Real Salt Lake’s journey over the better part of a decade from league laughingstock to MLS champions to legitimate CONCACAF threat to perennial MLS Cup contenders has drawn an ever-increasing number of spectators to Rio Tinto Stadium, turning many of them into bona fide fans.
Winning typically has that effect, in any sport.
Now, though it’s no surprise, there’s another reason to cheer for RSL.
Not only are they good at what they do, having beaten FC Dallas 3-2 at Rio Tinto on Saturday night for their fifth straight home win and a 9-3-2 mark, there’s this little reminder: They aren’t a bunch of spoiled, indulged, overpaid jerks.
The Major League Soccer Players Union recently released the salaries of all its members this season and, for Real and most of the rest of the league, those figures seem wholly acceptable and reasonable, even.
There isn’t a Rashard Lewis — who took $22 million from the Washington Wizards for 7.8 points a game this year — in the lot. There’s nothing close to such stupidity.
“In this league, it doesn’t matter how much money you make,” said Nat Borchers, who drove home the game-winner against Dallas. “Except for a few, nobody’s getting rich. You just play hard, no matter how much you make.”
That speaks to fans who work their tails off to keep their households afloat in tough economic times, doing whatever they can to build a better existence for themselves and their families, and who make genuine sacrifices to slap cash down for a fistful of tickets to watch a professional sports team compete.
It likely offers them a bit of solace to know, as Borchers said, most of the competitors they’re enjoying watching on the pitch aren’t taking much for granted.
The highest-paid player for RSL is the injured Javier Morales, who is guaranteed $477,500 this season. Next is Alvaro Saborio at $405,625. Kyle Beckerman, who missed Saturday’s game for national team duty, gets $311,250. Then there’s Jamison Olave ($250,000), Will Johnson ($243,750), Borchers ($211,972), Luis Gil ($196,614), Nick Rimando, who also missed the game for national team camp ($178,250), Tony Beltran ($160,500), Chris Wingert ($145,000), and on down the line to a threesome that gets $33,750 each: Chris Estridge, Eduardo Fernandez and Juan Sebastian.
Notables Fabian Espindola and Chris Schuler make $125,000 and $44,000, respectively. Kyle Reynish, who started in net for RSL against Dallas, is guaranteed $74,304 and Yordany Alvarez, who subbed for Beckerman, makes $44,100.
The higher end of those numbers is still pretty sweet and the lower end ... well, you could make more digging holes for a living. The huge names, such as Thierry Henry and David Beckham, still pull down multiple millions, not to mention the cake they haul in elsewhere. But, in its totality, Major League Soccer’s kind of remuneration can rearrange people’s perspectives on the excesses of modern pro athletes.
It might make them want to root a little harder and cheer a little louder for the effort they see.
Certainly, the hardy folks on hand at cool-and-windy Rio Tinto Stadium did that Saturday night.
Scoring was at a minimum in RSL’s early effort against Dallas, when a scoreless draw in the first half gave way to a favorable 1-0 margin in the 59th minute of the second. Defender Terakazu Tanaka, who in the spirit of the night makes just $44,000 and rides a bike to work, hauling it onto TRAX with him when he comes to the stadium, set up Saborio perfectly from the right side with a kick that the forward headed into the net.
“Nice cross,” Jason Kreis said later.
Seconds after a Dallas goal tied it up, Saborio notched his second score on an assist from Ned Grabavoy, who makes $126,666, and Jonny Steele, who gets $47,562, giving RSL a 2-1 lead.
It didn’t last. Dallas benefited from a lapse by Reynish, who allowed a shot to bounce off his hands and into RSL’s goal in the 85th minute to tie it at 2.
In extra time, though, Borchers punched in that game-winner, as the crowd roared. “We don’t shy away from battles,” he said. “It’s just the type of team we are.”
All in all, RSL got a royal payoff, then, for their investment on Saturday night, especially given that they were missing four of their best players. And, just as importantly, so did the fans.
“We’re giving them their money’s worth,” Kreis said. “For sure.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone, a station owned by the LHM Group of Companies. LHM has no editorial control over his show. Twitter: @GordonMonson.