SANDY, Utah – When Rancid drummer and hardcore Real Salt Lake fan Brandon Steineckert wrote and recorded “Believe,” fans quickly adopted the chant as a rallying cry.
Luckily, with their home opener coming on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls (10 pm ET, MLS Live), it turns out that the fans have something in common with their club’s head coach.
“Everybody is embracing this song,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said after training on Friday. “I’m embracing it, my family’s embracing it. Every time I hear it, I get goose bumps. The whole week I’ve been thinking about what it could be like [on Saturday].”
RSL’s best-case scenario for atmosphere against the Red Bulls could spell doom for the rest of the league. From early 2009 to early 2011, Rio Tinto Stadium was the toughest toughest road test in MLS as Salt Lake went more than 30 matches without a loss in Sandy.
The fans came in droves, and the results rained in. All that was missing, it seems, was an anthem to bring it all together.
“This is a very logical next step for our fans,” Kreis said. “We get a number of supporters here – we have since the beginning – and now we need something to bring them all together to voice their support as one.”
In a departure from their 2010 dominance, when they set an MLS record for fewest goals conceded in a season and made a run to the CONCACAF Champions League finals, the Claret-and-Cobalt struggled in 2011. Inconsistency and injuries led to a finish 14 points lower than the LA Galaxy in the Supporters’ Shield race, and the club failed to challenge convincingly for silverware.
“I think I was swept up in that over the last two years, with how successful we were and we’d always be talking about the three points, and talking about Supporters' Shield early last year,” Kreis admitted. “I was somewhat turning my face from all of the things that we need to do in order to get ready.”
Whatever has changed, RSL were more than ready for their first regular-season match of 2012 last Saturday. Kreis’ men took an emphatic 3-1 win over the Galaxy out of The Home Depot Center, a signature win against the reigning MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions.
That doesn’t mean that a win on Saturday against New York is a given.
“I think we’re past making statements,” Kreis said. “I think we are very much about doing the right things. We’re very much focused on how we feel about ourselves.”
So for the home opener, the RSL coach is focused on not letting the success of one game cause his team to lose focus. Instead, he’s hoping that they can continue to focus on the little details, and also feed off of the home crowd.
“We’re all hopeful that the home crowd is going to be there early and will give us something really special to come out to,” Kreis said. “It’s always an emotional moment to come out for the first game of a new season.”