Major League Soccer spring training: Placing the fans first

Beckerman of Real Salt Lake is 'world-class' when pleasing crowd
2012-03-04T00:00:00Z Major League Soccer spring training: Placing the fans firstDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

If Major League Soccer had an official ambassador, it would be Kyle Beckerman.

The Real Salt Lake midfielder is hard-working, humorous, down-to-earth, positive, approachable and pretty impressive at what he does.

Beckerman showed many of those attributes before a crowd of 10,172 Saturday night in Real Salt Lake's 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in the third-place match of the Desert Diamond Cup.

In the nightcap at Kino Stadium, the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution finished 0-0 in regulation before Los Angles won 4-2 on penalties to take the championship game.

Beckerman is everywhere on the field, doing everything in his power to win matches. Off the field, the 29-year-old wants to do everything in his power to win everyone over to the game.

"We're trying to gather as many fans as we can, and not just for Real Salt Lake but for the league," Beckerman said. "We're all growing this together. Anything that helps to keep the fans coming back."

Like quite a few players, Beckerman has spent time giving autographs and having his picture taken with fans after Desert Diamond Cup matches. But he takes it a step further, literally, by approaching them. He talks to them and asks them how they are doing and if they are enjoying the matches.

"After the game on Feb. 22, he came to our section and asked, 'Is this the rowdy bunch?'" said Keaton Koch, president of the Cactus Pricks, FC Tucson's supporters group. "He talked to everyone, he shook everyone's hand and took a picture with our scarf. We gave him one.

"He's an excellent player. But he's not (Cristiano) Ronaldo or (Lionel) Messi. But when it comes to the fans, he's world-class, the best of the best. No one can top him. It's quite amazing. I don't think there's nothing the guy wouldn't do."

The same approach holds true on the field. As the holding midfielder, Beckerman plays just in front of the defense and will defend when needed. Once RSL has regained the ball, he pushes the ball ahead to the midfielders and forwards. Then he can burst up field and become a possible target himself.

"That's the nature of the position - you're everywhere to try and help out," said the RSL captain, who has made 18 appearances with the U.S national team. "My philosophy is: I'm going to try and do my job. I'm going to try to help him do half his job. And I'm going to help the other guy next to me try and do half of his job. And if that can become contagious, then you're going to be a really tough team to beat. That's probably why I'm everywhere, I'm trying to do my job and a little bit of his."

Just one minute of Saturday night's match proved his point. In the eight minutes against the Red Bulls, he headed away a cross at one end and, at the other end seconds later, placed a tantalizing corner kick onto the head of a teammate, which went for naught.

"He's a vocal leader in the locker room and a vocal leader on the field. But he's a leader in his actions," Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said. "He works as hard or harder than anybody on the team. And I think they all have to look up to him for that.

"He's also wholly bought in to what we are about here at Real Salt Lake, and I think he is one of the success stories because we set out on this path to develop star players in our league through the success of our team. We've had a successful team over the past couple years, and a guy like Kyle Beckerman who nobody really knew much about or talked about at all a couple years ago now everybody's talking about him. That is a reflection of the success of the team."

Success certainly defines Beckerman's four full seasons at Real Salt Lake. The team has made the playoffs every time and, in 2009, captured the MLS Cup.

Despite being in his 13th season, Beckerman doesn't appear to be slowing down. Last year, he had a career-high nine assists, tied for fifth in the league. He also scored three goals.

"I think any good pro and the greats in every sport, you want to get better every day," he said. "I try and do that, try and get one day better."

He and his team came out on the better end in the third-place match. Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert scored what would have been the goal of the tournament had it not been for Benny Feilhaber's bicycle-kick goal in the event's opening match. In the 28th minute, Wingert struck a right-footed bolt from 35 yards that whizzed past everyone and into the top right corner for the match's only goal. Wingert had to leave the match after suffering a cut over his right eye.

"Hopefully, he'll hit a cracker like that again," Beckerman said of Wingert.

About the only thing that would please the league's unofficial ambassador more would be having even more fans enjoy it along with him.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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