Klinsmann: Salt Lake a "very good environment" for soccer

USA TODAY Sports

At a pre-match celebration in downtown Salt Lake City, Jurgen Klinsmann, Sunil Gulati and a selection of players praised the fanbase ahead of an important 2014 World Cup qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"We wanted to come to Salt Lake ... because we know that it's a very good environment here for soccer," Klinsmann told the crowd during a panel at a pre-match celebration in downtown Salt Lake City. "We wanted to choose certain market and locations where we really had the feeling that people would really get behind us, help us, push us to get three points."

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, who made an early appearance during the celebration as well, said he expected a positive crowd for the match and hinted at qualifiers in the future at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"We fully expect this to be a very pro-US crowd tomorrow ... to get three points and to make it impossible for us not to come back here in three or four years during the next round of qualifiers," he told the crowd.

Eddie Pope, three-season Real Salt Lake defender, U.S. international standout and current director of player relations for the MLS Players Union, noted the improvement in crowd and stadium from his three years in Salt Lake City.

"I think coming to Salt Lake was a great experience," he said. "I think we had some difficult pioneer years. (...) to be able to see the fruits of that labor, a soccer-specific stadium, to see the fanbase continue to grow — to see an MLS championship — those things made it worth it."

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando took his opportunity to praise the crowd he plays in front of week-in, week-out.

"It's very exciting to share what these fans can bring," Rimando said. "I'm privileged to play for you guys every week, these guys, they don't know what it's like, coming here, playing in front of fans like you guys."

Eddie Johnson, interrupting: "I know, I know." The Seattle forward could be back in Salt Lake City on Saturday as Seattle Sounders take on Real Salt Lake.

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