So every summer a good number of clubs from Europe make the trek to the US either to play in the highly suspect ICC tournament, sorry but it is preseason matches for most clubs from Europe and nothing more so calling it a tournament is “meh”. Real Salt Lake has avoided the temptations each summer to bring one of those clubs in for a friendly match, as they often have been focused on US Open Cup or the MLS season but this year that has changed as the team recently announced they would be hosting Inter Milan on July 19th (you can read details here), and it has me wondering why.
The team has only scheduled one friendly in the last 6 years, that against Xolos in 2014, you have to go back to 2009 to see RSL more active in playing host to these often attractive for fans but generally unimportant matches, so why now? Part of it could be our new ownership, with Dell Loy firmly in control and now Andy Carroll handing most operations with the departure last year of Bill Manning, it could just be that they have taken a fresh look at the opportunities that exist.
One can’t blame them, with many teams already scheduled to come stateside for the ICC matches the cost of signing a match like this is likely greatly reduced. Salt Lake also provides teams a chance to practice at altitude something many clubs value during their pre-seasons and with this match a week before Inter’s first ICC match it goes along with Andy stating that part of the goal of the new soccer complex being built in Herriman will be attracting touring European clubs.
“As the Herriman Complex evolves, we expect the Salt Lake Valley to serve as the home base for numerous world powers during their Summer tours of North America; Inter Milan’s visit to Sandy this July is the first step in that process.”
The upside for RSL is simple, first it gives them a chance to show off the plans for the new complex, but it also allows them to sell tickets to fans both of RSL and Inter Milan for a midweek match and get both revenue as well as some good press coverage out of the match.
It does lead to a bit of schedule congestion for RSL, who so far have spent most of their season on the road (9 of 13 matches) but the reality is RSL have 6 of their next 8 MLS matches at home and this match falls between two home dates so the impact will be less than if they had to travel.
There is also the question of which players will be available, given this match is just a little over a week after the end of the Euros, and 3 weeks after the end of Copa America, some of the bigger names may well be resting. The match will still provide a chance for RSL players (both starters and reserves) to put themselves on the same pitch with some of the very best players who play for a huge team in Europe, something it is hard to measure the value of.
I for one have supported the idea of “Trophies Not Friendlies” for many years now, but if this is a one off type deal then I can get behind it. If however it becomes a trend of distraction from things like the US Open Cup and MLS season, well I might have to rethink my position on it.
I do credit much of the post season success in 2009 as well as the real development of the “RSL Family” at least from a player standpoint to the friendly with Chivas (Club Deportivo Guadalajara) in October of 2009. Just before the end of the first half with RSL up 1-0 a rather harsh and cynical foul on Andy Williams brought a charging Jamison Olave to his defense as Olave dashed 20 or so yards to stand up for his teammate. The actions of Olave got him a red card (as well as a Chivas player) and the confrontation continued into the tunnel to the locker rooms as the players had to be separated by security. It was that stand up for your teammate moment that I believe really solidified this team, who won 2 of their final 3 regular season matches securing them a place in the playoffs and eventually lead to them lifting the MLS Cup in Seattle.
Can this RSL team find a moment like that in this friendly? What a chance for guys like Joao Plata, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Yura Movisyan, Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez, as well as youngsters like Justen Glad, Jordan Allen, Aaron Maund and others to test themselves in front of a home crowd against one of the biggest clubs in the world? Not sure I would want to miss this one.
For a lot of people that week leading up to July 24th is an ideal vacation week here in Utah, what better way to enjoy it than with a trip out to Rio Tinto to catch some world class summer soccer?
That’s How I See It