SANDY — For seven seasons, Jason Kreis was the face of Real Salt Lake’s rise to MLS elite.
The backbone of that rise, however, was always a talented group of assistant coaches that Kreis routinely praised for their tireless contributions. A former MLS player who understood the complexities of the league, Kreis made sure to surround himself with assistants who had a similar perspective on the game.
New RSL head coach Jeff Cassar took a similar approach in assembling his coaching staff, which was officially announced Wednesday.
Andy Williams, Paul Dalglish and Craig Waibel are all former MLS players, while new goalkeeper coach Daryl Shore has 10 years of MLS coaching experience at Chicago — along with playing experience in the minors.
“Having such an experienced staff on board will help me in my first year as a head coach, and the unique characteristics that each of them bring to the table will help the team contend for another MLS Cup,” said Cassar in a press release statement.
RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey worked very closely with Cassar throughout his first major order of business as head coach, and he was thoroughly impressed with how he approached assembling the coaching staff.
“He had a vision of the composite staff that he wanted to hire. He wanted the group to have the right feel. He talked about that consistently through the process,” said Lagerwey. “He wanted to get guys who he could trust, who he could rely on, and who looked at the game from different angles and different ways.”
At his introductory press conference last month, Cassar said he and Kreis didn’t always see eye to eye on players and tactics, but those differences, he said, were the foundation of a strong coaching staff.
RSL went into the coaching search with specific needs, and Lagerwey said they filled all of them.
First, Cassar wanted a staff of ex-players, and there’s no shortage of that with nearly 25 years of MLS playing experience on his staff.
Second, he wanted a coach with head coaching experience, but he ended up getting two. Shore was head coach of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL from 2010-2013, while Dalglish has head coaching experience with minor league clubs Tampa and Austin. Last year, Dalglish was named the 2013 USL PDL Coach of the Year with the Austin Aztex.
Cassar also wanted to maintain the NFL-based model of position coaches that Kreis used the past seven years. Dalglish will coach the forwards, Williams the midfielders, Waibel the defenders and Shore the goalkeepers.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the club felt it was very important to hire coaches with experience developing players.
“We believe in the next couple years that’s going to make us or break us,” said Lagerwey. “We know the veteran core we have has performed consistently over a long period of time and we will stick with them as long as we possibly can, but we better be prepared if we reach the day where they can’t do that anymore. We need to continue to develop our young talent to have sustained success.”
Dalglish and Shore each have experience developing players in the minor leagues, while Waibel has experience developing players at the college level for the University of Michigan in 2011 and the University of Washington in 2012.
Williams relinquishes his role as RSL’s head scout to join the coaching staff, duties that Lagerwey said will now be shared by the entire staff — a necessary evil with a smaller-market team.
With the MLS Combine taking place this weekend, the MLS SuperDraft the following weekend, and then the start of preseason on Jan. 24, Cassar and his new coaching staff are very focused on 2014 already, and Lagerwey said they have a lot to prove.
“We are very young and hungry, which is exactly how we started in 2007. Everybody on this staff needs to prove themselves,” said Lagerwey.
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