RSL promotes assistant Cassar to head coach

Jeff Cassar

By DAN KARELL

Only eight days after the departure of Jason Kreis as head coach of Real Salt Lake, the club has already appointed his successor.

Deciding to promote from within, RSL announced today that long-time assistant coach Jeff Cassar will be the team’s third head coach in franchise history. The club will make a formal announcement on Thursday at 12 p.m. MT. The 39-year-old Cassar is a former Major League Soccer goalkeeper and first joined RSL in 2007 as an assistant coach.

“We’re very excited for Jeff to become the third head coach in Real Salt Lake history,” RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said in a statement. “Jeff’s been a crucial member of the RSL family since 2007. His terrific leadership abilities, strong character and understanding of our locker room, tactics and overarching club culture will allow us to continue to compete for trophies in 2014 and beyond.”

Cassar played 10 seasons in MLS split between the Dallas Burn (1996-1997), Miami Fusion (1998-2001), and back in Dallas again with FC Dallas (2003-2006). Following the 2006 season, Cassar retired and became the club’s goalkeeper coach before moving to Salt Lake a year later when Kreis was hired.

The decision to make Cassar head coach shows that Hansen and general manager Garth Lagarway are looking to continue the current culture at the club, despite the fact that Cassar has no prior head coaching experience. The move follows similar ones in MLS though, including the recent Vancouver Whitecaps hiring Carl Robinson, Toronto FC hiring Ryan Nelsen, and the New York Red Bulls picking Mike Petke.

Kreis himself was hired without any coaching experience, having just retired as a player in May 2007, so the move to promote Cassar certainly isn’t without precedent.

Cassar will have a difficult task next season to replicate RSL’s overall success from 2013. The new head coach will also have to overcome criticism of the club after RSL lost two heartbreaking finals this year, falling to D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup and then to Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final.

Just days after the defeat to Sporting KC, Kreis announced that he was leaving the club to take the head coaching job at New York City FC, which will join MLS as an expansion franchise in 2015.

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What do you think of this news? Agree with the hire? Think that RSL should have reached out to other candidates? Think they should have found someone with head coaching experience?

Share your thoughts below.

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20 Responses to RSL promotes assistant Cassar to head coach

  1. The Imperative Voice says:

    The GK coach? Seriously?

    • RSLfan says:

      He was also the lead assistant…

      • DCLee says:

        Seems like a transition period is beginning in Utah. Wishing RSL luck as I really respect their fans and think they are one of the top MLS clubs but it appears they might be headed for some tougher times. Hope their great fans stick by them.

    • Chris says:

      GK coach, primary defensive assistant, lead assistant, and served as “head coach” of the reserve side…maybe do some research before jumping to conclusions.

  2. Made in Texas says:

    Jason Batemen would make a great coach

  3. Kingsly Alexander says:

    Sh*t. I was promoting this hire for a while on Dallas boards. with his obvious ties to FCD and experience with RSL under Kreis, is looked like the perfect hire for us. Congrats to RSL though.

    Looks like Ferruzi is going to be Dallas’ nxt head coach, which I sincerely hope is a blessing in disguise.

  4. Ivan says:

    I’ll have to reserve judgement. I have concerns this is a Dell Loy “cheapest option available to me” decision. I trust Jeff has learned a lot with Kreis, but no first team coaching experience in this league worked when we were bottom dwellers. This is a different RSL now. Hansen may believe anyone can take the reins of this team and spin up another champion, but at the end of the day coaching always proves to be critical to a team’s success. I wish my team and Cassar all the best. #RSLTID

    • Muchumbo says:

      I read that Cassar presented a “plan” to the team that they took over the other options. I wouldn’t put it past Dell Loy to have just chosen the cheapest, though.

      • sony says:

        don’t full yourself my friend.he is cheap and under your nose you don’t have to do anything to get him.

        • sciroccer says:

          Agreed, no discredit to Jeff. I hope he’s very successful! But I think Mr. Hansen is going for least expensive option. I have a bad feeling Del Loy is going to be cheap enough and mismanage this team so badly RSL will sink to the bottom for a few years. He’s screwed up the team since day 2. Day 1 was the only smart thing, refinancing the team for a better loan rate. I’m bowing out of the STH game. I can’t support such a stupid owner!!!!! Worst RSL week ever!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thx Del!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • DCLee says:

            WOW! Jump ship much. The guy hasn’t even opened his first pre season camp and you are losing faith. Give them a chance plus a true fan supports the team through the good and bad times. RSL fans have had many years of success. It is impossible to maintain that so you would hope the fans support at least a couple of non playoff years before jumping ship. They just signed a new jersey sponsorship, play in a fantastic stadium with great fans and still have a lot of proven great players.

            Do you personally know Hansen? I’ve heard those same things about him but am willing to give him a few years of support before just jumping ship based on a few bits of speculation prior to Kreis successor even opening his first pre season camp.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      People forget — perhaps were spoiled by Kreis — but there once was a time when this franchise was coached by Ellinger, signed Freddy Adu, and was much more ordinary. I think there’s a risk a non-descript coaching choice takes you back there. Just like signing Carl Robinson.

      • OPMG says:

        I feel like quality coaching is really starting to emerge in the league and is still pretty new. A lot of the best coaches out there were, at one point, non-descript hires. This guy spent 7 years with Kreis, he knows a thing or two about the RSL philosophy and has the respect of the players. I expect there to be some bumps in the road, but with Lagerway there running the operations side the team will continue to bring in talent that fits the system. That to me, is the biggest plus moving forward, we’ve seen plenty of talented teams and coaches fail due to an incongruency between the types of players on the roster and the system the coach wants to play.

    • Chris says:

      I’m optimistic. Cassar has been with RSL since 2007, working closely with Kreis and Lagerway (both former teammates, as well as Rimando, Beckerman and Andy Williams). He’s been coaching RSL’s reserves with great success and has been the primary point of contact between the club and the Academy in Arizona. He knows RSL inside and out, he’s who the players wanted to lead them, and he affords the greatest continuity to continue to build on RSL’s specific style and approach to soccer.

      When Kreis announced he was officially leaving, my biggest worry was that Dell Loy Hansen would be as irresponsible in replacing Kreis as he was in choosing not to lock up Kreis’ contract at the beginning of the season. Instead, it appears to me that he (wisely) left this choice primarily in the hands of Manning and Lagerway. Fraser, while a good option, has been away from RSL for long enough that Cassar’s familiarity with the current group of players (especially the younger players who he has worked closely with in the reserves) outweighs Fraser’s prior experience as a first-team coach.

  5. From Day 1 says:

    I first want to say that Cassar has Every opportunity to be successful here at RSL. He has been the top assistant for several years, has seen what works and hasn’t worked with this team and can therefore make the necessary changes, still hopefully has the rest of the staff & Garth Lagerway and lastly he has been left a GREAT team to work with for next season. I hope he brings back Robin Fraser as our defense was never better than with him in charge of it.

    Last thing to say, I too am VERY concerned about Del Hansen as our owner. Too many “not for the better” changes from DAY 1. Not sure if I am renewing my season tickets either.

    • DCLee says:

      Give the guy a chance. It could be worse. You’ve still got a lot to work with and played in 2 finals this season!

  6. TomG says:

    Jeez, whose wife did Robin Fraser bang that he can’t get a head job in this league. He seemed like a perfect fit. He did an awesome job at RB and even his Chivas gig looks good in retrospect, now that we know just how ridiculous that organization actually is.