SANDY — All week leading up to Saturday's home opener, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said it was very, very unlikely that Tony Beltran would start after picking up a knock to his right knee early in the match against Los Angeles.
"If this was a playoff game maybe we'd push him a little bit harder and see where we'd come out, but we won't. We'll take a very cautious approach and I'd say there's very little chance he'll play this weekend," said Kreis on Wednesday.
Those plans changed though, when primary back-up Terakazu Tanaka came down with the flu on Friday.
The newcomer from Japan had a solid preseason, and the coaching staff was prepared and confident to award him his first start. Tanaka spent six years in the Japanese first and second divisions, and the team has been impressed with his confident on the ball.
With Tanaka unavailable, that forced RSL to either start a hobbling Beltran or the team's other outside back, rookie Diogo de Almeida. It opted for the veteran Beltran who said he was willing to play through the pain.
Beltran, who wore a soft brace on his knee had a few shaky moments but overall he was pretty solid.
A LINE-UP RARITY: Even though the circumstances weren't ideal, Beltran getting the starting nod afforded Kreis a luxury he had just once last year.
In 45 total matches in 2011, RSL used the same starting line-up in back-to-back games just once — Aug. 6 and Aug. 13. Saturday's starting 11 against New York, however, was identical to the line-up Kreis threw out there against Los Angeles last week.
Kreis would love to develop a bit more line-up continuity this season, something that was impossible last year with injuries, suspensions and national team call-ups.
Until regulars like Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio, Nat Borchers and Will Johnson return to full fitness, Kreis will likely be forced juggling line-ups for a while.
SUPER SUBS: A week after Morales and Saborio made a big impact against Los Angeles after entering the match as 67th-minute subs, the attacking duo got in on the action five minutes early against New York.
In the 62nd minute Saturday, Saborio replaced Paulo Jr. and Morales replaced goal scorer Luis Gil.
RSL DEBUT: Journeyman midfielder Jonny Steele made his RSL debut against New York replacing rookie Sebastian Velasquez in the 84th minute.
The eight-year professional vet has bounced around the minor leagues and indoor soccer with countless teams, but Saturday was his first appearance in an MLS match.
HIGH PRAISE FOR RSL: In the build-up to Saturday's match, New York striker Thierry Henry had nothing but praise for Real Salt Lake.
"(RSL) are far ahead of us. I've said it for a very long time, they are, with L.A., the best team in this league, by a distance. It's not a coincidence that we have not beaten them yet since I'm here. Not a lot of teams beat Salt Lake, especially at their place, so it's going to again be a difficult task."
Henry had two very good reasons to praise RSL. In games last year against the Utah side, the Red Bulls were trounced 3-0 and 3-1.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company