This Saturday, folks!
An inhospitable, snow-packed off season along the Wasatch Front will soon yield to the latest chapter in Real Salt Lake history: the 2017 MLS season. This year the Claret & Cobalt begin their campaign at home vs Toronto FC on March 4th at 2:30.
Real Salt Lake fans will welcome our squad back to the pitch as they host USMNT veterans Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore along with 2015 Landon Donovan MLS MVP award winner Sebastian Giovinco. (Speaking of Landon Donovan... no, never mind.)
In anticipation of the new season, we’ve reached out to some fans to ask about their match day traditions as well as their hopes and their concerns for Real this year.
A lot of fans have traditions that involve food. Whether it’s grabbing a meal at a nearby restaurant before the match or swinging by Sonic for shakes after the match has concluded, matchday is excuse enough to throw down some cash on greasy, delicious grub!
Melissa G. from South Weber makes sure to arrive at the stadium with her people two hours early. Her kids love the activities and the football atmosphere. Melissa also notes that getting nachos at the games is a must. The two times her family didn’t consume nachos, RSL lost. (I bet those six points were pretty crucial, Melissa... I hope you’re happy! Above all, though, thanks for realizing what you’ve done and taking corrective action!)
Pyper N. from Sandy always tries to be seated for warm-ups. A north goal STH, she feels a responsibility to warn any new faces she sees to stay alert. There are always a number of shots that aren’t quite on frame.
Additionally, the Pyper crew tends to sit at Sonic post-match, eating shakes and mozzarella sticks whilst listening to the postgame show. A lively discussion critiquing the players, coaches, opposition and callers-in is inevitable.
When asked about his matchday traditions, Tom M. of Murray gave us the following response:
“I almost always try and grab some better/higher quality food than normal before the match or while I sit down for one while it's on TV. I also always make sure whoever is with me is wearing team colors before we go to the match. I also like to be there for warmups, sing the song and shout the player's names.”
After losing some key players, some of the more exciting ones to watch (you may know them as Javi and Burrito), we asked fans what their hopes and dreams are for 2017. Considering the various ways respondents get their news, answers were pretty consistent for this section:
“...Finding some playmakers to fill the void [is important].” -Tom M.
“Goals. I hate zero goals. We hardly saw goals at the end of the season last year. I hope somebody steps into Javi’s role. I hope Rusnak and Holness both show up big to replace Burrito and Javi.” -Grayson W., Syracuse
“I hate draws. I also hate losses. Hopefully we can manage to avoid late game collapses. I hate thinking we’re going to win and then draw at the death. I hope the younger guys can get in there more and make an impact.” -Corey H., Grantsville*
*Editorial note: Corey’s statement was made before this exact thing happened vs. Minnesota United FC.
A little bit worried about...
There was a pretty consistent theme from respondents about what worries them about RSL’s 2017 season. Jeff Cassar. Although this writer has encouraged patience and understanding within his circle of friends, the general feeling among fans is that Jeff Cassar is the team’s biggest potential problem this year.
It is always easy to blame the team’s shortcomings, breakdowns and inefficiencies on the manager — justified or not. But when people who sit in Section 26, the South Goal or in those cushy seats on the stadium’s west side all point to the same issues (preparation, chemistry among the starting XI or a pattern of ineffective substitutions) they might have a point.
What people are saying:
“My number one concern is Jeff Cassar and some of his coaching calls he has been making. His formation, substitutions etc. I feel he was a huge deficit for us. I was sort of bummed when I heard Real re-signed him. I think we need a fresh start.” -Missy
“The coach. I have confidence that we'll sign talent with potential, but I think the signings would be a little better with a better coach. He doesn't use sub well and his tactics are too defensive to use a 4-3-3. I was a Cassar supporter for a long time, but his questionable subs time after time made me change my mind. In Cassar's defense, he was up against Kreis' diamond formation and didn't want to revert. A few wins and the coach is a genius, one loss and it's Cassar out most of the time.
“Personally, I think Petke might be a better coach than Cassar. I'm kind of hoping he takes over the club from the B squad at some point.” -Tom
“I asked my ticket rep if I could cancel my season tickets for 2017 after I heard Jeff Cassar was sticking around. They said no, because I had already committed.” -Pyper N.
“My biggest apprehension? Slow boring football. Where we bat it around the 18 and take very few shots. Crappy substitution patterns. The only thing a bad season does is bring us a new head coach. My apprehension is that Cassar sticks around. I want aggressive playmaking and shot taking. You don't score if you don't shoot. I'd love to see Javi back as our coach!” -Grayson W.
In conclusion: It’s up to you, Coach...
To touch again on a previous statement, this writer doesn’t believe Jeff Cassar is perfect, but he also believes that a lot of other variables have impacted the club. Fans blaming Cassar is easy. However, Jeff Cassar has been notorious when it comes to sending players on from the bench who make little to no impact. Was it a personnel problem? Was it a preparation problem? Was it not made clear to the fresh legs what they were expected to do?
These and many other questions remain unanswered, but 2017 is a new year with new chances. Players have been brought in who can turn things around and the opportunity is there for holdovers to earn more minutes and create some beautiful moments of football.
What are your traditions, hopes and concerns for 2017? Tell us in the comments section below and we’ll see you in a week!