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Man of the Match: Tony Beltran excels in first leg against LA Galaxy

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Tony Beltran put on one of the single-best performances I've seen from him in his Real Salt Lake career.

He was everywhere defensively: From the first minute, he was always in the right position in more defensive moments. This isn't a surprise, because it's what we've come to expect from Beltran week-in, week-out. What was more remarkable was two-fold.

First, Beltran was committed in the attack. He combined expertly with Javier Morales and Luke Mulholland on the right side, and he showed a lot of on-the-ball skill to keep possession in difficult circumstances. His play on the right side was more akin to an attacking winger than it was a full back — but his defensive play reflected more precisely his defensive responsibilities.

Second, Beltran was excellent in defending during the transition. Gyasi Zardes and Landon Donovan, both taking up wider positions and cutting inside, were constantly pushing forward and stretching the defensive line. When they broke forward, Beltran was not just rushing back to get back into a good defensive position — he was successful. Zardes was kept quiet, and Donovan was kept from any dangerous moments.

Beltran's performance is surely part of why LA Galaxy took only three shots in the match. He wasn't alone in his defending — Luke Mulholland got back well on his side, and Nat Borchers had a solid game. Everyone else was committed defensively, too. But Tony Beltran was at the apex of his game, and it's hard to imagine we'd have been so successful without him.

He gets my man of the match pick because he excelled in his position more than any other play. And when the whole team was playing well, that's a notable feat.