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Brad Rock: Real Salt Lake's big job now is keeping GM Garth Lagerwey

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 2:02 a.m. MDT

Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey speaks during a press conference to introduce new head coach Jeff Cassar, behind him, at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey speaks during a press conference to introduce new head coach Jeff Cassar, behind him, at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SANDY — Garth Lagerwey was ticking down the Real Salt Lake roster, listing not just names and positions, but backgrounds, tendencies, traits, possibilities and predictions.

The Tuesday media session was mostly for background, not publication.

Good thing for him.

He had enough information in his head to make a Ken Burns documentary.

Lagerwey is the answer man of RSL. He can recite, without notes, everything about the veterans, but also the promise of players like Jordan Allen, a product of the RSL-Arizona Academy. He knows the strengths, weaknesses, worries and possibly favorite sandwich of each of the 28 players. His roster sheet at the podium may as well have been a grocery list.

Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando does goalkeeping drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando does goalkeeping drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

He didn’t even glance down.

“It’s what I do all day, every day. My previous job was working as a lawyer and I probably worked more hours in the office,” Lagerwey said afterward. “This is what I always dreamed of doing. This is my dream job. I feel like I do this when I’m sleeping.”

What he can’t tell you is whether he’ll be in Salt Lake a year from now.

Which is really the one answer, above all others, that needs to be addressed.

“I’m under contract this year, so we’ll see what happens. I don’t think it’s going to be resolved during the season,” he said. “Which, to be clear, I’m OK with. I want to be happy and I want to do what’s right for my career.”

Real Salt Lake's Ned Grabavoy, back, and Luke Mulholland vie for the ball during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake's Ned Grabavoy, back, and Luke Mulholland vie for the ball during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Ah, yes, career. Isn’t this where we left off?

Three months ago, RSL had just come off an overtime loss to Kansas City in the MLS Cup final. Coach Jason Kreis, who along with Lagerwey, built Salt Lake into a perennially dangerous team, was on his way to New York. Although RSL tried to keep him, it had little chance. Not many soccer coaches are going to make Salt Lake their final stop. That likely applies to Lagerwey, too. He openly admits he wants to run an organization from the top, as a president. But current RSL president Bill Manning, who arrived a few months after Lagerwey, was MLS Executive of the Year in 2012.

“If there are opportunities — there aren’t any right now, but there might there be in the future — that is something I’d like to consider,” he said. “That why I say we probably won’t resolve anything contractually during the year.”

Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman runs stations during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman runs stations during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Overall, both Lagerwey and coach Jeff Cassar have the same take on this year’s team: They like their chances. Twenty-five players return from last year’s conference championship side. That’s like Ben & Jerry’s saying it’s sticking with the Cherry Garcia.

Coaches and players are the faces of their teams. But as a spokesman, nobody is better than Lagerwey. Experienced in the broadcast booth, a former player, lawyer and columnist at Sports Illustrated, the last thing you’ll hear from him is “no comment.”

Lagerwey is probably even more valuable than he realizes. Salt Lake wasn’t a soccer market when things began in 2005. He arrived in September 2007, a few months after RSL made Kreis its coach, and a few months before Manning arrived. A year later, they had their team in the conference finals, the first of six consecutive playoff appearances.

Real Salt Lake players run stations and situational drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake players run stations and situational drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

But Lagerwey is far more than the co-builder of the current roster. If you need someone to boost interest in a match, he’s the guy. (Kreis could put an edge on a nursery rhyme.) If you need a quote, Lagerwey can handle that effortlessly.

Asked what he’d be doing if not a sports executive or attorney, he began, “I was watching cartoons with my son the other day ... ”

There can be no wrong conclusion to this conversation.

He went on to note he did voice-over work on a film called “Kickin’ It,” a story about the Homeless World Cup.

“I did it pro bono,” he said, calling on his legalese. “Still, to answer you, if I’ve got to do something else, maybe that’s what I’d try. Silly answer but ... ”

Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata (8) and Carlos Salcedo run situational drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata (8) and Carlos Salcedo run situational drills during practice at America First Field in Sandy on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

But entertaining.

Now owner Dell Loy Hansen has to figure out how to convince Lagerwey to stay. Here’s a good start: Send him a $1,000 bill inside a fruit basket, with a note: There’s more where that came from.Then tell him he’s first in line if an opening comes.

But he already knows that. Lagerwey says he loves Salt Lake. Still, odds are against keeping him unless, amid all the talking, he somehow manages to talk himself into staying.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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