KRIS LINDSAY - Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Two years ago in April on a cool night, Real Salt Lake had the opportunity that Major League Soccer has dreamed of: Defeating a Mexican side, and raising a trophy as the best club in North America.
Dreams of a face off with the likes of Lionel Messi and Barcelona in the Club World Cup seemed like a surety.
The Claret and Cobalt had done the near unthinkable, with midfielder Javier Morales equalizing from a difficult angle in the 89th minute at El Estadio Technológico in Monterrey to make the scoreline 2-2, with RSL tallying two away goals.
All that was needed was a draw. A win would have secured the trophy, but a 1-1 draw or a scoreless draw would have equally done the job.
An Humberto Suazo goal just before halftime before a sold out crowd at Rio Tinto put all of the dreams on hold. "It was one of the worst days of my life," RSL right back Tony Beltran told Full Volley. "You don't want that feeling. You want to be on the other side of that."
Real Salt Lake has the opportunity to return back to the CONCACAF Champions League tomorrow night, as they take on DC United in the US Open Cup final, and Beltran knows that the team will need to be focused.
"We want to win any competition that we are a part of, and we think we are capable of it with such good players. A big part is getting back to Champions League, because there is some unfinished business there. We want the opportunity again to make a run, and be the first MLS team to win that. I think we have the team to do it."
This year has been a major step forward for the American right back, who was introduced as a member of the US national team. Beltran was able to play in front of his home crowd at Rio Tinto during the Gold Cup.
At a time when a true, healthy right back is hard to come by for Jürgen Klinsmann, Beltran brings youth and energy.
"I think I've been consistently playing at a good level with RSL for so long, doing the right things, the intangibles, playing simple, getting into the attack, and I am glad to continue that with the national team," said Beltran. "It's been a good situation to raise my game to push me to the next level."
The victory at the Gold Cup ranks as one of the best victories for Beltran. "It's right up there with winning the championship with RSL in 2009, but it is international, so it is on a different level," Beltran described. "It was pretty cool to be a part of that group. You work so hard for a month. You travel the country, play so many games. To come out of that with a trophy and in first place, was fantastic. Everyone was working for each other. No one was throwing up their hands if you lose the ball. It was a pleasure to be a part of that team, I'm glad I have that medal."
Beltran will have the opportunity for another piece of hardware Tuesday night, but knows that redemption in the Champions League begins with DC United.
"Those moments make you come back and fight harder," Beltran said. "Our focus is on DC United."