Since joining MLS in 2005, Real Salt Lake hasn't exactly made a ton of headlines aside from its odd choice of name. That may have changed Thursday night when the club played its first match inside of the newly constructed Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Watching the game (a 1-1 draw with the Red Bulls) on ESPN2 a the new digs came across pretty well. Then again, it's always nice to be able to watch an MLS game that isn't dominated by NFL gridiron lines or artificial turf.
The stadium opening brings the total of seven teams playing in newly created 'soccer specific stadiums.' Rio Tinto was designed by Rossetti Architects, which have done the Home Depot Center, Toyota Park in Chicago and pending projects in the form of Red Bull Park in New Jersey and the Chester, Pa. stadium for the 2010 Philadelphia expansion team. Only Red Bull Park will have an enclosed "European style" roof. Simply, brick and mortar in the ground means MLS isn't going away anytime soon.
The best aspect of Rio Tinto were the seating sections behind the goal seemed close to the field and wasn't merely an open space to stage a concert. Also impressive was the one fan who kept playing the bagpipes during the entire match.
As we've seen the new soccer stadiums produce a quick spike in attendance numbers and interest for MLS, but unless the quality on the field is high those fans begin to lose interest. For instance a couple weeks ago I saw an FC Dallas Thursday night game on ESPN2 and there couldn't have been more than a two or three thousand people in the stands. (Not sure what the announced attendance was, but it didn't look like much on TV.)
Perhaps the oddest sight of the night came in the form of multiple, shall we say, MILFs flashing devil horns to the cameras. Not sure what that says about the state of Utah, but it probably bodes well for RSL.