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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
May 6, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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