Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran was nearing an MLS record, but was grateful to avoid even a conversation about how close he was to approaching Jason Hernandez.
Entering Saturday’s match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Beltran had played 240 MLS matches without scoring a goal, still a comfortable distance from the 282 appearances by Hernandez. However, he put a halt to that run with his first career goal in the 82nd minute as Real Salt Lake clawed its way back from a 3-1 deficit before falling short in a 3-2 defeat.
On Tuesday, he was bashful in acknowledging his first career MLS goal.
“If anything,” he smiled, “the most pathetic streak in MLS comes to an end.”
Beltran has long been as consistent a right back as MLS has seen, earning two nods for the MLS All-Star team in 2013 and 2015. However, he still had that dubious distinction of playing 10 seasons without scoring a goal. Although it hasn’t necessarily been a point of emphasis, RSL’s new tactics under Mike Petke have created more opportunities for RSL’s outside backs in the attack. The fact that both RSL goals on Saturday were scored by outside backs – Chris Wingert had the other in the first half – was coincidence, but also a product of those tactics.
“Mike wants us to be very cavalier in the way we contribute in the attack. He wants us to get up and down and get involved,” Beltran said. “Of course, we’re defenders first and foremost so we have to put the work in on that side. But the way he wants us to play opens us up to opportunities like that. It was nice that Chris and I were able to contribute. I just wish it was under better circumstances.”
For his part, Petke is largely unconcerned with who is scoring goals, but rather with how they lead to results.
“I don’t care where the goals come from,” he quipped. “If Nick Rimando dribbles up and scores, too, I’d be just as happy.”