RSL was lost, stumbling through six games of a desert looking for water, hope and happiness--winning just one battle, that for water. In his first year at the helm, head coach Jeff Cassar was left searching for answers as his team lost to teams that were bad (Chivas USA) and to teams that weren't even in Major League Soccer (Atlanta of the NASL). Fans were naming names. Things were getting rather ugly.
Then hope appeared over the horizon, in a jet plane thundering through cumulonimbus clouds as it veered over water, then land--and then over the Great Salt Lake as said plane touched down.
Based on how quickly Beckerman and Rimando got back here though, it seemed like the pilot might have given the two the heave-ho as his jet neared Rio Tinto Stadium. Maybe a gate opened and out spilled Beckerman and Rimando in those ridiculous white windbreakers every team wore in Brazil. Along with their RSL shorts, socks, cleats and yes, the parachutes they hauled on their backs that helped them land safely inside Rio Tinto Stadium just before kickoff.
That’s how badly these two wanted to play on Friday, July 4--which also happened to be America’s birthday. Based on the roaring ovation these two received at the Riot on Friday night, you may as well re-name it “Beckerman Rimando World Cup Appreciation Night sponsored by adidas”--because that’s what it was, odd windbreakers and all.
The fireworks were simply accouterments to the action that we all had witnessed down in Brazil, as the Americans came up just shy of making it to the quarterfinals--but won the championship of the galaxy in our hearts.
Even that run in Brazil did not end without controversy as Beckerman--the player who had played every single minute in the group phase--was inexplicably left off the U.S. starting 11 for its all-important round of 16 game versus Belgium. The U.S. lost that game 2-1 in extra time after holding the mighty Belgians scoreless for 90-plus minutes.
“It was definitely busy. We weren’t sitting down at all, we thought we get one at the end, for sure. I think those kind of games, when you go back and forth after getting that goal, I think it surprised Belgium a bit and put them on their heels. We were desperate at the end, throwing balls into the box – it wasn’t pretty, but it was exciting for the fans,” Rimando said at the post-game press conference Friday. (He didn't play one minute at the World Cup.)
But that was then, and this is now--and Beckerman and Rimando were both solid for RSL as they were back in claret and cobalt, playing the entire 90 minutes plus stoppage time. They helped the club win its first game since mid-May with a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution. Here are five reasons why.
Beckerman: “We talked a little bit, just ‘how are you feeling’ and ‘have you talked to Jeff [Cassar],’ this and that. We both had the same mindset – we just wanted to play. That’s what we passed along to Jeff [Cassar], and that’s what came back from him: to play.”
Rimando: “For me, I contacted Jeff [Cassar] when we landed in Atlanta. His first words for me were ‘there’s no pressure at all, we want your body right mentally and physically.’ My answer to him was ‘we’ll see when we land.’ I felt great, let him know that, and woke up this morning with a text from him, asking if we were ready to go. Both of our answers were ‘yes.’”
Chris Schuler: “Of course, you know I was just like everyone else watching them play in the World Cup like three or four days ago. Even before then, they both bring something else to the table beside their skills. They bring something else, and it was pretty cool to hear the crowd give both of them some love today. Yeah, definitely good to have them back.”
Rimando: “It was emotional – the welcome we got. The fans here are great, and they’re going to will us to the highest level. Getting back on that field, wearing our colors, is something I’ve wanted to do since I left [for the World Cup]. I couldn’t play in front of my fans, couldn’t see my kids – I’ve missed being with them.”
Cassar: “I think it was the urgency of play, especially being at home. Obviously, we had Kyle [Beckerman] and Nick [Rimando] coming back, giving us that extra boost of confidence and calmness on the ball helped tremendously. I think what I was really pleased with was the way we started the game and the way we finished it. We were really aggressive in trying to play in their end.”