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2018 Player Profiles: Tony Beltran

An injury to the long-tenured right back changed the course of 2018.

Soccer: Manchester United at Real Salt Lake
Tony Beltran with an unnamed player from an English club.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a strange thing that I’m writing another player profile about Tony Beltran and featuring him in our unranked section.

It’s obvious why he’s here: One truly horrendous tackle in the waning days of the 2017 season. It kept him out of contention for all of 2018.

While that’s all worrying, 2019’s promising to be a different story. If there’s one player that can work his way back from a sustained injury through hard work and determination, it’s Tony Beltran.

In a strange way, a 2018 profile of Beltran’s impact on the field actually needs to focus on his impact off the field. For that, let’s turn to winger-turned-defender Brooks Lennon, who took over the starting role in a surprising twist for the season.

Lennon’s impact on the team wouldn’t have been what it was without Tony Beltran there as a mentor. Here’s a quip from Lennon in a recently published article.

“He’s helped me tremendously,” Lennon said of Beltran. “He’s such a great guy and an amazing teacher. He’s played that right back position for years and his guidance helped me so much. I can’t thank him enough for the leadership he provided me this last season.”

See, that’s the thing. Beltran has grown into a true leader on this team, and whether or not you think he’s the right back for the near-term future of the club, it’s hard to fault his leadership quality. The stability and presence he brings to the team is of the utmost importance.

We saw a sampling of his future when he took a spot alongside the other coaches late in the season. If that’s where he ends up in the longer term, I think wherever he ends up would be better for it. I’m personally just hoping that place is here, at the one club where he’s played in his career.

What could 2019 hold for Beltran? It really depends on what RSL coach Mike Petke has planned at right back. If that’s a spot for Brooks Lennon again, I suspect we’ll see Beltran in a backup role at either spot. I’m not certain what we’ll see there, but Aaron Herrera and Donny Toia are both going to be competing for minutes at left back, and Herrera should probably be high on the list of candidates for full-time right back.

2019 is very much unwritten, and as we’ve seen so often, one injury can change everything. After all, that’s how Brooks Lennon became a full-time defender — and it’s how we found ourselves in this situation to begin with.