Real Salt Lake has hardly been great through most of 2015, barring some choice moments, and as a result, plenty of people are out there calling for the head of Jeff Cassar on a silver platter.
I'd like to have been exaggerating about that statement, but aside from being decidedly non-literal, the sentiment seems very much the same.
With that in mind, I've put together a short list of reasons to just calm down a little bit, whether you support Cassar or don't. Don't take this as a "definitely deserves his job" or "definitely deserves to be fired" type thing, because it's not that. There are just things you probably want to think about before calling for his head.
5 - Cassar is still a young coach
The decision at the start of the 2014 season to retain basically every player possible may have had longer-lasting repercussions than I would have expected. My hypothesis? It didn't give Jeff Cassar the true test early on, and it didn't make the team truly his. Instead, he was left in the shadow of Jason Kreis, and there wasn't a lot of wiggle room. But by the same token, a strong, veteran team saw him through the first half of the season, and that helped — but it only offset the changes the team desperately needed.
4 - New formation struggles early hurt results
Real Salt Lake clearly wasn't ready at the beginning of the year to play int he 4-3-3, and that was a problem. But it's always going to be difficult to take a team that had only truly known the diamond and turn it into a swashbuckling, attacking 4-3-3, and that's exactly what we saw. With improved performances in the last two months, we've seen that the formation is more than suitable for the personnel here.
3 - The expansion draft gutted the team of several veterans
When the team lost Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert to the expansion draft, it was a blow — they were both players that had earned consistent minutes over the years, and they'd both been consistently in their play. Without them, it was tough to find anything close to consistent results. Throw in the departure of Nat Borchers to Portland, and you're left with a tough task.
2 - Chris Schuler and Jamison Olave have been consistently unavailable
Real Salt Lake's best center back pairing, arguably, is the Schuler-Olave one, but it's not one we've been allowed to see. Both players had good 2014s when it came to injuries (except for Schuler's face, of course), and that made for some expectations that simply weren't met this year. It's some parts luck and some parts planning, but in MLS, well-paid depth is difficult to come by.
None of this makes the decision to part ways with Nat Borchers look better, but a desire to not lose a player for nothing led the way — in essence, we let him choose his path, and he chose Portland. Now, here's hoping we get him back on the coaching staff when he retires.
1 - Cassar has made strides in developing young players
This is the biggest thing for me. Jeff Cassar has been excellent when it comes to bringing along young players, and we've started to see good performances from Jordan Allen, Sebastian Saucedo, Justen Glad, Phanuel Kavita, Boyd Okwuonu, Elias Vasquez, and most recently, Olmes Garcia. Each of those players is no older than 23-years-old.
It takes a certain sort of coach to bring along promising young players, and even if the Luis Gil endeavor looks to be fading into the night, Cassar still has an excellent track record in 2015.