SANDY — After taking a red-eye flight back from Brazil only 36 hours earlier, Nick Rimando admitted after Friday’s victory over New England there was no way he was 100 percent.
“Those flights take the legs out of you,” he said.
The smart thing would’ve been to take the night off along with Kyle Beckerman for the Fourth of July festivities, but the two were desperate to get back on the field after Tuesday’s heartbreaking conclusion to the World Cup.
“Getting back on that field and wearing our colors is something I’ve been waiting to do since I left. Happy to be here and playing in front of my fans,” said Rimando.
Real Salt Lake went 1-3-2 while Beckerman and Rimando were away, and coach Jeff Cassar said their presence was a huge boost on Friday.
“It’s something the team needed. They needed that little pick-me-up. We felt the energy in the stadium was amazing, and when we’re feeling that energy from the stadium and the fans it really carries us,” said Cassar.
Beckerman’s presence in particular made a remarkable difference in midfield. His calmness on the ball and passing settled everyone down from the opening whistle and helped RSL dictate the match all game.
Beckerman hopes that continues in the coming weeks.
“Whenever you go away with the national team, and this case going to the World Cup the level that you have to play at, the quickness and the speed of play is higher. So I think whenever you come back you’re a bit sharper and usually it becomes contagious to the team,” said Beckerman.
RSL defender Chris Schuler was thrilled to have the duo back.
“I was just like everyone else watching them play in the World Cup like three or four days ago. Even before then, they both bring something else to the table beside their skills. They bring something else, and it was pretty cool to hear the crowd give both of them some love today. Yeah, definitely good to have them back,” said Schuler.
As happy as Schuler was about Beckerman and Rimando’s return, he would’ve preferred they celebrated the Fourth of July in Brazil preparing for a quarterfinal match with Argentina.
Some have suggested it might’ve happened with a different lineup choice by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. After he started Beckerman in all three group games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, Klinsmann opted not to start Beckerman in the Round of 16 match with Belgium.
Beckerman was as “surprised and disappointed” as anyone when he learned he wasn’t starting.
“I guess the biggest thing I could do was try and be a positive part for the team. You can’t pout, so I tried the best I could to get the team going,” said Beckerman.
The silver lining for RSL fans was that Beckerman hadn’t played a game in seven days and was relatively fresh for Friday’s match with New England.