Buck Shaw Stadium. It's a hell of a place, although striking four of those words might be a bit more accurate: It's hell. Should that be capitalized? It's a creaking, rickety aluminum hell. Any type of liquid on those bleachers and you're likely to slip, perhaps to an uncertain fate; stand on the seats and you could well teeter over when your neighbor leans forward.
But, really, it's not that much of a hell. Two goals speaks to that fact. Two unanswered goals, moreover.
Goals in the quick, slicing manner that brought to mind the Real Salt Lake past a bit. Goals that, on most match days, were not just a rarity but an impossibility.
So, really, Buck Shaw Stadium could be worse. It could be, say, in a bog, or something like that. Or we could have lost. I'd really hate the place then. I mean, I'd passionately hate it, and I'm not particularly great at passionately hating anything, or so I've convinced myself.
Please insert a cliche about turning the story back a bit here.
We're on the way to sunny San Francisco (surprisingly, sunny isn't inaccurate in this case; it was bright and delightsome and only ever-so-slightly foggy) and an email drops into my inbox. Some San Jose front office type, it would seem, warning RSL fans about the dangers of San Jose. Having been to Oakland before, I'm not particularly worried, but I mean … Ultras? Well, it's a name, at least.
We could wonder about what's in a name, but I won't bother. To make a long story rather shorter, there wasn't an issue with San Jose supporters, and the ones I met were friendly and engaging — even after the match.
What is there to remember? Portable toilets. I mean, not the sort you'd carry around with you at the match. That would be patently weird. No, the sort you set down and leave and somebody else comes around and services them. You know, the normal type. At any rate, we're also not here to talk about toilets, although it was notable that the 2012 Supporters Shield winners don't have, you know, permanent restroom facilities.
I mean, they'll get that new stadium, right? Right? Maybe it's a non-issue.
Forward a bit. First half was messy. Not totally messy, and not intensely frustrating, but it did little to calm my nerves. Lord knows I've got plenty of nerves to go around. One player in particular seemed awfully lost: Kenny — strike that — Abdoulie Mansally. He got forward with alacrity (and of course I look the word up to ensure I'm using it accurately) and aplomb (I think that one's acceptable, at least) but got back more hesitantly. Now, on a second viewing, it was apparent that our Gambian full back-forward wasn't nearly as bad as I thought he'd been, and he improved even as the first half went on. Aaron Falk, Salt Lake Tribune RSL reporter man (and secret superhero, I suspect. It's the glasses.) wrote today (or was it yesterday?) about Jason Kreis considering pulling Mansally at the half, but that the player made a good tackle at some point, giving him confidence. ("Him" is purposefully ambiguous here.)
Second half. Better. Lots better.
And then a goal. Huh. I wasn't expecting that. Not quite like that, at least. Joao Plata, on for our (and my it's nice saying 'our' again here) Robbie Findley, picks up Kenny Mansally's pass (what was that about confidence?) and plays Saborio in without hesitation. Cool, cool finish, and we're celebrating.
The security guards (who have been hounding the away supporter's section all night) move in closer. They start to surround the section. There's no hostility around us — at least not that I can see — but I guess I appreciate the caution. We continue chanting — "SA-BO-RIO, (insert appropriate number of claps)" runs through the section; oles run through, too, as does a round of "Believe." It's nice to be back.
Goal number two. We're all a bit excited. Of course, by a bit, I mean a lot bit, and by excited, I mean ecstatic. Pass-pass-pass-pass-pass — whoa, Saborio's in a great position there, and what a pass from Ky— oh good word, a goal. And that's basically how it went. We chant, sing, cheer, all that fine nonsense. The security guards move ever-closer. They're not quite linking arms, and they're not being aggressive. It's just a little weird.
The final whistle sounds. Rush to the front? You've got it. Although there was little rushing involved, as I think most of us weren't too keen on being smacked around by a security guard, but we get close and applaud the side. A show on the road? I can't complain. That's not the worst trip I've ever been on.
Note: This was first published on Under the Crossbar in March 2013 after the inaugural game of Real Salt Lake's 2013 campaign. It is published here without changes.