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RSL women's team making name for itself

SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - The new Real Salt Lake women's soccer team plays its home opener Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Real Salt Lake has a brand new women's soccer team.

Founded in 2008, the team played its first five years as Sparta United and Salt Lake United in the Women's Premiere Soccer League. But this past year, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen stepped in to sponsor the team.

"We always had this vision for the team," said original member Sara Cowley. "We started as a little team that just wanted to keep playing, and slowly gathered support."

"It is seriously a dream come true," added another original team member, Kendra Halterman. "This is what we dreamed of when we found out that Real was coming as a MLS team."

Life before RSL sponsorship was far from glamorous. The players had to pay all expenses and go on long, grueling road trips for no money.

"We had no money," said Halterman. "We earned our own money by cleaning stadiums, we picked up trash, we drove our own cars and drive for twelve hours just to get to the game. We'd stop at Costco and Sam's Club eat. We seriously made it by bare minimum."

But now that RSL stepped in to pay for travel expenses, life on the road is going to be much easier for these women who love to play the game of soccer so much.

"We're actually getting to fly to places now," Halterman said. "We now get to rest instead of getting out of van and instantly playing a game. It's going to make such a huge difference."

The RSL Women will play its home opener against the Utah Starzz from Provo. They will also play St. George United, Phoenix Del Sol, and Tucson Academy FC. The winner of the division advances to the WPSL Final Four.

The quality of play has improved on the team as well. Nearly every player has college has experience, including Jacqui Rimando, wife of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. She played in the old WUSA with the Washington Freedom.

"It's been so fun," Rimando said, the oldest player on the team at the age of 36. "It feels so great to run around and be competitive. I get to go home and tell my kids that mommy played soccer, and they don't really believe it yet. My son asked me the name of the team, and I said, 'We're Real Women.' He said, 'Like daddy's team?' I said, 'Ya, but it's for mommies!'"

In fact, their are eight mothers on the team.

"We have quite a few moms out here that still have it," said Halterman, a mom herself. "They're amazing."

These players are not playing for the money, and the coaches are volunteering their time. But the team says they get to be role models for the thousands of little girls who play soccer in this state.

"I coach young kids too," said Annie Hawkins. "I see the passion about soccer, and it's really cool to see all the kids that want to play. They're excited to come watch us play soccer. Real has a great following and we're hoping the women can get a little bit of that too."

"This is what we were dreaming up five years ago," said Cowley. "Getting to play at Rio Tinto with this level of talent, that's what we wanted to make this team. We knew the talent was here in Utah, we just had to make a place for them to play."

"There are so many women's soccer fans out there," added Halterman. "We're hoping they come out to our game to support women's soccer."

The RSL Women will play the Utah Starzz at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
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