Sunday, November 9, 2008

RSL is Movin' On!

Golden Boot and I managed to head down to SoCal for a last minute trip to see leg two of the RSL/Chivas playoff. Other than the speeding ticket the trip was great and very worthwhile. Here are my thoughts on the entire experience:

Trip Down
The trip down actually went quite quickly. We left Friday night and landed at the Oasis in Mesquite. In the lobby as we checked in there were a couple of people that yelled out "Real Salt Lake" as we were wearing RSL gear. We also ran into Kenny Cutler who happened to be down there with friends for an engagement celebration of sorts for one of the group. He chatted with us for quite a bit while playing blackjack at the same time.

Next morning we woke up and headed the rest of the way down. We were tired from the drive down and glad to arrive at our hotel after several hours on the road. The trip down had been full of lots of good convo including RSL and the playoff possibilities.

After checking in and changing we grabbed some excellent BBQ thanks to a great tip. The excitement for the game was building, and so we headed over to the HDC early along with a couple of newfound RSL fan friends who had flown down and needed a ride over.

The stadium was pretty impressive from the outside. Our first impression once inside was also a good one. I like the layout from a fan perspective. However, as we started to get in position for picture taking I became less impressed. Nobody who worked there seemed to know what was going on, and they seemed to be less than interested in helping find out.

The grass looked in much better shape than some of the games I had watched on TV a couple of months ago. However, it was way too long and thick. Perhaps gamesmanship to slow the field down?

The field appeared extremely large. Not sure of the dimensions but you definitely notice the difference from Rio Tinto.

The picture taking area is in the dirt. Why? Not sure. But for someone trying to protect lenses and equipment it isn't ideal.

The way the players enter the field sucks. It's through the endzone like RES, but they both go through the same spot in the advertising boards and up the same tunnel. To make things worth the VIP seats get to their spots through exactly the same location.

The Atmosphere
I was impressed with the Chivas fans at Rio Tinto, and they were even more impressive and in greater numbers at the HDC. They had a huge banner along one endzone that covered the entire end. That same endzone peppered the net behind Rimando with streamers, which was on one hand an annoyance, but also a great demonstration of the passion for their club. I was on the opposite end right in front of the supporters groups who were loud, with chants going on throughout the entire match. They didn't let up even when it was apparant that their team was on the losing end of the series.

Cheerleaders are for American football. They help that sport by keeping the fans in the game during the lulls that occur in that sport. In soccer, there are no lulls, and cheerleaders are not only extraneous - they are annoying.

The Game
What's there to say? Great result for the team. Great moment for the franchise. The team showed heart, maturity and mental toughness that we have not seen in previous seasons. In fact, we didn't see that during this season until the last month or so. After the match, Jason commented on this and mentioned that he was proud of them for this.

I was really glad to see that we didn't fall apart after the initial goal. We seemed to stay committed to being aggressive. That header by Dema happened right in front of me, and it was a great finish off of Javi's cross. Javi mentioned that the pass was really for Yura, but Dema snuck in and stole it.

The second half was a battle and a bloodbath. Javi, Yura, and Olave seemed to be the most physically affected. It was obvious that toward the final stages it had taken a toll on the guys as they were exhausted. Kyle even ended up with a shiner courtesy of Nagamora.

Once again I was surprised that RSL sustained through the onslaught by Chivas who pushed tremendous numbers forward very early in the 2nd half. It's amazing that the withheld and were able to get a 2nd goal in the other end. They did a great job of finding their chances in the second half, and although they missed a couple of finishes they remained dangerous and didn't give up the attack.

The Traveling RSL Fans
There were a few less of them than at Colorado, but there was still a sizable group. They were also very vocal and I could hear them throughout the match. They also appeared to be well behaved from everything I saw and heard. Unfortunately there were a couple of negative situations that I heard about. First, an RSL fan was assaulted by Chivas fans who first took their RSL scarf and then decided they were going to attack him. Second, there were some threats and harrassments after the game that led to the HDC staff asking some RSL fans to remove their RSL gear and then escorted them outside. However, I believe all of these incidents were relatively minor.

Once again the team was very happy about the result, but very subdued. Afterwards everyone headed back to the hotel and hung out around the bar area. Most of the players/coaches were there and a small handful of fans as well. It was very relaxed and everyone chatted with each other.

Trip Home
Worst part of the experience by far. Spending 10/11 hours on the road at one time is never any fun. And oh yeah, there was that issue of a speeding ticket as well. The one good time we had on the way home was during the Houston/NYRB game. We received regular phone updates from Golden Boots bro and it was great to hear about the result which will leave us with one more home game this year. Can't wait.