General Manager/Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations
Trained as an attorney, Garth Lagerwey oversees all aspects of the soccer team’s off-field business, conducting Real Salt Lake’s personnel acquisitions,managing the team’s salary and operations budgets and cultivating the reserve team and youth development programs. Named Real Salt Lake’s second General Manager on September 19, 2007, the former MLS goalkeeper has worked tirelessly, along with Head Coach Jason Kreis and team President Bill Manning, to transform both the team and management cultures of the organization, overseeing one of the most remarkable competitive turnarounds in modern American sports. When Mr. Lagerwey, 38, joined the Real Salt Lake technical staff, he gave RSL the unique distinction in MLS circles as the lone entity among the League’s now 19 teams where the GM and entire coaching staff boast MLS playing experience.
Under his direction over the last four-plus years in Utah, RSL has evolved from league laughingstock in 2007 to MLS Cup Champions just two seasons later. Since moving into Rio Tinto Stadium in October, 2008, Real Salt Lake has dropped just 7 out of 72 games across all competitions at home, advanced to three of the last four MLS Conference Finals, become the first American side to win a CONCACAF Champions League group and the first team from either the U.S. or Canada to advance to the CCL Final.
While the team’s 2010 title defense was not rewarded with hardware, the paucity of five losses in eight months across MLS and CCL play was a testament to a masterfully-constructed roster with an unusual amount of depth. That depth was decimated by injuries throughout 2011, forcing Lagerwey and the technical staff to recently construct the most massive overhaul in RSL history since the 2007/08 offseason, as potentially nine new players will join the Claret-and-Cobalt for 2012.
With annual aspirations to compete across multiple competitions (MLS league play, CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup), RSL has long valued contribution throughout the entire roster, as 14 different players scored at least one goal and a total of 25 players started games and logged significant minutes last season.
Currently built for international success, Lagerwey and RSL currently boast the longest-tenured core in MLS history, as 10 players will kick off at least their fifth season together on opening day. Six of those 10 arrived in 2007, the same year as Kreis and Lagerwey arrived – GK Nick Rimando, GK Kyle Reynish, MF Javier Morales, FW Fabian Espindola, DF Chris Wingert and MF and current Captain Kyle Beckerman. The following year, DF Tony Beltran was drafted while DF Jamison Olave & DF Nat Borchers – the most imposing and successful center-back tandem of the last several MLS seasons – along with MF Will Johnson were brought to the U.S. from foreign shores.
As the locker room has matured, both the day-to-day and long-term philosophies implemented by Lagerwey and the team staff have also grown and evolved. Initially, the massive roster overhaul completed by Mr. Lagerwey, Kreis and the coaching staff was rewarded in 2008 as RSL secured its first-ever MLS Cup playoff berth, advancing to the Western Conference Final. His second season saw the evolution of a competitive core built around “The Team is the Star” mantra, borne out in Real Salt Lake’s victorious trip to MLS Cup 2009, the state of Utah’s first major-league professional sport championship in nearly forty years.
In developing the Real Salt Lake “player archetype,” Mr. Lagerwey has successfully brought European-based American players back to Major League Soccer (i.e. Borchers, Johnson, Clint Mathis and Robbie Russell); added young yet experienced South or Central American professionals (Saborio and Paulo Junior enter the 2012 season with high expectations), claimed RSL standout Ned Grabavoy off waivers and brought minor-league MVPs Yordany Alvarez and Jonny Steele into the fold. Various drafts have also deepened the RSL core of players, as Luis Gil, Cody Arnoux and Chris Schuler are poised to provide contribution in 2012, while new young players such as Enzo Martinez, Sebastian Velasquez, Leone Cruz, Diogo de Almeida and Emiliano Bonfigli represent the most pronounced influx of new blood in the RSL locker room in many years. An offseason trip to the Far East has resulted in a camp invitation for outside back Terakazu Tanaka, a young but experienced player from Japan’s top two tiers.
Mr. Lagerwey joined the RSL front office from the law firm of Latham & Watkins, LLC, where he served as an associate in the Corporate Department of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. A graduate of both Duke University (BA, 1994) and Georgetown University Law School (JD, 2004), Mr.Lagerwey’s experience in the practice’s Sports, Media & Entertainment; Investment & Strategic Ventures; and Mergers & Acquisitions divisions included assistance in a client’s acquisition of a minority portion of the SCP Worldwide’s St. Louis Blues (NHL); the buying and selling of companies in a variety of fields; and extensive fund formation and management of the investment funds for the Carlyle Group, with emphasis in the energy sector. Latham & Watkins, LLC, also spawned such soccer busi ness luminaries as Alan I. Rothenberg, the founder of Major League Soccer for whom the championship trophy is named, MLS President Mark Abbott, the League’s first employee and author of the single-entity business plan, and former MLS Deputy Com missioner Ivan Gazidis, now Chief Executive of legendary English soccer power Arsenal.
Intimately involved in Major League Soccer circles since the League’s inception in 1996, Mr. Lagerwey spent his five-year career as an MLS goalkeeper for the Kansas City Wizards (1996), the Dallas Burn (1997-98), and Miami Fusion FC (1999-2000). Mr. Lagerwey’s career during the League’s early days allowed him to cross paths with a handful of current RSL players and coaches, including Andy Williams, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Jeff Cassar and Jason Kreis, alongside whom Lagerwey also spent his four-year collegiate career at Duke University.
Mr. Lagerwey’s sharp wit and knowledge of American soccer at all levels made him a natural fit in the media realm, getting his start by filling in as a guest writer for Sports Illustrated and SI.com writer Grant Wahl’s weekly soccer column. Lagerwey traded his pen for a microphone upon retirement and served as a color analyst for D.C. United’s television broadcasts on Comcast Sportsnet during parts of seven MLS seasons (2001-07), in addition to being an analyst for XM Satellite Radio’s World Cup 2006 daily show and seeing spot duty on New England Revolution TV and radio broadcasts.
The Elmhurst, Ill., native resides in Salt Lake City, with wife Hilary and newborn son Bennett. His experience as a player and executive, combined with his vision and work ethic make him a key member of various MLS and U.S. Soccer technical committees, helping plot the future of the game in our region of the world.