Real Salt Lake fans have been treated to a multitude of things with their team since kicking off in 2005. They have experienced the extreme low of their team being one of the worst in the league and, in short order, watched their guys being crowned the best in the league last year by winning MLS Cup. There are teams in the League that still have not tasted the success that Real enjoyed last year, many of which have been in the league since its inception. Pretty incredible stuff for the club’s first five years … and, to top it all off, they play in their own stadium (Rio Tinto is a beauty).
With the start of the season upon us, there was one thing in particular that jumped out at me that RSL fans have not experienced as of yet. A FAST START! They have never experienced their team not having to play catch up for the entire season. In my opinion, if the club were going to pick a time to get out of the blocks quickly, this would be the year.
Some have written that Real Salt Lake just got hot at the right time last fall, that the MLS Cup run was a flash in the pan – and only time will tell (I’m not really sure about that, but everyone is entitled to their opinion). What I do know is that RSL can make a statement and silence any critics by getting out to that fast start … not that the team or the coaching staff cares about the critics with those rings arriving April 10!
Every game is going to be a battle this year. Teams are not just playing Real Salt Lake, but they are playing Real Salt Lake - the defending MLS Cup champion. In any sport, don’t you want to beat the best a little bit more?
There will not be an “off night,” and the pressure starts this weekend with San Jose – a team that was so close to making the playoffs in their inaugural year (2008) and looked more like an expansion team in 2009. What a great start and confidence builder it would be for them to beat the defending champs in the first game of the season. But on the other hand, what a great statement RSL could make, almost saying, “Come and get us boys! We’re ready.”
Here’s the other reason a fast start will be key – they are going to be downright busy. Yes, they have the MLS regular season to worry about, which really is the most important thing, but there is this other competition they’ve qualified for called the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Group games in the tournament will start in August, and getting off to a fast start in league play might allow Jason Kreis to rest or manage minutes for certain players at different times of the season. While the regular season takes precedence, there is no denying that a good showing in the Champions Cup would elevate the status of the club. And oh yeah, almost forgot to mention yet another competition, the U.S. Open Cup, a journey RSL starts against no other than San Jose next month.
If you think about any sport, fast starts are accomplished by good teams, while great teams get off to a fast start and keep that momentum rolling throughout the season. If Real Salt Lake is able to do that, wins will come and the club can accomplish one other thing that just came to my mind that fans have never seen in Salt Lake – a winning regular season record.