Big Love In Real Salt Lake

Is it bad form to talk about the show Big Love, the HBO polygamist series, when talking about the first championship win in Utah professional sports history? I guess it diminishes the win a touch or at least aligns it with what Utah doesn’t want to be known for. Blame it on On Demand though, as they’re showing Big Love’s past two seasons these days and I’ve watched nearly the whole first two seasons. Let’s get to the soccer / football story though and the amazing run of Real Salt Lake.

Luckily, I don’t think there are any ‘principal’ followers on the Real Salt Lake side though. Rather, they’re one of the more diverse MLS teams in the league. Nonetheless, there’s big love now in Salt Lake thanks to a penalty kick shootout win and a well deserved win at that.

See all the MLS Cup highlights here. And, it turns out, it’s not all about the money.

If there’s a better collective team, a stronger family in the MLS than the Real Salt Lake side, show me. I don’t think there’s a team that plays as well together as this side. And they bring on substitutes who enhance rather than detract from the team. The GM has to get some credit for this championship win, too. He’s put together a strong side from front to back. Real Salt Lake plays a nice peppering the ball around style, where players at every position can ping the ball back and forth. Everyone wants the ball.

Real Salt Lake has a core group of experienced players, some who were castoffs from other MLS clubs, and then a youthful desire to win.

Nick Rimando is small in stature but plays big. When the game went to penalty kicks Real Salt Lake was destined to win.

Clint Mathis and Ned Grabavoy both came on as substitutes and added to the game. Grabavoy played with a lot of energy and was good at finding the ball and playing give and goes. In one moment, he got stuck in on the tackle – you could tell he was there to play. He used to play for LA, and seemed to be making a point.

Javier Morales went down after an awkward tackle by Beckham early in the game. Morales tried to come back on and play but was unable to continue, and was in tears on the sidelines, as he knew his final was over. Mathis was his replacement, and the old man warmed up as the game went along. He set up Findley with a beautiful pass late in the game but Findley hit the ball wide.

In the end, I think Salt Lake wanted to win more than LA, and they bad a bit more fitness and legs. Donovan was contained. Beckham’s ankle may have limited him a bit although he was as sharp as usual. Hats off to: Robbie Russel, Beckerman, Andy Williams, Will Johnson, Robbie Findley, and Fabian Espindola, they all gave their all.

The Galaxy I think missed Dema Kovalenko greatly in the middle of the park. His work rate and tenacity. However, Jovan Kirovski had a pretty strong game, considering he was playing out of position.

What stood out was LA didn’t have any substitutes who came on and really added to the game. Galaxy sub Klein had a chance on a header but clumsily tried to climb over the back of the defender. Whereas Real Salt Lake’s subs gave their team a boost. The only sub that stood out for LA was their keeper, Josh Saunders. Who had to come into a huge game and take some crosses and make some saves and then goes on to save two penalty kicks.

Nobody really wanted Salt Lake in the final. Me included. I was hoping for a Blanco versus Beckham battle, but I’ve been swayed over to their side with how they battled and knocked the ball around. Mind you, this knocking the ball around is taking into account that the bar is low. This is still the MLS, and not the EPL or Serie A. It was in general a sloppy game. Teams rushed things when they didn’t need to. LA tired to counter late in the game when at times they should have just held on to the ball and caught their wind, controlled the game. LA didn’t have enough players in the attack anyway.

What comes from all this? Does Salt Lake build a brand bigger than the one down in Hollywood? If they add a few more players and keep this team in tact, they just might.