LEHI — Kyle Beckerman's month-long hiatus will officially come to an end Saturday when Real Salt Lake hosts Seattle in the first game of the playoffs.
The significance of inserting a national-team caliber player into your lineup for the playoffs can't be overstated.
"Kyle has made pretty big strides this year, and in a lot of ways up until his suspension was our most consistent performer this year, and somebody that was in talks for MVP consideration and deserved that," said RSL coach Jason Kreis, who added that Beckerman put the burden of Javier Morales' absence on his shoulders all year and flourished.
Ironically, that consistency ended on the same night Morales returned after being sidelined for nearly five months.
His costly head-butt against Chicago resulted in a three-game suspension, and effectively ended Beckerman discussions for MVP. He missed an additional game during that stretch while away with the U.S. National Team, and RSL's record during that stretch was 0-2-2.
Kreis wants to see his captain take charge in his first game back.
"Now he has an opportunity to lead this team to the next level," said Kreis.
Success in the playoffs would be a great way for Beckerman to atone for his unfortunate absence in the second leg of the Champions League final earlier this year while he served a yellow card accumulation suspension.
Beckerman isn't one to talk about himself though. When asked to sum up his wild season, he simply said, "another one in the books. I look at it as a team, I don't look at myself."
Fellow midfielder Andy Williams said he's thrilled to have Beckerman back for the playoffs.
"It will be the first time in a while that we have our top midfielders available for this weekend. It's going to be a massive boost for us, and all it's going to do is help us this weekend," he said.
GRABAVOY READY: An assortment of injuries in the final few months of the season has limited Ned Grabavoy to three starts and three substitute appearances over the final 15 games of the season.
If last week's game against Portland had been a playoff game, he probably would've been available to play. Instead, the coaching staff decided to rest him completely to ensure he'd recovered almost completely from his groin injury in time for this Saturday's match against Seattle.
Whether it's this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium or next Wednesday in Seattle, Grabavoy figures to be in the starting lineup at least once during the playoff series with Seattle.
MAKING HIS WAY BACK: RSL defender Tony Beltran missed the final seven matches of the season because of a similar groin injury.
He's been back to full training this week though, and he's anxious to contribute if the coaches deem him ready.
"It's always difficult coming back when you've been out for a long period of time, but I feel OK. I've got to the point where I've been able to recover as much as possible but now it's playoff time, it's crunch time. So I want to be back out here, glad to be back out," said Beltran.
Kreis said it's tough for a player to come back from injury in such a high-intensity atmosphere as the playoffs, but he's hopeful Beltran can make a contribution at some point against Seattle.
Seattle (18-7-9) at
Real Salt Lake (15-11-8)
Saturday, 8 p.m. MT
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
TV: Fox Soccer, TSN2
Radio: 1600 AM, 99.1 FM
Note: Second leg scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Seattle