Perspective from the stands: Sold out Rio Tinto can't will RSL to victory
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — With Real Salt Lake playing well in the first two games of this MLS season, expectations have been high for the club. That was evidenced as Rio Tinto Stadium was packed to capacity with a standing-room only crowd to watch the Claret and Cobalt take on Chivas USA.
Unfortunately, most of the 20,415 fans left disappointed as Chivas scored the only goal of the game in the 72nd minute and held on for the 1-0 road win.
In contrast to last weekend’s game where the weather was cold and windy, the game against Chivas was perfect spring weather, which undoubtedly helped draw more people to the stadium for the match.
Real Salt Lake looked to be in great form early during the match, keeping possession for long stretches as the Goats were content to play behind the ball in an effort to get much needed points on the road after two tough losses at their home stadium in the first two weeks of the season.
The crowd at Rio Tinto was loud from the opening kick and seemingly were rewarded with a goal in the eleventh minute as a free kick was played into the Chivas box on a quick restart, and slotted past the goalie by Chris Schuler. But the crowd quickly turned on the referee as he called it back, indicating that he hadn’t been ready for play to resume.
Only ten minutes later, Fabian Espindola had a great shot on goal, but Chivas goalie Dan Kennedy made a spectacular diving save that pushed the strike wide of the post. The RSL faithful would have exploded had either shot found the net, but most fans went into the halftime break confident that RSL would eventually break through against the winless Chivas side.
However, both of Chivas’ losses early this season were by identical 1-0 scores and the Goats defense is one of the strong parts of the team so far under former RSL assistant Robin Fraser.
Without many good chances by either side in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, Chivas rookie forward Casey Townsend and RSL goalie Nick Rimando met as the ball was crossed in to the box. As the two bodies collided, Townsend flicked the ball past the veteran keeper for the 1-0 lead that would prove to be the final score.
With some games and crowds in the past, the fans would have become deflated after RSL allowed a goal. This year though, the crowds have felt different. Immediately following the goal, as play was about to restart, the entire crowd began to sing the “Believe” anthem that has taken RSL nation by storm.
The players, seemingly spurred on by the crowd, unleashed a ferocious attack during the final fifteen minutes of the match. Trying desperately to equalize — and gain a point that would have been deserved with how well RSL had played throughout — the fans became vocally frustrated by the combination of time-wasting and some good defensive plays by the Goats.
RSL had chances late in the match, beating the Goats defense and Kennedy, but were just off enough to miss the back of the net. Kennedy again came up big with a couple of saves to keep the clean sheet and send the home team and fans home disappointed.
Most fans seemed to still be optimistic about the remainder of the season, realizing that there are still a lot of games left to be played. As the anthem says, “We’re here for RSL” and the fans certainly will continue to support the club through the good results as well as the disappointing.
Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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