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Beltran: Locker room negativity on display in last eight games

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RSL’s veteran right back wasn’t mincing words in this press conference.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Beltran isn’t satisfied with Real Salt Lake’s 2016, calling it more disappointing than 2015, when the team didn’t manage to make the playoffs.

In an exit interview with reporters provided by the club and embedded below, Beltran touched on a number of different topics, from a disappointing run and worrying tendencies from the team — as well as revealing that locker room negativity played a big part in RSL’s final eight-game run.

“I think on a team that didn’t have a lot of success last year, (...) there was a negativity that was bred throughout the locker room, and we shouldn’t let that happen,” Beltran told reporters. Ultimately, that led to us being in a very difficult position the last eight games of the year. Our play, you can see that as a result of that.”

Unedited transcriptions from Beltran’s interview follow below.

In many ways, this year feels more disappointing than last year. I think last year — we weren’t a playoff team last year. This year, we were a team that could have competed for a number of trophies, but ultimately, we didn’t. For whatever reason that is, of course it adds to the disappointment. I liked our team this year, and I believed in it.

Change is inevitable, and change in sports when you don’t win is absolute. Of course, I’m sure there are going to be a lot of hard decisions that are made, but I think this is almost starting to become a trend for RSL. In the last third of the year, we hit a little bit of a lull. It’s really exemplified this season, with the last eight games. It’s something we need to identify and fix, because it kept us out of a prime playoff position.

On the team overthinking play

When things aren’t going your way, you tend to overthink things and it becomes less natural and more forced. Still, every team in the league is in that position, not just us, the smallest market team in the league. I think no matter who you are, as a professional, you have to figure that out.

On the progress of the 4-3-3

I think it’s honestly still a work in progress. Towards the end of the year, I started watching some of our games from the beginning of the year — the first 10 games. I thought our ball movement was considerably better earlier on in the year than in the latter half of the year. I’m not sure why that is, but I think we’re still trying to figure out when kind of to use certain personnel in this formation, and when is the best time to rotate players, and when is the best time to give players rest — how to ultimately be continuously successful in this formation throughout a 34-game season. In no way is it defective — I do see promise there.

On the drop in performance and results from RSL

It’s never just one thing; really, it’s a combination of things. Whether tactically, confidence-wise — of course, we hit a little bit of a scoring lull. But I think on a team that didn’t have a lot of success last year, I think there was a negativity that was bred throughout the locker room, and we shouldn’t let that happen. Ultimately, that led to us being in a very difficult position the last eight games of the year. Our play, you can see that as a result of that.

On Jeff Cassar’s tenure and whether he should continue as RSL coach

Obviously, I have a front-row seat to the last three years of Jeff Cassar’s tenure, his first three years as a head coach. It looks easy for a lot of people to have that position, but it’s not. It’s a very difficult job, and the best way to describe it is it’s a full-time job. I think we’ll see Jeff’s evolution over the last three years, and he’s really made some great strides in his coaching ability, which is very important, and also his managing men. You have to be a very good leader of men to be in that role, so I hope he has the opportunity to continue to grow. Ultimately, of course, it’s not my decision to be made.