Juarez, after all, had been leading an RSL side that was arguably exceeding expectations in Western Conference playoff positioning two-thirds of the way through their 2021 campaign. Why would he leave the club amid a potential run at the postseason?
Not long after the news broke, an additional report from The Athletic surfaced, revealing that Juarez was departing to become a Seattle Sounders assistant under head coach Brian Schmetzer – a move the club made official on Wednesday. Seattle had been in the market to add to their coaching staff following the departure of two of their well-regarded assistants: Gonzalo Pineda, who took the vacant position at Atlanta United, and Djimi Traore, who accepted an opportunity in Europe.
Real Salt Lake insider Brian Dunseth, who also used to play for the club, joined the latest episode of The Call Up, discussing the situation with co-hosts Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits. Dunseth said that his reaction was very much one of surprise as Juarez officially joins Seattle to work alongside Schmetzer.
"To be clear, this is Freddy. This was not the club," Dunseth said. "The club was backing Freddy in results over the course of the year where they could have made decisions. But to be clear, when I was in Southern California, I got off the plane, I got the first heads up that Seattle had asked for permission to speak with Freddy Juarez, to fill the spot that Gonzalo Pineda had left when he took the Atlanta United job. And I've got to be honest, it didn't come from Real Salt Lake and it didn't come from Seattle. And I could not believe what I was hearing."
As Dunseth explained, Juarez's contract situation likely played a role in the move's unorthodox timing. The 43-year-old's deal was up at the end of the season, meaning his return for 2022 wasn't guaranteed. Still, Dunseth said the idea of leaving a head coaching role for an assistant job midseason remains an eyebrow-raiser, at least from a purely sporting perspective.
"For Freddy, I get it. As a husband and as a father, you want financial security – not many of us do [get that] in the world of soccer, so if you're given a multi-year deal and that's placed in front of you, you've got to think about it," Dunseth said. "But my problem from a sporting perspective – this is nothing personal, I can't wrap my head around it. I can't wrap my head around being at the top of the echelon in your profession to all of the sudden take a step back."
RSL are currently being led on an interim basis by Pablo Mastroeni, who Dunseth said will interview with the club for a full-time role. It's an option that would give RSL someone with MLS experience, as Mastroeni was previously in charge of the Colorado Rapids, steering them to the Western Conference Final in 2016. RSL will also interview candidates from outside the organization, Dunseth said.
"There has been significant interest in Real Salt Lake head coaching position," he said. "Right now Pablo Mastroeni is the interim head coach, he came over in the offseason. He's going to interview for the job. And starting this week Real Salt Lake is going to start in-person interviews for their shortlist for who they want to hire as their next head coach."
For the full interview with Dunseth, check out the full episode of The Call Up here.