I thought we were really close last year. You never see it, but momentum is such a huge thing. —RSL captain Kyle Beckerman
SALT LAKE CITY — Judging by her Oscars appearance, Halle Berry is every bit the glamor queen at 50 as she was two decades ago. Similarly, 39-year-old Tom Brady, with five Super Bowl rings, is giving Father Time the brush-off.
To them, age is an advantage, not an obstacle. There has never been a better time to have experience on your side. Just ask Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. They’ve logged more miles than Delta.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While RSL has made offseason moves to ramp up its attack, the team returns for Saturday’s season-opener at Rio Tinto with its two most recognizable stars still on the roster. Beckerman is 34, Rimando 37, and both have been with Real for a decade.
But since thirty-something is the new twenty-something
“It’s just a number,” Rimando shrugs.
Neither is denying his years. But they’re embracing them, having seen highs and lows — sometimes in short order. In 2007, Real totaled just 27 points in the standings, yet two years later won the MLS Cup. Now the team’s most popular players are back for another season and looking no worse for the wear.
“You just have to know what makes your body tick,” Rimando says.
In light of a disappointing knockout-round playoff loss last fall, Real got creative. It declined the option on legendary striker Javier Morales, but added 22-year-old midfielder Albert Rusnak. In October it signed veteran Yura Movsysian to a contract through 2017. Speedy Joao Plata sealed a multiyear deal this week.
The team released an unhappy Burrito Martinez and left Olmes Garcia to be claimed in the re-entry draft. Backup keeper Jeff Attinella left via the expansion draft, eventually ending up in Portland.
The end result is that RSL thinks it can get back in contention.
“I thought we were really close last year,” Beckerman says. “You never see it, but momentum is such a huge thing.”
Real makes no secret of its plans to largely build from within, using players such as Jordan Allen and Justen Glad. In a flurry of youth-driven moves, it added Rusnak, Brooks Lennon (19) and Jose Hernandez (20).
Kids, all of them.
But it didn’t do a thing with Rimando and Beckerman, who will steer the team both on and off the field. Beckerman has missed all preseason matches with a bruised knee, but is expected to play Saturday.
“You always try to be better than the previous year,” Rimando says. “Last year I think everybody agreed that’s not good enough. So we made some changes and I’m excited to be back with these guys and to see what we have to work with this year.”
Exactly how many years they remain the team’s most recognizable stars is debatable. Last year wasn’t the best for either record-setting veteran. But it wasn’t the best for anyone.
“I know there’s a good vibe right now,” Rimando says.
Realistically, it wouldn’t be RSL if it made a run without “Rimanderman.” The duo defines their sport in Utah. Rimando with his goalie gloves and Beckerman with his dreads are as recognizable as most current Jazz players.
Their longevity can be chalked up to a couple of things.
“I think technology and medicine — the foods you’re eating, knowing what’s good and bad for you,” Beckerman says.
“I know what makes me tick,” Rimando says.
Beckerman showed up halfway through the 2007 season, while Rimando arrived in December 2006, but got traded to the Red Bulls in February 2007. Two weeks later he was traded back.
Now the Beckerman-Rimando pair is as recognizable in Salt Lake as the Trolley tower.
Beckerman modestly defers when asked if they’re as iconic as John Stockton and Karl Malone. RSL and the Jazz made it to their league finals twice each, but RSL won once, while the Jazz were denied.
“Stockton and Malone won a lot,” Beckerman says. “We won some, and that helps, but we’re hungry for a few more wins.”
They’ll someday retire, but they remain valid in the later stages of their careers, not unlike the Jazz duo or, for that matter, the ageless Brady and Berry.
“Our (team) goal,” Beckerman says, “is to try to catch that momentum at a time when we can run with it.”
Walking to the finish line just isn’t good enough.