond statistics – in much the same way as Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.
“Two very integral players for their teams,” Kreis called Beckerman and Alonso. “Two guys that lead the team by their actions. Two guys that cover an extraordinary amount of ground and win balls for their team, and are pretty clean possession players and can often start counterattacks and attacks just by the way that they position themselves and win balls in particular areas. I also think two of the best – if not the two best – holding midfielders in the league.”
Despite all that in common, Schmid said Alonso and Beckerman won’t spend much toe-to-toe time.
“They’re probably not going to run into each other that often because they each play deeper in the midfield for each team,” Schmid said. “So it’s more what I would call a comparison. Who can win the most balls for his team or who can have the most influence for his team? Who can do the best job of opening the game up and connecting those passes and covering ground? They’re both excellent players. They cover ground like nobody else in this league, and they’re both pretty good with the ball. … They’re both players that are very important to dictating the flow of their team’s games.”
The FIFA.com website lists Sounders midfielder Alvaro Fernandez on Uruguay’s 25-man roster for its Nov. 11 qualifier against Chile. The Sounders said they have not been contacted by the Uruguayan soccer federation. However, the qualifier comes during an international break in the MLS playoff schedule and therefore would pose no conflict. Fernandez made three appearances with Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup team. … The Sounders will hold a final training session in Tukwila this morning before flying to Utah. … Midfielder Mauro Rosales (knee) received a platelet injection as part of his treatment this week, then did some jogging during the Thursday training session. However, Schmid called him “very unlikely for Saturday” while saying he was crossing his fingers for the series-ending match Wednesday in Seattle.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer