Has there ever been an easier assignment in the history of the Deseret Morning News sports department than this?

I've been charged with guiding you, the reader, through the comedy of errors that has been Real Salt Lake's existence. From the beginning — literally, as we'll discuss — the little MLS club that couldn't has gotten it wrong with remarkable consistency. Accordingly, we wanted to, ahem, highlight some of the team's most dubious moments.

The only hard part was trying to fit everything in. Two words came to mind as I poured through four years' worth of RSL archive stories: Unintentional comedy. You really might not believe that all this stuff happened if you weren't there.

Unfortunately for many RSL fans, they were.

So as Real prepares itself for another MLS campaign (Read: RSL prepares to add to this list), I present in chronological order what I felt were the lowest lowlights in RSL history:

Oct. 9, 2004

In hindsight, could there possibly have been a better sign that RSL's existence would be marred with repeated errors than the handling of the nickname?

Following a summer announcement that an MLS team will be coming to Utah, many wonder what it will be called. "Salt Lake Highlanders" "Salt Lake Alliance" and many other classy names are considered. (To this day, I still believe that "Wasatch Front" would've given the franchise the coolest name in professional sports.)

Anticipation builds, and before a crowd of thousands, Dave Checketts rises to proclaim that Utah's brand-new MLS team will be known as (drum-roll, please) ... Real Salt Lake?????

"Wait," many collectively tell themselves, "he's only joking, right?"

He wasn't.

Of Real Salt Lake, Checketts was quoted in the Aug. 4, 2004, edition of the Deseret Morning News as saying, "Nobody will pronounce it properly."

Prophetic words indeed.

RSL's 2005 media guide says that Real is pronounced "RAY- al" (You know, like a ray of sunlight and the letter "L"?)

Instead, "Ree-AL" has become standardized pronunciation. Sit among RSL fans inside Rice-Eccles Stadium, and it's much likely that you'll hear something along the lines of "Come on, Reeeeeeeeeeee-ALLLLLLL!" than it is to hear somebody, anybody, pronounce it correctly.

Not that the fans are the only ones to blame. Whether it's players, coaches or team officials, getting "Real" pronounced correctly has been the exception, rather than the rule.

Jan. 14, 2005

For the first time in history, RSL participates in an MLS SuperDraft, and the results are bad. Very bad.

In our headline the next day, the Deseret Morning News proclaims, "Real S.L. mindful of future in draft."

That then-coach John Ellinger and then general manager Steve Pastorino would have the ridiculous audacity to draft for the "future" when they had an expansion team on their hands still boggles the mind.

No. 1 overall draft pick Nik Besagno has done precious little during his three MLS seasons, and none of Salt Lake's other three picks from that draft — Jamie Watson, Jay Nolly and Luke Kreamalmeyer — are still with the franchise.

June 20, 2005

On this occasion, RSL etches its name into the MLS record book, but it was for all the wrong reasons.

After RSL set what was believed to be an MLS record for scoring futility in the 36th minute of what turned out to be a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles, RSL fans chuck black streamers onto the field to commemorate the dubious distinction.

Jamie Watson later scored to halt RSL's scoreless streak at 557 minutes, ending the most futile stretch of offensive soccer in franchise history.

To be fair, it later turned out that rival Colorado actually had a longer streak, but it was apparently glossed over because it occurred over two seasons. Also, Toronto FC wiped out Colorado and RSL for futility by logging a mammoth 824-minute scoreless streak last season.

But for all the RSL fans who were there for "The Streak" during 2005, such information is scant consolation.

Oct. 8, 2005

Real Salt Lake actually turns in a pretty good performance on this occasion, but the end product was nonetheless the final piece to a hugely disappointing first-season puzzle.

RSL draws 2-2 on the road with San Jose, wrapping up its away schedule and leaving the expansion side without a single road win — yeah, you got that right — in its inaugural campaign.

May 6, 2006

Throughout the preseason, RSL fans were told over and over again about how Year 2 of Real Salt Lake would be much different than Year 1. It wasn't, and on this occasion, Real loses 1-0 in humiliating fashion to a mediocre Columbus Crew team that was missing four starters. The defeat left RSL with an 0-5-1 record and stretched their winless streak, which dated back to August 2005, to a whopping 18 games.

July 12, 2006

If I'm going to talk about the lowest lowlights in RSL history, mention of the stadium debacle has to go somewhere, and this seems as logical a place as any.

Following news that the Salt Lake County council had rejected a deal to help fund his team's stadium, Checketts lashes out at Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, whom Checketts said had helped torpedo the deal.

Right or wrong, Checketts comes off looking very bad in the whole affair, and the drama of the on-again, off-again and finally back-on-again stadium deal drags on for months and months.

July 26, 2006

For all that's said about former RSL coach John Ellinger by fans, it should be noted he was a very affable fellow who would always make time for you.

But this night was as close, I believe, as he ever came to lashing out at the media. And the ensuing moment became unforgettable.

Minutes before walking into a press conference underneath the South stands of Rice-Eccles Stadium, Ellinger had agonizingly watched his team throw away two points to expansion rival Chivas USA. RSL leads 3-2 over the final few minutes, only to see Chivas' Claudio Suarez equalize with literally seconds remaining in stoppage time.

Ellinger sat down before the gathered media and offered some unsolicited advice about what kind of questions we should ask. "Don't make 'em stupid," Ellinger cautioned.

And when colleague James Edward opened the questioning by asking RSL's coach what he thought of the game, Ellinger already knew what he wanted to say.

"There's something that goes in a jock strap," he said. "I guess you got to have that to play this game."

April 7, 2007

At times, I find myself wondering whether RSL fans and media types alike have assigned far too much importance to this moment. After all, there were many, many bad performances turned in by Real Salt Lake in 2007.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I think this one deserves to be on the list.

Yet again, late heroics by the other team sting Salt Lake. On the verge of a season-opening win over Dallas, RSL blows it.

Carlos Ruiz grabs a late, late equalizer for Dallas, and while the teams share the points, I honestly don't believe Salt Lake ever recovered psychologically from the moment. The team subsequently endured several other setbacks, Ellinger and Pastorino left the fray and RSL entered full-blown "rebuilding mode" before the summer arrived.

May 21, 2007

Many will probably disagree with me here — and that's just fine.

But these two facts remain inescapably clear: Jeff Cunningham scored 16 goals and almost single-handedly carried Salt Lake to the playoffs in 2006. To date, it's far-and-away as close as the struggling franchise has come.

So what was one of Jason Kreis' first items of business after he took over as coach?

Gotta get rid of Cunningham, of course.

Kreis trades away RSL's prized asset — who undoubtedly clashed personality-wise with his new boss and was labeled as a "problem" by some — to Toronto FC in exchange for "striker" Alecko Eskandarian.

In 17 appearances with the club, Eskandarian scored just one goal and was traded himself for allocation money during the last offseason.

June 17, 2007

Oh, Danny Torres. The Costa Rican defender showed lots of promise during his time with RSL, but unfortunately, he also showed a propensity to make bad mistakes.

Not exactly a great trait for a defender, and it cost Salt Lake dearly on several occasions, including this one. In the fourth minute of a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles, Torres plays a horrendous back-pass to 'keeper Nick Rimando, which leads to a simple tap-in for L.A.'s Nate Jaqua. Oops.

And while there might not be a single moment in 2007 which took RSL out of realistic playoff contention, this spot was perhaps as good as any. The defeat left Real winless through 11 games at 0-5-6, and you were kidding yourself to think that RSL would be an MLS playoff participant.

This is the end of the line. Well, it's the end of the line until Real gets back on the field.

For all the RSL fans who feel nauseous after perusing this story, I offer my deepest apologies. On the other hand, I have good news for all those who enjoy watching these kinds of train wrecks — more "good times" should be on the way for you.

New RSL General Manager Garth Lagerway pointed out to a group of fans recently that Salt Lake has turned over 13 of 28 roster spots since he came on board last September. Translation: Most of RSL's 2008 opening-day squad has never played together in a competitive match.

Accordingly, one would presume there will be lots of growing pains in 2008, and that could be painful for RSL fans to watch as they wait for the unnamed soccer-specific stadium in Sandy to open this fall.

But hey, it's not like RSL fans know anything different, right?

E-mail: [email protected]