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Real Salt Lake: Attendance historically low for MLS playoffs

Published: Sunday, Nov. 2 2008 12:13 a.m. MDT

SANDY — It's no secret that the Major League Soccer playoffs don't typically get good attendance. There are varying theories, one of the most obvious being that soccer is a long way from truly mattering in this country.

Even though Real Salt Lake drew a very respectable 14,719 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium for a game that was only finalized six days earlier, the attendance in the league's other three first-round games wasn't nearly so high.

In the league's other two Saturday playoff games, New York had 11,578 fans while Kansas City had 10,385. Shockingly, that was double the pathetic attendance of 5,221 at New England for its first-round game against Chicago and Cuauhtemoc Blanco on Thursday.

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber attended Real Salt Lake's historic first playoff win on Saturday, and he was asked about those shrinking playoff attendance numbers.

"Fans are conditioned for a regular season that leads up to this moment. Our sport is very young, and we don't have season tickets that include playoff games like in the other leagues in this country," said Garber. "Playoffs have been a challenge for us to sell over the years. But in terms of television ratings and media coverage, in terms of priority for our teams, the playoffs are still the moment everybody shoots for."

RSL owner Dave Checketts even suggested that next year playoff ticket would be part of the team's season-ticket packages.

"We haven't set it up properly. It's too hard to sell a stadium out in four to five days," said Checketts.

INTENSE FOR 90 MINUTES: It's tough to sustain a truly aggressive approach for 90 minutes, but RSL came pretty close to doing that Saturday. It came out with guns blazing in the first 25 minutes against Chivas before settling down just a bit the rest of the half.

"I came in at halftime and asked the guys if you think we can keep it up for 90 minutes, and I got a whole lot of absolutlies," said Kreis.

RSL went full throttle even more in the second half, and it eventually paid off with a goal.

"The fans were really unbelievable today. I've never heard them that loud here, so that always gives you an extra boost," said Will Johnson. "We definitely wanted it more than them, and we were going on adrenaline. And we were having fun as well, so it made it possible for everybody to keep it going and get that last-minute goal again."

HAPPY HOMECOMING: Carey Talley insists his first playoff appearance in three years wasn't any more special Saturday afternoon because he was facing his old team.

"I'm not any more excited because we're playing Salt Lake. Those last two years I wasn't in it, it wasn't a happy time for me. Now that I'm back here I'm excited to be in the playoffs," Talley said prior to Saturday's game with RSL.

"These are the type of games everybody in the league wants to play in 'cause they actually mean something. Not that the regular season doesn't, this is when the cream rises. That's what I'm excited about to be in the playoffs."

Talley played 68 minutes before being subbed off for Bobby Burling.

Interestingly though, neither Atiba Harris or Alecko Eskandarian were on Chivas' 18-man roster despite not being listed on the team's injury report.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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