Real Salt Lake take on Monterrey tonight for a chance at winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup. If you are on Twitter and a fan of any American soccer, you will likely see the hashtag #MLS4RSL. One of our authors posted a story and used that hashtag even. I wasn't happy. I don't understand why anyone but Real Salt Lake fans want to see RSL win. I hope they lose... terribly. More after the break.On November 14, 2009, it was an unseasonably warm evening in Chicago. I stood in Section 8 at Toyota Park and watched the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake line up for penalty kicks to determine which team made would be going on to the MLS Cup Final. RSL goaltender Nick Rimando stood tall saving three penalty kicks. Ned Grabavoy sent the last penalty kick past Jon Busch. The Fire were defeated. I and tens of thousands of other Fire fans were sent home devastated. Thanks in part to RSL winning that game, the team from Utah qualified to enter the CONCACAF Champions Tournament.
Now as Real Salt Lake has a chance to win the CONCACAF Champions League, there is this expectation that I should get behind RSL because it's for the good of the MLS. I'm confused as to why I should be happy for a team that defeated the Fire and left the fan base shaken. To add insult to injury, RSL's general manager compared the game to a great American national team moment when he said "We haven't had that Lake Placid moment; that's the opportunity I think we have in front of us". Lagerway couldn't be more mistaken.
Lake Placid refers to the hockey team made up of American amateurs that defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Americans had something in common with that the hockey team, everyone was American. The enemy was a common enemy, the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet Union was the ultimate enemy. The idea that RSL, a team that is made up of professionals from across the world, is anything like the USA 1980 Hockey team is ludicrous. Those hockey heroes in 1980 were representing my country. RSL has never represented me. I can't even get behind them beating Monterrey. I know more people from Monterrey than I do from Salt Lake City. Lagerway's delusions don't stop there either.
A lot of those people are going to deny, deny, deny, and say, 'I'd rather get up on Saturday morning to watch the EPL and American soccer sucks.' If anything we get more respect outside of our country sometimes than we do in our country. And I think we're going to win over a whole bunch of fans who simply can't ignore us if we're able to win and achieve consistent success.
One of Lagerway's points is true. If RSL and other MLS teams continue to win on the international stage, the success cannot be ignored. Lagerway is actually making the point that talk is cheap but he doesn't realize it. He just keeps talking and so does the league. MLS is encouraging the love fest of #MLS4RSL. That will not win fans over from other leagues where rivalries dictate much of the fan passion. Fans that love Manchester United also dislike Manchester City and Chelsea. I like the Chicago Bears but I also enjoy hating on the Green Bay Packers. The same feelings come out of Fire/Crew, Cubs/Cardinals, Blackhawks/Red Wings, Bulls/Pistons, and other Chicago rivalries in between. Positioning yourself as a league that puts all differences aside and roots for all teams is not a way to win over EPL fans or even American fans of other sports. Try explaining to a Red Sox fan that MLS is cool because we root for the teams in the collective when they play elsewhere. They would think you were crazy for rooting for a team that could be like the Yankees to them.
American sports and EPL fans alike would also cry foul on rescheduling games for individual team benefits. Yet, that's exactly what Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union did with their game originally scheduled for April 23rd. MLS wanted to give RSL a full week of preparation for tonight's April 27th game so they asked the teams to move their match. It's now been rescheduled for September 3. Again, imagine a scenario where the Bulls are asked to move a game so the Los Angeles Lakers can benefit financially, historically, internationally and every other 'ally' you can think of. This is not how you build legitimacy. It actually invites farce and attacks later down the line that the league aided RSL's championship if they do win. Don't ever move the goalposts.
It's a real shame too because league actions and less than well thought out comments from their general manager do not undermine the personal accomplishments of the players and staff of Real Salt Lake. If the team does win tonight, it will have been through the front office's vision and the hard work of RSL's players. Everyone over there already deserves much credit. They just don't deserve my fandom. #LOSS4RSL