Major League Soccer

Pablo Mastroeni praises 'caring and passionate' Real Salt Lake community

Chris Smith
Mastroeni has overseen nine games as interim Real Salt Lake manager so far.
Mastroeni has overseen nine games as interim Real Salt Lake manager so far. / Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Interim manager Pablo Mastroeni has lavished praise on the Real Salt Lake community, highlighting the "care and passion" of the supporters.

The 45-year-old has overseen nine games since taking over from Freddy Juarez, who recently departed to take up an assistant role at the Seattle Sounders.

RSL picked up their fifth win under Mastroeni on Saturday, beating Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado Rapids 3-1 in front of a crowd just shy of 16,000. Though Rio Tinto Stadium was 4,000 short of capacity, the supporters certainly made their presence felt throughout the night.

After the match, Mastroeni admitted his surprise at the level of support for RSL throughout Utah. He also highlighted a particular story about a young fan suffering from cancer and RSL's gesture toward him as an example of the caring nature within the local soccer community.

“I was shocked when I first came to Utah to see how much support there was for Real within the community and how much support I was given when I first joined the coaching staff," he told reporters.

"I feel like it's a soccer community that also cares deeply about the individuals at this Club. There’s a young kid by the name of Tyler who is battling cancer.

"I’ve had moments in my life as a young player where someone from a professional team has reached out and given me a jersey or given me shoes and it allowed me to dream.

"It allowed me to believe that I could overcome difficult situations as a young player. Tonight, the ball was signed by all of the players.

"It’s this type of support for the club that is dear to me and it was dear to me before I was in this post as an assistant coach and just a member of Real Salt Lake and the community and what it stands for and what the fans bring to it.

"They bring the life, they bring the passion and for me, this is what football is all about. It’s about community, it’s about giving and it’s about sharing in wonderful moments like the game tonight."

'Unbelievable chemistry' fuelling RSL playoff push

On the pitch, RSL will be glad of sealing all three points, quickly bouncing back from a shock 2-1 defeat at bottom-of-the-West Austin FC last time out.

Real are now five points above the playoff line with as many games remaining. Scorer of his side's first goal, Demir Kreilach - who is Salt Lake's top scorer overall this season with 14 goals - has praised the "unbelievable" chemistry Mastroeni has been able to instil into his side during the second half of the campaign.

“It’s unbelievable," Kreilach responded when asked by reporters about the connection between the players.

"The mentality that we’ve brought for the second part of the season is unbelievable. You can have so much quality in the team, but if you don’t have the right mentality, if you don’t have fight and energy from the first to the last second, then you can’t reach anything.

"At the end of the day, with those three things and the quality too, that’s how we scored. All the guys on the backline had great performances. There were several moments where they saved us, and that shows chemistry within the team. We play for each other."

Up next for RSL is a trip to the Chicago Fire on Saturday.