Monday, April 25, 2005

Confessions of a Diver

Something needs to be done. For a player to fall to the earth writhing in pain only to admit later to the press that he dove can not be tolerated. The Dallas Morning News reported that Eddie Johnson admitted to faking injury from Eddie Pope's challenge in their game on Saturday. Johnson is even quoted to saying, "'I still can't do it as well as him,' ... laughing, and pointing toward teammate Carlos Ruiz." (

Further explanation of the article was provided by the reporter, Steve Davis. He provides a more elaborate account of the conversation with Eddie as he admits three times to "faking." I have confirmed with Mr. Davis that this account on BigSoccer is truly legit.

It should be interesting to see how this is handled by the league. Seeing that Johnson is the hottest american goal scorer right now (in MLS and on the national team) he may receive a slap on the wrist. Or an example could be made of him to deter others from diving/faking injury, or at least admitting it. I don't see how the red card suspension for Eddie Pope will be changed, even though in this writers opinion it should be considered.

For the image of soccer and the league as a whole something needs to be done.

El Pescadito has an apprentice

So, the last time that RSL lost I wrote that it was mainly due to Landon Donovan and his potent attacking abilities. Well, this time it wasn't that simple. Let's face it, RSL got thumped. Dallas is arguably the hottest team in the league this year and they let Salt Lake know that on Saturday.

Due to the fact that I had been cranking php code all day Saturday to complete a semester project, I was pushing it to be able to watch the game shown delayed at 11pm. While coding I had to watch the LA Classico. Being preempted on espn2 by the final rounds of the NFL draft wasn't that cool, but at least when they did cut to the game espn started from the beginning of the match. The Galaxy took Chivas behind the shed in the first half going 3-0 up in half an hour. It was not a good day for expansion teams.

In Dallas, the newly deemed hoops (named such because of the red-white horizontal stripes on their jerseys) are built to punish defenses. Eddie Johnson made RSL defender Marlon Rojas look silly as he cut inside the left back with ease to set up his tally for the evening. When he's not playing against RSL Johnson is an exciting player. He will continue to score goals for Dallas and hopefully the national team through qualification for the World Cup. It's no doubt that teams in Europe have expressed interest. Rumor has it that Portuguese club Benfica offered some where around $5 million for Johnson during the off-season. But the league, who controls all the players contracts, turned Benfica down. With his current productivity MLS could get a lot more for this young talent.

There was an incident with Johnson that was not very cool. Eddie Pope challenged Johnson from behind for the ball. From every angle that was shown Johnson went down very easily. This resulted in a red card for Pope. It was a poor decision by the official. Nothing in the challenge was remotely dangerous or malicious. Especially when you look at the offender, Eddie Pope. Right, now there is a player who's out to break someone's leg with a reckless tackle. As I write this I'm getting worked up again, so I'll stop. Pope's innocent, it was not a bookable offense. After the match Johnson even admitted to faking the injury to get a foul called.

Now is the time to see what the RSL boys are made of. This has to be frustrating. The offense really hasn't kicked in yet, and we're 4 games into the season. The defense does well, but can't hold the pressure for the entire 90 like they have been. No need to panic though, there are some 25 or games left to play. Chin up boys, your supporters are still behind you. Let's get another win out home this weekend against the Quakes!


The local NBC affiliate, KSL 5, went above and beyond expectations by deciding to pick up the game that previously would have only been available to 'Direct Kick' subscribers. If you live in the area please let KSL know that you enjoy their coverage, and that you watch Real Salt Lake matches when they carry them.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Opening Day: 25,287

It all happened so fast I didn't even fully appreciate it when it was over. Reflecting along the 90 mile drive home I knew that I had been apart of something special, even historic. It was a day that will never be forgotten.

We (my wife and I) pulled into the west parking lot at Rice-Eccles Stadium just before 10:00 am. Surprisingly we were not the first Loyalists there. Jim was parker under the shade of a tree taking a morning snooze while waiting for the rest of us. The time between arrival and going into the stadium to rehearse our pregame ceremony was spent mingling with other supporters as they arrived. I mention this because it's the last period of calmness until my drive home. It was also during this time of peace that I went to grab my media credential.

This would be a good time to explain my situation. When I started this blog I had the intentions of writing through out the season as a fan from the stands. But since then I have picked up a position as a beat writer for a soccer news service. After much thought I have decided to continue with the blog writing from the perspective of a fan who became a soccer writer in his first professional writing position. We'll see if these worlds collide but so far everything has worked out. Back to the day...

The credential came in handy throughout the morning helping with getting Loyalists banners and flags in for the game. Also for the ceremony rehearsal I was used to vouch for tardy Loyalists who wanted to get past security and help with the presentation. Our part in pregame involved walking out a giant 60-foot RSL uniform to mid-pitch and then over to our corner.

While traveling back out to the parking lot for a tailgate I noticed our club president holding our new club banners. Having been the designer I was very interested to see how the banners turned out. They looked gorgeous. We returned to the pitch to hang the banners in front of our section in the north east corner. During our travels for this assignment we ran into Eric Wynalda. We told him about the Loyalists and discussed various things like Clint's mohawk and his ESPN broadcast position.

The events that transpired between then and game time all run together. I remember lots of running between the tailgate and the stadium; placing everyone's flags in the section to mark our seats; and getting roped into a juggling contest on the center stage at Carnival Real, which I lost miserably. While on stage I noticed the other Loyalists in the crowd beckoning me to follow them. It was time.

We gathered at the edge of the pitch, unfolded the giant shirt, and after a greeting from team owner Dave Checketts and league commissioner Don Garber we walked out to midfield. The few thousand spectators already in their seats enjoyed the site. Each of us on the field were on cloud nine. It was truly a great moment for all of us. Arriving at our corner I continued with the running, sprinting up the stairs, through the gate, down the concourse stretching the length of the stadium, through the madness of Carnival, across the parking lot to my car, and then finally all the way back across the parking lot to the media elevator. I had essentially ran around the entire complex of Rice-Eccles Stadium on a sunny 75-degree day, in pants. The sweat was dripping off me as I stepped into the elevator for the press box.

Walking into the press box I was in awe of the view. We were situated directly on the midway line six stories above the field. The stadium sprawled out beneath us with the playing surface cradled between the rising stands. I situated myself in my second row space with my name placed in front of it. Sweating like a large farm animal I knew that I was not making friends with my aroma. Thank goodness for ice water.

The match itself was electric. From my position I felt that Colorado held the majority of the better play, and RSL capitalized on a chance with heroic goal from Bryan Dunseth. But we've all seen what happened on the field so I don't need to explain it.

When the game ended I headed off to the Rapids locker room. My first post game interview ever as a writer was former Sheffield Wednesday winger Terry Cooke. It was his first game in MLS. I tried to get cohesive questions out of my mouth, but I felt like I was sputtering random sentence fragments. Even though I was visibly nervous Cooke was a great sport.

Next came Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo. I remembered him as a player and it was an honor to be talking to him. He was very patient with me through my first day nerves. Walking away I felt I had all I needed until I saw Hunter Freeman with his nose all bandaged up. Talking to him felt more like a conversion that I happened to record. This is how I want to try interviews in the future. They should be comfortable for all involved, right? I have a lot of room for improvement, but it should be a fun experience.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of trying to write my first story, and watching the reserves play. It was a great day. A fantastic day for soccer, and a day never to be forgotten for the 25,287 assembled.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The LD Factor

Iggy's, downtown, has officially become the coolest eating establishment I have ever visited. For the game they gave our group of between 30 and 40 their main room with a big screen and four smaller monitors. This in itself was sweet, but just before kickoff the manager came out and informed us that they had just purchased Direct Kick, which would allow them to show all televised RSL matches! Any place that goes that far to accommodate fans deserves businesses from anyone who enjoys soccer. If you have never been, I recommend it. And if you do go be sure to thank them for supporting RSL. There, I've done my advertising for this segment. And I didn't even need to use a split screen to do it.

There is something about watching a game in a large group. Every moment is amplified exponentially with the emotions of all those around you. You could feel the stomach pit of your fellow neighbors when LD scored the first goal. The eruption of elation when Kreis' shot hit the back of the net caused the ground to quake and increased when you realized you were screaming at full capacity, and couldn't even pick your voice out of the crowd. The disappointment steamrolled the room as Countess fished the ball out of his net twice more before it was over.

I have to admit that I may have been wrong about my preseason analysis of Kreis and Mathis. The two will be a lethal pair, but it may be Kreis with all the goals. Every time Mathis receives the ball he has at least two defenders, and usually three, ready to shut him down. With all the attention sucked to him, that frees Kreis. Who, by the way, scored goal number 92 of his MLS career. Nice work Kreisy, and to Dipsy who set him up with a great initial shot that caused Hartman to make a save and give Jason enough space to bring joy to the RSL faithful.

The LD factor proved me wrong. He made the difference for the Galaxy on Saturday night. He was involved in all three goals for the home side. But, at least we're tied with Chivas.

Friday, April 08, 2005

So it begins...

On the evening of April 2nd two teams took to the turf at Giants Stadium, and one of them bore the name 'Salt Lake' across their chest. The anticipation leading up to this point was overwhelming. Nerves were on edge. Months and months of planning, long hours of working and organizing and discussing all came down to this one moment. And I'm sure the players felt some anxiety too, but I'm talking about the fans! Now tell me as a fan that you never felt nerves over the start of a new season, or the playoffs, or in this case the start of a franchise? This was a huge moment for us. It's the moment that closed the chapter on preparation and opened a new on supporting an actual group of players that we identify as our team. A living breathing team.

There was our team, beacons of white with red trim, in the wind and rain. Discussion about the events on the field would center around the 50 mph winds, the unpredictable flight of the ball, power outages, and the play of the wet turf. Rightfully so the score ended at zeros, because in reality it was two teams vs. the weather. For me the actual game was a downer. The result was fine, but what happened between kickoff and the final whistle hardly resembled a beautiful match. In fact, some where in my mind I've come to the conclusion that the game at the Meadowlands didn't count. RSL's season TRULY begins this next Saturday in Los Angeles where the weather has a much smaller chance of being so influential in the outcome of the game.

Victoria Street, what some LA folk call the Home Depot Center, will be packed and rockin' to welcome Landon Donovan back to the league. If LD can link up with Jovan Kirovski the Galaxy will be scary offensive threat. Of course, at the other end of the pitch I wouldn't want to be, Galaxy goalkeeper, Kevin Hartman having to face an offense with Dipsey, Kreis, Williams, Mathis, and Rojas coming at me. Not to mention the possibility of Kreamalmeyer or Watson coming off the bench to ignite the RSL offense.

From my (totally unbiased ;)) vantage point I feel that RSL have the edge this weekend. The LD factor could totally prove me wrong, but I think RSL can get the goals they need to get their first win in franchise history.