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Ousted Ellinger has no regrets after brief stint with Real

Coach John Ellinger was fired by Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
Coach John Ellinger was fired by Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

Two days after his departure as Real Salt Lake head coach, John Ellinger is obviously still disappointed, but he seems content.

He understands as well as anyone that MLS is a results-oriented business, and he always prepared his family for the possibility that he could lose his job. That day came Wednesday night when RSL owner Dave Checketts informed Ellinger that he was hiring Kreis to be the club's new coach.

It's a tough pill to swallow, but Ellinger doesn't regret any of his two-plus years at the RSL helm.

"I would certainly do things again, no question," said Ellinger. "I enjoyed the level of the game. I enjoyed certainly the guys. It was a great group of guys."

Ironically, Ellinger admits he was surprised he wasn't fired last year after the team started 0-5-1. Eventually, the team turned things around and narrowly missed the playoffs, but he knew he couldn't survive another slow start.

After RSL's 2-0 loss to Colorado on Monday, Ellinger even told his assistant coaches that he didn't think they could survive another mistake-riddled game.

Little did he know he couldn't survive that one either. Checketts began inquiring about an Ellinger successor the next day.

Ellinger was hired in October 2004 as RSL's inaugural head coach. He, along with recently resigned general manager Steve Pastorino, pieced together a team they both thought could be competitive. Several factors, however, contributed to a disappointing 5-22-5 record.

One of them was the uninspired play of Clint Mathis. Surprisingly, Ellinger says given the same information he had at the time of that transaction, he'd do it again.

"You can't control the intangibles," said Ellinger, referring to the disappointment Mathis felt about being left out of the U.S. National Team picture. "Clint's human, and things like that bother people."

Following the disastrous 0-5-1 start in 2006, Ellinger enjoyed a relatively successful season last year, even though the club missed the playoffs. This preseason, however, Checketts made it clear that missing the playoffs wasn't an option this year. Despite a promising preseason, RSL got off to another sluggish start in 2007 and Checketts decided to make a change. Ellinger finishes his Real coaching career with a 15-37-16 record.

Upon learning about the coaching change, Ellinger said he was content to part ways with the organization. It was Checketts who asked Ellinger to remain as the team's technical director of soccer, and Ellinger obliged. The scope of the job hasn't been finalized, but Ellinger said he's under the impression it's basically the team-side duties that a general manager would hold.

That conflicts, however, with Checketts' comments at Thursday's press conference in which he said he was beginning an immediate search for a new general manager.

Once those details get ironed out, Ellinger will likely be a busy person. First, he needs to help find a replacement for Kreis, not to mention a replacement for Jeff Rowland, who's out for the year with an ACL injury. Then there are the details regarding RSL's youth academy, which Ellinger is still overseeing.

Of course, he'd rather still be coaching the team he helped put together, but Ellinger knew a day like this would come when he got involved in this tumultuous business.