ABC 4 kicks off this season's Crossbar Challenge series with Dunny taking on newly appointed RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar. Cassar opens up about his early playing days in MLS, helping build the RSL ethos and what it's like taking the top job.
Real Salt Lake will play its first-ever regular season game under Cassar tomorrow, taking on the LA Galaxy at 8:30 p.m. MT at StubHub Center. The match will be broadcast live on ABC 4, which will begin its coverage with a 30-minute pregame show at 8:00 p.m. MT.
Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Wednesday morning, answering a wide-range of questions from fans around the league ahead of Saturday’s season opener at LA Galaxy.
Below are a few highlights from Lagerwey’s AMA, which you can find in its entirety here.
Reddit user whitecapsfan2010: What's the RSL secret in bringing success in a salary capped league?
Lagerwey: Consistency and humility. You have to set aside your ego to constantly pick up other teams scraps and rehabilitate them, but it works. And there is a lot of hard work scouting. You must be efficient and you can’t afford mistakes because one bad contract can hurt the group. As a GM never think you have all the answers, always have multiple solutions to every possible problem. Players are human and humans are inherently unpredictable so you need options.
Reddit user rmczerz: How do you react when you hear about teams like Toronto going crazy and getting multiple household name players? Do you think it improves the league as a whole, regardless of whether these types of players only go to a few teams? Along the same lines, what kind of mix between experienced vets who have competed at higher levels and young MLS kids do you think is best for a team and the game?
Lagerwey: Big signings raise the quality and profile of the league. MLS is better than most people give it credit for. If we need to sign stars for people to notice, so be it.
You always need a balance of vets and young talent. Vets are the guys who win you games and you have to win games to keep your job. For smaller clubs like ours, developing young players is critical and our Academy is one of the best in the country. The beauty of Academies is that when we sign kids they have already played in our system and it’s easier to transition them to the first team.
Reddit user wackyguy15: I've always wondered, how do you (and other GMs) keep track of players from all over the world for possible transfers? Do you have a centralized database of info, stats and video? Do you use a network of scouts? Is there a specific area of focus in the world you guys look for folks? Thanks for the AMA!
Lagerwey: We have a network of people we use that are on the ground all over the place. We use Wyscout and Prozone to evaluate various aspects of players through video and data. We tend to look in economically depressed areas or for struggling leagues as you can obtain players below market value, which is our mantra for player acquisition.
Reddit user keepa1: What is one thing that makes Real Salt Lake unique from all other MLS clubs from the view of a player looking to come into the league from overseas? What would entice someone to come to your 'small market' club?
Lagerwey: Culture - the team is the star. Our locker room is very important to us and since we are all former players on both the staff and front office we value the input of our players. We go to great lengths to treat everyone with respect on a daily basis
Reddit user yahakum: I like your mantra (and honesty) - "We tend to look in economically depressed areas or for struggling leagues as you can obtain players below market value, which is our mantra for player acquisition."
I've always thought a fair way to rank leagues worldwide would be on average salary, but now I'm not so sure. How do you think MLS ranks?
Lagerwey: Soccernomics, among other sources found a strong correlation between player salaries and wins. As a former player I always felt MLS didn’t get the respect it deserved. The way to change that is to win Champions League and have the national team do well in this world cup while three of the best players on that team ply their trade in MLS (Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley), as well as a number of other players. In order for MLS to be an elite league we at some point need the best American players to play here. MLS's salary cap is 50 times less than the big 5 leagues, so I don’t think that is a reasonable comparison. However, I do think that MLS can compete with mid-tier teams in almost every other country. If I had to give a rank I'd say much like my law school Georgetown, we are pushing to get into the top 10.
Reddit user GalaxySC: What a normal day like for the RSL General Manager?
Lagerwey: Every day is different which is great. We are managing 30 players and 12 staff on the team side so all kinds of issues pop up, whether they surround media/broadcast interactions, community relations, facilities, travel or simply soccer. GM stands astride the business and soccer aspects of the club so having a clear philosophy linking them is critical to success. For RSL that has been the "Team is the Star" and we apply that across the salary cap as well as our business and fan platforms.
Reddit user Misplays4days: Mulholland has looked really impressive this offseason. How much do you think he'll see the field this year? Also with Alvarez going to Orlando, who is our backup D-mid? Seems like we have quite a few options. Thanks!!
Lagerwey: Mulholland is off to a great start and he and Jordan Allen are both in competition for the 18 right now in the first week of the season which is a really good sign. We have a number of options at d-mid behind Kyle. Cole Grossman dressed in front of Yordany for the last two months of last season. Stertzer may be able to play there as could Joey Dillon. I’d also remind folks that Ned Grabavoy started there in the Champions League final against Monterrey and acquitted himself quite well.
Reddit user antoine474: Following last year’s successes and the departure of Jason Kreis, are you predicting more of the same as last year or decline?
Lagerwey: On paper, from a talent perspective we should be as good or better. We added two players to our top 18 in Allen and Mulholland, the half dozen kids under 23 who played for us regularly last year now have a year in the system under their belts and we were able to retain our veteran core. So long as our young talent can take some miles off the vets during the regular season we will hopefully be fine and reach the playoffs again.
Reddit user amazingcube: Garth, first I would personally like to thank you for your part in building RSL into something that fits the local market so perfectly and represents Salt Lake City in a positive way. There are no shortage of stereotypes or misconceptions about this city and its inhabitants. How do you or any of the staff address concerns from potential recruits who might be hesitant about coming to play and live in Utah?
Lagerwey: I had been in SLC for one day before taking this job so I had no idea what I was getting into. Some of the stereotypes are just silly. It’s gorgeous here and you can do any outdoor activity you can dream up. Traffic isn’t bad, cost of living is affordable. People here care about and are invested in our club. Our players do a tremendous job of showing new guys around the city and introducing them to all the great things about SLC. Kyle Beckerman recently married a SLC girl and I suspect there may be more follow. Our team is relevant and our players matter in the cultural landscape. Some players are always going to pick the bright lights of a bigger city, but if you believe the team is the star, you will likely want to play for RSL.
Reddit user melkahb: Thanks for coming on and doing this, Mr. Lagerwey. The willingness of people at all levels to communicate directly with the fans in this kind of forum is one of the strengths of MLS.
1) You've already spoken to the challenges and techniques needed for smaller-market teams to compete in MLS's increasingly high-spending environment. Going forward, how well do you see organizations like RSL faring as the expectations for high-salaried stars continue to rise?
2) Related, what steps do you think the league and/or owners need to take in order to maintain true parity and squad cohesion? Personally, I feel that allocation money or cap space leniency for keeping veteran squads intact is a good direction, but from your perspective, what's necessary to build and maintain good teams while ensuring largely-even competition?
Lagerwey: 1) So long as you have playoffs, the league will have parity. Big markets will have advantages in the regular season, but the teams are close enough where anyone can win over two legs.
2) Continuity helps us punch above our weight. When players are very familiar with their teammates they can combine to play at a level higher than the individual parts. You need the right culture as a small market club and a true identity. We can’t beat big market teams at spending, but we can focus on youth development and keeping systems in place to solve the problem a different way. We have to think, not simply spend.
Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy have long been Western Conference foes, with each meeting between the sides always a battle. LA Galaxy has won MLS Cup four times, including back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012 and has been crowned Western Conference Champions six times. So when Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy last met in the 2013 Western Conference Semfinal series, the stakes were high and the rivalry never more intense.
Real Salt Lake defeated LA Galaxy 2-1 on aggregate in the two-legged series to advance to the Western Conference Championship series. RSL headed into the second leg down a goal after losing 1-0 at LA. The Claret-and-Cobalt took full advantage of its opportunity to stage a comeback in front of its home crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium, getting goals from two surprising players to defeat LA 2-0 in a thrilling, extra time affair.
RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez opened the scoring in the 35th minute, notching his first career goal to tie the aggregate 1-1. The goal was beautifully constructed, beginning with midfielder Javier Morales finding unmarked defender Chris Wingert on the left flank. Wingert collected the ball, took a touch toward the end line and whipped in a fantastic cross, picking out the onrushing Velasquez at the top-left corner of the box. The 5-foot-7 Velasquez took it from there, brilliantly snapping a header inside the near post to put RSL on the board.
RSL went on to hit the woodwork two times in regulation – once by defender Chris Schuler in the 74th minute and then by forward Alvaro Saborio four minutes later. In the 85th minute, the Claret-and-Cobalt had a controversial goal called back when Morales’ free kick found the back of the net but referee Baldomero Toledo called a foul on Schuler in the box, disallowing the goal.
The two sides headed into extra time deadlocked in a 1-1 tie on aggregate. RSL netted the game-winner in the 102nd minute when Schuler picked the perfect time to score his first goal of 2013. Morales had the assist, curling a free kick in from the left flank that Schuler – who made a marvelous run from the top of the box – side-volleyed in from the right edge of the six, sending Rio Tinto Stadium into euphoria.
The stakes won’t be as high when RSL and LA meet again in Saturday’s season opener, but the memory of the last meeting still lingers. The four-time MLS Cup Champions will be sure to seek revenge at home and RSL will be looking to make a statement that 2013 was no fluke.
Re-live RSL's win in the thrilling second leg of last year's Western Conference Semifinal above.
Real Salt Lake put in its second full training session today in Tucson in RSL’s final preseason camp before the start of the 2014 MLS regular season. The Claret-and-Cobalt welcomed back forward Alvaro Saborio who was absent from yesterday’s session due to an MLS media tour. The squad looked energetic and focused today as Head Coach Jeff Cassar ran 11v11 scrimmages and emphasized tactical awareness.
TUCSON - Real Salt Lake officially began its final preseason training stint Monday as the team arrived in Tucson to participate in the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup. This will be RSL’s third-straight appearance in the round-robin tournament. Real Salt Lake will take on the New England Revolution on Feb. 19, Colorado Rapids on Feb. 22 and FC Tucson on Feb. 26. The Championship and Consolation games will be held on March 1.
As told to Ben Wille
- I grew up in Rochester, N.Y. I went down from Rochester to the U.S. U-17 residency program in Florida early in 2011, and coming out of the program I was looking for a place to go so I went to RSL’s Academy down in Casa Grande. I spent a year and a half there, and in that time I played a little bit with the RSL Reserves and met with the coaching staff. And then before joining RSL I spent one semester at the University of Virginia.
- I went to the Academy because I was looking for a place where you can play every single day at a high level and in a good environment – there aren’t a lot of places like that in the U.S. So when I was coming out of residency I was looking for a place that could offer me something like that, and RSL had the only residential academy in the country. So for me it was a no brainer.
- They have a great coaching staff down there at the Academy – Freddy Juarez and Tony Bruce – and they play a good style of football which is the same way we play here. Playing there helped me get stronger and better technically, and it made the transition from playing with them to playing with the Reserves easy for me.
- Though I only signed a month ago, this is actually my third preseason that I’ve gone through with RSL, so I feel very prepared. There weren’t a lot of shocks for me because I knew what to expect. It was important for me to go through those before actually signing so I knew what I was getting into.
- I had a chance to sign with RSL ahead of the 2013 season, but I decided to go to Virginia for a season instead. My parents and I are really into education and Virginia offered me an opportunity to get a great education at a great university. And I’m able to go back there whenever I can or whenever I’m available. It was a big thing for me and my family to make sure I took care of that before I really started to get into my career.
- It was a great experience for me going to UVA – the coaching staff there was great and we made a good run in the College Cup. They [University of Virginia] play a schedule where you play two games a week and it’s a grind for those three months and that helped me prepare for this physically and mentally.
- As for my preferred position, that’s kind of tough – the system we play with is a diamond midfield and we’re really good at it and with that formation there is not as much width coming out of the midfield. I like playing wide so I think in the long run I’ll excel as an outside back here.
- My first goal for this year is to just get myself in that group that is consistently making the 18. If I can make the 18 then I’ll try and make my way into the starting 11. But I’m going to stay grounded and stay realistic. I know I have to work hard just to get into the 18, and there are a lot of good players here so it’s not going to be easy.
- To get away from the game I watch more of the game – I don’t think I really get away from it. If I’m taking a break physically just to get my legs back, I’m probably watching an Arsenal game or googling Arsenal news. So I don’t think I really get away from the game. If I do, I’m usually hanging out with my friends and enjoying my family.
- I just got my first apartment – I’m rooming with [RSL forward] Benji Lopez, who I know from the Academy and the national team. It’s a little bit different out here than it is in Rochester and at the University of Virginia, but I’m looking forward to it out here. I spent three or four weeks here in the summer and liked it. I also found a barber shop out here my first week so that was important.
It was announced today that Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy players MF Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera have been called up to the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team to participate in the Copa del Atlantico in Las Palmas, Spain. The U.S. is making its first appearance in the esteemed international tournament that runs from Jan. 30-Feb. 8. The Americans will face Spain on Feb. 4, Argentina on Feb. 5 and the Canary Islands on Feb. 7.
Thirteen players out of the 18-player roster are currently registered with Academy teams, with four MLS Academies represented. The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy is the only Academy to have more than one player named to the U-18 squad.
The Claret-and-Cobalt’s MF Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera were among the 24 players called into U.S. Under-18 MNT Head Coach Javier Perez’s January training camp in preparation for the tournament. Saucedo and Herrera have guided the RSL-Arizona U-16 Academy team to a 10-1-1 start through twelve league matches. Saucedo leads the team in scoring with ten goals while Herrera has earned eight clean sheets.
Four Real Salt Lake Academy products were named last week to a 36-player roster for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team’s training camp in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. RSL FW Benji Lopez and DF Jordan Allen, as well as RSL-AZ Academy grad and University of Louisville MF Andrew Brody and current RSL-AZ U-18 player and Stanford University commit MF Corey Baird will all participate in the team’s domestic training camp, which will run from Jan. 3-12.
Lopez, the fourth player to graduate from the RSL-Arizona Academy to the first-team, joined Real Salt Lake on July 17, 2013. The 18-year-old featured for the Real Salt Lake Reserves four times this year, scoring one goal in the Reserves’ 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC Reserves on July 16. Lopez began his stint in Casa Grande in the fall of 2011, excelling in the youth setup and helping lead RSL-AZ to strong finishes in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
Allen signed a Homegrown contract with RSL on Dec. 31, 2013, following the completion of a successful freshman season at the University of Virginia. Allen, 18, played at the Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy from August 2011-December 2012. The Rochester, N.Y. native was named the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Player of the Year, USSDA Western Conference Player of the Year and earned a spot on the USSDA Starting XI Team of the Year for the 2011-2012 season. This past fall, Allen started all 24 of UVA’s matches, helping lead the Cavaliers to the 2013 NCAA College Cup Semifinal. A third-team All-ACC selection, an All-ACC Freshman Team selection and a second-team NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region Team pick, Allen had three goals and a team-high five assists for UVA from his spot in the midfield.
A University of Louisville freshman, Brody was a fixture for the Cardinals last season, playing and starting all 20 games and notching three goals and eight assists. The midfielder helped Louisville advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2013 NCAA College Cup. Brody played for the RSL-Arizona Academy team in 2012 and 2013, participated in last year’s RSL preseason camp and featured three times in 2013 for the Real Salt Lake Reserves.
Currently with the RSL-AZ U-18’s, Baird had been a fixture with the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team prior to this U-20 call up. Baird featured in all three matches for the U-18 national team in an international tournament in France last October. Baird will begin his college career next fall at Stanford.
Three Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy players were among the 24 players called last week into the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team by head coach Javier Perez. RSL-AZ DF Justen Glad, M/F Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera were all called up to Perez’s squad, which will train in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. from Jan. 4-11 ahead of next month’s Copa del Atlantico international tournament in the Canary Islands.
The Claret-and-Cobalt’s DF Justen Glad, M/F Sebastian Saucedo and GK Christian Herrera were among twenty-one out of the twenty-four players who currently play for a U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Nine MLS Academies are represented with Real Salt Lake receiving the most call-ups.
Glad, Saucedo and Herrera have guided the RSL U-16 team to a 8-1-1 start through ten league matches. Saucedo leads the team in scoring with eight goals while Herrera has earned seven clean sheets. Glad anchors a backline that has yet to concede a goal at home and has only surrendered four goals all season.