RSL player visits Extreme Cup |

RSL player visits Extreme Cup

Beltran signed autographs and took pictures with fans

By Griffin Adams
The Park Record

Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran remembers going to youth camps when he was an aspiring professional soccer player.

"I'm sure if we went to my parents house, we could go through my old drawers in my desk and there would be pictures with Clint Mathis and guys like that. Guys that I grew up idolizing," Beltran said. "So it's fun to kind of give back."

Beltran traveled to Park City on Thursday afternoon to visit with the hundreds of teams that are in the area for the Park City Soccer Club's Extreme Cup, one of the largest sanctioned U.S. Youth Soccer tournaments for boys and girls U9 through U19 in the state of Utah.

The second the pro player showed up, lines of kids — and even some of their parents — began to form. Beltran spent awhile signing autographs on soccer balls, cleats, shirts, jerseys and more. He also took pictures with fans and conversed with many of them.

"I know how much work goes into these tournaments, from the parents to the organization," Beltran said. "I know how much fun it is for the kids. It's great to be here. It's great to interact with the kids and just be a small part of it."

Beltran's Thursday visit wasn't his first one to Park City, just a short drive from Salt Lake. Some of his teammates live up here, and while his busy schedule keeps him from enjoying the skiing and snowboarding the town offers, Beltran still considers Park City a great escape.

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One teammates who grew up in Park City is 20-year-old Sebastian Saucedo, whom the other players call, "Bofo." Beltran said not only is Saucedo's story inspiring to Park City's youth soccer players, but he's also a great teammate.

"Bofo Is a great kid," Beltran said. "He's a wonderful kid. He's a hard worker. I mean, he's got a bright future in front of him. The fact that the hometown kid gets to play for his local team, there's nothing cooler than that. I'm very happy for him in that aspect.

"Also, I think it's exciting to see these kids come out of our Academy. They're very good at a very young age. It’s exciting for RSL youth soccer, but also U.S. youth soccer, just the kind of talent that we're producing. Bofo is a perfect example of that."

Beltran said careers can seem like a rollercoaster ride for any soccer player, no matter the level of competition. Sometimes things go well. Other times, it can feel like one is taking a few steps back.

Beltran understands the ups and downs in the sport. He set his goal to be a professional soccer player as a young kid. Though he has figuratively and literally been knocked down multiple times, Beltran always gets up. He said resiliency is the name of the game, and he hopes his message resonates with today's youth.

"Everybody goes through ups and downs, peaks and valleys," Beltran said. "From the best player in the world to anybody, myself included. I would tell [youth] to always keep your love for the game. Always keep touching the ball. That's the biggest thing training-wise; touch the ball as much as you can.

"And then, just try to have fun. Work hard, of course, but always have fun. This is soccer and it's a beautiful thing."

No team in Major League Soccer understands highs and lows quite like Real Salt Lake. The team couldn't muster a win in the first four matches of this year's season. It was a bad streak that ultimately lead to the firing of former manager Jeff Cassar. Real Salt Lake then brought in Mike Petke, who helped turn things around.

Since his arrival, Petke has brought a sense of confidence to the players, Beltran said. The team has won two of its last three games, with the third being a 1-1 tie against Sporting Kansas City. Beltran hopes the team will be able to ride its hot streak through the end of the campaign.

"We're starting to get a little momentum in the second half of the year," Beltran said. "I think that comes from Mike Petke and trickles down throughout the team. He's been a big motivator for the boys. He's put belief back in the locker room and I think that's showing on the playing field right now. Hopefully, with these next two home games, we can string some results together and make a postseason push and make some noise."