SANDY — Tuesday was another day of celebration for Real Salt Lake, and they did plenty of it. They celebrated their MLS Cup title at the Governor's Mansion, on the steps of the state Capitol, in a police-escorted parade along State Street and then again at a rally at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of nearly 5,000 fans.
It was the perfect ending to an improbable playoff run that culminated in beating the Los Angeles Galaxy at Qwest Field in the MLS championship.
"This is a day I want to honor the team. This team earned it; no one gave it to them," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan on the steps of the Capitol. "In our galaxy, these are the stars."
Gov. Gary R. Herbert capped the formalities on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol by declaring Nov. 24, 2009, as Real Salt Lake Day.
"This really is a Cinderella story, a remarkable event. If it was made into a movie, we'd say only in Hollywood, but this is reality. This is Real Salt Lake," said Herbert.
Earlier in the afternoon Herbert paid tribute to the entire RSL team at the Governor's Mansion, and then did so again at the Capitol along with Dolan and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Dave Checketts was also on hand at the Capitol and thanked the fans and players for their role in bringing the championship to Utah.
"It is wonderful to be here today and celebrate with you bringing the MLS Cup championship home to the great people of the state of Utah," said RSL's owner. "One of the great runs in sports history to become champion of the world."
Checketts immediately joked that he knows there are other leagues in the world, "but they don't matter today."
Checketts presented Becker with an MLS Champions scarf, and RSL captain Kyle Beckerman then declared to the fans that he hopes this would be the first of many championships.
"We're starting to scratch the surface of this team; it's going to be scary next year," said Beckerman.
After the honors in the political setting, the party began. The players and coaching staff piled into 14 Chevy Suburbans and paraded down State Street as motorcycles from the Sandy police escorted them the entire way.
"It felt like rock star treatment — everybody was on the street yelling at us and cheering, it just goes to show the fans of Salt Lake come out and support their teams," said defender Nat Borchers.
Robbie Findley, who scored RSL's lone goal in regulation in the MLS Cup and who also buried one of the team's five penalty kicks, said the fan turnout all over the city was the highlight of his day.
"I've definitely never been a part of something like that, it was cool for all the people to step out of their office buildings like that just to see us by. It means a lot. I won't forget it," said Findley.
The caravan was greeted at Rio Tinto Stadium by several hundred fans, and by the time the official festivities began at the stadium at 5:50 p.m. there were nearly 5,000 fans cheering on the players as they walked out of the tunnel and onto the stage at midfield.
Checketts, Dolan, head coach Jason Kreis and seven different players addressed the fans during the 50-minute celebration, each one thanking them for their support.
Not surprisingly the biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for the playoff hero, keeper Nick Rimando.
"You guys have supported us all the way through, you're the reason we're here, you're the reason we have the cup. To walk out in Seattle and see red in patches all over that stadium, was awesome," said Rimando.