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Real Salt Lake: Jeff Cassar named RSL's new coach

Published December 19, 2013 12:52 pm

Major League Soccer • Club hopes to maintain continuity by hiring Kreis' top assistant.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While interviewing for the position held previously by one of the more successful coaches in Major League Soccer, Jeff Cassar posed a question. Suddenly, Real Salt Lake president Bill Manning, general manager Garth Lagerwey and others were left searching for an answer.

Why go outside the organization to replace Jason Kreis?

"It was an interesting question back to us because we have had a lot of success in the last few years," Manning said.

On Wednesday, RSL answered Cassar's query — and then some.

The 39-year-old Cassar was named RSL's third head coach in the franchise's 10-year history. The hiring comes less than two weeks after Kreis, Cassar's close friend and confidant, left RSL to accept the coaching position at MLS expansion club New York City FC.

Terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed. As a first assistant under Kreis for the last three seasons and an RSL assistant coach since May 2007, Cassar, a former MLS goalkeeper, has his first head coaching job with the club he has helped shape into a perennial contender.

"We believe stability breeds success," Lagerwey said. "If you do well for our organization on the field and off the field, we're going to reward that success."

Cassar has been rewarded, inheriting a side that made two cup finals in 2013 (U.S. Open and MLS). He is expected to sustain the foundation and flow that the club has assembled in its last six seasons, qualifying for the MLS Cup playoffs each year since 2008.

"Jeff's got a great relationship with our current team and current players," Lagerwey said. "We wanted as little shakeup as possible. We wanted stability and continuity, and Jeff takes a check to all of those boxes."

The move to keep the next head coach of the club in house came Monday after Manning, Lagerwey and owner Dell Loy Hansen took the weekend to further ponder upon their narrowed-down list of Cassar and former RSL assistant Robin Fraser. Within four days of RSL's loss to Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final, Lagerwey said he had interviewed both Cassar and Fraser.

The club's clear-cut choice came Monday when RSL offered Cassar the job. The deal became official Tuesday.

"We believe the talent on this team is still very, very good," Manning said. "We did not want to upset the apple cart too much."

Cassar will be introduced as RSL's new coach with a news conference at noon Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Cassar presented a plan to the RSL management team during the interview process, one that Manning said detailed how to keep the franchise operating efficiently, as well as competing at a championship level.

"Jeff's been a crucial member of the RSL family since 2007," Hansen said in a statement. "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."  

During Cassar's seven seasons on the bench at RSL, the club has reached four cup finals: CONCACAF Champions League final in April 2011, the MLS Cup final twice and the U.S. Open Cup final in Oct. 2013. Part of MLS since its inception in 1996, Cassar spent 11 seasons as a goalkeeper from 1996-2006, playing for Dallas (1996-97, 2003-2006), Miami Fusion (1998-2001) and the former New York MetroStars (2002). Cassar appeared in five MLS Cup playoff matches, reaching the U.S. Open Cup final twice. Cassar also spent time with Bolton Wanderers of the Premier League in 2002.

"He wanted to prove he's paid his dues and he wants to prove he can take this team and continue the success with some of the successes Jason had," Manning said. "I think Jeff really, really wanted it. That certainly came through in his interviews with us."

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Jeff Cassar file

Age » 39

Playing position • Goalkeeper

Playing career • MLS, 1996-2006, EPL, 2002 (Bolton Wanderers)

Coaching career • Real Salt Lake, assistant (2007-current) —

Reaction on Twitter

What the players are saying on Twitter:

• RSL defender Chris Wingert (@wingert17): "Congrats to our new head coach @jeffcassar! Looking forward to another great year at #RSL"

• RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (@Tian_Futbol): "Congratulations To Our New Coach Jeff Casar! Great Person With a Passionate Heart For Futbol! Great Things R To Come! #RSL #Believe"

• RSL forward Robbie Findley (@RobbieFindley): "Congrats to @jeffcassar on being selected the new head coach for RSL! #Believe"

• RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe (@Kwamekazi): "Congrats to @jeffcassar!!!!"