Steady as he goes: Real Salt Lake "relieved" by new coach Jeff Cassar's focus on continuity

Jeff Cassar, RSL head coach

Photo Credit: 
USA TODAY Sports

SANDY, Utah — The Jeff Cassar era has begun for Real Salt Lake, and it's “not that different, to be honest with you,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers.

The bywords for the team that finished runners-up in both the US Open Cup and MLS Cup in 2013 are stability and continuity. And while Cassar, who has been the team's goalkeepers coach since 2007, is not a clone of his predecessor, Jason Kreis, he wasn't hired to shake things up.

“We tried to keep the team as stable as we could,” said general manager Garth Lagerwey. “It's been a really positive vibe around preseason.”

Borchers said the team felt a “sense of relief” when Cassar was given the job.

“He understands the system and what we're trying to do,” he said. “And we know him. He's a fantastic guy to play for. I think that that really took a lot of the worry and doubt out of things.”

Cassar himself said that, to date, the team's preseason workouts have been “fantastic.”

“It's been a great time to familiarize our players with my coaching style and also familiarize themselves with our new assistants,” he said. “We've been working hard. We've been smiling. And that's all I can ask for.”

And he isn't in any hurry to change things up. At least not significantly.

“I didn't want to introduce too many new things,” Cassar said. “I liked what we were doing before, so I didn't want to throw too many new things at them.”

Veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando said RSL fans and foes should expect more of the same in 2014.

“Same players on the field. Same mentality,” he said. “Our head coach has been around for a while. He knows the system. He knows what he expects from his players. I don't think we're going to miss a beat.”

“Jeff's going to instill the same things Jason did,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “We're going to have to work hard. We're going to train hard every day. The philosophy of how we're going to play is all going to be the same.”

Cassar does, however, admit that there's a learning curve that comes with promotion to the top job.

“It's just a lot of work,” he said. “As an assistant, you can kind of really concentrate on going out on the field and getting things done. And assisting.”

There are demands on the time of a head coach that an assistant didn't have to contend with. Like dealing with the meda. Like making public appearances.

“There's a lot to do on and off the field,” Cassar said. “I'm still getting used to it.”

But his team is already rallying around him.

“I've been really pleased with what I've seen with the training sessions,” Borchers said, “and the organization and just the way he has been trying to communicate his ideas.

“And I think that's just a testament to who he is. He actually has this really good ability to be laid back and then turn on the intensity when he needs to. And he's not trying to be Jason Kreis.”