RIVERTON, Utah – Real Salt Lake was shut out of Major League Soccer’s postseason honors. And their fans took to social media – in droves – to voice their displeasure.
Real Salt Lake players, on the other hand, shrugged their shoulders and turned their attention to trying to win the MLS Cup
“It doesn't bother us,” midfielder Javier Morales told MLSsoccer.com. “We know that's going to happen. We know it's going to be [players from] New York, Portland, LA, big teams. But we don't have to put attention on that.”
The Best XI features one player from New York (Tim Cahill), two from LA (Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane) and two from Kansas City (Matt Besler, Graham Zusi). But what really confounded Salt Lake fans is that not only were there three Portland players (Will Johnson, Donovan Ricketts, Diego Valeri) named to the Best XI, but the Timbers' Caleb Porter was named Coach of the Year. Ricketts bested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando for Goalkeeper of the Year, while Valeri was tabbed as Newcomer of the Year.
Portland finished just one point ahead of RSL in the Western Conference after the regular season but went 0-4-2 against Salt Lake this season – 0-1-2 in the regular season; 0-2 in the playoffs; and 0-1 in U.S. Open Cup play.
The Claret-and-Cobalt, however, just collectively shrugged their shoulders, at least publicly.
“We don't let it bother us at all,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told MLSsoccer.com.
The team will instead have a chance to take home the league's biggest prize, which, in their players’ minds, dwarfs any individual honors.
“Those things are nice, but if you asked every one of those guys if they'd take their Best XI trophy or an MLS Cup trophy, they'd trade it any day of the week,” Beckerman said.
“We have to focus on the final,” Morales said. “I don't put too much attention on who is winning the Best XI or the coach [of the year] or the MVP. We have to focus on our team.”
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And winning the MLS Cup would be the team's response to the lack of individual honors.
“After the final,” Morales said, “then maybe they say, 'You are the champions.' That is better for me than anything else.”
Morales and Beckerman said they don't really need the snub as additional motivation when they take the field on Saturday. Nor is any of this a distraction heading into the final, they said.
“We can't really worry about the outside stuff,” Beckerman said. “It's just about getting the trophy for the club, for the community, getting another star on the jersey. That's what it's all about.
“That other stuff – if they don't know about our team now, maybe they'll figure it out.”