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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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ESPN’s Alexi Lalas on RSL, USMNT and World Cup

I texted Real Salt Lake’s Trey Fitz-Gerald this morning around 9 a.m. In working on a series of features during RSL’s preseason — we’re now 23 days from the 2014 opener in L.A. — I wanted to find a national voice to provide perspective outside the organization.

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I asked Fitz-Gerald, RSL’s Vice President of Media & Communications, if Alexi Lalas would be up for the job. Within five minutes, Lalas was providing insight on several different topics we discussed. The former U.S. men’s international, general manger of the L.A. Galaxy and now voice of ESPN’s soccer coverage spoke about the upcoming season under new head coach Jeff Cassar.

And like Cassar and most others, Lalas said he doesn’t expect any wholesale changes in Year 1.

"I’m just interested to see what his philosophy is, what his imprint is on this team and how he goes about facing this challenge of taking over a finely-tuned machine that has obviously had tremendous success," Lalas said, "but also having the benefit of being behind the scenes … that maybe allows him to be see things that he might have done different and now he has the opportunity to do them."

Lalas said having the veteran spine of Rimando-Borchers-Beckerman-Morales-Saborio is a plus for a first-year head coach, but added, "You certainly can’t sit on your laurels and Jeff must be making sure if he leads and manages his way, to ensure that it at least gives [RSL] the best chance of continuing their success."

He didn’t compare the two situations, but Lalas pointed at what David Moyes is facing in his first year leading Manchester United in the English Premier League following in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson, after the coaching legend retired after 26 years with the club and on the heels of a EPL title.

Now Jason Kreis isn’t Sir Alex, but as Lalas said, following someone of notable stature is difficult.

"It’s a challenge coming in and taking over from a high-profile, well-respected and successful coach," Lalas said.

Shifting toward this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Lalas said Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are locks to be on the roster, adding "I think they both should go. I think they’re both incredibly valuable to Jurgen [Klinsmann]."

Lalas on Beckerman: "It’s Michael [Bradley] and Jermaine [Jones], but you know? Stuff happens, cards happen and to have a guy like Kyle there to come in and step in and you know exactly what he’s going to give. That’s important."

Lalas on Rimando: "If God-forbid, both Tim [Howard] and Brad [Guzan] went down, I would have absolutely no problem having Nick Rimando in goal in Brazil."

When the topic of 20-year-old Luis Gil came up, Lalas said he sees a young player who understands how soccer is played with "that rhythm and mathematics involved in soccer, which is wonderful to see."

"The next question is: Is [Gil] able to progress? That’s what Jurgen Klinsmann is asking himself. I don’t see him being involved this summer. I think he has to have a good MLS season and not just be a good, young kid … he needs to take authority and as Jurgen says, be more proactive of the way he goes about things."

As for the Gil’s future?

"When you watch a game, he should be dictating what is happening because of his ability, that is the transition the young players have to make," Lalas said. "I hope that he hasn’t peaked and I hope he gets better. If this is just the tip of the iceberg, we’re in for a good show."

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani



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