Real Salt Lake has its coach.
The club on Monday morning officially named Pablo Mastroeni as the team’s permanent head coach.
“I’m humbled and grateful to be given his opportunity by the club to lead this group forward and to continue building,” Mastroeni said.
RSL is still without an owner, yet Mastroeni agreed to take the job despite that uncertainty. His thinking on that front was that he was not going to stress about what he can’t control.
“That, to be honest, wasn’t a concern at all,” Mastroeni said in regards to the club’s ownership situation. “I think the most important thing for me is what’s in front of me and the people that I work with at the club on the day-to-day. The upper management that I work with on the day-to-day. The fans. The facilities. And most importantly, the staff and the players in the locker room.”
Now that Mastroeni has the permanent gig, there’s plenty that needs to get ironed out. Albert Rusnák, Justin Meram and Everton Luiz are all of out contract — three players who have been integral to RSL’s success. Mastroeni indicated that he will be proactive in conversations regarding roster decisions.
“I think we have three players that we need to make decisions on and find a way to fix that part,” Mastroeni said. “I think the important thing at this moment is to secure the roster that we have and bring players who can help us.”
When it comes to his staff, Mastroeni hinted that there may be some changes coming to the contingent of assistants currently employed at RSL. He said he wants to make sure that he secures “one, two, maybe even three members of the staff” in the next week to 10 days.
And a face familiar to RSL fans might get some courting. Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman are close friends, and the newly minted coach said the two have dinner plans soon.
“It’s been a while since we actually got together and had some dinner,” Mastroeni said. “So I think we’ll do that and see where the conversation goes.”
Mastroeni led RSL to an appearance in the Western Conference finals despite many believing at the beginning of the season that the club would struggle and not make the playoffs. It was the furthest Salt Lake had advanced in several years.
Mastroeni beat out several candidates, including the likes of Pat Noonan, Jason Kreis, Dominic Kinnear and Luchi Gonzalez.
RSL General Manager Elliot Fall has said on several occasions that he wanted a leader as the team’s next coach. Mastroeni, as Fall and several players have said throughout the season, certainly fits that description.
“He does do an incredible job of motivating and even just giving confidence to his players,” defender Justen Glad said during an end-of-season media session. “I felt that, from the minute he came in, even as assistant coach, there was a belief in the team and myself personally. When you have that confidence behind and you know the coach has faith with you, it makes it easier to play well.”
RSL will be Mastroeni’s second head coaching job. He coached the Colorado Rapids from 2014-2017, his best season being in 2016 when he finished second in Coach of the Year voting.