SANDY — Real Salt Lake’s Nick Besler played his most extensive minutes of the season on Saturday night, and in those 62 minutes reaffirmed his value to the squad.
When Everton Luiz was helped off the field in the 28th minute with a left knee injury, Besler stepped right onto the field and RSL didn’t skip a beat.
He moved the ball quickly sitting in deep alongside Kyle Beckerman and covered a lot of ground defensively at his position.
Holding midfield is Besler’s more natural position, but a year ago he made 14 of his 16 starts at center back as the team dealt with multiple injuries along the backline. He looked very comfortable in his more natural midfield position against Orlando City.
“It's unfortunate that Everton got the knock that he had, don’t know how serious it is, and he's a big player for us. Nick is mature and professional. He's experienced. He's coming on there. I thought he did a good job,” said RSL coach Mike Petke.
Damir Kreilach, who played in front of Besler, said there was no worry when Luiz left the field.
“I don't need to say much about Besler because he's a professional guy. You don't need to take care about him because he will every time put 100 percent work in, and he did it today and because of that, well done,” said Kreilach.
The severity of Luiz’s injury isn’t known at this point, but if the Brazilian newcomer is out for an extended period of time Real Salt Lake should feel just fine with Besler sliding into the midfield.
In his 16 starts last season, RSL posted a 7-4-5 record. That’s 1.62 points per game, which spread out over an entire MLS season would’ve been good enough for fifth place in the Western Conference.
Petke even alluded to Besler’s value in Saturday’s postgame press conference after the 2-1 win over Orlando City.
“If you break down the stats and the percentages, we might have been the most successful when Nick’s on the field last year,” said Petke.
Besler has yet to make a start this season, but Saturday was his fourth substitute appearance in seven matches. His versatility at multiple positions should help him get on the field plenty more times, and it nearly had him putting on keeper gloves on Saturday as well.Comment on this story
In the 69th minute Nick Rimando was looked at by trainers after Dom Dwyer barreled into him, and by that point RSL had used its subs. Petke was ready to slot Besler in at keeper.
“We said that if (Rimando) has to come out, we have no more subs left, Nick Besler was going in goal because he's able to play so many positions. He's a trooper,” said Petke.
The scenario has only happened one other time in club history. Back in the 2005 expansion season RSL keeper D.J. Countess was injured late in a match at Chivas USA and midfielder Brian Kamler dropped back and played keeper for the final eight minutes of the 1-0 loss.