Mar 22, 2014; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake starting players huddle prior to a match against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake Home Opener: Welcome Home

Real Salt Lake were in action over the weekend against Los Angeles, and if I’m honest (hey, it happens), the soccer played at Rio Tinto this weekend was not great. Both teams seemed to be pushing for something throughout the match, like there was almost something missing from both sides. It was sloppy, chippy, and uncontrolled for the majority of the match. There’s a lot to blame for all of that and I’m sure I’ll rant about that sometime later today or this week.

What I want to write about today, what I’d really like to say, is thank you to all the fans.

As I was heading to the stadium on Saturday at 8 am to help set up the card display, I was genuinely nervous. We have a great fan base, we really do. I have so many great memories of moments that we’ve all shared together inside the RioT. From the opening game to the Monterrey loss, there are emotions and experiences that we have all been a part of. All that said, we have a tendency to show up to matches a little on the late side from time to time. A display like this wouldn’t work if there were groups of unoccupied seats throughout the stadium at kick.

Two and a half hours later the group of us there to set up were finished and we headed out to the tailgate lot to meet up with the fans that were already there.

When we pulled into the parking lot I was impressed! 10:30 am and the lot had a decent amount of people in it. I kept thinking to myself, “We’re going to be able to do this.”As we began to eat and hang out a bit, the lot began to fill. Slowly at first, filling to about the half way mark by 11:30. Then it seemed almost all at once that the whole lot was full! I have never seen that before. By noon, a full 2 hours before kick off, cars were parked on every inch of that lot.

The tailgate was an amazing success as a whole, partly as a side effect of how many people were there, but also because of all the effort put into it by the various Supporters Groups. Section 26 had their Home Brew set up that was wildly popular, the Royal Army had some food for everyone to share, RCB were selling scarves and had food as well. At one point in the tailgate La Barra Real showed up en masse driving down the main strip of the lot, horns honking, flags waving, drums sounding. A sight to be seen.

It felt like a home coming, a reunion of sorts.

The tailgate wrapped up and we all headed into the stadium. The march that was planned for 1 pm took many fans into the stadium, and was itself a sight to see. I hope that in future matches more people join in on that and we turn it into something really amazing. By 1:30 the stadium was filling up quite nicely. This was going to work after all.

When the PA announcer finally came on to introduce the team there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in myself and those around me. People were talking about the display and the south end TIFO. What would it look like? Would it work? How big was it? All questions to be answered, but when? At the moment that the TIFO in the south goal came up over the crowd it was as though it was finally real, the season was finally beginning, we were home. The amount of time and energy that everyone involved with that banner put into it was well worth it. An amazing thing to see and I cannot wait for more. A bit sad that it was cut short, but that will only get better with experience.

Next up; the card display. Amazing. To hear Believe being sung, and see the cards covering the entirety of the stadium was a sight. And to think I was worried. When called upon, you answered, sending a message to the league, the players, fellow fans, and the front office that we have grown and are here for our team whenever and wherever they need us.

It was a proud day to be an RSL fan. Many players and coaches said it was one of the best atmospheres they have ever seen in the stadium, that it was a different energy there that day. I can only hope that this was merely the beginning. I know there will be more this year, that we will be asked to pitch in again over the next 9 months. More than that, I know that we will answer the call.

Thank you to everyone involved, all 20, 400 of you.


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