SANDY, Utah — Why did Real Salt Lakedismiss head coach Jeff Cassar on Monday after three full seasons and an 0-2-1 start to 2017?
It all boiled down to the club simply not seeing the kind of progress they wanted, dating back to before the '17 campaign began
“There is no smoking gun. There is no one instance,” RSL general manager Craig Waibel said in a conference call with reporters. “We've been evaluating for quite some time. The sense of urgency and sense of progress in our group is palpable and tangible and we felt [Monday] was the time to move forward.”
Despite RSL going on a seven-match winless streak to end 2016, Cassar got a one-year contract extension after the season— one that now won't be seen to fruition. Cassar — who replaced Jason Kreis before the 2014 season after seven years as an RSL assistant on Kreis' staff — finishes his first stint as an MLS head coach with a 38-37-30 record and appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, two trips to the MLS Cup Playoffs and one US Open Cup semifinal.
“There were considerable steps taken forward," Waibel said, "but we were a little behind where we wanted to be."
Salt Lake returned nine of its starters and added a Young Designated Player in Albert Rusnak to bolster a roster which continues to be fueled by players from the RSL academy and USL affiliate, Real Monarchs. Waibel said the evaluation has been ongoing since preseason began in January and that the first three games weren’t the sole factor in Cassar’s dismissal.
And the search for a new coach will take into account what Waibel has been trying to assemble in Salt Lake.
“We'll look for someone with shared values and shared vision with where we have aligned ourselves as an organization and with the roster,” the RSL GM said. “It will be someone that aligns very quickly with our vision and identifies with our fan base.”
By August, RSL will have its academy, reserve team and first team under one roof. And with the organization taking those kind of steps forward, the need for success in MLS goes along with it.
In setting priorities for how Salt Lake will be run, finding the right head coach could be the final piece that the team is missing.
“A new voice would bring inevitable change,” Waibel said. “The properties, the values of our club are very, very close to where we want to be and a change in the voice and leadership can get us where we want to be.”
With such a quick move this early in the season, RSL won’t be waiting much longer than they have to in order to find its next head coach. Waibel said that the club would narrow down it list over the next 24 hours and then start contacting coaches from multiple countries and backgrounds to find the right fit.
“The sense of urgency to move forward is something we're taking into consideration,” he said. “We have no intention of dragging this out.”