For almost 13 years, fans of Real Salt Lake have cheered and celebrated beneath the pointed silhouettes cast upon Rio Tinto Stadium by the Wasatch Mountain Range. As the pandemic has pushed fans out of their well-worn seats to couches in front of television screens, the fortress has been a shadow of its former self.
On Wednesday afternoon fans got a glimpse at the stadium's triumphant return as the United States Men’s National Team set the stage for a nearly-full match, the first since March 7, 2020 when Real Salt Lake faced the New York Red Bulls in the 2020 MLS home opener.
19,007 strong in a sea of Red, White and Blue filled the stands for a chance to watch their country’s team in person for the first time since 2017 and the Stars and Stripes did not disappoint. With two goals in the first half and another pair in the second, the Utah faithful cheered the team on to a 4-0 finish against Costa Rica, adding another win to an undefeated history in the Beehive state for the U.S.
“To come here to Salt Lake and play at Rio Tinto Stadium, having the crowd we had, was a great feeling, something a lot of the guys haven’t been playing with this season,” USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said.
Now 5-0-1 in the state of Utah with five straight wins at Rio Tinto Stadium it is becoming a must-play destination for the United States Men’s National team.
“To get a crowd like tonight, in a great stadium, in a soccer town, was just phenomenal,” Berhalter continued. “For us, it’s great to be able to play in different places in the United States, and in Utah, specifically in Salt Lake, is always a great place for us to play.”
With each goal, the stadium erupted with the deafening chants of “USA, USA, USA,” reaching decibel levels that had been absent for 15 months. For 90 minutes fans were reminded of the joy that comes from sitting in the red seats of Rio Tinto Stadium.
While the game between the United States and Costa Rica was certainly a must-see event, the prospect of what it could mean for the fans of the Claret and Cobalt in the weeks to come lingered in the air. It’s only a matter of time before the stadium returns to full capacity and the roaring citadel that propels its team to victory returns.