Losing is tough. Losing games that matter is tougher. And to come so close to winning a championship, only to have it snatched away by either fate or misfortune, brings a pain that lingers for quite some time. For this kind of loss, the offseason is particularly difficult; the past cannot be changed, while little can be done in the present to affect the future.
And for that reason, I’m glad the MLS offseason is mercifully short.
Real Salt Lake—still smarting from the twin blows of losing the MLS Cup and, only days later, its head coach and guru—began its preseason activities on Friday as players reported for physicals in advance of the team’s first training sessions at Grande Sports World in Arizona. In only three short weeks, the Claret-and-Cobalt will be headed to Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson.
League play officially begins for RSL on Saturday, March 8, against the L.A. Galaxy at the StubHub Center, just three months after the final whistle in Kansas City. And for me, it all can’t come soon enough.
So to prepare you for the upcoming season, here’s a look at Real Salt Lake’s offseason in a nutshell.
• On December 10, three days after the MLS Cup Final, Real Salt Lake announced that head coach Jason Kreis would be leaving the team to take a position with expansion side New York City FC. Kreis’s accomplishments during his RSL tenure speak for themselves: after taking over as coach in 2007, Kreis took the team to six straight seasons of ten or more wins, four conference finals appearances, two MLS Cup finals, a CONCACAF Champions League Final, a U.S. Open Cup Final. The club became a consistent Shield contender. RSL and its fans will always have a soft spot for Kreis, and we’ll wish him well in the Big Apple (although not so well that he outpaces RSL; let’s not be foolish).
• Shortly after the MLS Cup Final, Robbie Findley (torn right patella tendon) and Chris Schuler (bone spurs) each underwent successful surgery for injuries sustained during and prior to the 2013 season.
• On December 13, Real Salt Lake learned it would not be participating in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League in spite of its MLS Cup Final appearance after U.S. Soccer and MLS requested a change in the United States’ qualification process for the tournament. Instead, the Portland Timbers, as the team with the best record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winner (New York), will receive a berth in the tournament. While the timing of the announcement left some RSL fans crying foul, the change had actually been proposed in January of 2013, before the season had begun.
• On December 18, Real Salt Lake announced Jeff Cassar as its new head coach. Prior to the appointment, Cassar served as RSL’s goalkeeper coach. Cassar has also served previously as a goalkeeper coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann. Cassar is an MLS veteran and spent time in England with Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town. The hiring showed RSL’s commitment to the “Team Is the Star” developed during Jason Kreis’s tenure. Regarding the hire, a tweet from James Edward (@DesNewsReal) summarized the situation well: “In 2007, Kreis called buddy Cassar and asked if he’d leave FCD to join RSL. 20K tampering fine followed – but continues to be $ well spent.”
• On January 3, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Luis Gil received call-ups to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp in advance of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
• On January 8, Real Salt Lake announced Jeff Cassar’s new assistant coaches. Paul Daglish, Craig Waibel, and Daryl Shore were brought in from outside the club, while fan favorite Andy “Bomma” Williams was promoted from Head Scout.
• Around January 20, midfielder Sebastian Velasquez cut his famous (infamous?) rattail, leading to fears that chants of “Rufio!” would die out.
• On January 23, Real Salt Lake announced the creation of a team Snapchat account. The club (appropriately) requested that fans “please keep it G-rated.”
Jordan Allen: RSL signed Allen to a home grown contract in late December. The 18-year-old New York native had been named U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Player of the Year.
Ryan Neil: The Cal midfielder was RSL’s first-round pick (18th overall) in the 2014 MLS Superdraft. With so few needs to fill, RSL selected Neil as the best player available. Unfortunately, with so few needs to fill, RSL simply hopes it won’t have to quickly cut Neil.
Luke Mulholland: RSL signed the back-to-back NASL Best XI midfielder from the Tampa Bay Rowdies on January 21.
Joey Dillon: The Georgetown midfielder was RSL’s third round pick (53rd overall) in the 2014 MLS Superdraft.
Daniel Jackson: Jackson was RSL’s fourth round pick (70th overall) in the 2014 MLS Superdraft. A forward from Division II Coker College, Jackson’s stay with the team could be brief, given that RSL already has five effective forwards.
Lovel Palmer: On December 13, Real Salt Lake traded the fan favorite to the Chicago Fire in exchange for allocation money. Palmer made 21 appearances across all competitions for RSL last season.
Enzo Martinez: A 2012 first round pick for RSL, he just never fit into Jason Kreis’s system. RSL declined his option on January 9.
Yordany Alvarez: A sometimes volatile midfielder, Alvarez was traded to expansion side Orlando City S.C. on January 22. During his two seasons with Real Salt Lake, Alvarez scored one goal, a beautiful strike against Toronto in 2013 that earned him Goal of the Week honors.
(image courtesy of realsaltlake.com)