SANDY ― Nick Besler did not wait long to make his presence known at the Rio Tinto on Thursday.
The center back, who was playing at midfield due to a series of changes in the team’s starting lineup, went end to end to score a goal in the fourth minute of play. Corey Baird and Damir Kreilach had the assists.
It was the first goal of Besler’s MLS career and the goal that set the tone for what would turn into a 4-1 blowout against the New England Revolution.
“I think anytime you score an early goal it gives the team confidence,” Besler said.
Besler was not bothered by the changes in the rotation — he’s played as a midfielder in only one other game for RSL this season — in fact, he embraced them.
“I was excited," he said. "It's a position that I've been comfortable with my whole career. I think it just shows Mike's got confidence in a lot of guys. He went with a pretty big squad rotation tonight and it paid off.”
“I’m sure that the lineup raised a couple of eyebrows with some of the selection,” said RSL head coach Mike Petke. “We knew we were facing a team that was extremely athletic, extremely strong, extremely fast and aggressive.”
Petke said he was proud of the way his players stepped up against New England in what was considered by many to be a crucial game for RSL. The team is still fighting for one of Major League Soccer’s playoff spots.
“We pretty much had to get a few points (Thursday),” Besler said. “If we didn't, we really needed other things to kind of happen to help us out, and I think we really put ourselves in a good spot.”
RSL will take on the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the last game of the season. The last time these two teams met, Portland defeated RSL 4-1. Besler said the team is ready for a shot at redemption.
“We're going to be pretty hungry to play better on Sunday since we didn't play our best game at home against Portland (last time),” he said noting the importance of the team’s performance in the upcoming match.
“If we win in Portland, that's a playoff spot for us.”