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Real Salt Lake, general manager Craig Waibel part ways

Real Salt Lake general manager Craig Waibel answers questions from the media on Friday, January 20, 2017. Matt Montgomery, Deseret Digital Media

SALT LAKE CITY — The organizational fallout following former head coach Mike Petke’s firing has continued for Real Salt Lake.

On Friday evening, the club announced that it has terminated the remainder of general manager Craig Waibel’s contract with two games remaining in the regular season with the playoff race still in full swing, although the club’s announcement also characterized it as a mutual parting of ways.

The club said the search for a new general manager will begin immediately.

On Sept. 17, Petke sued RSL over the remaining balance of his contract stemming from his Aug. 11 dismissal, which came after he allegedly shouted a homophobic slur at a Panamanian official at the conclusion of RSL’s July 24 Leagues Cup game against Mexican club Tigres UANL at Rio Tinto Stadium.

In his suit, Petke claims he and the club came to a contractual agreement for him to continue coaching after he was suspended for two weeks, but RSL announced his firing the night before he was to return to work. In the 37-page complaint, a number of references are made to Waibel, including that Waibel and executive vice president of soccer operations Rob Zarkos allegedly said they had plans to leave the club at the end of the season.

“It’ll be at the end of the year, because I also don’t think (team owner) Dell Loy (Hansen) should ever be rewarded for who he is,” the lawsuit claims Waibel said.

The lawsuit also states Waibel wrote in a text message to Petke that RSL is the toughest work environment in Major League Soccer “without a doubt.”

Friday’s announcement from RSL included a statement from Waibel, which reads, “I would like to thank Dell Loy Hansen for the opportunities presented to me over the past six years. During this time, I have experienced an incredible amount of personal and professional growth and I am proud of the work we have accomplished. While I am stepping away to take some time to evaluate the next step in my career, I want to wish Dell Loy, the locker room, and most importantly, the fans nothing but the best in their pursuit of the 2019 MLS Cup.”

A statement from Hansen reads, “I appreciate Craig coming to Real Salt Lake for the 2014 season as part of the coaching staff. Craig oversaw the organization’s integration of the Real Monarchs, Utah Royals FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, and the relocation and expansion of the Real Salt Lake Academy, which now trains and plays at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah.  Craig has been instrumental in the Club’s rapid growth and I wish him success in the future.”

Waibel was promoted to technical director in December 2014 and then general manager in August 2015. Under his guidance, RSL reached the postseason in two of his three full seasons as GM.  Over the past three years, RSL Academy “homegrown players” accounted for 10,826 minutes in the 2018 MLS regular season, with that number increasing to 11,304 thus far in 2019, setting the standard in Major League Soccer.

RSL currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference. Assistant general manager Elliot Fall has been named interim general manager, and he will report to Zarkos.