RSL reaches low point, wrong kind of fight, boo to the booer

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) and Colorado Rapids forward Braian Galván scuffle after the game as Real Salt Lake hosts the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.

Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 5-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids from beat writer Alex Vejar.

1. How low can RSL go?

Saturday’s loss was the worst ever at home for RSL. It’s not a good statistic, albeit every sports team has one like it.

But it’s one thing to lose and something else to lose. It’s inexcusable to give up a goal three minutes into a game. It’s almost as inexcusable to play in such a way that allows four more and never really show any resistance to an opponent.

To be blunt, RSL didn’t really play a game Saturday. And the team agrees.

“We just didn’t compete, start to finish,” defender Nedum Onuoha said. “They obviously took their opportunities early. But just we didn’t show enough personality on the ball. We didn’t show enough character when we didn’t have the ball. It’s probably the worst performance I think I’ve been involved in since I’ve been here.”

Teams lose every day. But to not compete goes against the entire nature of playing sports in the first place. That’s why players and coaches are so despondent-looking when they have to admit they didn’t compete. It’s anathema and antithetical to them as athletes.

But a bad performance like this isn’t the end of the world, as Onuoha suggested, mainly because it can’t get any worse than Saturday.

“We can’t get lower than this,” Onuoha said. “This isn’t the identity we have normally.”

Expect RSL to show a different spirit when it plays Vancouver on Saturday at home. The players will want to prove something to fans, the coaches and themselves.

2. Wrong kind of fight

Moments after the final whistle, Rapids midfielder Braian Galván had some words for RSL as he walked off the field. It was unclear if what he said was directed at the whole team or specific players, but it was RSL midfielders Everton Luiz and Pablo Ruiz who confronted Galván.

The three players were quickly separated, but some arguing and pushing continued with other players from both teams. Luiz and Lalas Abubakar had words.

Coach Freddy Juarez said some taunting from a young Rapids player may have set off the altercations. Juarez didn’t specify, but he was clearly upset that it happened.

Taunting is normal in sports, especially after a team embarrasses an opponent the way Colorado did RSL. Whatever the Rapids player said, it must have been bad enough to set off Luiz and Ruiz, and possibly other players.

What happened at the end of the game had some players wondering where that bite was during the 90 minutes of play.

“I just wish it would’ve come during the game, to be honest with you,” Onuoha told KMYU after the game.

3. Boo to the booer

Major League Soccer teams are holding moments of silence just before kickoff these days in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. During that moment, players from both teams kneel.

To be clear, they don’t kneel during the national anthem. It’s during the moment of silence. So there should be considerably less controversy about that, right? Well …

A fan at Rio Tinto Stadium apparently booed during Saturday’s moment of silence. Inside the stadium, it wasn’t audible (I was there and I didn’t hear it). But on the television broadcast, it sounds like one fan boos three times and says something immediately after. The TV camera caught forward Corey Baird shaking his head in disgust.

Baird took to social media to express how upset he was about the booing and rhetorically asked, “Since when did racism become political?”

This isn’t the first time fans have booed before an MLS game in this way. It happened before a match between FC Dallas and Nashville SC last month, prompting Reggie Cannon, a Black player, to criticize home fans.

FC Dallas fans, however, booed during the national anthem, so the situation was slightly different than what happened Saturday. But response from players was the same.

It’s simple: If a person or group of people refers to themselves as a fan or fans, the implication is that they support a player or a team on and off the field. So if a player or team wants to display their support for a cause — whatever it is — fans should at bare minimum respect that.

They don’t have to agree, but they should respect it. If they can’t do that, they shouldn’t refer to themselves as fans or supporters.

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