So it breaks our hearts, as fans, as supporters, we know it breaks their hearts as players, coaches and staff to lose such a big match. It hurts even more to come so close only to have the fickle hand of the soccer gods us the framework to tease and deny us so. It is interesting to me that 4 times the framework worked against us, but that word framework is exactly what we should be focusing on for a lot more positive reasons.
In a year when nobody from staff to fans really would have thought that RSL would compete for all 3 major trophies, we did, and we did so with a framework of veteran players, combined with new and often younger players. It was a year when I was lucky enough to hear more than one of the new arrivals to RSL mention how different this club is, how the relationships in the locker room and the relationships with the fans is something they hadn’t seen anywhere else. I am proud of that, I am proud that we have players who not only play the game together but who take the time to know each other, become friends with each other, I love that our coaches and staff want to get to know players before they sign them. I think it speaks volumes that personality and motivation is as important as talent when players are brought here.
It speaks loudly to me as a fan that our players take time to connect with the fans, to sign autographs, pose for pictures, they do it after matches, after practices, I have seen them do it away from the stadium as well. I am proud that over the years I have been able to watch, take pictures and write about the men who make up RSL, and I hope that it continues for a long time to come.
The next few days and weeks could shake the very foundation of RSL, depending on what happens with Jason, other coaches and staff members as well as players, and that scares me. Not because they might leave to pursue bigger dreams or other opportunities, it scares me because any time you lose a family member it hurts. And if you like it or not, this Real Salt Lake thing is a family, the fans, the players, the coaches, the staff, each of us invest a big part of ourselves into doing the best we can in the name of Real Salt Lake. Losing Jason Kreis would be devastating, since a lot of what RSL has become is because of his involvement from day one in this club and this community. Should he leave it would hurt, but we would pick up the pieces, just like we did this year when quality players and fan favorites like Will Johnson, Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola, and others left the team. Just like when Robin Fraser left a couple years ago to take over at Chivas USA, but we moved on, we brought in new guys and we continue on this journey.
I am excited that Chris Schuler is healthy, that Kwame Watson-Siriboe is on the mend, that we have so many talented young forwards like Devon Sandoval, Joao Plata, and Olmes Garcia. That Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez continue to show why they are the next generation of quality midfielders for RSL. That all of that is happening while guys like Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, and others are playing some of their best soccer of their careers. Next year will bring us new challenges on and off the pitch I am sure, and while it will take some time for the sting of the loss in KC to wear off, the future is amazingly bright and I am already excited to see what 2014 will bring.
I remember someone asking me why I got the RSL logo tattooed on my calf several years, they wondered what will happen when you lose interest, or when you move away. I explained to them that soccer isn’t about a match, or even a season, it is about a lifetime spent cheering on the club you choose to support. For me that is RSL, on the good days and on the bad days, it will always be RSL for me. Yes we lost some big matches this year and that hurts, but we got to play in some big matches this year, we made it to the US Open Cup final for the first time in club history. We played in our second MLS Cup in 4 years, something teams that have been in MLS since day one would love to be able to say. We spent most of the summer as the top team in the league, despite being impacted by more national team call ups than any other team in the league. Winning can make you strong for a day, or a week, but losing and getting up to battle even harder the next time around is what build a legacy. The 2014 RSL home opener is March 22nd, see you there.
That’s How I See It