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A Tale of Two Expansion Teams

By John Santos



Rio Tinto, UT - May 19: Ned Grabavoy #20 fires a shot passed Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to score for Real Salt Lake. (Photo by Shaun Clark)
Rio Tinto, UT - May 19: Ned Grabavoy #20 fires a shot passed Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to score for Real Salt Lake. (Photo by Shaun Clark)

It’s that time of year again. That time when the Goats and Real Salt Lake square off and I ponder back on what went wrong with our team.  Founded the same year. Equally bad. Then the Goats got good and RSL still struggled.  Goats’ attendance numbers were respectable.  Stadium talk was rampant.  All the while RSL played in an empty football stadium with turf and football lines while their franchise sat on the verge of going belly up.  The Goats were the team backed by an owner with money, and representing a storied franchise with a long history.  RSL was nothing more than a Euro copycat.

Then the 2008 MLS Playoffs.  The Goats were projected to go far while RSL limped into the post season.  For a team that had won the season series since the foundation both organizations, the Goats didn’t have one thing RSL did.  A home.  Rio Tinto Stadium had just opened about a month earlier. As us long time supporters of our team already know, RSL won that series on the strength of a last minute goal in the 1st match, and a Goats team that forgot they were at “home” in the 2nd match, digging themselves into a hole of which Justin Braun and Ante Razov could only claw them out of so much. 

RSL may not have made the Cup Final that year, but the ground work was there for them to jump over and surpass their 2005 expansion brothers. While the Goats went on to bomb out of the post season in the 1st Round again in 2009, RSL went all the way to the MLS Cup Final and beat our neighbors.  A win that resulted in their qualification for the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League. An entertaining run that captivated MLS fans from coast to coast (unless you were from Colorado).  

And all the while the Goats sunk. The powers that be, brought in Martin Vasquez to pick up the pieces after Preki was given his walking papers.  2010, down the drain.  After that, the Powers that be, brought in the man many believed played a huge role in the success Real Salt Lake had been having.  Robin Fraser may have been a good Assistant Coach.  But 2 years with our Goats showed that a Head Coaching job wasn’t something he was ready for. 2011 and 2012 down the drain.   All the while RSL became a force in MLS. Qualifying for the post season as well as the Champions League again.

So that brings us to past weekend. Was a shock win in the cards?  Or just more of the disappointment that has become customary after facing the “Claret and Cobalt”?

When the opposing team scores its first goal a mere 3 minutes into the match, one can bet it’s going to be a long night.  Head Coach, El Chelís keeps insisting on a 3 man backline.  A 3-man backline that has now allowed 11 goals in the last 3 matches (RSL won the night by a score of 4-1).  All this going down while rumors and reports of the teams impending relocation, sale, potential buyers, etc… go on in the background.  All the while Real Salt Lake enjoys its continuing success in Major League Soccer with all of its fans, TV contracts, stable roster and cozy stadium.

The Goats return to action next Saturday against RSL’s Rocky Mountain Cup rivals (yes, a developing rivalry, something the Goats do NOT have contrary to what “The Soccer Don” might tell us) the Colorado Rapids.  Who will be coming off a hard fought draw with the Earthquakes.  Kick-off is 6pm.  No TV as usual.  Unless you are traveling with one of the supporters group, there’s no way to actually watch it.  The free stream provided on cdchivasusa.com doesn’t work outside of the Los Angeles area.  Which means if you live in South Gate, Huntington Park, Inglewood or even Carson, you are out of luck.  They follow that up against the Los Angeles Blues of the USL Pro in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup 3 days later. Interestingly enough that might actually be covered by an Internet stream most will be able to access.