Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen moved from person to person down the line winding through the concourse up to a booth selling team jerseys and T-shirts.
“Anyone else paying with cash?” he asked, a stack of bills in his hands.
Hansen helped with jersey sales as 19,203 people made their way into Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the Royals’ inaugural home match against the Chicago Red Stars. The sellout crowd obscured the red stadium seats, turning the venue yellow for the first time.
“Kudos to Utah for showing up and supporting us,” Royals captain Becky Sauerbrunn said after the 1-0 loss to Chicago. “I think it was something special today. I feel like I was part of something special. It was disappointing that we didn’t get the win to add to the wonderful day, but to play in front of a crowd like that, this is why we play soccer. It was wonderful.”
As the announcer called out the starting lineup, he began saying first and last names — traditionally the fans fill in the last names at soccer matches. But the fans didn’t need his help. They chimed along, drowning him out halfway through.
“The crowd was amazing,” Royals coach Laura Harvey said. “Unbelievable. For us to come out to this size of a crowd is great.”
The Royals fans kept up their enthusiasm throughout the game, cheering, booing and clapping their yellow thunder sticks together.
The supporters’ section was compete with a drum that coordinated the Iceland thunder clap after an instructional video from Icelandic international Gunnhildur Jonsdottir. It could use some polishing throughout the season, but it achieved the intended result: noise.
“We’ve been a part of a few openers over the years,” said Red Stars coach Rory Dames. “... but the helicopters really sealed it off. That was cool.”
There were two of them, and they flew over the stadium after the national anthem by triple-platinum recording artist Rachel Platten and a series of fireworks, casting their shadows over the sun-soaked field.
“Great for the league,” Dames said, “Great for Utah, great for all these players that have stuck with the team and come over from Kansas City.”