Are the accolades and praise coming too fast for Real Salt Lake? I mean try finding a Power Ranking that doesn't have them as the top team. Their 4-1 win over LA and 2-0 win over Saprissa in the 1st leg of the CCL semis, both have caused a lot of people to pay more attention to RSL. A lot of comparisons to some of the superclubs of the world like Barca, Arsenal, and others. For me I wonder if maybe it is a bit too soon for that type of talk?
I don't know, a lot will be told in the month of April about how good this team really is. It would be easy to look at March and be very happy, a quarterfinal series win in Champions League, a first for a MLS side, followed up by a huge 2-0 win in the first leg of the semi-finals. Then there is the fact that only 3 MLS teams have started the season 2-0 and none have done so against the level of competition that Real Salt Lake has. All of this is great for the team and the fans, it has the attention of almost everyone who is a follower of Major League Soccer and even casual soccer fans are starting to notice the Cobalt and Claret.
For me, I always expect the best, but I am holding on before I get too excited as I know that April could be the biggest month in the club's history. First up is a huge road match for the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals where RSL will head to Costa Rica on April 5th to face off once again with Saprissa.
more after the jump:
The pressure will be huge for RSL to play aggressive from the start as an early goal would mean that the "Purple Monsters" would need to get 4 goals in order to advance over RSL. It has happened before, most recently Cruz Azul had a hurricane and official to help them get a 5-4 win over RSL, before that you need to go back to April of 2009 when Seattle beat RSL 4-1 in a US Open Cup qualifier. In MLS play it has happened a couple times, a 4-3 loss in Houston, down a man and some horrible calls in that one, also in 2008 a 4-1 loss at the hands of DC United. In 2007 it was another 4-3 loss at Houston and those are the handful of times in the J.K. era that RSL has given up more than 4 goals in a match, but this team is a bit more focused than those teams in 2008 and 2009, this team has their eyes on a prize.
Of course that is just the first of the matches that RSL will play in April, on the 9th they will be at New England for a huge match with a team that is surprising many with their early season play. Then just 4 days later Real will return home for the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup, and despite its Wednesday scheduling I expect a huge match between the last two teams to claim the MLS Cup. Should RSL emerge victors in their semi-final matchup with Saprissa they would then head off to Mexico for the 1st leg of the Champions League final which would be played on Wednesday April 20th. How huge would that road trip be for the team? No matter what happens RSL will then play host to the Philadelphia Union on April 23rd at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Union are the only team in the Eastern Conference to start their season 2-0 and they are a very much improved side.
Then comes April 27th, which could be the biggest day in RSL history. If they advance to the Champions League final, then the 2nd leg would be at Rio Tinto Stadium and that match would be a barn burner with over 20,000 in attendance and the opportunity to punch their ticket for the FIFA Would Club Cup in December. Imagine MLS Cup but bigger, now maybe some MLS fans wouldn't think so but when you consider the world wide coverage this match would be getting, it is simply huge. Of course there would be no time to rest on their laurels win or lose, as the team will then need to prepare to head to Portland for their first of 4 matches with the 2011 expansion teams.
So while I am enjoying our success so far in the Champions League, and I love starting 2-0 in MLS play (something the team has never done before), for me it is far too early to start counting our chickens. For me there is far too much to accomplish this year, far too many things that have yet to be done in order to make history by being the first ever MLS team to win #TheQuad. Yes it appears early on in 2011 that RSL may have what it takes to become the very best team in MLS history, a very lofty goal, but one that the month of April will have a huge part in getting them towards that goal.
OFF MY SOAPBOX