Home Sweet Home
“Home is where you feel at home and are treated well” – Dalai Lama
It is a homecoming of sorts for Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran ahead of Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup group match against Cuba at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The match has special meaning for the Real Salt Lake trio because they also call Utah home.
For the second time in less than a month, the Men’s National Team will play a match at Rio Tinto after a 1-0 victory against Honduras on June 18 in front of a sold-out crowd to boost their lead atop the Hexagonal. Now, the MNT looks to make it two straight wins to open group play (and a record-setting seventh straight overall in all competitions) in this year’s edition of the Confederation championship.
“I am excited to be back in Salt Lake City. We had a little bit of a taste of it last month for the qualifier and I think the fans are raring to go again,” said Rimando, whostarted in goal when the MNT opened the Gold Cup with a comprehensive 6-1 victory against Belize. “It is something special to have two games here, and this time I am hopeful to be on the pitch and to be in front of my fans and hopefully a sold-out crowd.”
For Beckerman, the opportunity to represent both your club and country at home is a moment not lost on him.
“It’s amazing and such an honor to put on the crest and to be able to play in your home stadium is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s such a great feeling. It fills you with pride, and we just want to go out there and make sure the fans are proud of us.”
Beltran, whose play at right back for RSL has helped him earn a chance to represent the U.S. in the Gold Cup after participating in this year’s January camp, echoes similar sentiments.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Beltran. “Obviously being in my hometown of Salt Lake City, playing in front of my fans in the stadium is going to be very special. To be with the U.S. National Team and also be at home is a great opportunity for not only the three of us, but for the entire state of Utah.”
Real Salt Lake has a well-deserved reputation of having one of the best home atmospheres in all of Major League Soccer [Watch the team anthem], and Beckerman knows the crowd will be ready to support the U.S.
“I think they’re super excited and really honored to have two national team games within such a short time,” he said. “We really expect the same [support] we got in the qualifier. It should be another great event for Salt Lake and Utah soccer and we really want to put a show on for them.”
Beltran agreed: “Utah is so welcoming, both personably and also soccer wise. They’ve really embraced soccer during the past five to six years. The Men’s National Team can expect a warm welcome knowing we’re going to have 20,000-plus behind us at the game. It’s a fantastic atmosphere to play in at the RioT and it’s going to be fun.”
Rimando, who is the no.1 goalkeeper for this tournament after serving as the third for World Cup qualifying added: “It is going to be a great opportunity for us to get out on the field and not only represent the United States, but also Real Salt Lake. Our supporters will be there having our backs and hopefully they will be real loud and cheering us on to victory.