Sandy • Coach Jason Kreis has another championship-caliber Real Salt Lake team assembled before him, a stunning comeback victory over the defending champions already in his back pocket and the opportunity to walk into a stadium packed with roaring fans armed with a popular new chant that harkens to the passionate European soccer culture.
No wonder he’s been daydreaming.
“The whole week, I’ve been thinking about what it might be like,” he said.
He’s not the only one, either.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando is every bit as eager to get on the field when RSL plays host to the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
Not only is the team aiming to remain undefeated in home openers against another of the glamour teams in Major League Soccer, but his friend — Branden Steineckert, the Provo-born drummer for the punk band Rancid — is the one who created the new chant that has galvanized supporters groups and sent chills up the players’ spines with every viewing of its video on YouTube.
“I can’t wait to get on the field and hear it,” Rimando said. “And I hope I don’t hear it once. I hope everybody in the stadium sings it over and over, because it’s something that this league needs … and is something that is very special.”
The chant has the potential to transform the atmosphere at the stadium, on a night when one of the game’s greatest players is going to try to pop the RSL balloon.
New York’s Thierry Henry scored 209 goals for Arsenal and Barcelona in Europe and played in four World Cups, but he has never beaten RSL.
The Red Bulls are riding a five-game winless streak against RSL, in fact, dating back to before Henry arrived. They’re also coming off a 2-1 loss at FC Dallas that exposed some of the problems that plagued them last season — including defensive mistakes, a lack of leadership, and Henry having to drop farther into midfield to get the ball.
Coach Hans Backe will be without several key players, too, including defender Rafael Márquez, midfielder Luke Rodgers and forward Juan Agudelo.
Márquez is serving the final game of a three-game suspension, while Rodgers has been held up in England by immigration issues, and Agudelo is away trying to help the U.S. qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
The Red Bulls are also breaking in a rookie goalkeeper and are facing an RSL team that has been the talk of the league since its stunning 3-1 road victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend.
“For me, I said it for a very long time,” Henry said. “They are, if not with L.A., the best team in this league — by a distance. It’s not a coincidence that we didn’t beat them yet since I’m here. Not a lot of teams beat Salt Lake, especially at their place. It’s going to be a difficult task. Talent is not enough, and you know it, and I know it. We just have to work.”
Funny, but that’s the way RSL looks at it, too.
Though it figures to again be missing several key players — neither midfielder Will Johnson or defender Nat Borchers have recovered enough from injuries to play — the team has shown that if it works hard and “we get our game going, we can be pretty tough to beat,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
“The main thing for us is we just have to keep working hard,” Beckerman said. “Our hard work is what got us the win last weekend, we continued that this week, and we’re going to keep with that philosophy of working hard and the results will come.”
Real Salt Lake vs. New York
P At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff • 8 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4
Radio • 700 AM, 102.3 FM
Records • RSL 1-0-0, New York 0-1-0
Regular-season series • New York leads 4-3-7
Last meeting • RSL 3, New York 1 (Sept. 21, 2011)
About RSL • It’s unbeaten in home openers, going 3-0-4 since its inaugural season. … Forward Fabián Espíndola has four goals and an assist in five career games against New York. … It’s riding a five-game unbeaten streak against the Red Bulls, at 4-0-1, since snapping a 10-game winless streak against them in 2009. … Defenders Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran are expected to sit out with injuries, along with midfielder Will Johnson. … Forward Álvaro Saborío and midfielder Javier Morales could see action again, after coming on as reserves in a 3-1 victory at Los Angeles last weekend.
About the Red Bulls • Coming off a 2-1 loss at FC Dallas to open the season, they’re widely expected to finish in the top half of the MLS Eastern Conference. … Forwards Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper are expected to start. Cooper has scored five goals with an assist in 11 career games against RSL. … They’re missing midfielder Luke Rodgers, forward Juan Agudelo and defenders Rafael Márquez and Wilman Conde for various reasons. … They finished 10-8-16 last season, and were knocked out of the playoffs in the conference semifinal round after winning a game as a “wild-card” entrant.
Home sweet opener
RSL is 3-0-4 in home openers:
2005 RSL 1, Colorado 0
2006 RSL 1, New York 1
2007 RSL 2, FC Dallas 2
2008 RSL 1, Chicago 1
2009 RSL 4, Columbus 1
2010 RSL 2, Seattle 2
2011 RSL 4, Los Angeles 1
Online Believe RSL
O Drummer Branden Steineckert, of the punk band Rancid, wrote and recorded the chant “Believe RSL” that has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube. It’s hugely popular with supporters groups, and the team hopes fans all around Rio Tinto Stadium will sing along during its home opener against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.