It was a tool used to rally and unify soccer fans during Real Salt Lake's historic run through the final stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Under the current format, an American professional soccer club had never reached the final of the regional competition before. A place at the FIFA Club World Championship was on the line, and fans, players and coaches alike welcomed another possibility for MLS continental legitimacy.
I was at Rio Tinto Stadium the night American soccer’s hopeful aspirations came to a screeching halt. I knew what was on the line that night. It wasn't about Real Salt Lake. It wasn't about MLS. It was bigger than both. "The game" is the only thing that matters, and its advancement stood center stage in Sandy, Utah.
Reaching the CCL Final was a defining moment for "the game" in this country. I had to be there.
Because I was fortunate to play against the likes of Hristo Stoichkov, Carlos Valderamma and Lothar Matteus to name a few. There were preseason trips to the south of France, Chile, Brazil – “the game" took me places I never expected to go.
I wasn't able to wrap my head around the meaning of those types of moments during my playing career. Not until I stepped away from playing did I fully appreciate the memories created by the sport I love.
At Rio Tinto that night, "the game" had the potential to be a tipping point for soccer to spill over into national and regional respectability. I wanted to experience it all first-hand to appreciate the journey it provides.
It is a long, winding road to reach the top of the CCL mountain. FC Dallas takes the first step in San Salvador, El Salvador on Thursday night. The two-leg CCL Preliminary Round series against Alianza FC provides a historic opportunity for the club as a whole, not to mention each individual player.
THURSDAY, 9 PM CT: JOIN THE LIVE CHAT FOR LEG ONE OF FCD'S SERIES WITH ALIANZA FC!
How would you want your story told?
If you had a chance to deepen your connection with “the game” – to write your own chapter in its proud history – wouldn’t you seize it? FC Dallas, players, staff and fans have the chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, and the journey begins on Thursday night.
FC Dallas opens Preliminary Round play in CONCACAF Champions League Thursday night at 9 p.m. vs. Alianza FC. The game will be broadcast live on FOX Soccer.