What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
With another month of regular season action having come and gone, it's time to name my player of the month. It's a bit of a tough one, because honestly, we just weren't quite good enough through October — we only scored two goals, and both of those came against LA Galaxy at the beginning of the month.
But by the same token, we conceded only one, and that's some accomplishment. Two defenders played in all four of the matches: Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran. That we did it all with the central defenders switching back and forth is a bit of an accomplishment on its own, and it speaks to a good focus from the midfield to avoid conceding a goal. Going into the playoffs, it's a huge point of encouragement. Inspiration, even.
Anyway, I really wanted to award this to a center back, but given we played five different center backs (Borchers, Olave, Schuler, Watson-Siriboe, and Wingert), that seems a bit wide of the mark for a player of the month award. I don't mean to imply they didn't each do well there, because they certainly did.
I suppose, then, it goes to a full back. We weren't great in attack, and that's partly down to the midfield, so they're largely out of contention for me this month. No, I'd give the award quite squarely to Tony Beltran, whose attacking bent was nearly enough to rid ourselves of one of those three draws to end the season. But that's not the stick by which he should be measured, is it?
He was actually excellent defensively, too — which, given his attacking preference, is some accomplishment. He's got an excellent sense of when to go forward and when to come back. Against LA Galaxy, he was brilliant, keeping Landon Donovan at bay for much of the match.
It's interesting: We're the only professional club he's played with, he's only 25, and he's developing well. This season, he's transformed from a first-teamer without a guaranteed spot (usually behind Robbie Russell) into a genuine starting player. He's played more minutes for RSL this season than any one player — a true testament to the renaissance at right back.
Some of those early minutes were bumpy. He made a couple high-profile mistakes, including one against LA Galaxy that set them back on course as they came back to win from 2-0 down. Grabbing that starting role with both hands wasn't always easy, but through the adversity, he's come through and looked largely consistent.
At any rate, he's earned this, to my mind, because of his quality play, not because he happens to play. That can't be forgotten.