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Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio, center, watches his shot go in for a goal against the Houston Dynamo during the first half of an MLS soccer game Sunday, May 11, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Monson: Soccer in general, RSL specifically, are hotter than hot

By Gordon Monson

| Tribune Columnist

First Published May 13 2014 12:05 pm • Last Updated May 13 2014 09:39 pm

Soccer in Salt Lake is on fire.

It’s hotter than James Brown was in the ’60s.

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It’s hotter than LeBron James was in Game 4 on Monday night.

It’s hotter than a bag of crab legs under Jameis Winston’s arm in the parking lot outside a Publix.

It’s hotter than the steaming heap of fraud and corruption in Brazil’s run-up to the World Cup.

It’s a blazing inferno.

OK, it’s not that hot, but it, at least, is … hotter.

For all but those around here who remain hardcore holdouts, those who think the beautiful game is a namby-pamby hullabaloo played by drama queens in kits and boots and such out on the pitch, those who will forever look at soccer as a sort of foreign invasion on an otherwise sovereign sports nation, a threat meant to bore us to death, it’s a happy kind of burn, and here’s why:

Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman is named on Monday to the U.S. Men’s National Team preliminary World Cup roster.

Goalkeeper Nick Rimando is named to the same roster.


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Forward Alvaro Saborio is named to the Costa Rican National Team preliminary World Cup roster.

Midfielder Javier Morales on Sunday gets a hat trick in RSL’s 5-2 road win over Houston, a showing that included the fastest goal in club history. Morales hit the net before most of the crowd had settled into their seats from the beer stand, just 15 seconds in.

In case you were snoozing, RSL is undefeated this season, sitting at 5-0-5, and looking as confident as it ever has, following up its sprint to the MLS Cup final in December with an impressive streak, both at home and on the road. Real is undefeated in 14 straight regular-season games now, dating back to last year. That mass of scoring against Houston was propelled by a new-and-improved blast of togetherness among a team that has always seen itself as an outfit that moves with symmetry and synchronicity in a positive direction.

"We’re playing an attacking, defensive kind of soccer," says Rimando. That sounds like a contradiction, but the best goalkeeper in MLS explains it this way: "Everybody attacks and everybody defends. It’s possession soccer. We move the ball well, we move the ball together."

They move the ball together into the goal — a whole lot more than most the other guys do. RSL has the highest goals-scored average in the league (2.1). It has 21 goals, second only to Seattle, which has 22 in one more game played. It has the highest goal differential, conceding just 12 scores.

Among the top scorers in MLS, RSL has four: Saborio with six, Joao Plata with five, Morales with three and Luke Mulholland with three.

A lot of sports fans in Utah, regardless of how pure American their individual background is, are turning to RSL. If Utah football is struggling in the Pac-12, if BYU football can’t win a big game, if the Jazz are rebuilding, if BYU, Utah State and Utah basketball either can’t get into the NCAA Tournament or can’t win a game once they’re there, if the Wasatch Front is hungry for a winner … well, it has one.

You-Know-Who.

It’s the team in the claret-and-cobalt.

"Fans are attracted to winners," Rimando says. "People want to be a part of it. It’s eye-opening for the fans of Salt Lake City."

It’s becoming more and more rare these days that RSL doesn’t fill 20,000-seat Rio Tinto Stadium. The place is selling out, and when it doesn’t, it falls just a few unfilled seats short.

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