Freddy Adu, Chris Klein, Jeff Cunningham and Jason Kreis were among many of Real Salt Lake’s players talking about the possibilities for the team at the beginning of the season.
The hopes were high with playoffs a main goal.
That was April and things sure changed.
The problems mounted all season and none of those players, as well as six others who started the season on RSL’s roster, finished the year playing for the club.
All the line up changes and moving Kreis to head coach didn’t turn into wins for the club. RSL (5-15-9) finished at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Kreis retired as a player after five games and took over as head coach and the frenzy was just getting started. Although Kreis talked about the team’s potential, when he took the reins he made several roster moves to shake things up.
To name a few subtractions from the season-opening roster, Cunningham, who didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Kreis on the pitch, was shipped to Toronto. Klein, although Kreis’ good friend, didn’t remain in Salt Lake long after the coaching change and was traded to the L.A. Galaxy for Robbie Findley. Adu bolted as soon as his stock was high enough for a European club to come calling.
The team got younger but the problem was the team didn’t get much better.
RSL’s final home game was a familiar tune to what the team had been playing all season. Missed chances and late goals for the other team.
Real, with Kreis experimenting with a few young players, had opportunities but one missed of the far post and several others went wide or over the goal.
It’s been that way all season. Kreis wanted Eddie Pope, who retired after this season, to have a win in his final home game but Houston scored in the 66th minute when Stuart Holden intended cross went straight over the outstretched arms of Real goalie Nick Rimando giving the Houston the 1-0 win.
It was hard for Kreis to handle.
"It’s very disappointing, another game that we’re at home and feel like we’re doing some good things and some not-so-good things. And at the end we feel like we deserved a result," Kreis said. "I guess I was very emotionally into that game. I put a lot into that because it was a very special game for Eddie; I wanted it to be a special going out for him."
Despite the numerous losses during Pope’s time in Salt Lake, he has enjoyed his time with the club.
"You always want to win, that’s why we’re here," Pope said. "We’re competitors, everybody on this team […] the coaching staff are all ex-players. We’re all competitors and I think it’s something that just comes natural for us. And when I’m done playing, I’ll be finding something else to compete in, it’s just in our make-up. I certainly would have loved to make the playoffs and win some championships with this team and it would have been great to be able to reward the fans."
And once again, there’s always next year.