At the end of the 2017 season, I made a tough decision that after 10 years of writing about RSL on a fairly regular basis that maybe it was time to just be a fan again. I mean I have only used my season tickets for myself 4 times in the last 3 seasons, and while I often can find someone to buy them or to give them to, maybe it was time to sit back and enjoy them.
I was fairly content with that decision until of all things the Utah Royals were announced. I have held very mixed feelings about Dell Loy Hansen over the years, and while the on the field results since he took full ownership of the team have been lacking, his moves off the field have been impressive. When he stepped forward to save a franchise that would have otherwise folded, it showed more commitment to the organization and the community but again left me wondering what about the product on the field? It was a simple little video of the remodel of what is now the locker room of the Utah Royals that changed my mind about a lot of things. First it made my excitement level go up, they weren’t being relegated to the Monarchs new stadium, but they would play at Rio Tinto. They wouldn’t go without a sponsor, they would get a good one, they wouldn’t be treated like an afterthought instead they were being treated and shown the respect that the first team was getting. Heck if DLH could buy back in and show that level of dedication, who was I to not do the same?
So for the 11th year I will do my best to present my thoughts and opinions on all things RSL, my focus will remain on the first team but I will do what I can to add in some coverage of the Monarchs and Royals. So with that being said here we go:
For RSL both as a team and as an organization this season represents a new start on the path to success. As an organization one can not deny the changes over the last several seasons have lead us to this point, one where at every level things seem to be aligned. From the move of the academy to Herriman to the incredible facility built there to support not only the academy but the entire organization, to the surprise launch of the Utah Royals of the NWSL. There was little doubt that at some point that the organization would make the move to include a NWSL side in their ranks, but most expect this to be several years off. To his credit Dell Loy Hansen when present with the chance to acquire the franchise that formerly called Kansas City home, he didn’t blink and that timeline moved from the future to now.
I will say it would have been easy given the quickness of which the move happened to bring the Utah Royals into the family, that things would have been a bit chaotic for this first season. Instead within weeks of the team being announced, there was a sponsor, there were season ticket holders, there was a roster of world class talent, and then came the arrival of those players to Salt Lake and the realization was that this was going to be something different. Now I get that some will focus on pay equality but much of that is controlled by the leagues, but given the reaction of the new players to everything from the locker room, cars and even those kickass robes, it appears things are being done not just right, but very right for the Utah Royals.
This year will also see the Monarchs move into their new stadium at the Herriman facility, how great for those players and fans that they will have a home of their own. The ability to have their own 5,000 seat stadium will allow that team to continue to grow and develop as not only a pathway to the first team but also as a powerhouse within the USL. We are still about a month away before the Monarchs will kick off their 2018 season, so we can talk more in depth about them later.
Let’s move on to the first team, so while 2017 ended on a high note for many with RSL playing better down the stretch, the reality is they missed the playoffs again and for all the amazing things the organization as a whole is doing, it is time for some results on the pitch. It is never easy for a coach to take over midstream of a season, and while Mike Petke quickly endeared himself to many RSL fans with his no BS type approach to things, this year it will be about results.
Of the players leaving in the offseason, there really are not a lot of surprises, VanOekel, Dunk and Schmidt never really seemed to find a niche with RSL, while injuries and age cost guys like Chris Wingert, Schuler and Barrett their spots. I did find the release of Omar Holness a bit of a surprise, but again for him I expect a fresh start may be just what he needed to find the minutes he will need to continue to develop, if the health issues will allow it.
I will take a look at the additions in part 2 coming later tonight or tomorrow morning.
That’s How I See It!