Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 2-2 draw to the Seattle Sounders.
1. The RioT is buzzing again
A little over 4,000 fans showed up to the game Wednesday to watch RSL earn a second consecutive draw by way of coming from behind. When they watched Real do it against Portland last weekend, it was from home.
Every person from RSL who spoke after the Seattle game conveyed how amazing it felt to be in front of fans again. For weeks, they had no fans in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. Their first game after the tournament was on the road in Colorado (a resounding win), and they played in front of no fans again in Portland.
RSL’s homecoming in front of fans was delayed a week because of protests across sports in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Because that game — supposed to be against LAFC — was postponed while fans were still filing in, it was unclear that day how many fans would have attended.
But it felt good to hear fans cheer during goals and groan during calls they thought were bad. It felt good to hear the chants supporters normally yell out during games. It even felt good to hear fans chant “Ref, you suck,” even though I do not share that sentiment.
And if it felt good for a reporter, it must have felt exponentially good for the players and coaches on the field feeding from the crowd. The atmosphere made it relatively easy for the COVID-19 pandemic to slip out of the mind — that is, of course, until a mask had to be adjusted.
No or limited fans will be a thing for the foreseeable future. So to be one of the few Major League Soccer teams that has fans not only has to be energizing for a team, but comforting on various levels. And all humankind can use energy and comfort right now.
2. RSL shows support for Utah Royals
Most times it feels like the RSL and the Royals are two completely unrelated teams that just share real estate. And most times, that’s true. They train and have off days on different days. They have game days on different days. It’s rare to see an RSL person and Royals person hanging out together on social media unless it’s for an official event.
But amid the allegations that Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll previously acted in ways and said things that were sexist specifically related to the Royals, RSL proved the two clubs were more connected than they seem.
As RSL walked in to the stadium pregame, the players wore jerseys or T-shirts with Utah Royals FC insignia. The caption on RSL’s official Twitter page read, “Let’s be clear, WE appreciate excellence.”
The caption is a reference to the idea that women should be noticed and appreciated based on merit, not their appearance, which Carroll has previously commented on in inappropriate ways in regards to the Royals, several former and current employees within the organization told The Salt Lake Tribune.
It was a coordinated effort by the male RSL team to support their female counterparts during a time when it was revealed that their merit was trivialized and distilled to characteristics having nothing to do with soccer. Women deal with behavior like this practically every moment of every day, so to see RSL make a small yet powerful gesture like that points not only to the character of the players, but also to a repudiation of Carroll’s alleged behavior.
3. Rossi gets his minutes and makes an impact
Giuseppe Rossi scored a goal against Portland after playing just 10 minutes. After the game, he was adamant that he could do more if he were just given the playing time.
Well, he got it. Rossi entered the game at halftime to replace Maikel Chang and played 45 minutes. It was his longest stint in an RSL uniform.
Not long after he stepped on the field, Rossi maneuvered his way into dangerous positions. He shot twice. One of those attempts hit the chest of Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei and the other was blocked. He completed 15 passes and had the highest passing percentage of on the team (93.3%).
“We like Rossi,” coach Freddy Juarez said. “We know he’s a good player it’s just a matter of getting him into a good rhythm and that helped so we’re happy with his performance.”
If Rossi’s last two performances are any indication, he’ll be in a good rhythm sooner rather than later, and RSL could use a player like him on the field as much as possible.