With the news today that Kyle Beckerman has retired, I am left reflecting on an era of Real Salt Lake that we have now completely exited — an era that was the hope we clung to, year after year.
11 years after our MLS Cup win in Seattle, and seven years after our MLS Cup loss in Sporting Kansas City, Beckerman’s retirement announces that end somewhat forcefully.
But when we discuss ‘eras’ at Real Salt Lake, I suspect we should separate them somewhat. I propose the following:
- 2005 to 2007: The rough, early years — we were inescapably bad in what was a sputtering start to our life as a club.
- 2008 to 2013: The good years — these started with the first full season under Jason Kreis, and they ended with the last season under Jason Kreis, but I would actually argue that it was not Kreis that ended this period. This period ended when Dave Checketts sold the club under somewhat odd circumstances (blind bids, MLS control — it was weird.)
- 2014 to 2020: The decline years — these started pretty well, but year after year, we got worse (with momentary blips) and we learned our ownership and business structure was simply aiming to “make the playoffs.” It has not been great.
Beckerman’s time at Real Salt Lake kept the hope of the second era alive, but it was interminably beset by the threats of the third. Beckerman’s care and passion was alive and visible for many of those years, and he found ways to channel that off the field — but the team around him degraded, his fellow second-era-teammates retired, and he was the last of that bygone era.
There is no mistaking Beckerman’s importance at Real Salt Lake. His days at the base of the midfield anchored our style of play. It enabled the uniqueness of the diamond. That second era was only possible because Beckerman willed it into being alongside his colleagues.
One remembers that will coming into effect in 2014, when Kyle Beckerman made the U.S. National Team roster for the World Cup. (One also remembers him being benched against Belgium for Geoff Cameron in one of the worst tactical moves in Jurgen Klinsmann’s spotted coaching history.) It underscores Beckerman’s influence, and it emphasizes that he and others kept that second-era momentum alive.
For 13 years, Kyle Beckerman served as our captain. He defined who we were: A team that was as defiant as it was talented — a team that didn’t need a big-name star to compete at the top of the league. We did things differently than other teams, and it was part of our calling card. We weren’t just another MLS team — we were not what we have become.
The end to Beckerman’s playing career does not have to mean the end of that second, most powerful era. It does now, but it needn’t in perpetuity. A return to the coaching staff at the right time should be in order, and it should be on his terms and with the ability to influence the team. I don’t know if that’s now, but I am hopeful that it’s sooner rather than later.
Beckerman has made his home in Utah. He has given back to the people of Utah in ways immeasurable. We have been honored by his presence, and with any luck, he can help lead us into a fourth era — one, I hope, that returns us to a state of glory.