Right move, wrong time

So today Real Salt Lake let their head coach Jeff Cassar go after just 3 matches of the 2017 MLS season. I counted myself a silent person among the fan based who questioned bringing him back this year at all, but I wanted to be supportive of one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Jeff never had a bad word to say about anyone that I can remember, and I will miss him.  He loved this team, the fans and the city and in the age of modern sports he was a rarity, a genuine nice guy.

Now what confuses me is the timing, yes RSL hasn’t won a match yet, yes RSL had only scored one goal in their first 3 matches but if the leash was this short and confidence this low, why in the world did they keep him and not let a new coach come in and make critical choices and have a preseason to build his staff and work on his tactics and roster requests?  Now you are 3 matches in, your roster is pretty much locked up and you now need to find a coach who will likely want to change some if not all of his staff.  This mid contract, mid season type of change is something we rarely see in MLS and with good reason.

I want you to read this statement from RSL’s GM, closely:

“At the conclusion of last season, we felt that while we were disappointed in the end result, Jeff had done enough to earn another shot to lead the team in the 2017 campaign. We have a high sense of urgency for progress this season, and have made many off-season changes towards that endeavor. So, while these decisions are always difficult, we, as an organization, felt that it was necessary to make the change in our head coaching position now,” Waibel said. “The process for a hiring new head coach to lead the club has already begun. We will work quickly and diligently to ensure that we find the right leader that shares our values, passion, commitment and vision.”

we had enough confidence to resign him, but that only lasted 3 matches?  I am sorry this sounds like someone panicked, an owner who has blown the negotiations with Jason and Garth, and now overreacted after ignoring the glaring issues at the end of last season.  I don’t get it.

I am not a big fan of DLH, it has always seemed this was just an investment, a plaything for him vs an owner who was passionate about the team.  He is a proven successful businessman and I can’t argue that, but from day one I have heard person after person on the RSL staff (both past and present) say that he was a very controlling person and very distrustful.  I believe this is what caused him to lowball Jason and eventually chase him away, as well as cost us both Garth and Bill whom have moved on to bigger and probably better things for themselves.  In the time he has taken over has RSL become a better club on the pitch?  Nope, has it become a better club for sponsors and businessmen/women? For sure.  While I respect greatly the money he is putting into the new academy facility, I also understand it is a real estate development project for him.  Which is OK, it is his money, it is his team and rarely do fans and owners get along.

So now the meat of the situation, who is next?  I thought it was pretty obvious when Mike Petke was brought into the Monarchs that Jeff was probably on a shorter leash than most would have thought, it seems like the logical move. Still there are others out there, former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, former RSL asst Robin Fraser, and I love that Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal ) mentions a couple of other names like Wade Barrett who did well with Houston late last year or former USMNT coach Bob Bradley (please let it be Bob, please let it be Bob).  The job will be filled short term by Daryl Shore (who was our keeper coach), and I have to think when you look at our current roster that someone has to be thinking Freddy Juarez who played a huge role in RSL’s academy and many of these players becoming who they are today.

For me the needs are simple, we need a coach who gets along with his players but isn’t someone they would consider a friend, I always thought that put undue pressure on Jeff. When Jason left playing it was a clean cut and early on you could tell that he didn’t play favorites with guys that he played with.  We need to get back to some of what made RSL a top team, incredible fitness – we play over half our matches at elevation and we used to count on running our opponents to death at Rio Tinto, but the fortress has taken a bit of a beating as our guys look as tired as their opponents as the match gets to the later minutes. We need to get our discipline back, passion is incredible to have from players but they must be smart, make smart decisions on and off the pitch.  We need an identity, as corny as it sounds I believed it when Jason would tell us “The Team is the Star” or “Fortune Favors the Bold”, and while those are just words, they often translated into actions when things got tough on the pitch during the long MLS season.

I am not sure who the next coach will be, will it be a visionary leader who will damn the torpedoes and lead us back to glory? Or a choice that is easy for our owner to make and remain budget and control friendly?

That’s How I See It

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