So I often find myself torn between being a fan of Major League Soccer, Real Salt Lake and soccer in general and understanding the business side better than I probably should. It makes the off season tough, as things like expansion drafts, re-entry drafts, contracts, options, and all of that gets dealt with.
As I sat this week trying to think of ways that the Andy Williams situation with his contract with RSL will work out to keep a guy who is a huge part of the heart and soul of the team, I found myself knowing that there are good people on each side of that situation who are trying to do their very best. Sometimes that is very hard to explain to myself, let alone to write about in a way that allows fans to understand what is going on. Yet today I find myself remembering why it is that RSL means so much to me, and probably to a lot of you as well.
It took Ian Joy writing about his battle with depression to remind me of what I have always known in my heart, RSL isn't just a soccer team, it is in fact a family. Now I know that if you read the post that Ian wrote you will understand how much this team and organization means to each other, but what you won't get there is what it means to us the fans, and in turn what we mean to each other.
more after the jump:
I remember even during the first couple of very rough years for RSL that there was something special going on here, heck I think it was within the first couple matches that I knew it. I had my season ticket at Rice Eccles, but I didn't know anyone else who was a MLS fan, or a RSL season ticket holder here in Salt Lake City, heck I was about to move from Salt Lake back to Vegas when the announcement of the team convinced me (along with a great job) to stay a bit longer, now going on 10 years in Salt Lake.
Within a couple of matches I knew the people who sat around me, became friends with them and for many that friendship is more than just saying "hi" at matches. I have seen guys go from the stands to working for the team, I have seen families grow, traveled with people to away matches and in just a few short years built memories that will last a lifetime. Now I am sure that happens with a lot of fans at events, but I have been very lucky to also start covering RSL during this time, which lead to taking pictures, which lead to writing for SB Nation, covering the MLS All Star match as a media member, taking pictures from the sidelines of MLS Cup in 2009 when the team won it in Seattle. I have been very lucky that both in the stands and on the pitch I consider a lot of the people I probably would have never meet without their being a Real Salt Lake as friends.
So it is hard to see guys leave the team, but it is nice to be able to watch their careers once they have left and I am thankful that things like facebook and twitter mean that even when a player might leave the team that they are still part of the large RSL family.
This off season we have already seen Collen Warner, Robbie Russell, and Jean Alexandre find other homes in MLS, but one thing is sure each of them will still be a part of the RSL family in my books. I hope that all of the players, coaches and staff understand how much they mean to the fans, because to myself and many others this is far more than just a sports team, this is a part of our lives, it is a second family for most of us and one that we treasure.
OFF MY SOAPBOX