[MLS]Real Salt Lake attained so much in 2008 - opening a new stadium, reaching the playoffs for the first time, reaching the Western Conference final - that the offseason should have been the time to savor those accomplishments and look forward to an even better 2009. Instead, the team and community rallied around Marcia Williams, wife of RSL attacker Andy Williams, in her fight against leukemia. She was diagnosed with the disease last May and this month will undergo aggressive chemotherapy, at the end of which she will need a bone-marrow transplant to have her best chance of survival. The search for a suitable match continues.
Bone-marrow drives are being staged in many cities around the country, MLS jerseys will be auctioned off to raise funds for mounting hospital bills, and Grammy-winning musician Shaggyincluded Marcia Williams among those needing a transplant in a video that urges donors to come forward.
"The bone marrow transplant is still the best option," Andy Williams said. "But because of her situation being so rare -- with her blood tissue being so rare -- we haven't found a bone marrow match yet."
Yet Williams and his teammates and their coaches must tend to business, and with February comes the start of preseason. RSL has set up shop in Southern California, where it will train and play three scrimmages, starting Sunday against the Ventura County Fusion, the former PDL team of RSL's first pick in last month's SuperDraft, forward Jean Alexandre (No. 12 overall). Next week it plays Chinese team Shandong Luneng Taishan, which will be in Southern California for the Pan-Pacific Championship.
RSL's California trip concludes on Valentine's Day with a morning game against a local college team, either UC Santa Barbara or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. That same day will begin daily auctions of 25 player-worn MLS jerseys in conjunction with Soccer Unites Utah , a grassroots charitable group, and the club's official blog site, Behind the Shield.
Two jerseys will go up for bid each day, and the jerseys will be listed on e-Bay for seven days.
Deb Harper, founder of Soccer Unites Utah, says, "While this auction is taking place, Marcia will be undergoing aggressive chemotherapy, and the funds raised through this jersey auction will become available just in time for her to start the next step, the marrow transplant.
"The costs for the transplant procedure will be very costly, and we are just hoping that everyone can find it in their hearts to bid on these one of kind jerseys to help contribute to this life-saving procedure."
Prospective donors can check for bone-marrow drives in their local areas at Web sites www.marrow.org or DKMSamericas.org, or on social sites such as Facebook. Suitable donors are placed into a national database registry needed for most cases, since only three of 10 patients find a suitable match among family and relatives. The Galaxy held a bone-marrow drive Tuesday.
As the struggle continues and time shortens, Williams and his teammates and the RSL organization must press on as best they can.
"She's as serious about my job as I am," Williams said. "It's going be tough and I'm sure my teammates and the coaching staff will help me through it."