SANDY — Jeff Cassar is out as head coach at Real Salt Lake after just three games in 2017.
The club announced the firing late Monday afternoon, just two days after the club dropped a 2-1 result at home to the L.A. Galaxy. General manager Craig Waibel said the decision was a collective one among himself, owner Dell Loy Hansen and the entire organization.
RSL is 0-2-1 this season, with just one goal scored. Its winless streak stretches back 10 games to last year as well.
“The important thing to remember is we’ve been in since Jan. 20, and we’ve been evaluating since Day 1. The three games that have been played are not the only thing taken into consideration,” said Waibel.
Assistant coach Daryl Shore will take over as interim coach while the club begins its head coach search, which general manager Craig Waibel said is already underway.
“There’s no exact timeline. As you can imagine, we have a list of candidates … we’ve starting to narrow the names down. We’ll be reaching out within the next 24 hours to two or three targeted coaches,” Waibel said. “The most important thing for us right now is to get this next decision correct, and all of our energy and all of our effort will be put into exactly that.”
Waibel wouldn’t specify whether any coaches on staff are candidates for the position but said the list of initial candidates is long.
Cassar has been a coach within the organization for over a decade, and both Waibel and Hansen said he’s been instrumental in the success of the team over time.
“We want to thank Jeff for his many contributions to the success of Real Salt Lake over the past decade, including our championship run in 2009. Jeff has always handled himself with class and dignity and represented the organization and community extremely well,” Hansen said. “We wish Jeff and his family much success in their future endeavors.”
Cassar joined the club as an assistant coach early in the 2007 season, after Jason Kreis was hired. After serving as RSL’s assistant coach and goalkeepers coach for seven years, he was promoted to head coach for the 2014 season, when Kreis was named head coach at expansion club New York City FC.
In his first three years as head coach, Real Salt Lake made the playoffs twice as he amassed a 38-35-29 record.
Some wondered if that was enough to warrant a contract extension, which Waibel and Hansen offered.
“At the conclusion of last season, we felt that, while we were disappointed in the end result, Jeff had done enough to earn another shot to lead the team in the 2017 campaign. We have a high sense of urgency for progress this season, and have made many off-season changes towards that endeavor. So, while these decisions are always difficult, we, as an organization, felt that it was necessary to make the change in our head coaching position now,” Waibel said in a statement.
Saturday’s loss to the Galaxy no doubt hurt Cassar’s cause, but Waibel reiterated there was no one instance that led to the firing.
“This is a cumulative decision based on a lot of different elements,” Waibel said.
The early firing isn’t unprecedented in Real Salt Lake’s brief history. John Ellinger was fired after just four games in 2007, following a 0-2-2 start to the season. Dave Checketts was owner of the club at the time, and it was his decision to talk Kreis into retiring and taking over as coach.
Real Salt Lake’s next game is this Saturday at the New York Red Bulls. It will be without suspended Kyle Beckerman and without Nick Rimando nor Albert Rusnak, who are away on international duty.
Whether the new coach is at the helm this weekend remains to be seen, but once a new coach is named, more changes could follow.
“Not every coach sees every roster the same way in terms of promise, in terms of potential, in terms of specific performance,” Waibel said.