SANDY — They stood in clusters half-heartedly watching the trophy ceremony on the pitch below and discussing what if, why not and how agonizingly close Real Salt Lake came to making history at Rio Tinto Stadium.
For those who love RSL, Wednesday night was disappointing, heartbreaking and frustrating. It was also exhilarating, energizing and the proudest moment fans have had thus far in the team's seven-year history.
They came hours early, stood in long lines for memorabilia, cheered and chanted, and when it was over, many didn't want to leave without at least a few minutes of commiserating.
"It's disappointing," said Sam Barney of Ogden. "We've been looking forward to this. They've done a great job this whole season. Utah certainly can be proud of this team."
And why should fans be proud of a 1-0 loss to Monterrey (Mexico) in the CONCACAF final?
"They are one of the top soccer teams in the world," said Nate Holland, a student at the U of U. "The fact that they got to the championship was a huge accomplishment."
Adds fellow student and Skyline graduate, Rachel Roller, "They are making Major League Soccer history. I am not sure everyone in Utah understands how big this is."
The trio came to the game in a limousine because they were celebrating. The loss did not change their post-game plans.
"We're here to celebrate Real Salt Lake," said Roller. "Not the win or the loss."
James Boase, West Jordan, decided to bring the Real Salt Lake flag that he flies each day in his yard.
"This is the first game I've brought it to," he said. "I'm definitely bringing it back. I enjoyed being a part of the energy, and it really helped to build the spirit."
As disappointed as he was to see Real lose such a close contest, he enjoyed the competition.
"I think it was still a great game," he said. "It was very physical. I just love the game of soccer. There is nothing better."
He said losing would feel the same whether it was a lopsided loss or as frustratingly close as Wednesday night's match.
"It hurt," he said. "It's hard to watch the wasted time at the end ... But I thought they played a great game."
He came with a backpack full of streamers to celebrate the team's victory. Instead, he said he'll save them for another game, another thrilling moment he's certain the team will give him.
Callie Turner, Saratoga Springs, was attending just her second game Wednesday night.
"I will be a season-ticket holder next year," she said. Turner was roped into coming by her brother-in-law Jeremy Sabin. He was extremely disappointed but not with the team he's loved for a half dozen years.
"I won't give up because of this game," said Sabin. "Real is a great team. ...They played amazing."
And while this loss will certainly sting for a while, most fans said they're looking forward to May 7 — the next time they can sit in Rio Tinto Stadium and cheer for one of the world's best teams.
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