The Mastroeni Way: Real Salt Lake off to best home start in club history

They’re simply one of the best.

Real Salt Lake are off to the best home start in club history following a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, moving them to 6W-0L-1D in Sandy, Utah. The Claret-and-Cobalt have racked up 28 points through their first 16 games.

That’s more points at this point of the season than the MLS Cup-winning squad in 2009 and the team that reached the Concacaf Champions League final the next year and went 15-4-11 to finish second in the Supporters’ Shield race. It is their third-best start to a season after the 32 points they earned in 2012 and 30 in 2010.

"I think it's huge,” Pablo Mastroeni said after the match. “I think it validates all the work that we've been doing starting last year going into preseason, and building the culture and really the guys taking it and running with it.”

Mastroeni took over last year after Freddy Juarez stepped down to join the Seattle Sounders' coaching staff. He helped guide RSL to a stunning run to the Western Conference Final, upsetting the Sounders and Sporting Kansas City after qualifying for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Decision Day.

Few thought Real Salt Lake could make such a run then, and they've followed that up with one of the best starts in club history through 16 matches.

“Knowing that you have the third-\]best start in club history fills you with a lot of pride to be able to play for that club,” [Marcelo Silva said. “I think the important thing is that you look at your teammates and whether it's after the win today or the wins of the past, the team continues to push forward, continues to work hard and not just letting that pride get to our heads and we're continuing to keep going for those three points.”

Silva opened the scoring in the 22nd minute and Jefferson Savarino, who returned to the club in early May, put the finishing touches on the win in the 81st minute with his first RSL goal since November, 2019.

“I think Savarino tonight showed his quality, and I’ll say on both sides of the ball,” Mastroeni said. “We like to talk about again the stuff that he does with the ball which is top level, but his buy-in to do the defensive work. I thought was awesome. I can’t imagine a more complete game for Savarino and to get it tonight in front of the fans, packed house, score a goal, set up a goal. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

If the rest of MLS have yet to appreciate what is going on in Sandy, the Real Salt Lake fans certainly have. Saturday’s match marked a club-record seventh consecutive sell out at Rio Tinto Stadium to open the season.

They’ve been rewarded to RSL’s historic unbeaten home run, joining the Philadelphia Union as the only two MLS teams this season still unbeaten at home.

“I think the reason why we’ve been good at home is because we earned the right to be good at home,” Mastroeni said. “We work our tails off. We play some good stuff, everyone’s committed to both sides of the ball.”

Nearly at the midway point of the season, Real Salt Lake are second in the Western Conference, two points behind Supporters’ Shield-leading LAFC.

“As far as where we are in the standings, like Marcelo said, it’s all about maintaining that humility, regardless of the results,” Savarino said.

The results, Mastroeni says, validates the work the club is doing during the week on the training grounds.

“I think this week in particular, there wasn't a training session where guys wouldn’t, between exercises, stop and communicate with one another, really talk about positioning, talk about angles of passing,” Mastroeni said. "I think for me, as a coach to sit back and watch these players own it and take accountability for every aspect of it is a great thing to see.”

But as gratifying the first 16 games have been, Mastroeni is well versed on the length of the MLS season and the need to remain consistent over the next 18 regular season contests and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

“It's a great way to start,” Mastroeni said. “But obviously we have a long ways to go and the onus is on us to maintain that level.”