I have been a fan of RSL from afar since the day it was announced. In the early days of MLS I only half-followed the league by the sparse newspaper articles that filtered into the rural area of Cedar City, Utah. Watching games was nearly impossible except for the few matches that made it to TV, and while the closest team was of course the Colorado Rapids; I had no real affinity for any team.
When it was announced that Utah was going to get a team my interest really began. I eagerly searched for any bit of news regarding the new team, even though I knew that going to games regularly was a long-shot at best. I followed along with recaps and news of the first two seasons from my outpost in the desert, meeting no other fans to discuss games with. Most were surprised to learn that Utah even had a team.
Still I persevered, picking up a few pieces of fan-gear at a time on my occasional visits to Salt Lake; one of the first training jerseys, stickers, flags, and so forth. The rest of my family was interested, but not to the same level — that started to change around 2008.
My son has moderate Autism. He is very smart, but rarely speaks and keeps very much to himself. During the 2008 season he started paying more attention to RSL; he would watch the games with me when they were televised, learned all the players names and positions — picking out favorites (Robbie Findley), and getting excited or angry over results.
The 2009 Cup run was amazing for all of us. As a family we traveled to Salt Lake to see our first games together, and my son who usually avoids crowds accepted it well. He had us buy a small practice goal so he could shoot (and defend) PK’s like Nick Rimando, and could often be found kicking a ball around. He would talk with us more than he ever had before - it was amazing.
Then came the inevitable letdown that was the CONCACAF Champions League final. We had all built up great hopes and expectations, and like all RSL fans felt completely deflated afterwards. My son took the loss hardest, and we saw him go through the stages of grief from sadness, anger and very slowly acceptance. He withdrew once again after that only paying occasional attention - not wanting to get hurt again; he had just started to re-emerge when the MLS Cup loss against Kansas City happened.
We’re now once again at a low point in what has become his cycle. He’ll still watch highlights of wins, and knows most of the players; but doesn’t want to talk much about how the team is doing. One thing I do know however is that as soon as RSL begins to succeed once again, the son that I can watch and discuss soccer with will return.
And that is something I am willing to wait for... regardless of how long it takes.