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RSL 101: Five Real Salt Lake matches everyone should know

New to Real Salt Lake, Major League Soccer, or simply need a refresher course? We're breaking down some key elements of the league and the club in this series. Whether you are a RSL diehard or a casual MLS observer, important matches always draw attention and that is what we are discussing today.

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5)     Real Salt Lake in the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final

Going against the worst team in the league, RSL expected to win their first silverware since 2009.  With home field advantage in hand, the Claret-and-Cobalt took the field with pride.  This would change going into haft-time as RSL would trail D.C. United 0-1.  D.C. midfielder Lewis Neal would be the only player that scored, as RSL's inability to score goals in the big matches came back to haunt them.  RSL players battled for that equalizing goal but were unable to find it, ultimately losing to the worst team in the league.

4)     Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup Final

RSL then made it to their second appearance in the MLS regular season competition final in 2013.  Having bested their rivals in the West, RSL would face Sporting Kansas City who had the better regular season standing.  Having already lost the U.S. Open Cup, RSL was determined as very to add to their silverware collection.  In addition, this match also carried 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League qualification implications, which made it even more important.

In freezing temperatures at Sporting Park, referee Hilario Grajeda would blow his whistle signaling the start of the match.  Both sides played through a rough first half that saw both sides defend for all they were worth.  Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio was finally able to break the stalemate putting up a tally in the 52nd minute.  The match would get even more chippy with fouls being committed everywhere on the field.  The most controversial part of the match is when Aurélien Collin pulled down an RSL player from behind but did not receive his second yellow card.  This remains controversial as it was Collin that finally leveled the score at 1-1 in the 76th minute.

The clubs would battle it out to a draw after stoppage time and would then go to penalty kicks.  After some misses and some conversions and both sides, Sebastian Velasquez stepped up to the spot with the chance to win the match.  His shot was off though and the match would go on.  Kansas City would finally score their seventh penalty by Collin who again changed the outcome of this match.  Down a penalty, Lovel Palmer would step to the spot for the Claret-and-Cobalt only to have his penalty hit the crossbar.

So RSL became the bride-groom for the 2013 campaign, always reaching the finals but never able to win.  Even harder to swallow was that Real Salt Lake was supposed to be qualified for the next year's CONCACAF Champions League but in December CONCACAF revealed that it had accepted MLS's proposal to change the qualification rules.  Therefore, RSL would lose their spot to the Portland Timbers, thus signaling an all-time low for the club.  (Spoiler Alert:  RSL would then go on to lose head coach Jason Kreis to MLS expansion side New York City FC).

3)     Second Leg of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals

As the first every American club in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, the Claret-and-Cobalt would face Costa Rican side Saprissa in a two-leg series.  In the first leg of the series at Rio Tinto, RSL was able to beat the Costa Rican giants, 2-0.  But it was the second leg that contained the fireworks.

Behind by two goals, the home side Saprissa came out hard against the American side.  Saprissa struck first, capitalized on a slow transition right after intermission.  Down a goal, all RSL could do was absorb the pressure being put on them.  This changed in the 60th minute when the American side won a corner kick.  Maestro Javier Morales took a miraculous corner kick and found the head of Jamison Olave who leveled the score.  This rejuvenated RSL and they held their ground before conceding a penalty.  However, this was enough to see the Claret-and-Cobalt through to the CONCACAF Champions League Final with an aggregate score 3-2.

2)     Real Salt Lake return to Rio Tinto in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League Final

Real Salt Lake again set a new standard for American clubs as they became the first MLS side to ever reach the CONCACAF Champions League Final.  RSL played the first leg of the series at Estadio Tecnologico against CF Monterrey.  It was by the grace of Morales once again that gave the MLS side hope by scoring the equalizing goal in the 89th minute, ending that match in a 2-2 draw.

The Claret-and-Cobalt would return to Rio Tinto with home-field advantage and look destined to become the first American side to claim the CONCACAF Champions League title.  As fate would have it RSL was not so lucky.  Right before the half-time whistle, Monterrey's Humberto Suazo scored the only goal of the match, giving Monterrey a 3-2 aggregate lead.  RSL would battle fiercely in the second half to equalize but to no avail.  So it was Monterrey that was awarded the tournament cup at Rio Tinto to the dismay of over 20,000 RSL fans.

1) Real Salt Lake wins 2009 MLS Cup

The pinnacle of the Claret-and-Cobalt's success to date.  In the 14th edition of Major League Soccer's championship match, RSL did battle against the Los Angeles Galaxy.  A story of David and Goliath, the small market team from Utah appeared to be no match for the DP strong L.A.  With the league's first Designated Player, David Beckham, on the pitch, the Galaxy was able to get on the scoreboard before the intermission thanks to Mike Magee.  RSL would, however, come back in the second half and score a goal thanks to the skill of now ex-RSLer Robbie Findley.

This final would also go to penalties but the result would be different than in 2013.  A missed penalty from Los Angeles striker Edson Buddle gave RSL defender Robbie Russell a chance to win the match.  Carrying all the hope of his team members and the fans, Russell stepped up and coolly tucked the ball into the net.  What followed could only be described as pure joy and shock from every at Quest Field in Seattle.  Salt Lake won the match 5-4 the penalty shoot-out and would raise their first - and only- piece of silverware.

As always, we'd like to know what you think.  Do you think we chose the most memorable RSL matches?  Are there other matches that we overlooked?  What are your favorite RSL matches? How do these matches bode for the future of RSL? Share your opinions in the comments section below.