Soccer: Timbers coach's downfall reminds Real Salt Lake that this is a tough business
Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman has spoken about learning from John Spencer about the details of being a professional when the two were Colorado Rapids teammates.
This week, Spencer offered one more lesson: Professional soccer is a tough racket.
Spencer was fired as head coach of the Portland Timbers after a season and a half on the job, a tenure that culminated with a 3-0 loss at RSL on Saturday.
"It's tough to see," said Beckerman, who will lead RSL into San Jose on Saturday. "I think it's quite early for him to be let go."
Spencer's dismissal amid a 5-8-4 season speaks to the extremes of a soccer season and the emotional roller coaster for fans, coaches and, clearly, executives.
Portland was winless on the road under Spencer, but tough to beat at home including a victory against Western Conference-leading San Jose a week ago.
Extremes are something with which Real Salt Lake is quite familiar. RSL, after all, just went four games without a victory. While there was an underlying sense of panic, no one suggested firing coach Jason Kreis.
"That's something we do really well here, is keep an even keel," Beckerman said. "We know what we're about. We have a foundation that's been built over the years now, that when things do go wrong we're OK with that because we know we're going to get out of it."
Kreis joined Beckerman in expressing surprise that Spencer was fired so shortly into the Timbers' history but cautioned he did not know the behind-the-scenes dynamic.
"It seems a little odd," he said. "But it's one of those things that you don't know."
But getting lost in the lows of defeat or highs of victory? That's something the famously intense Kreis knows plenty about.
"I think when you lose," he said, "you feel like the world is caving in on you. And when you win, sometimes you feel like nobody can touch you."
He added: "I don't think you can live a sane existence like that. If you have any doubts, just ask my wife."
While RSL gets back striker Fabian Espindola on Saturday from suspension for yellow card accumulation, the team will still not be at full strength.
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy, who exited Saturday's game against Portland in the 24th minute when he banged knees with the Timbers' Eric Alexander, will likely be unavailable against the Earthquakes.
Among the possibilities to replace Grabavoy are midfielders Luis Gil, Jonny Steele and Sebastian Velasquez.
While Kreis once again has the luxury of some depth, he said it creates challenges in training when the team is not at full strength.
"We really believe strongly in the philosophy of a deep team," he said, "and players have to compete every single day for their position. And only when you have everybody healthy can you do that."