SANDY — The ownership changed and the team did, too. Real Salt Lake took the field on Saturday as a different entity than the one that went scoreless in last year’s final five games. This year’s team is younger and the ownership is wealthier.
But want to know what hasn’t changed?
Mr. Stone Face himself, coach Jason Kreis.
Another year without smiling, and he can audition for Mount Rushmore.
Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, Kreis and his team were back for the home opener and came away with a 1-1 tie with Colorado. Those kinds of situations are where Kreis is at his poker-faced best. He wasn’t thrilled about the results, but he was happy there was a result. He thinks they’ll get better but they weren’t that good. Real kept coming in stoppage, drawing praise from Kreis. At the same time, he noted, it let Colorado get the lead with a goal in the first half.
Not a great way to mark your territory.
So if there is anything RSL fans can take from the home opener, it’s that Kreis is going to be Kreis. The bossy-bosses can trade away all the players, change the lighting, redecorate the locker room and even scrap the logo if they want. It’s not going to make a difference. Kreis will remain as unchanging and hard to please as another noted hard guy: Jerry Sloan.
“Uh. Yeah. He’s the same (as last year). Nothing’s changed,” veteran Kyle Beckerman said with a chuckle. “Yeah, he’s the same.”
Same old never-completely-pleased guy.
Contentment is such an overrated word.
Kreis probably should have been more upset with Saturday’s outcome. It was the home starter, a place to establish dominance. A sellout crowd arrived ready to celebrate. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day in March. Cloudless blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures prevailed.
Actually, the weather was a lot like the coach’s mood. On the sunny side of Rio Tinto, it was shirtsleeve weather for many fans. On the other side, where the shadows lurked, people needed a jacket or even a coat.
It would have been an impressive game, too, except for the part where Real went scoreless in the first half. In spite of a good effort by Real, it was Colorado that scored first, when Deshorn Brown — whose head actually was shorn with a Mohawk — swooped in right and scored in the left of the net.
Still, like the sun-and-shade weather, it could have been worse for Real. It finally tallied in the 80th minute on Alvaro Saborio’s kick. Kreis lauded keeper Nick Rimando’s five saves, but added that the team should just “say that today was better than last week (a 1-0 loss to D.C. United) and hope next week is better than this week.”
“We’re still,” he said, “a work in progress.”
That work didn’t begin on Saturday, or even in the season-opener, a 2-0 win over San Jose. First, there was the ownership change. David Checketts, majority owner since the team was formed, sold his interest in RSL to minority owner Dell Loy Hansen in January.
Determined to ward off stagnation and improve finances, the team parted ways with long-timers Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave and Will Johnson, in order to get cap allocation. It brought back the fleet Robbie Findley and added new players such as 21-year-olds Jao Plata and Devon Sandoval and veteran midfielder Khari Stephenson
The end result is supposed to be an improved scoring attack, eventually. That duty is still being handled almost solely by striker Saborio, who has scored all of Real Salt Lake’s goals this year. He also had a point-blank chance later in Saturday’s game, but missed high.
Good effort by the team, fair results.
A satisfactory conclusion then?
“Oh no, no,” Kreis said. “If you went into the locker room, it’s absolutely silent. You’d have thought we just lost the game. They care about more, they expect more and I think that’s a good thing to have.”
And if at some point they don’t care more, heaven help them when transaction time comes around.
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