SANDY — Before the actual kickoff, Real Salt Lake got the ball rolling in style.
Celebrating its 2009 MLS Cup Championship, RSL had some appropriate festivities for a defending champion's home opener. A pair of skydivers delivered the game ball to Olympic Gold Medalist Steven Holcomb. A marching band played the theme to Rocky as RSL owners Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen, general manager Garth Lagerwey and president Bill Manning each brought some hardware to the field: the Rocky Mountain Cup, the Eastern Conference Championship trophy, the Philip F. Anschutz trophy (MLS Cup) — and some MLS Cup Championship rings. Fireworks went off just before the players were presented their rings, and Rio Tinto now has a permanent flag proudly flying alongside the U.S. and Utah state flags, a 2009 MLS Cup Champions variety.
"It was great," said Beckerman. "Really, we would have liked to do it some other day without a game, but it was very cool."
DREAMCOMETRUE: Along with the players, Make-A-Wish recipient, six-year-old JonahGomez went through the line to get a ring with his favorite player, Beckerman.
The festivities continued for Gomez at halftime as DavidArchuleta performed alongside the youngster with sickle-cell disease, even handing the microphone to the young crowd-pleasure for a few bars, becoming an instant crowd favorite.
MAKINGHOMEDEBUTS:MidfielderNelsonGonzalez and forward AlvaroSaborio made their debuts in front of the home crowd. Gonzalez entered at halftime for NedGrabavoy, just as he did last week at Houston. Saborio, who started at Houston and entered as a sub at San Jose, replaced Findley in the 77th minute, scoring his first goal in an RSL uniform with a stoppage time thriller.
FORWARDROTATION: One game after coming on as a second-half substitute, forward RobbieFindley was back in the starting lineup. With the addition of Costa RicanAlvaroSaborio, Real has a legitimate three-man rotation up front. FabianEspindola had been the sharpest and most consistent in the team's three games and has certainly warranted the most playing time, which he has had in playing every minute so far on the season.
HOMEISWHERETHEUNBEATENARE:Real Salt Lake has never lost a home opener in its six-year history after the 2-2 draw the Sounders. RSL got a win over the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in its inaugural season in 2005, and it stomped Columbus 4-1 last season behind a three-goal performance from Findley. Sandwiched in between Salt Lake had three draws, 1-1 with New York in 2006, 2-2 with Dallas in 2007 and 1-1 with Chicago in 2008.
OPPONENTSSEEINGRED: Real broke out a new twist on its look at home. Along with the traditional Claret-red jerseys, the team decided to go with matching shorts for an all-red look. It is the first time RSL has worn the shorts at home.