RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Real Salt Lake’s fan base keeps growing

(by Martin Renzhofer 8-29-12)

By almost any measurement, attendance for Real Salt Lake games has skyrocketed in 2012.

RSL president Bill Manning understood the exact moment when he knew that the franchise turned the corner — when 17,000 fans paid to see RSL play a minor league team in U.S. Open Cup competition in May.

"I said, ‘We’ve got something going,’ " Manning remembered. "The least of my worries now is attendance."

Manning can sit back and enjoy record fan numbers, including eight sellouts so far at Rio Tinto Stadium this season — with the promise of the same for the final four home dates before the start of the Major League Soccer playoffs, including Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against D.C. United.

So far, average attendance at Rio Tinto Stadium is 93 percent of its 20,008 capacity, which mirrors, for the most part, a league-wide trend. In 2011, MLS enjoyed the third-highest attendance among U.S.-based professional leagues.

"We’re killing it, we really are," Manning said of RSL. "We don’t even look at the [Utah] Jazz schedule anymore when we make our schedule. We don’t even look at BYU or Utah anymore. We’ve found we can still sell out when they do."

It’s not that RSL has stolen from the sports pie formerly shared by Utah’s NBA team or the state’s two prominent college football programs. Simply put, the pie has gotten larger.

A younger demographic, between ages 18 and 30, has discovered professional soccer in Utah. And the numbers show they like it.

"We’ve become their team," Manning said.

Part of it is the winning. Since 2008, RSL has become one of the most successful teams in the 19-team league, with an MLS Cup victory in 2009.

And RSL has helped in growing the league.

"Salt Lake has become an important part of the North American soccer landscape, and a market for that is regularly hosting key international soccer events such as the MLS All-Star Game, World Cup qualifying matches and CONCACAF events," said MLS president Mark Abbott. "The stadium is one of the finest soccer venues of its size, and RSL supporters provide an environment that often rivals great soccer crowds throughout the world."

"We had great faith in Salt Lake City, and the market has certainly delivered. We also have great owners in Dave Checketts and Del Loy Hansen."

By season’s end, average attendance at energetic, noisy Rio Tinto sometimes will be at or near 19,000 — a 10 percent jump from last season, which follows a 7.4 percent increase from 2010.

In fact, RSL attendance has increased each season since 2008. Don’t think the players haven’t noticed.

"It’s huge," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "I continue to believe they are a big part of every success we’ve had here at Rio Tinto Stadium. It feels like a big surge when they’re singing the [team] song. … It’s awesome."

Certainly, the move in October 2008 from Rice-Eccles Stadium to soccer-specific Rio Tinto has been a big reason. Manning acknowledges that in the early years, beginning in 2005, Real "salted" the team’s attendance numbers by offering free tickets, up to 30 percent worth.

Since then, the team has created a department that strictly caters to season-ticket holders. It has worked. Season-ticket holders have increased by more than 50 percent since 2005 and Manning predicts the franchise will approach 10,000 season tickets sold for 2013.

"What we compete for is media," Manning said. "You guys are torn all over the place."

Media is the one hurdle remaining for RSL and the league. The MLS moved its television contract from Fox to NBC starting this season. And while the numbers are better overall, viewership remains negligible. According to the Nielsen ratings, six of the past seven MLS games on NBCSN have drawn an average audience of only about 200,000 viewers. Locally, it is only a bit better for games on CW30 or Ch. 4.

But one step at a time.

"This year, we’ve made a quantum leap," Manning said of RSL’s attendance. "The fan base has just reacted. Our fans really want to see the team succeed. They’re part of our fabric now. There is a good vibe right now.

"Now, it’s just figuring out how to keep the team on track."


RSL’s average yearly attendance

2005 » 18,030

2006 » 16,366

2007 » 15,960

2008 » 16,179

2009 » 16,375

2010 » 17,095

2011 » 17,591

2012 » 18,794

Note: RSL moved from Rice-Eccles Stadium to Rio Tinto Stadium in October 2008

RSL attendance records

20,762 » Largest soccer crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium (Sept. 28, 2011 vs. Chicago Fire)

45,511 » Largest soccer crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium (Aug. 12, 2006 vs. Real Madrid)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

10-man Real Salt Lake earns huge Champions League victory over Tauro FC

(by Kira Terry 8-22-12)

Real Salt Lake ended its four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over Champions League opponent Tauro FC Tuesday night, extending the club's CONCACAF hopes and giving the team badly needed momentum.

With the victory, the Salt Lake side looks to take that momentum and confidence gained Tuesday night into Major League Soccer play on Friday as it travels to face the Philadelphia Union.

“I think we try to take the confidence that we scored the goals and we were on top of things,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “It was a night where finally things went right for us so I think when you do that often times the flood gates open — if we can continue with that confidence and say ‘OK, we’re playing well and we scored goals and we won and we had a shut out,’ and take all those positive things and roll them into the game on Friday.”

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando agreed with his boss and said the club knows exactly what to do with the momentum gained Tuesday.

“If we go into Philly and knock the ball, keep the ball, you could see that we have a lot more energy out there because we kept the ball, we moved off the ball. So if we do that (Friday) I think the boys will be good,” said Rimando.

Both goals Tuesday night came within 10 minutes of each other just into the second half — in the 48th and 58th minutes. Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio and captain Kyle Beckerman each tallied a goal, respectively, to give the Claret and Cobalt to victory.

The Claret and Cobalt will return to Champions League play September 18 when it travels to Panama to face Tauro FC again. However, the club will travel without Beckerman due to a red card shown in the 72nd minute on a hard foul.

It's a foul that Kries believes kept RSL from scoring more goals against Tauro FC — something that is significant in Champions League play.

“I think you saw a team in Tauro that was really tiring and I think that if it hadn’t been for the ejection, I think perhaps we could have scored more goals,” said Kreis.

And it's a foul that Kreis also says could cost RSL in Panama.

“I think we’re in a good spot, but I wouldn’t go any further than that,” he said. “I think we did ourselves right tonight by getting a result and a 2-0 result as well that could be important, but it’s going to hurt to not have our captain available for the next match.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Espindola swings and misses.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

RSL falls to Herediano 1-0

( 8-1-12)

Real Salt Lake was in action Tuesday night in Central America, making its highly anticipated return to the CONCACAF Champions League.

It was the first time that the Claret and Cobalt fielded their first choice team, having logged just 59 minutes together in 2012.

It wasn't a picture perfect start for RSL, who conceded the only goal of the game in the 13th minute when Elias Aguilar slighted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Nick Rimando to put Herediano up 1-0.

Yendrick Ruiz played a beautiful back heel to Aguilar near the top of the box, where Aguilar was able to beat RSL captain Kyle Beckerman for the game's only goal.

Fabian Espindola nearly equalized in the 30th minute, beating Herediano keeper Leonel Moreira with a shot that rolled just inches from the left post.

"I thought it was a little bit of a lackluster beginning for us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "We couldn't get a hold of the ball and couldn't get any really tempo on the game. Lacked a little bit of energy, and sometimes these things happen when you have to travel so far for a game."

Despite trailing at the half, RSL were able to get off five shots and were also the aggressors in the final 15 minutes before halftime.

That momentum carried over into the second half, but was short lived after the RSL backline was demolished when Nat Borchers was shown a red card for a late challenge in the 58th minute.

"I took a bad touch, went in hard on the tackle, and maybe in another place or another time that's a yellow card if anything," said Borchers. "I think it's really harsh to get sent off for that."

Just two minutes later, defender Jamison Olave had to be helped off the field with an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

When asked about Olave's injury, Kreis was still uncertain about exactly what went wrong with the Colombian defender.

"We're not quite sure yet. It's way too early to tell," the RSL coach said. "He was icing the back of his knee, so I don't know if that's where his hamstring is connecting back there, or if it's actually a knee problem, so we will definitely be mindful about that in the next 24 hours."

Kreis was content to let his team hobble out of Costa Rica with a one-goal loss, which seemed to be confirmed when Espindola was replaced by Abdoulie Mansally in the 67th minute.

"Actually I'm okay with this," said Kreis. "To suffer a really harsh decision with the red card, and have to play a man down for the remaining 30 plus minutes, you have to feel OK with walking out of there down a goal basically in what's going to turn into a home-and-away series, if we can manage to take care of our business against Tauro — which we will hope to."

Although Herediano mustered just one shot in the second half, their one-man advantage was visible with the simple possession they were able to maintain. Waiting to make that clean pass, while controlling possession and the flow of the game was ultimately the end of the night for RSL.

With the new changes to the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, all the focus has been on winning the group to advance.

Tuesday night was just a setback that the Claret and Cobalt — the 2011 runner-up — and the visitors played 55 minutes with the same intensity that shook the soccer world during their last run at the title.

RSL finished with nine shots and will be looking to come out with no less than a point when it hosts Tauro FC on Aug. 21 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

NOTEBOOK: It seemed only fitting for captain Beckerman to be issued a yellow card, given his history of accumulating them in Champions League. RSL striker Alvaro Saborio was also shown yellow, and saw no love from his home country.