When Real Salt Lake terminated the contract of head coach Mike Petke Sunday night, the club announced that Freddy Juarez would be the interim coach for the remainder of the season. So who is the man now leading RSL?
Juarez, 41, is a longtime member of the organization who coached in, then oversaw RSL’s original academy system in Casa Grande, Arizona before it relocated north to Herriman, Utah. Playing a key role in identifying and nurturing young talent like Justen Glad, Bofo Saucedo and Brooks Lennon, he was a natural fit to move up to the head coaching post of Real Monarchs SLC, RSL’s USL Championship side, when it debuted in 2015.
Juarez led Monarchs for their first two seasons of existence, compiling a record of 18-28-14, before being promoted to an assistant’s role with RSL’s first team under Jeff Cassar ahead of the 2017 MLS campaign. Mike Petke had arrived to fill Juarez’s post with Real Monarchs but when Cassar was dismissed amid poor results a few weeks into the season, Petke was elevated to Cassar’s replacement and Juarez remained the first assistant.
A native of New Mexico, Juarez was a defender in his own playing days and competed professionally in the North American lower divisions with the El Paso Patriots and Minnesota Thunder from 1998 to 2007. He also coached youth soccer in his spare time, and played a role in the development of former US men’s national teamer and current New England Revolution fullback Edgar Castillo.
He’s yet to lose an MLS match in several games in which he’s led RSL during Petke’s disciplinary suspensions over the past two years, and this week was the subject of praise from club owner Dell Loy Hansen, who cited his levelheaded disposition as an important element in keeping the club’s season on course.
Calling Juarez a “very soft-spoken, deliberate and strategic coach” and a “known commodity,” Hansen told the Salt Lake Tribune that “he’s the right man at the right time” for RSL.