The View: The facts of life in MLS
and I think I turned out all right. Well, at least I didn't turn into some serial killer.
So whenever I think someone's in need of a little advice to get them through the day, I toss out some lyrics. Today, with Real Salt Lake mired in one of the worst runs in MLS history, I have these words of advice:
"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life."
Good advice for an MLS expansion team, don't you think? It's basically a reworking of Cervantes' comment about windmills -- you can either get thrown into the mud, or up to the stars -- for the bubblegum and rollerskate crowd.
Taking the good
It all started off so well, didn't it? They earned a point in their very first game. They got a win in the franchise's third-ever match. They climbed into third place in the Western Conference, and coach John Ellinger was looking like a genius, having built his team the right way: skill and experience up the middle in the shape of Eddie Pope, Andy Williams, Jason Kreis, and Clint Mathis; youth and energy on the flanks; and toughness all around.
And they were drawing big crowds. 25K for the home opener. 18K for a 2-1 win against Los Angeles. It didn't hurt that fellow expanders, Chivas USA, couldn't win, couldn't score, and couldn't play defense. Comparing Real to Chivas USA was like comparing the girl from Billy Idol's "Rock the Cradle" video to Cyndi Lauper. (Someone I know once did that. We're no longer friends.) And in the first ExpandoClasico in Salt Lake City, RSL won 2-0.
Taking the bad
But then RSL went to Columbus. Or should I say Waterloo? Because that's where the wheels came off. There began the epic 556-minute goal drought. There began a 10-game winless streak, including eight losses, one of which was a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Chivas USA. My, how the tables have turned. Over those 10 games, RSL have suffered 26 goals, and that doesn't include the six goals they gave up to the Minnesota Thunder in the U.S. Open Cup. 26 goals? That's like three seasons for Juventus.
OK, so that's an unfair comparison. After all, Juventus has Alessandro Del Piero and his sideburns. But obviously, RSL is not involved in the race to be America's first SuperClub.
The great irony, of course, is that RSL, perhaps Major League Soccer's worst defense, is represented by central defender Eddie Pope as their only All-Star. I guess the only thing that would have been more ironic is if 'keeper D.J. Countess had been taken.
But keep the faith, RSL fans: Your beloved Real-ers play in the same conference as Colorado. Ergo, although RSL haven't won in more than two months, they're only two wins away from that final playoff spot. Just two measly victories. In Parity League Soccer, two wins are as easy to find as Lindsey Lohan CDs at the used record store.
And it's not just this season. Regardless of the winless streak and the goalless streak, I still think that Ellinger built his team to win over the long haul. He's never tried to craft the second coming of the 1998 Chicago Fire. No, Ellinger has built to win in 2007. That's what he's best at, developing young talent to be successful in the future. To paraphrase Waylon Jennings, he's just making his way, the only way he knows how.
So keep the faith, Loyalists, and remember these words: "We're no where near the end, the best is ready to begin ... we got to be the luckiest dreamers who never quit to dream."
(Can you name the show?)
Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.