We've all talked about the stories that emerged from last night's World Cup Qualifier - Panama missing the World Cup, Mexico scraping in by the skin of our teeth - but one thing that became easy to ignore was the fine play of one Kyle Beckerman, who played the full 90 minutes.
Real Salt Lake's captain was considerably less adventuresome than he is for club, with his tactical responsibility focused squarely on sitting between the midfield and the defenders, breaking up play, and stepping backward at times to act as a third central defender when the full backs pushed very, very high.
It was a performance that saw Beckerman as the sole defensive midfielder, with Sacha Klejstan and Mix Diskerud operating in front of him. He consistently received the ball under intense Panamanian pressure - the hosts were very keen to win this one, and they employed a high-pressure tactic that nearly paid off - and, calm and collected as ever, maintained possession and spread the ball to a wide player.
Some may decry Beckerman as a sideways-passing player, which is somehow meant as a wicked insult. Instead, it comes off across as a mindless jab at thin air; an insult that ignores tactical play and demands each player that's not a center back or goalkeeper have an equal chance of scoring a goal, I suspect.
I did see a claim or two (from journalists, not just fans) that Beckerman gave the ball away too frequently, which to my mind, smacks of confirmation bias. The midfielder had a solid 91 percent passing rate - 59 of his 65 passes were successful - but the ones people notice are the misplaced ones. It is perhaps a little depressing, but by now, we should be used to Beckerman being slated unfairly.
* * *
In other Hex news, Alvaro Saborio came off the bench and nearly helped kill off Mexico's World Cup hopes with a trademark headed goal to put his side up 2-1. He found himself free in the box and nodded a cross to the corner. Beautiful stuff from RSL's all-time scoring leader.