If you go all young you’re going to fail and if you stay all old you’re going to fail. – RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey
SANDY — A year ago, Real Salt Lake went into the offseason crushed after coming one kick away from winning MLS Cup, but also anxious to get back after it despite the departure of head coach Jason Kreis.
Coming off a humiliating 5-0 playoff ouster to the Galaxy a year later, the mood is obviously different.
Despite finishing third in the Western Conference with 56 points and scoring 54 goals, second-best in franchise history, it’s foolish to ignore what happened in Los Angeles last Sunday. Was it a one-off performance, or a sign of things to come with an aging core?
Heading into an offseason with an expansion draft and a new collective bargaining agreement, that’s one of the many things RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey and the coaching staff must weigh as they try to get better for 2015.
“If you go all young you’re going to fail and if you stay all old you’re going to fail,” said Lagerwey.
While RSL certainly has significant questions to address on the field, Lagerwey is a huge question mark himself. Many believe he’s been the mastermind of RSL’s seven straight playoff appearances, but his contract is up after the season.
Asked Wednesday about his future with the club, Lagerwey said he’ll meet with RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen either this week or next week to discuss his future. It’s not a decision that appears to be weighing him down.
“There’s no rush. I’m in no hurry, I don’t think they are. We have a number of weeks. I’m totally committed to the offseason. There’s a ton of work to do and I’m going to keep doing it and I’m going to keep helping the coaching staff and helping this franchise as long as I can,” said Lagerwey.
The uncertainty of next year’s salary cap — and the certainty of the expansion draft — are two more things hanging over the franchise this offseason.
Lagerwey, however, is pretty much counting on losing two players in the Orlando City and New York City FC expansion draft on Dec. 10.
“I guarantee we will get worse,” said Lagerwey.
In fact, Lagerwey suspects that RSL players will go first and second in that draft. New York, coached by Kreis, picks second in the draft, and Lagerwey fully expects Kreis to select one of his old players. Orlando knows that, and will likely try and snatch an RSL player up first.
Lagerwey said this will be his fifth expansion draft as Real Salt Lake’s general manager, and he noted that you’re always worse when you lose a player.
Coach Jeff Cassar said it’s change that must be embraced, but said RSL has always been a franchise that adapts well to change — seven straight playoff appearances is proof.
It’s never had a season end with a punch in the gut like it experienced in Los Angeles, though.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to get over that game. It’s only going to spur myself, my staff, the team to get better in every area,” said Cassar. “It’s a shame we’re concentrating on that 90-minute performance because I think they’re so many positives from this season, but that game in particular really does sting.”
Cassar and Lagerwey met Tuesday with all the players not on international duty, who then had their exit physicals on Wednesday.
Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Cole Grossman and Abdoulie Mansally are all out of contract, and the club has until Dec. 1 to decide whether to re-sign them.
With so many questions on and off the field — coupled with an embarrassing playoff loss — this offseason promises to be an eventful one for Real Salt Lake a year after a relatively uneventful one.