When Clint Dempsey put the U.S. Men’s National Team up 29 seconds into Monday’s World Cup opener against Ghana, Jeff Cassar was among millions of Americans who jumped to his feet and cheered.
Real Salt Lake’s head coach is a soccer fan. And he’s a fan of watching soccer on television.
"I love it," Cassar said. "And I really enjoy watching people I know."
Including RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, who not only started for the USMNT on Monday but played all 90-plus minutes. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando didn’t get on the field, but he did get some high-profile face time on ESPN. The cameras captured Rimando and USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann hugging — looks of joy on their faces — as time expired on their 2-1 win.
"I mean, Nick never hurts for face time," Cassar said with a smile.
And the coach admits he’s among those of us who find ourselves yelling at the TV when we’re watching soccer.
"If it’s a Western Conference opponent, I do," Cassar said. "Because I’m always cheering for a tie or a loss."
So … maybe less yelling at the TV during the World Cup. And no doubt he saw less of the first few days of the tournament than a lot of devoted fans, what with Real Salt Lake’s travel, training and game schedule.
"But I’m watching as much as I possibly can," he said. "This is such a great showcase for soccer. How can you not watch?"
Cassar doesn’t watch soccer on TV exactly the way most fans do. We root for our favorite teams and our favorite players; he roots for his friends.
"I get involved," he said. "I love watching MLS because, obviously, the connection with my job. But then I have a connection with a lot of players on the field, whether I played with them or maybe the coaches that I played with and I have a relationship with them."
But he does watch other leagues when he gets the chance. The English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga "are the two that I watch the most. It’s great soccer. Fun to watch."
Like the rest of us, Cassar admits that he does sit at home and, on occasion, point out that the sportscasters working a game have said something really stupid.
"Just as I’m sure they say, ‘That was a stupid, stupid substitution,’" he said with a laugh. "We always critique others. And, being a head coach, I’m getting critiqued all the time.
"But, yeah, of course. I say that all the time."
He’s hesitant to name his favorite announcers, "because I’m good friends with a lot of them." But he did single out Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas and Brian Dunseth. And he believes that, overall, the quality of soccer announcing in this country is on the rise.
I think, honestly, it’s getting better and better each year," Cassar said. "That’s another area in which MLS is definitely improving, and that’s announcing."
And he’s also a fan of ESPN’s lead announcer for the World Cup, Ian Darke.
"Ian’s fantastic and very knowledgeable," Cassar said.
But regardless of who’s behind the microphone, the RSL coach is still watching as much of the World Cup as he can.
"It’s great," he said. "I just wish I had more time to sit down and watch some of these games."
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