On Saturday, a new tradition started at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With the supporters around the stadium uniting under one flag in the south end of the stadium, the atmosphere was already heightened at the home-opening 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. After a giant overhead tifo display unveiled prior to kickoff, the match was bookended with a postgame celebration in front of The Riot.
RSL legend and broadcast analyst Brian Dunseth waved an RSL flag in front of the south goal and was soon joined by Riot leadership on the field. With the section in a frenzy, Dunseth handed off the flag to Chiqui Pelaez, who then gave it to Kyle Beckerman. The RSL captain continued to wave the flag before planting it in a stand in front of the fans, mirroring Dunseth’s goal celebration when he scored the first home goal in club history at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2005.
After each home win, Head Coach Mike Petke will choose a Man of the Match to “plant the flag” in a new tradition for RSL.
For Dunseth, being tied to the new tradition was the highest compliment.
“I was incredibly honored to know that the goal scored against Colorado back in 2005 in the first Rocky Mountain Cup and the first home opener at Rice-Eccles and that goal and the way I celebrated – This is the place, we’re here, I planted the flag. That that would resonate in 2019 is super wild to me. I can’t really wrap my head around that,” he said after the match. “Just that connection and that vibe is so important and so relevant to this fan base in a lot of ways. To know that I’m a part of that, I’ve got tears in my eyes for a moment. It’s just so cool to be a part of this and to know that in a weird way that this fan base feels about me the same way I feel about them … it’s pretty amazing. It’s hard to put words to it.”
The change at Rio Tinto Stadium was hardly an overnight transition. Over the offseason, Petke, the supporters and the front office all identified that unifying the supporter groups in one section would make for a better matchday experience. From those initial conversations, the supporters’ groups bonded together and ran with it.
From those early discussions blossomed a more dynamic matchday experience for fans and players alike.
“I thought they were loud tonight, I thought the tifo was unbelievable,” Petke said. “I think they’re all coming together which is key for us and key for the environment in the stadium. “
Added forward Corey Baird, “It’s awesome. I think the energy they bring is infectious to the rest of the stadium as well.”
The next chance to build on the momentum from the home opener will come March 30 when RSL hosts FC Dallas.