Champions real good at home

Sep 18 2010 - 9:58pm

SANDY -- Real Salt Lake set a Major League Soccer record Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium, beating the Chicago Fire 1-0, and moving RSL's home unbeaten streak to an MLS record 23 games.

Immediately after the game, RSL raised a "Reign of RSL" banner on the south end of the field to commemorate the historical victory. The banner further read "Thank you to the best fans in the MLS!"

RSL players gathered with some of the 14,449 fans in attendance under the banner. U2's Elevation blared over the loudspeaker and RSL's dreadlocked captain pumped up the crowd.

"You guys are the best fans in the MLS," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman over the speaker system. He went on to say that the Salt Lake City fans have created a very real home-field advantage, and have played a role in making this run happen.

"Who knows when (the home unbeaten streak) is going to end?" Beckerman said. "We're not planning on any time soon."

RSL has gone 16-0-7 during the home unbeaten stretch. Coach Jason Kreis said he couldn't be happier to see his team reach this mark.

"It's really cool. I haven't shied away from how important this is," Kreis said. "We've taken a lot of pride in it, put a lot of weight into it, and now, for at least a few minutes, we'll celebrate it."

Although Kreis's exuberance over the home unbeaten streak was visible, so was his disappointment in the way that his team did it Saturday. RSL struggled for most of the match to find any sort of pace or momentum against Chicago.

After a mostly uneventful first half, it ended with a bang. In the 44th minute RSL's Ned Grabavoy was hauled down inside the box by Chicago's Wilman Conde. Conde received his second yellow card of the game on the play and was ejected. Fire players continued to argue the call for nearly three minutes, resulting in another yellow card.

RSL's Alvaro Saborio buried the resulting penalty kick in the 47th minute with a rocket to the bottom left corner of the net to open, and close, the scoring.

"That was a huge turning point in the game: to get a PK and for him to get a red card right before the half and to get that goal," Grabavoy said. "We weren't playing that great. It wasn't our best day for sure."

With the extra man on the field, RSL dominated possession of the ball in the second half, but neither team showed much urgency.

Kreis made three substitutions in the second half, which included the entrance of Paulo Araujo Jr., making his MLS debut. It didn't take him long to get involved, entering the game in the 76th minute and making an electrifying run, firing a shot off of the short-side post in the 77th.

RSL had a few other golden opportunities to make it 2-0 throughout the second half, but elected for extra passes rather than shots.

RSL's dominance at home has them sitting pretty near the top of the MLS standings with just five games remaining on the MLS schedule, neck-and-neck with the LA Galaxy.

With all the success coming RSL's way, starting with last year's league championship and continuing into a stellar season this year, Kreis is yet to be surprised.

"I always knew that this was the potential of this team," Kreis said.

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