Warning: this article is extremely sappy. :)
I don’t know why I love RSL so much. I love living in Utah, and for some reason, I think sometimes I look to the success of sports teams as a measurement of how good a state or region is. I have such massive pride, not just in RSL, but also the Utah Jazz and now the Utah Royals. They aren’t the flashiest teams. They never get the national coverage they deserve. But they have such outstanding fans, inside and outside the state. And they nearly always do good.
I haven’t always been an RSL fan. I haven’t even been a sports fan at all for that long, really. When I was a young kid, I didn’t care for sports. Instead I spent most of my time playing video games as a kid.
But in 2013, I started playing local soccer. I needed something else to do. I wasn’t very good right away, (and I’m still not.) but man, I loved it. Playing local soccer really fostered a love for the game in me.
So, naturally, I turned to the state soccer team, Real Salt Lake. And 2013 was a good year for RSL, mind. I’m sure you all remember. The boys took second place in the Conference with 56 points, and made it to MLS Cup. Of course, as a new fan. I didn’t know how anything worked. I wasn’t aware you could get points by winning games. One minute we were just playing regular games, next thing I know, apparently we’re in the championship?
Well, as it turned out, we actually lost that game. Stupid SKC. But I stuck around. The seasons came and went. RSL hasn’t been as good the past couple of years. We’ve made the playoffs only once in the past three years, and were immediately knocked out. But following the exciting finish to last years season, I was looking forward to this one like ever before. My excitement grew and grew as we added exciting new players, got rid of non contributors, and suddenly we were racing towards the new season as a possible contender. Sometime in February, my excitement reached fever pitch. It was nearly palpable. It was almost an unhealthy obsession for a while. I scraped up enough money to get great seats to the home opener (yikes), and was locked in for the new season.
And so it began. On opening night, I wasn’t able to watch the game live. (Stupid family.) I recorded it, (shout out MLS Live) and was finally able to start watching at about 11:30. I very well might have woken up the neighborhood when that own goal went in. So we finished that game 1-1. I looked at this optimistically. I figured that as long as we cleaned up the back line, we should be golden and get back to winning like we were last fall.
Next up was the home opener. This would be my first trip out to the RioT in over 2 years. I was wearing my scarves, my hat, my jersey, my jacket and my big, red, Real flag. I was chanting, I was jumping up and down. I expended more energy that day than I did in all of 2007.
When Joao Plata’s PK Goal went in, I screamed so loud. People in the stands looked at me odd, I was cheering so loud. You can actually hear me individually in the match highlights, (not that I would recommend watching those.) I couldn’t talk the next day. I’d peaked as an RSL fan. Front row seats, and not 20 yards away from me, Joao Plata had just put my team in the lead. Annnnnnnnnd then LAFC took over.
The score when I left that day was 5-1, LAFC. Let that sink in. I still think about it at night. That hateful scoreline is burned into my eyes forever.
The next game was against RBNY. I didn’t get to watch it live again, but oh well. We won. But I’m still concerned. Does RSL actually have what it takes to succeed this season or will we have to endure more tragic losses? Last night, I lay awake thinking about that until 2 am. And here’s what I realized: this team could lose every game 5-1. And I would still cheer the loudest I could when that one goal went in.