Real Salt Lake’s 2016 regular season campaign ended not with a bang, but a whimper — a whimper, that is, paired with a playoff entrance that, at one point, seemed inevitable and later became unlikely.
How loud was that whimper?
In the final seven matches, the team earned a shocking three points. It’s inexcusable, really. During that run, they had nearly every player available who was likely to play, save Aaron Maund, who suffered an unexpected broken toe.
The recent run of form is nothing sort of a bleak statement on everyone involved with the team from a playing perspective. It’s the sort of thing that has even the most ardent RSL fans shouting for a Jeff Cassar exit.
And, of course, making the playoffs now has some concerned that Cassar will be handed a contract extension without consideration to recent results. To them, I’d argue that if Jeff Cassar were to sign an extension at the club, it would have happened already.
We heard about an offered extension, but it’s been radio silence since then. I strongly suspect there’s a reason for that — this is a club that has hardly aired its dirty laundry in public, and if that extension was rescinded or constructed as a particularly bad offer more or less as a placeholder, I wouldn’t expect we would hear about it before the entirety of the season ends.
Take the radio silence more as an indicator that, behind the scenes, in the back office, there’s some sort of discontent.
Further evidence of that might be gleaned by the reaction from Joao Plata after being substituted against Seattle Sounders. Despite having a good game to that point, he made way for Burrito Martinez — and yes, there are plenty of good, sensible reasons for that move, but the point is more about his reaction.
If there was some sort of concern — such as saving Plata for a potential midweek game — maybe it could have been discussed 20 minutes earlier when both Plata and Cassar were in the locker room. Instead, what we got was a visibly upset Plata, who later spent his time looking unhappy on the bench. This is not the sort of thing we’re used to at Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake’s recent form is inexcusable, and the manner in which we’ve made the playoffs is a bit shameful. And certainly, it looks like there are very real concerns at the team — it’s one that needs some shaking up and changing, and we haven’t yet seen that.
But right now, we’re in the playoffs, and at least for the next three days — perhaps a few more weeks than that (or even more than a month), if we’re lucky — that’s what we’ll be concentrating on and hoping for. You won’t be hearing any “I hope we lose so Cassar is out” here — that sort of attitude is insulting to the players out there.
No, for now, it’ll be some sort of cautious support and a recognition that, yes, we’re bad — and yes, we know it.