We have our first midseason coach firing of the 2017 MLS season – and it only took three weeks.
Real Salt Lake have fired their head coach, Jeff Cassar, the club announced late Monday. RSL are just three matches into the 2017 regular season, recording two losses and a draw so far.
It’s not exactly a huge surprise to see RSL part ways with Cassar – he struggled to develop an identity with the team after three years (and we even predicted he’d be the first midseason firing) – but the timing is certainly odd. A one-year contract extension for 2017 was a lukewarm endorsement, to be sure, but letting it go just three weeks into the season will come across as harsh.
Last year, after RSL barely made it to the postseason’s play-in round and swiftly got knocked out, there were questions swirling about whether Cassar would be back. Kyle Beckerman, for instance, was asked by reporters if Cassar should return and declined to voice support for the coach, first by asking reporters what they thought and then by saying it wasn’t up to him.
Now, with the season barely started, Cassar is out, with RSL’s goalkeeping coach Daryl Shore taking over in the interim. The process to find a permanent replacement has already started, the club said.
“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,” general manager Craig Waibel said in a statement. “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.”
Cassar, a former RSL assistant coach, took over RSL in 2014 after Jason Kreis left. While the team saw success under Kreis and former general manager Garth Lagerwey, winning an MLS Cup in 2013, Cassar was unable to keep that going. The further the team got away from the Kreis/Lagerwey era, the less convincing Cassar’s leadership looked as he failed to put his own stamp on the team.
This season wasn’t off to a good start, to be sure, but RSL was going through a period of transition with some of their aging core replaced by younger up-and-comers. It’s a surprise to see RSL give Cassar such little time to work with the new roster. But RSL will have to find a way to move forward — they return to action on Saturday with a trip to face the New York Red Bulls.