MONTERREY, Mexico — Kyle Beckerman is the face of Real Salt Lake, but unfortunately the captain will be forced to miss the biggest match in team history next week.
Four players came into Wednesday's match knowing a yellow card would force them to miss the final leg in Utah. One of them was Beckerman, and he was the only one unable to leave Monterrey unscathed. He was shown a yellow card in the 65th minute, his second of the knockout stages which is an automatic one-game suspension.
RSL coach Jason Kreis said it was a crushing blow for the team.
"That's a travesty to be completely honest. That for me was a fair tackle, it wasn't even a foul. I believe the ball hit Kyle's shin, and he was first to the ball. That is mind-boggling for me," said Kreis. "I'm extremely disappointed in the referee's decision, and now I'm extremely disappointed for Kyle and our team. It's already had a huge effect on him, he's extremely disappointed in the locker room. Of course it will have a huge effect on us when we lose our captain."
Robbie Russell, Javier Morales and Jamison Olave all stayed out of the books and will be available on April 27.
Nat Borchers said the team will just have to fight through the adversity.
"I'm bummed for him, he's just had such a fantastic year for us already, and he means so much to this club. He does so much for us defensively and offensively. There's so many intangibles with that guy," said Borchers. "It's going to be tough without him, but we've had to do this before. We've been without big-time players before, and we're going to have to make due in a big, big game."
BIG SAVES: Nick Rimando almost always seems to come up big and that was no different Wednesday night, particularly against Humberto Suazo in the first half.
Twice voted the best player in Mexico, the Chilean striker is a clinical finisher in the box. Rimando, however, denied him twice on very acrobatic saves.
Had one of two of those shots gone in, Real Salt Lake could've easily been trailing 2-0 or 3-0.
Instead, Rimando's heroics kept the game close allowing RSL's attacking players to be patient during the remainder of the first half.
"The thing that keeps popping into my mind in these games is big players make big plays in big games, and Nick was big again tonight," said Kreis.
Rimando's first big moment came in the ninth minute as he jumped as high as he could to tip a Suazo shot over the crossbar.
In the 26th minute, Rimando was equal to the challenge again on a curling low strike from Suazo at the top of the box. Equally as important was Rimando not spilling a rebound with two Monterrey plays in close proximity.
A MATTER OF DISRESPECT?: Monterrey did a lot of things right in the first 20 minutes on Wednesday, including taking a 1-0 lead.
Coach Victor Vucetich, however, seemed to negate it all with two curious decisions shortly after the early goal as he replaced goal scorer Aldo de Nigris and captain Luis Perez.
He said he replaced the starters because of injury, but Kreis said the substitutions were very curious, especially when they were accompanied by a shape change.
Monterrey has a huge league game this weekend against Puebla, and Vucetich might've felt a 1-0 lead was sufficient enough to replace two key starters.
WEATHER A FACTOR: With three practices in the Monterrey heat, Kreis was hopeful that would be enough time to help his players acclimate to the conditions before Wednesday's match. Kreis said unfortunately it didn't go quite as planned.
"We tried to downplay the heat as much as we could, but I do think it had a big effect on us tonight. The energy level hasn't looked this suspect for me all year, so I know the climate took its toll on us," said Kreis.
He was quick to point out, however, that Monterrey had a lot to do with that as well.
"I do know we've said a lot of times it takes a tremendous amount of energy to play the way we want to, but you've got to be fair and honest and say we were playing against an extremely good opponent tonight who was moving the ball extremely well and creating a lot of opportunities."