During the off-season, RSL traded away veterans Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave to rely on young players like Devon Sandoval, Chris Schuler, Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata. That decision has paid off big-time as RSL is in the MLS Cup Final against Sportking Kansas City, and general manager Garth Lagerwey deserves a lot of credit.
"We had our young players develop quicker than we thought they would," Lagerwey said. "That's the honest truth. We've had six different young players all come along and so well. Credit to them, credit to our coaching staff as well for having developed those guys."
As satisfying as this season has been, Lagerwey knows the ultimate goal has yet to be accomplished.
"To be absolutely clear, the goal here is to win a championship," he said. "It's certainly a great accomplishment to be there and we should be proud of that, but we have more work to do."
Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City have a lot in common. They both have similar payrolls, both play is similar size markets, and both have passionate fan bases. But when it comes to soccer styles, they couldn't be more different.
"It's such a contrast in styles," said Lagerwey. "Kansas City leads the league in fouls. We're the team that leads the league in passes completed, so it really is force versus finesse. It's power versus grace."
Kansas City has the advantage of playing on their home field, but RSL has proven that hostile environments do not affect them.
"Portland was a hostile place to play, so I think we'll be ready for the 'blue hell' as they like to call it," Lagerwey said. "We have a lot of guys who have been there before, won some very big games, and hopefully they're ready to win another big game for us."
If they do, RSL's legacy will be cemented in Major League Soccer. Only four other teams have ever won multiple championships.
"We've had a good run in the playoffs, but we have to win another title for this team to be remembered," said Lagerwey, who was a big part of RSL's 2009 MLS Cup title. "I think we have the opportunity to be remembered as one of the better MLS teams of the last decade."