SANDY —Yordany Alvarez made his first meaningful contribution of the season for Real Salt Lake on Saturday night, and in the process reminded everyone why the club signed him in the offseason.
He was brought in to be a straight back-up to Kyle Beckerman — basically an insurance policy — and he delivered in a big way in the 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids starting in place of RSL's suspended captain.
At times, fellow midfielder Ned Grabavoy said he was in awe.
"I'd like to count how many balls he won in the first 30 minutes, cause I was sitting there and he literally, tackle, tackle, tackle. Break up this play, break up that play. I thought he was aggressive in there, and I really thought he brought the bite that Kyle Beckerman brings game in and game out. I thought he did great," said Grabavoy.
RSL had been waiting for a performance like what Alvarez delivered Saturday for quite a while.
In three previous starts this year, he seemed tentative and struggled to settle into RSL's possession game. His worst performance came in RSL's U.S. Open Cup loss to Minnesota back in June, a match he was subbed out in the 53rd minute.
In his only two league starts prior to Saturday, Alvarez went 90 minutes in a 3-2 win over Dallas and then logged 90 minutes again in a 2-0 loss at Columbus.
He wasn't awful or spectacular in either match, but those performances paled to the job he turned in against the Rapids.
"I thought he looked good tonight. I thought he looked really sharp, sharper than he probably looked a month ago. He seemed calm in there," said Grabavoy, who acknowledged it was certainly to Alvarez's benefit to have the rest of RSL's preferred starters on the field.
Defender Nat Borchers said it was great to see Alvarez win the majority of his 50-50 challenges, and his distribution was solid as well.
Unfortunately for Alvarez, he won't be able to build on that momentum. Beckerman returns from his one-game suspension this Friday against Vancouver, and it's likely back to the bench for Alvarez. Such is the life of a 27-year-old role player.
With Real Salt Lake jumping into CONCACAF Champions League play later this month, though, more opportunities should open up for Alvarez in the coming months. Based on his performance against Colorado, coach Jason Kreis probably won't have any reservations starting him.
"I thought he was very solid. Won some tackles for us. It's great when he can step in for Kyle and do a great job like that," said fellow midfielder Will Johnson.
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