SANDY, Utah — When Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran took the field for the US Men’s National Team’s friendly against Canada last Tuesday it was “a dream come true” for the 25-year-old defender.
“It was what every football player dreams about,” said Beltran to MLSsoccer.com by telephone from Irvine, Calif., where he rejoined his teammates for training on Sunday. “Growing up you work for a chance to represent your country at the top level, and to have that happen, to get my first cap just topped everything off I have worked so hard for.”
The start was Beltran’s first cap with the men’s senior team after being a big part of the youth sides for the Americans.
“It is a little bit different,” said Beltran of playing at the top level. “Not to say you aren’t still developing and trying to get better with that team, but the youth side is all about development and this team is all about performance and getting the job done. If you want to be out there, you have to perform.”
Beltran felt the three-week camp was a great chance for him to show that he can play at that level.
“I know it was a lot of MLS guys, but I definitely felt like I held my own. I thought I performed really well and even if it was just a January camp, it was a big honor to be there and to get a chance to show the coaches what I can do.”
Beltran was very complimentary to the entire camp run by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff. But then again, he felt right at home with it as well.
“One thing I noticed was that both Jurgen and (Real Salt Lake coach) Jason (Kreis) are very organized with their trainings and things are very fluid,” he said. “There are definite purposes to the drills they both run and the specifics of how things flow from one thing to the next.
“Of course there are a few differences,” Beltran continued, “like some of the mental parts of the game Jurgen talks about. He has a very holistic approach and you have to be very committed to your sport at all times.
Jason’s approach is just a little different, but I think their trainings are very similar in purpose.”
Beltran is happy to be back with his RSL teammates, but he also said even that is a little different.
“It was a little strange today (Sunday) going out there and realizing I didn’t know the names to half the guys out there,” he said.
Beltran also wants to take a little different approach this season for the club.
“This is my sixth season now with the team, and I know I need to take on a little bit more of a leadership role,” Beltran said, adding it is especially important right now as veterans Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert are still healing from injuries. “I know I need to be more vocal, help out some of the younger guys like Nat and Robbie Russell did with me when I was a young guy just joining the team. I need to help them learn our system and not only worry about how I’m doing, but help them out along the way.”