Aficionados of Rube Goldberg machines might have recognized the click-clack sound of falling dominoes around MLS on Friday. Well, at least in metaphorical terms.

The sudden news of Freddy Juarez’s departure from Real Salt Lake was a head-turner, even a head-scratcher to some since it’s not at all common for a head coach to leave a club sitting in a playoff spot to reportedly take up an assistant’s role at a Western Conference competitor in midseason.

Juarez’s move to the Seattle Sounders isn’t official yet, mind you. But we’ve got multiple trusted reporters confirming it, starting with alum Sam Stejskal over at The Athletic, and it’s central to understanding what’s happening here.

It’s the latest – though probably not the last! – domino in a sequence that also includes Seattle’s recent departures of not only Gonzalo Pineda to the Atlanta United head-coaching job, but also Djimi Traore to a not-yet-officially-named club in Europe. Those are two big cogs in a Sounders machine that has pretty clearly been the most effective in the league and isn’t usually inclined to operating shorthanded while chasing hardware on multiple fronts.

Which explains why the Rave Green, who have former RSLers Garth Lagerwey and Craig Waibel in key front-office roles, swiftly identified and secured a replacement in the form of Juarez. He’s a well-respected, blue-collar, bilingual coach with experience at nearly all levels of the North American game and a recent track record that, while not perfect, suggests overachievement considering RSL’s modest roster budget and ongoing uncertainty around the search for new ownership.

The hope is for Dell Loy Hansen’s successor to be settled by year’s end, and the prospect of new leadership at the top adds a wrinkle to any hopes Salt Lake may have had for convincing Juarez – who was reportedly in the last guaranteed year of his contract – to stay. Even if that process wasn’t a factor, the team’s inconsistency this year and last year's playoff miss makes it understandable that general manager Elliot Fall would want to wait until the season’s end to discuss Juarez’s status.

“We had an option in the contract and the ability to keep him moving forward, but we had all discussed that that was an end-of-season conversation,” said Fall in a Friday media conference. “Beyond that, there had been no conversation about his future with the club.”

So it’s also understandable if Juarez saw more security in what many would consider a sideways move. And RSL are fortunate to have brought on an assistant with MLS head coaching experience over the winter: Pablo Mastroeni, who’s now interim boss for an undefined period of time. At the time of his hiring, I wrote about the intriguing dimensions of him crossing the Rocky Mountain Cup divide after in-between time at Houston Dynamo FC, and that dynamic ratchets up even further now.

With their small-market status already central to their self-perception and an acquisitions budget currently constrained by the ownership transition, RSL have taken on something of an “Expendables” identity lately. Remember young goalkeeper David Ochoa’s controversial gamesmanship and assorted antics in Minnesota earlier this year?

Feeling unfancied and disrespected can provide powerful motivation, and with his passionate personality, Mastroeni is well-placed to stoke that fire. He took a comparable Colorado Rapids side – albeit one graced with the fleeting but potent presence of Jermaine Jones – within a hair’s breadth of the Supporters’ Shield in 2016.

MLS has evolved a lot since then. But with a manageable schedule ahead and midseason arrivals Bobby Wood, Jonathan Menendez and Toni Datkovic still settling in, Mastroeni and his players have ample reason to believe they can stay above the red line down the stretch, then wreak some havoc in the postseason.

“This is a group that has seen a lot of change and a lot of upheaval and some real adversity over the last several years,” said Fall of the locker-room mood. “And they responded as I would expect a group that is full of professionals and players who are committed to this club and committed to what this group is, can be and will be moving forward.”

But there’s one important caveat: Mastroeni’s Rapids sides were deeply defensive in nature, uninterested in possession, creativity or aesthetics in general. While tough to beat, many neutrals also found them tough on the eyes. That cuts against the history at RSL, where fans still relish the old “Team is the Star” days when Jason Kreis & Co. carved out a place among MLS' elite with fluid, dynamic pass-and-move soccer that was both effective and enjoyable.

Results are king, of course, and we’ll soon find out if Mastroeni has other tricks in his bag. But crafting the Claret & Cobalt into catenaccio purveyors would likely carry its own complications for both him and the club. Which is just another reason that the outsiders from Utah might make for must-see TV this fall.