Three matches into this season, they're headed the other way, and on Monday Cassar found himself out of a job. The team has garnered just one point from a draw, and now sit next to last in the Western Conference, and only because of Minnesota United's awful goal differential.
“Three games in, one point," midfielder Luke Mulholland said. "It’s not great,”
It gets worse, and not just because of Monday's announcement.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Albert Rusnak will both be gone on international duty for this weekend's match at the New York Red Bulls, and the club is still dealing with injuries to key players. On top of that, veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman is suspended for the New York match after seeing two yellow cards in Saturday's 2-1 home loss to the LA Galaxy.
"I wish I could get my regular rotation down, and then be moving pieces to make an impact in the game, rather than piecing together a group. But they are playing solid," Cassar said after the game. "We have not even come close to the normal starting lineup that was projected at the start of the year.”
The frustration of that 0-2-1 start is compunded by the way Saturday's match got away from RSL in the second half after Yura Movsisyan's 18th-minute far- post header gave them a 1-0 lead at the break.
“We did everything we wanted to in the first half," Cassar said. "We were the aggressors. We had them on the ropes.”
Beckerman's sending-off in the 44th minute, though, took away the momentum from Real's first goal of the season and energetic play from young wingers Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo. The latter teamed up to create a number of chances in the first half.
“Their work rate, their ability, their passion – it also made Yura’s life easier when they [opposing defenders] are having to worry about two players going at them every time,” Cassar said. “They put an effort forth that was fantastic.”
All that changed after the break, with RSL forced to keep numbers back except on the counterattack -- and saw that defensive game plan undone by lapses in focus and execution.
“The red card just really killed us,” Mulholland said. “Going out in the second half we gave it all we could. You’re just inviting them to come out and eventually get the equalizer.”
Missed marking led to David Romney's match-tying, set-piece volley in the 69th minute. Five minutes after that, after multiple players had chances to clear the ball but failed to do so, Emmanuel Boateng put in the winner for the Galaxy.
“It was really awkward, We had four players that could have taken care of it,” Cassar said. “Sometimes when you have so many people around the ball you think someone else is going to take care of it.”
RSL can't afford to dwell on the early struggles, Mulholland said.
"It's definitely some bad luck and bad times right now," he said. "But there are positives still to take up. I personally don’t care how we finished last season. This year, there’s different players, different personnel. So we have to start with a different mindset.”