Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Editor's note: The 2007 season has been a wild one for Real Salt Lake, both on and off the field. Between the stadium saga, the coaching change and the revolving player personnel door that's seen more than a dozen players come and go, the club has been in the news often.RSL owner David Checketts sat down with the Deseret Morning News last week to reflect on the past season, and what to potentially expect in 2008.
DMN: Considering wins have been so tough to come by for Real Salt Lake this year, when did you give up on the 2007 playoffs as a realistic possibility?
Checketts: There was this period of time when Jason (Kreis) took over, particularly the night of the Red Bulls game that we came back and tied, I actually thought maybe there was some hope. Maybe we had enough jump and spark. But then sometime in early August, and I don't remember a particular game, but I realized we probably weren't going to make it. I knew we didn't have the horses to compete in this league. We just didn't have the personnel.
DMN: Is it encouraging then that coach Jason Kreis and his players continually insisted they still believed they could make the playoffs?
Checketts: What I was asking Jason to do was to make sure he was surrounding himself with people on the coaching staff and players who have as much drive as he does. I wanted to get rid of the passive mentality, even if that meant we weren't going to be successful this year. I think the other thing we realized is that when you play on turf, it is harder on guys' bodies than playing on grass. We felt like we had to get younger. We needed to get more pace, but mostly we just needed to change the attitude to a will to win. That's what I've always admired about Jason. I really admire that they still think they can win. I haven't tried to persuade them that it's not possible even though I felt in early August we didn't feel we could get there.
DMN: How would you evaluate Jason Kreis in his first 4 1/2 months as RSL's head coach?
Checketts: I think he's done about as well as he could possibly do. 'Cause he's done everything. The day after the Kansas City game he flew to Argentina, he wanted to look these three kids in the eye, he wanted to watch film, he wanted to meet them face to face before we made a decision like that. I really admire that. This is a guy who's written me five- and six-page e-mails about strategy, player strategy, and managing the cap, and I've tried to tell him eventually he was going to have an ally in doing that, but he was going to have to give me some time to find the right general manager. He has this ability to work that is very much like my own. I like people who work really, really hard and stay at things until they figure them out. It's not easy what he's gone through at all, but he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning, and he's asking for help and guidance, and asking questions. He's very respectful always. I think overall we'd have to say he's laying the foundation for what I think is a very good future.
DMN: Do you think the previous regime took too many risks with player personnel?
Checketts: I don't want to say anything about them, because they're both very good men, Steve (Pastorino) and John (Ellinger). I do think their heart was in the right place. And I was pushing them, frankly, to get better and to give us a chance. They did their best.
DMN: It seems everything we hear about MLS these days is all rosy, with David Beckham, the ESPN TV deal, adidas jersey sponsorship, all the soccer-specific stadiums. What are some concerns you have about MLS?
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