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Real Salt Lake: Real begins prep for 2014 opener in Cassar Era

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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake assistant coach Jeff Cassar was named RSLís third head coach in the franchiseís 10-year history, Thursday, December 19, 2013. Cassar becomes emotional, thanking former coach Jason Kreis for his mentoring for the past 7 years. The hiring comes less than two weeks after Kreis, Cassarís close friend and confidant, left RSL to accept the coaching position at MLS expansion club New York City FC.

By Christopher Kamrani

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 02 2014 07:15PM
Updated Mar 2, 2014 10:08PM

Things will be different in 2014. That much is certain about Real Salt Lake.

But after five weeks of training camp under new coach Jeff Cassar, the season-opening game against the L.A. Galaxy in Carson, Calif., on Saturday has an air of inevitability about it. For starters, it’s Cassar’s first league match as coach of RSL and it’s a glance at the future, both regarding this championship-caliber squad and how the team functions under the new regime.

Will it be similar to the Jason Kreis era or drastically different?

"We know what Jeff’s all about and things are going to change a little bit, but not too drastically," said defender Chris Wingert. "It should be an easy transition for us as players to better accomplish what the coaches are looking for. With that being said, I think we’re excited about the chance with Jeff and the opportunity and the rest of the staff as well."

Javier Morales has known Cassar since 2007, but only as an assistant coach. That is, until training camp started the last week in January.

"Everyone knows Jeff and everyone wants the best for him in the new role," Morales said. "It’s going to be different, but not a big difference between Jeff and Jason [Kreis]."

As reiterated throughout since his hiring and introduction as RSL’s third head coach through the MLS SuperDraft process and now with more than a month of preseason in the books, there shouldn’t be many drastic changes.

Subtlety is more the tune expected as the short MLS offseason is now a distant memory and the 2014 season is officially underway in six days.

"I’m really happy about how the staff got to create their own relationships with players," Cassar said. "I also kind of learned a little bit about what makes [the players] tick, what they get excited about and what they kind of maybe aren’t so into.

"This week, we’re going to build up some things making sure we have everything going."

Cassar mentioned RSL scoring four goals in its last two preseason matches as a big positive, with forward Alvaro Saborio tallying three goals in the final two games of training camp in Tucson, Ariz. He added that health throughout the team is improving and that the staff was able to provide minutes for players that needed to see time.

But now comes the heavy lifting as RSL faces its Western Conference nemesis in Southern California as the first test.

"It’ll be good for the staff to get together and have that first dry run in preparing for an MLS opponent," Cassar said.

A 90-minute outing that could showcase the new and also the old.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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