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Real Salt Lake will seek for confidence and consistency looking forward

Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar, right, hugs goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) as he celebrates after RSL's win over Chicago Fire makes him Major League Soccer's all-time leader in goalkeeper victories at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2
Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar, right, hugs goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) as he celebrates after RSL's win over Chicago Fire makes him Major League Soccer's all-time leader in goalkeeper victories at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016.
Spenser Heaps,

Confidence and consistency will be what Real Salt Lake looks for moving forward after a disappointing 2016 season.

RSL started the season off strong but after going 0-4-3 in its last seven regular-season games before losing to the L.A. Galaxy in the first round of the MLS playoffs, the club knows it needs to make changes after the way the season ended.

“You look to improve everywhere,” said head coach Jeff Cassar. “Can we improve with our starters, can we improve with our depth and can we improve with our youth?”

Cassar was recently retained by the franchise to a new three-year deal, but only one of the years in guaranteed. There was a lot of speculation if Cassar was even going to come back with how season ended. Speculation was put to rest Thursday morning on why it took so long to announce the signing.

“You can choose when you announce it.,” said RSL general manager Craig Waibel. “The discussions started quite a while ago, and they were pretty healthy the whole way. While it wasn’t an overnight thing, I think where it culminates today and the announcement yesterday made it public.”

Cassar knows the expectations are high for him and his staff this upcoming season, but he also understand that it starts with him.

“We all need to look to improve starting with us two (Waibel) and how we can improve,” said Cassar. “We’ve been bouncing a lot of things off of each other and how we can improve together, the team and the staff.”

Being more athletic is one area where the team is looking to improve. Being more athletic will require the team to become a younger team. RSL is making those moves to get younger.

Longtime star midfielder Javier Morales announced last week that he was leaving RSL and not because he wanted to leave. They club met with Morales last week, and the meeting didn’t go as planned.

“You will never hear me say a bad word about Javi,” said Weibel. “I have an amazing amount of respect for him, everything he’s done for the organization. I still think there are some conversations that could be had.”

He said the club spoke with Morales but never could get to a point where a contract offer was made.

“He’s a legend of our club and someone that should be honored,” said Weibel. “We will do everything in our power to honor him the right way, according to what his wishes are.”

With the expansion draft happening Dec. 13, RSL management knows change will be coming. Though the expansion draft will look a little different this year, each team will only lose one player. Each club has the ability to protect 11 players from the draft. Generation Adidas players who haven’t graduated from the program by 2016 and homegrown players won’t be made eligible for the draft.

Meanwhile, the club's academy construction is coming along, and everything is on time and Waibel said he hope to have everyone under the same roof by the start of 2018.

He said team will continue to use the 4-3-3 formation and continues to look to build around that. The success the team has had making the playoffs two of the last three years only makes the club believe in what it's doing.

“It’s not preaching patience, it’s a plan,” said Waibel. “We need to continue to build the roster accordingly. I think we took some great steps this year.”

Still, with so many trade deadlines and it being an expansion year, the team doesn’t yet know what it’s going to need to be looking for.

Waibel said the organization is excited for the future, and the players believe in Cassar, and he believes in them and what the future holds: “A younger team that is more experienced for the things they went through this year,” Cassar said. “The experience they’ve got this year, which is going to make them stronger and more consistent players.”