Freddy Juarez - Real Salt Lake - gesturing
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake's "quiet guy" Juarez vows collective approach in stretch run

SANDY, Utah – Technically, the Freddy Juarez era begins for Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night against the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET | TV and streaming info).

Never mind that Juarez has filled in for Mike Petke numerous times over the last month and the previous two seasons, or that Juarez is the interim head coach. He’s poised to grab the opportunity in front of him.

Juarez has coached at every level of the RSL pyramid, from the academy to the Real Monarchs USL side to assistant with the first team. Perhaps the only promotion left to attain would involve removing his current interim tag.

He’s not looking at it that way, though. This team isn’t any more his than it was last week or a month ago.

“I’m not inheriting a team,” Juarez said. “I’ve been part of a team that’s been on a climb. All I’m doing is being the last word for the team before they leave the locker room.”

Juarez isn’t making many changes – he moved Ted Eck back into an assistant’s spot from his video analysis position – but otherwise the workload of running the team will look very similar, as will the desired product on the field.

“The message to the guys is, I’m going to continue to be me,” Juarez said. “They know who I am. We have a style of play we want to continue to grow in. We haven’t mastered it by any means.”

Juarez credited Petke for getting him to build relationships with the players and create a culture of communication. Now he’s going to use those locker-room relationships to make it through the tumult of a midseason coaching change for a team in the midst of the playoff hunt.

“It’s a very good group. Kyle [Beckerman] is a great captain. Nick [Rimando] and all those guys know how to help lead and the younger guys, I’ve known for a long period of time,” Juarez said. “It’s a good group that I know very well as far as character and they know me. I’m more of a quiet guy, but if we continue to work and continue to go, that will hopefully get us far.”

The other piece that may not be as apparent is what Juarez can offer that outsiders haven’t seen, but his players have.

“Freddy’s the guy who every player he’s worked with has taken their game to the next level,” RSL fullback Aaron Herrera said. “I always tell him he’s the Pep Guardiola of MLS because he knows so much it blows you away. Freddy was the whole reason I got to the academy and since then I’ve made my way up to here, so I guess it’s all credit to him.”

Even the manner in which he’s taken over for Petke has affirmed the squad’s regard for Juarez.

“Freddy’s a super-loyal guy, even with this you didn’t see him going out auditioning for it,” Beckerman, RSL's captain, said. “We all respect him. We all have confidence in him.”

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