I think we're all aware of the dominance that has been cultivated by RSL at home over the last few seasons. Club management has created a culture of defending home turf first and making Rio Tinto a real fortress, both domestically and internationally.
Now, games are won and lost by the players, so much of the credit should go to them and how they perform on the field. And there are psychological and physiological factors for away teams such as familiarity, time zone travel, and altitude that can affect performance. But we also know that a major component of home field advantage is being on a home field with home fans cheering you on.
So what is it about RSL fans that make Rio Tinto such an intimidating place to play? We don't have the numbers of Seattle, the European-like atmosphere of Toronto, or the history and longevity of many supporters groups around the country. What do we have that makes us unique?
Attendance shows that just in pure numbers our support is strong, and I could go into some of the conventional reasons why RSL fans in Utah support the team the way they do. Things like: the state's large youth soccer participation, the state's Hispanic population, and the diverse culture brought home by LDS missionaries.
But I think there is something bigger, a more common thread that ties us all together.
If you take a step back and inspect the Utah sport fan in general, I think you start to see some commonalities. Look at the passion for the Utah Jazz, the zealot-like following for BYU athletics, and the defiance of U of U supporters. The thing I see in common is that Utahns in general are huge homers and front-runners, created by being a small market who only supports winners.
Now this can be perceived as a negative thing, but I actually see it as the main factor in creating hostile home field advantages for Utah teams. The way Utah and BYU fans blinding hate each other, or that Jazz fans are willing to boo former players, and how all will rain down anger on a referee's call, all in the face of reason and logic. These things wreak havoc on the psyche of the visiting team, and if you caught the recent excerpt article in SI, can also have a major effect on how referee's perceive the game as well.
The good news is that most Utah teams are well run and have consistency and a tradition of winning. It's definitely that way now for RSL as they head into what could be the most important home match in their short but proud history.
The real tie that binds us is that we're all Utahns - we all live, work, and play in this small market community that has a proud history of pioneering spirit. Dave Checketts has mentioned that pioneering spirit on many occasion surrounding RSL, and I think he's right on.
Lets all bond together, in a me-against-the-world attitude, and show Columbus just what kind of environment this market can produce.