Archive for January 2013

A New Day for Real Salt Lake as Dave Checketts moves on

There are few things that can set the internet into a frenzy like an email announcing a press conference with a Major Announcement, but Real Salt Lake sent that email early on Thursday, and soon the buzz was going on twitter and facebook as we all tried to figure out what might be going on.

Things got interesting when you considered the cast of people announced to be part of the press conference:

  • Dave Checketts – Founder, Real Salt Lake
  • Dell Loy Hansen – Owner, Real Salt Lake
  • Don Garber – Commissioner, Major League Soccer
  • Tom Dolan – Mayor, Sandy City
  • Gary Herbert – Governor, State of Utah

What could involve all these parties, well as it turns out it was something that had been making the rounds for a couple months around the Utah business scene.  Dave Checketts was selling his remaining stake in Real Salt Lake to Dell Loy Hansen, who bought part of the team a couple of years ago.  Dell Loy bought into the team just before the MLS Cup in 2009 and has been a minority owner since then.

We have to be honest about a couple of things, first Salt Lake would not have a MLS team if it weren’t for the vision and leadership of Dave Checketts.  Second, while the stadium fights that were an early part of the teams history were very real, Dave Checketts stayed the course when so many tried to put roadblocks in front of him.  So while many people in Salt Lake have mixed feelings about him, I respect Dave Checketts for what he did in bringing Major League Soccer to Salt Lake City at a time when nobody was investing in MLS.

Many have been critical of him for choosing to name the team Real Salt Lake, but as those who know the story of how it was a NBA visit to Real Madrid that started his passion for soccer, it was no surprise.  Dave brought Real Mardid to Salt Lake City and I believe if there hadn’t been major changes in that organization you would see that partnership still today.  Dave was brave enough to be the first owner to put a sponsor on the front of his jersey, Dave pushed to build one of the best soccer stadiums in the United States, and Dave was the guy who took a risk on moving a young Jason Kreis from playing to coaching.  I will always feel a debt to Dave Checketts as a fan of Real Salt Lake. Not to mention for him chasing down Pablo after one of the classic Rocky Mountain Cup matches at Rice Eccles.

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The Gold Cup is coming to Rio Tinto Stadium

Now before we all get too excited the exact dates and teams are yet to be announced, but we can look at the stadiums that were chosen, the format of the tournament, and come up with some speculations.

We know that 12 teams make the tournament, for 2013 those teams are (Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States – either Panama or Guatemala will join those 11 teams).  The tournament has 3 groups of 4 teams that will play each other once (3 sets of double headers), and that the top 2 teams from each group and the next two best teams advance to the Quarterfinals, and then the winners advance to the Semifinals and the finals.  If we look at the 2011 version of the tournament there were 9 group stage dates each at a different location in the form of double headers, two quarterfinal dates and location (again each a double header), and the semis at a single site (a double header) and then a single site for the final.

Yeah that was tough to follow, but I will try to make it simpler, if you look at the map provided by CONCACAF:

Locations where the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup matches will be played.

Locations where the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup matches will be played.

So if you look at the map there are some natural groupings by geographic region that would seem to jump out at you, but don’t be fooled.  In 2011, Group A played matches in Texas, Illinois, and North Carolina, while Group B played in California, Florida, and New Jersey, Group C played in Michigan, Florida, and Kansas.  The Quarterfinals were played in New Jersey and Washington DC at larger NFL style stadiums, the Semis were at Reliant Stadium in Houston, and the final at the Rose Bowl in California.

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MLS and USL Pro announce partnership & how that impacts RSL

I loved today’s announcement of Major League Soccer integrating USL Pro and the MLS reserves together, while I am sure more details will be known in the upcoming days, weeks and months, here is the press release from Real Salt Lake on how this will impact them:


MLS Reserve Teams to Compete in Interleague Play; RSL to Take On Phoenix FC 

SANDY, Utah/NEW YORK (Wednesday, Jan. 23) — Major League Soccer and USL PRO announced today a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership that will enhance the development of professional players in North America, strengthen the competition in both leagues, and establish a solid foundation for future collaboration.

For 2013, the partnership will include interleague play between USL PRO and MLS Reserve League teams, and the establishment of several exclusive team affiliations.  These initial programs will immediately improve professional player development in the United States and Canada. Additional technical and commercial initiatives between the two leagues will be announced as they are finalized in the coming months.

As part of the partnership, the Real Salt Lake Reserves will play first-year USL Pro side Phoenix FC in a home-and-home series. RSL Reserves will host Phoenix FC in the Salt Lake leg of the series at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday, April 22.

“This partnership represents the first step in a long-term alliance between MLS and USL PRO to connect domestic professional soccer through a system that benefits player development, competition and the overall business of our sport,” MLS Executive Vice President of Player Relations & Competition Todd Durbin said.  “Over the past several years, USL PRO has made great strides in restructuring in a manner that serves to complement the objectives of MLS.  This is a win-win for all involved and it demonstrates our strong commitment to growing North American professional soccer at all levels.”

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Major League Soccer and their Supporter Groups battle over trademarks

It has been funny listening to Don Garber over the last 4 years talk to supporter groups about how important they are to the league and growth of sport in the United States, and then to watch MLS under his leadership tries to trademark rivalries created by those supporters.  It has also been funny to listen to how different groups have responded to the situation.  You would think that MLS would learn from their own mistakes, and missteps but they continue to just tromp around like a kid splashing in puddles after a rainstorm.  While the attention is all fixated on the Cascadia Cup, but it isn’t the only rivalry in question, and MLS isn’t the only one crossing lines.

Last year Real Salt Lake had an ambitious sales person sell a sponsorship to the Rocky Mountain Cup, a fan based rivalry between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids.  This caused a minor uproar as RSL rolled out a logo featuring Subaru as the sponsor of the Rocky Mountain Cup, before the fans responsible for the creation of the rivalry and supplying the trophy knew anything about it.  Now in the end both the management of RSL and the Supporters behind the RMC came to an agreement about the sponsorship, but imagine the good will that was lost by not communicating, by not having an agreement in place before selling a sponsorship.

So fast forward 9 months and you have MLS filing paperwork to trademark the names of most of the current MLS fan based rivalries, did they reach out to the supporter groups to discuss this beforehand?  No, strange considering how much smoke Don Garber has blown at those groups over the years, chalk it up to the same decision making that lead MLS to use an image of Portland Timbers fans (some of whom were arrested) lighting off flares to promote some playoff matches (the Timbers didn’t make the playoffs).

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Real Salt Lake Media Day – The returns

Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium was Real Salt Lake Media Day, a chance to kick off the 2013 season with interviews and a time to catch up with players, staff, and fellow media members. The day had a special feel as two of the biggest questions of the off had answers, even if one was perhaps only a partial answer.

As 2012 came to a close RSL was forced with clearing a huge amount of cap room, this meant some big trades, some releases and other moves.  After the dust settled RSL was left with just one forward on the roster, Alvaro Saborio, former MLS All-Stars Will Johnson and Jamison Olave were gone, and Fabian Espindola had a new team to play for as well as a new hair cut. Then there was the Javier Morales question, the midfielder was out of contract and offers were coming in from various places around the globe for his talents.

Last week was the MLS draft, but for RSL the biggest news came before the draft as two huge announcements were made.  First up was that RSL had obtained the rights to and re-signed Robbie Findley, the teams #3 all time goal scorer. After a couple of less than stellar years in Euorpe, Robbie is back in MLS and back playing for the Claret and Cobalt.  In talking with Robbie he seems very happy to be back, and excited about what the upcoming season could hold for him.  Here is the interview he did with the local media on Saturday:

I apologize that the audio on this is very weak so you will need to turn your speakers or headphones up.

I think Robbie Findley will have an outstanding year for RSL, he appears fit, hungry and motivated.

More after the break

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Real Salt Lake Media Day – The Draft Picks

Well it was the un-official start of my 2013 RSL season on Saturday as players and coaches made their first appearances of the new season at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.  Not only were the players and coaches there to meet with the media, but things like team photos and intro videos had both groups making the rounds at different stations around the stadium grounds.  In between those appearances some stopped by the media room, while some others were caught in hallways between the different stations.

Over the next few days I will be bringing you some video I shot, as well as some pictures and my thoughts on talking with some of the guys.  I will start with our two draft picks:

John Stertzer was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 MLS draft, here is the standard info on him:

Real Salt Lake's 1st round 2013 MLS draft pick.

Real Salt Lake’s 1st round 2013 MLS draft pick.

Position: Midfielder
Height: 6-foot-0
170 lbs.
Date of Birth: 
Oct. 4, 1990
Oakton, Va.
University of Maryland

Here is the video of his interview with the local media:

My first impression of him is that he seems very composed, polite and confident.  I think he will fit in well with RSL, I like having some more size in our midfield.  I will wait to read the paper he wrote in college on soccer in the United States.  He spent his entire college career at the University of Maryland, and put up some fairly impressive numbers (check out this great infographic that RSL put together)

More info after the break

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Real Salt Lake announce their 2013 schedule

Well it is time to start making your MLS travel plans and just in time is the 2013 RSL schedule. We knew a couple weeks ago that RSL would open the road on March, 3rd at the San Jose Earthquakes, then travel to the East coast to take on D.C. United on March, 9th.  The home opener for RSL will be on March, 16th when the Colorado Rapids come to town, the time for the match is still up in the air as NBC Sports will be in town to broadcast the 1st leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Speaking of National TV, RSL will be on NBC Sports 4 times (3-16 vs. Rapids, 4-6 @ Rapids, 8-30 vs. Portland, and 9-13 @ Seattle), and ESPN once (8-3 @ Rapids).  Those 5 appearances will be a high mark for RSL on national TV, clearly the rivalry of the RMC is getting noticed.  All of the rest of the Real Salt Lake matches in MLS action will again be featured on local TV thanks to the partnership with ABC/CW, as well as MLS Live and Direct Kick (remember RSL doesn’t black out their local broadcast matches).

Well that didn’t last long, from a draft schedule this morning to just 3 National TV matches when released, or 4 depending on what version of the MLS schedule you look at.

As you look at the full schedule (click here to see the full schedule).  Here are the notes from the RSL front office about the upcoming schedule:

  •  Kicking off March 3 at Supporters Shield winner San Jose, as part of 5 of first 7 games on road (7 of next 10 at home starting April 20)

  •  March 16 home opener v Rocky Mountain Cup rival Colorado, the only one of 3 meetings v Rapids on Wasatch Front as RSL seeks 7th consecutive bragging rights in the regional competition

  • Holiday home games at Rio Tinto Stadium on Memorial Day weekend v Chicago, Independence Day July 3 v Philadelphia, Pioneer Day weekend July 20 v Kansas City and Labor Day Weekend Aug. 30 v Portland

  • Western elite teams Los Angeles Galaxy (back-to-back MLS Cup champs), Seattle Sounders (RSL playoff rivals each of last 2 seasons) and San Jose Earthquakes each visit Wasatch Front for 2 of the 3 regular-season meetings (as will Chivas)

  • Conversely, RSL will travel 2 out of 3 times to Colorado, Dallas, Portland and Vancouver

  • 6 of 8 games between May 25 & July 20 will take place at Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL has dropped only 11 of its last 92 games in all competitions (4 of 5 on road following that home stand)

  • All 34 games will be heard live on ESPN700, with all 31 non-National TV games seen locally on KTVX ch. 4 or KUCW ch. 30

Now for some really exciting news

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