Craig Waibel left two lasting impressions in the hours after he was announced as the new Real Salt Lake Technical Director. And just like during his 11 seasons in Major League Soccer as a player, Waibel exuded confidence and humility in his newest role.
That should come as no surprise, though, as Waibel’s career not only included four MLS Cup titles, one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and one Supporters’ Shield, but he was also named the MLS Humanitarian of the Year five times during his career.
After an offseason that has already included much transition, with four key veterans and General Manager Garth Lagerwey all departing, Waibel hopes he can keep the stability in place that has seen RSL reach the playoffs in seven straight seasons while also putting his own stamp on the club.
“First and foremost, when you are given the opportunity to follow the most proven and successful general manager in our league history so far, the first instinct is ‘Wow. I can’t believe this opportunity is coming up.’ When I went back and thought about it and looked at the path I’ve been on and the way I’ve gone about my work … it was a kind reward to be offered this position. But it’s not one that I take as a present. I don’t think it was given for any other reason than I earned it,” Waibel said. “I take this with a lot of humility. At the same time I take it head-on just like I always have. I’ve never viewed myself doing a job and doing it poorly. I don’t think this one’s going to be any different.”
Waibel came to RSL prior to the 2014 season as Head Coach Jeff Cassar pieced together his coaching staff for his first season at the helm. Previously, Waibel spent three years as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, helping coach UW to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in school history. With RSL he was charged with coaching defenders and his defense held the third-best goals against average in the league at 1.14.
Now as Technical Director, he will continue the task of restocking the roster after the losses of veterans Nat Borchers, Robbie Findley, Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert. Already, RSL has reacquired 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave and the club’s further plans to fill those voids have already been set into motion.
“The focus will remain on the locker room. It has to be a locker room that gets along and sees each other as equals. Every team has special players. The teams that win are the ones that figure out a way that the locker room treats each other as equals. I think the group that we have believes in that,” Waibel said. “We have to move forward and try and bring in those players that give us the character of the guys we lost. I think we lost some very unique, special guys. My job is to work with Jeff and the staff to make sure that we bring guys in that can continue to do what Nat and Ned and Chris did. That is unify the locker room and really unify the fight on the field.”
Waibel is already hard at work in getting acquainted with his new role with the club.
Although he is still just 11 months into his time in Salt Lake, he already exudes pride in the Claret-and-Cobalt. That has made the transition from the college game to the professional ranks in coaching easier and also should ease his transition to the front office.
“I love the fact that I get to wake and come in to a place that I believe in,” Waibel smiled. “Not many people get to say that.”
705 matches. 57 goals. 47 assists.
That is the cumulative stat line of the four Real Salt Lake stalwarts that will be donning other kits in 2015.
With Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert going to New York City FC in the Expansion Draft, Nat Borchers going to the Portland Timbers in a trade and Robbie Findley relocating to Toronto FC in the Re-Entry Draft on Friday, a significant chunk of the club’s roster over the last seven seasons will not be wearing the Claret and Cobalt in the coming season.
Over the course of the week all four had the opportunity to say good bye to the RSL family in their own way.
205 games played, 10 goals, 4 assists
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 9, 2014
159 games played, 10 goals, 14 assists
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 11, 2014
204 games played, 1 goal, 14 assists
"And I wonder, when I play alongside you, if everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again." Thanks boys @jeff_attinella1 @kylebeckerman @abb_2 @natborchers @jayallen @lalofernandez_1 @team1dime0 @olmesgarcia13 @luisitogil21 @justen_glad @cole_grossman @theonlybenji @mansally29 @imamaundsta @javim1 @lukemulholland8 @joaoplata8 @nickrimando @asabo9 @csalcedojr @big_dev49 @christ0ph3r @jstertz27 @tian26
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 12, 2014
137 games played, 36 goals, 15 assists.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando is among 10 finalists in CONCACAF's Goalkeeper of the Year voting and RSL fans have a chance to help him earn the honor. Voting is open now at http://www.concacaf.com/2014-concacaf-awards-voting-fans, where fans can also vote for Player of the Year, Female Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and more.
Fans will share an equal vote with the media and national team head coaches and captains.
Get out and vote, RSL fans. And when you're done voting, get your friends to get out and vote.
It was a whirlwind day at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday as the shape of Real Salt Lake’s roster began to take form. RSL lost Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert to New York City FC and Jason Kreis in the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft, but followed those departures with the addition of former MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave. The 33-year-old Colombian makes his return to Salt Lake after two seasons with the New York Red Bulls and will serve as a replacement to Nat Borchers, who was traded earlier in the week to the Portland Timbers.
After things calmed at the club’s Sandy offices, RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar joined the Bill & OC Show on ESPN 700 to talk about the evolution of the Real Salt Lake roster this week.
“It’s been very exciting. I haven’t slept very much. A lot of work, a lot of emotions running around this last week. But I think everything worked out the way we hoped it would have,” Cassar said in the interview. “Through this expansion process, it brings change. You have to adapt. You have to be planning ahead. When you have a very good team, a very deep team, you know you’re going to lose some people that have been very instrumental in the success of RSL. It’s not an easy time for us, but it’s a time that we had to plan for.”
While he lamented the loss of three key contributors to RSL’s success over the last seven years, Cassar also noted the return of Olave. He said it was something that came together quickly as the team was mapping out its plan for the 2015 season.
“When we ended up having some resources to start thinking like this, it became evident that we wanted to bring Jamison back or someone like him. And why not bring somebody back who has been with us, part of our family and such an imposing force?” Cassar said, also hinting that the club hasn’t stopped preparing to add more pieces to the puzzle. “We are moving forward and already preparing for life after these players. Adding Jamison right now is huge. It’s a huge piece to add and there is more to come.”
To hear the entire interview, click the link below.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 11, 2014
I sit here with so many thoughts, emotions, and memories. Yet I find it close to impossible to know what to say. Its extremely difficult to say goodbye to something that's been so special to me. Even though that is exactly what I must do. Words will never begin to describe the gratitude I have for my teammates, coaching staff, management, and supporters.
We were a family. We collectively had a continued belief that ultimately led to our consistency as an organization. What we built together was unique, a culture and atmosphere unlike any other.
To our fans, I can never thank you enough for your support of myself and our team. Without you, Real Salt Lake would never be where it is today. You have supported me through my highs and lows, professionally and personally, and for that I will never be able to express how thankful I am. I only hope it showed in my efforts on the field.
We have succeeded and We have failed…..But we have done them together. Wear those successes and failures with pride for everyone to see. Those painful and oh-so-close failures make us stronger, and future successes that much more enjoyable.
As I leave you, know that I am looking forward and not back, but the memories we have created together will never be lost, altered, or replaced. The only thing I hope I've accomplished in my time at RSL is the respect from you of how I have carried myself as a player, professional, and the person I've grown to be.
Goodbye to all of you and Thank You for an unbelievable 6 years.
#20 Ned Grabavoy
After seven seasons in Utah, Nat Borchers’ time with Real Salt Lake came to an end on Monday with the announcement that he had been traded to the Portland Timbers in exchange for Allocation Money.
Just hours after the announcement, he appeared on the Bill and OC Show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City and he spoke very highly of his time with the Claret-and-Cobalt.
“I learned a lot of lessons. I definitely learned that when it comes to success on the field, there are a lot of things that have to happen off the field for the team to be successful,” Borchers said. “For our group, off the field meant hanging out together. It meant being a part of each other’s families. It meant participating in each other’s lives and getting to know other guys on the team outside of the soccer field. That made things really special for us and made our group very special. That translated into so much of our success – just how well we knew each other, how much we loved playing for each other and fighting for each other.”
Borchers expressed a strong connection with the RSL fan base, one that was established early in his time with the club and only strengthened with each season.
“We’ve got nothing but gratitude toward the soccer community in Utah. Since day one they brought us in and made us feel at home out here. People are just so engaging and friendly and positive and excited about RSL,” he said. “I’m just really proud that we were able to make that product a little bit better for the last seven years. It gives the community a lot to talk about. We’re incredibly grateful to the fans for rooting for us when we’re losing and cheering for us when we’re winning. That’s just the sign of a fan base that’s here to stay and will be here forever. I’m really looking forward to coming back here and watching games with my family and being part of this RSL family that’s so special.”
At some point, Borchers will return to Rio Tinto Stadium wearing the green of the Portland Timbers. When that day comes and he faces off with his longtime teammates, he admitted that the feeling would be odd.
“I don’t look forward to that at all because I know it’s going to be a tough matchup and there’s going to be a lot of emotion involved,” Borchers said.
To hear the entire interview, click the link below.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) December 9, 2014
It has been over two years since Real Salt Lake last played in the CONCACAF Champions League. Now, after posting the fourth-best record in Major League Soccer for the 2014 season, RSL is on the cusp of receiving a spot into the coveted regional tournament.
There are four spots available for U.S.-based clubs and three have already been accounted for. If the LA Galaxy wins MLS Cup over the New England Revolution on Sunday at the StubHub Center, the fourth will go to Real Salt Lake.
The four allotments go to the winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup and the best regular season record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winners. With Seattle Sounders FC winning the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield this year, they occupy one slot, while the Galaxy takes up the spot earned with the Supporters’ Shield win. D.C. United had the best record in the Eastern Conference and is the third team in.
RSL finished the season with a 15-8-11 record (56 points) in Head Coach Jeff Cassar’s first year at the helm. In earning the third seed in the Western Conference, Salt Lake is first in line for the Champions League berth should the Galaxy win MLS Cup.
This would be a great opportunity for the club to expand its regional brand and get back into the competition after a tough exit in the Group Stage in the 2012-2013 tournament. RSL went 2-1-1 in that year’s Group Stage, falling just shy of 3-0-1 Herediano of Costa Rica to advance to the Quarterfinal Round.
In the 2010-2011 tournament, RSL reached the final on a storybook run through the Group Stage – which featured an epic 5-4 defeat to Cruz Azul in a downpour in Mexico. In that tournament championship, RSL fell one goal short of becoming the first MLS club to win CONCACAF Champions League in its current format. No other MLS club has reached the final, making the accomplishment stand out even more.
So while we all would much rather be in the match itself and having the club’s Champions League fate in the hands of RSL’s players, it instead lies with Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy. And although it would pain many to openly root for one of RSL’s Western Conference rivals, fans could still watch Sunday on ESPN with a bit of a rooting interest knowing that a Galaxy win would greatly benefit Real Salt Lake. Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT.
The NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament is well under way, with first round matches being played across the country on Thursday evening. Now, with 32 teams remaining, the field is tightening up as the National Championship in Cary, North Carolina, on Dec. 14 is fast approaching.
Six of those teams will take the field on Sunday with Real Salt Lake Academy players among their regular contributors. Here is a look at those teams and what they have lined up for the second round of the tournament on Sunday.
Stanford (13-2-3, 1st in Pac-12, vs. UC-Irvine on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder Corey Baird had four goals and four assists in 18 appearances this season, including 13 starts. The 2nd Team All Pac-12 selection notched the assist on the overtime goal that clinched the Pac-12 Championship for the Cardinal in a 3-2 overtime win over rivals California last Sunday. Sophomore Trevor Hyman has also made three substitute appearances for Stanford, who holds the No. 6 seed.
Washington (12-5-1, 3rd in Pac-12, vs. Furman on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder/forward Danny Gavin is a regular contributor off the bench for the Huskies, who reached the Elite Eight last season. Gavin made three early-season starts and has 14 appearances overall for 14th-seeded Washington.
Oregon State (12-7-1, 5th in Pac-12, beat Denver in the first round, @ Creighton on Sunday)
Junior goalkeeper Matt Bersano started in 16 matches this season, posting a 9-6-1 record with five shutouts, including a shutout of Washington in the regular season finale and Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He holds a 1.08 goals against average and earned Honorable Mention All Pac-12 honors.
Louisville (11-8-3, 2nd in the ACC, vs. St. Louis on Sunday)
Two key contributors to Louisville’s success in 2014 are RSL Academy alums. Junior forward Ricardo Velazco led the Cardinals in scoring with six goals and five assists in 20 appearances, 19 of them starts. That earned him third-team All-ACC recognition. Meanwhile sophomore midfielder Andrew Brody notched two goals and four assists while starting all 20 matches. The Cardinals also feature Jack Gayton and Jon Zabassajja.
Maryland (13-5-3, vs. UMBC on Sunday)
Freshman midfielder and forward Eric Carbajal made three starts for the Terrapins this season, tallying one assist.
Clemson (13-6-3, 1st in the ACC, vs. Coastal Carolina on Sunday)
Senior defender Phanuel Kavita has registered 89 consecutive starts for the Tigers – every match since he arrived on campus. This season, he has started all 20 matches, scoring two goals to help Clemson win the ACC title. He finished as a second-team All-ACC selection.
The season may be over for Real Salt Lake, but there is still plenty for RSL fans to keep their eyes on as the off-season comes hot and heavy with several notable events to put on the calendar starting next week.
Here is a list of dates to know before the start of the 2015 season.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Dispersal Draft for former Chivas USA players
Thursday, November 20, 2014
MLS Awards Finalists Announced
Monday, November 24, 2014
AT&T Rookie of the Year
XBOX Fair Play Award Individual & Team (not voted)
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
MLS Defender of the Year
MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year
MLS Referee of the Year
MLS Assistant Referee of the Year
Monday, December 1, 2014
MLS Best XI
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
MLS Comeback Player of the Year
MLS Coach of the Year
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
MLS Newcomer of the Year
Thursday, December 4, 2014
MLS Save of the Year
AT&T Goal of the Year
Volkswagen MLS MVP
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
MLS Expansion Draft
MLS Waiver Draft
Friday, December 12, 2014
Re-Entry Draft, Phase One
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Re-Entry Draft, Phase Two
January 15, 2015
Goals change games
That mantra is true in any game, but in this one it is particularly truthful, as RSL and LA both look to break each other’s will. A goal for Salt Lake means that the Galaxy has to score twice to advance because of the away-goals tiebreaker. Meanwhile, if LA scores first Salt Lake can force extra time with one goal.
With two teams as disciplined in their defensive principles as these two teams, those goals could be hard to come by and once either nabs a lead a response becomes even more desperate.
403 and counting
Real Salt Lake is riding a 403-minute shutout streak, just 30 minutes shy of the longest such streak in MLS this season. The longer that streak stays intact, the more likely it becomes that RSL can advance to the Conference Championships for the fifth time in the last seven years.
That becomes difficult against a potent LA Galaxy offense, but that same offense has been a bit punchless of late, going scoreless over the last two matches and riding a streak of 220 minutes without a goal. After taking just three shots total in the first leg of the series and putting just one on frame, LA will be out to show that it is a different team than the one that played at Rio Tinto Stadium last week.
In five previous playoff matches against the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake has had four different players score goals, with no player scoring more than once. Last year in the Western Conference Semifinals, Sebastian Velasquez and Chris Schuler scored goals to send Salt Lake through to the Conference Championship series. Neither player scored a regular season goal for RSL in 2013. Could 2014 see similar heroics from unexpected sources? Luis Gil was nearly the hero in the first leg at Rio Tinto Stadium last week and Ned Grabavoy has been known to score some crucial playoff goals for RSL in the past.
If the teams play to another scoreless draw and no winner can be determined by a 30-minute overtime period the match will go to a penalty kick shootout. There, Salt Lake would have to feel like it has a distinct advantage in Nick Rimando. The Wall of the Wasatch, as he is known, has stopped four of five penalties he has faced this season, including one from Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. He has gone to penalties several times in his playoff career, too, with opponents scoring on just 60-percent of their 30 efforts.