"I don't see anything not to be excited about."
Those words from Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen came at a good time for fans of a club that is going through as much change as it ever has in the last seven years. He tried to provide some optimism In the midst of plenty of bad news including Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert leaving for New York City FC, Nat Borchers taking his beard to Portland, and the big one, general manager Garth Lagerwey parting ways with Salt Lake for a job with the Seattle Sounders. And I've got to admit, I feel quite a bit better about where things are at.
There are a few quotes from Hansen's interview on ESPN 700 that are worth the attention of RSL fans, especially the ones that are feeling down about where things are currently at. When asked about Craig Waibel replacing Garth Lagerwey, he said, "Craig is clearly prepared to take this step. I don't think RSL will miss a beat. He and Jeff will work well together."
This tells me that he has plenty of confidence in Waibel stepping in when RSL has a lot of potential to succeed. He went on to talk about all the experience that Waibel has in MLS and how well he understands the league and the game being played. He also spoke about how him and head coach Jeff Cassar will work together as equals. Clearly Cassar has an eye for talent, being responsible for bringing in Luke Mulholland.
A couple other quotes stuck out. When asked about the state of the team, he said unequivocally that "I think we'll field the best team that we've fielded since 2010," which was arguably RSL's best season to date. He talked about how the younger players are ready to break through, he alluded to how good the forwards are and Jaime having an offseason to prepare and gel, and about how the experienced players will continue to lead the team and take advantage of opportunities in the 2015 season including CONCACAF Champions League.
He then used the interview opportunity to break news that RSL will have Joao Plata under contract for the next five years and Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando for the next three. If you had a protected list of three, those might be the three that you would choose to protect.
He again went on about how good the forwards are and hinted that "we may actually change formations to take advantage of three great forwards" referring to Alvaro Saborio, Sebastian Jaime, and Joao Plata. This also implies another change to RSL, which at this point is exciting. Some of the best teams in the world play with three up front and a team can only do that if they have the right pieces in place across the field. That is a good sign.
Lastly, he talked about an exciting schedule for 2015. Say goodbye to friendlies and hello again to CONCACAF Champions League. Hansen emphasized that the goal for the club is to "beat Mexico" and go to the Club World Cup. He also stated that he wants to see RSL play Barcelona. If they got to that point, they would have their work cut out for them, but he knows what he wants. There is definitely an air of many MLS teams wanting to break the glass ceiling, and Hansen made it clear that RSL still wants to be the first to win CONCACAF. This is still a priority for the club.
Nobody takes change very easily, but Hansen did well to put things in perspective and show that RSL is in a very good place with everything that is happening from the USL club Real Monarchs starting next year to the academy system producing incredible talent to securing World Cup stars for a few more years. Maybe in ten months, we'll see he was right that things are as good or better than ever. One thing is for sure: Dell Loy Hansen has a vision for Real Salt Lake and he is doing everything he can to make it a reality.