Two things came to a crashing halt today, winter, and Jeff Cassar’s time as head coach of Real Salt Lake. Across the social media interwebs people have been calling for the sacking of Cassar for well over a year now, and their wish has been granted. Regardless of your thoughts or feelings on the man, one thing is clear, he was pivotal in helping build this club both as an assistant to Jason Kreis and as our head coach.
Now, we aren’t here to dwell on today’s firing of Jeff Cassar. Like a child anticipating their birthday present, we wait with baited breath to see what Dell Loy Hansen and Craig Waibel have in store. In the great words of the philosopher Socrates, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” and while we never like to see someone lose their job, we look forward to the endless potential that the new presents.
Now, before you take to twitter to blast me for this one let’s set some ground rules.
1- This list is not exhaustive.
2- There are many hurdles to hiring any of these coaches. Until a contract is signed your guess is as good as mine. The interest in joining our club will have to be mutual and given that we are the smallest market in MLS it could be a tough sell.
3- Don’t take this list too seriously. Although it would be pretty kick ass to hire one of these potential coaches the chances are pretty slim.
I present to you, our wish-list of potential coaches to fill the vacancy.
#1: Claudio Ranieri: Unless you have lived under a rock you may have heard the name. Up until February 23rd of this year (when he was fired), Ranieri was a soccer god. Last season he lead the plucky Leicester Foxes to a miraculous Barclay’s Premier League title. After a less than stellar start to this season and only months removed from winning the title, in true Premier League fashion he was sacked.
Ranieri is now jobless, and who better to take a team from rags to riches than the man that beat 5,000 to 1 odds to deliver a title to the English city of Leicester? Not to mention that he could open up a potential Italian pipeline for RSL to recruit from.
#2: Bob Bradley: Bob Bradley is one of the most respected and well decorated coaches available on the free agent market. He has won Open Cups, MLS Cups, Gold Cups, and came a whisker away from winning the Confederations Cup. He has managed in MLS with the Chicago Fire, both the U.S. and Egyptian national teams, and was the first American-born head coach in the English Premier League.
Bob would bring instant respect in the league and could really help our scouting and recruiting efforts.
#3: Jürgen Klinsmann: It makes me a little nauseated to even say it, but Klinsmann could actually be a good fit for RSL. He brims with passion, energy and excitement. He was maddening as the head coach of the U.S. national team. He would constantly tinker with lineups and formations to the point that it became comical.
That issue becomes somewhat neutralized by the fact that he wouldn’t be able to call new players onto Salt Lake’s team every couple months. He would have the same players day in and day out. Also, Klinsmann is not afraid to give minute to the youngsters and would bring international attention to the team. Plus, he lives in California, a quick 2 hour flight from Salt Lake.
#4: Landon Donovan: The league put a knife right in the back of any hopes that we had of signing LD to our roster this year...as a player. TAM, CAM and collective bargaining wouldn’t get in the way of this deal. Donovan has never been a head coach, unless you count the occasional appearance as the coach of the MLS All-star weekend’s Home Grown game.
What Landon does have is decades of experience as the best player in MLS and USMNT history. He has played for a variety of different coaches, has played in even more formations, and has seen success at every level of soccer. He’d have a lot of questions to answer as a new coach but you have to admit it would be very intriguing to see him on the sideline week in and week out.
#5: Sigi Schmid: You don’t have to be physically fit to be a coach, you just have to get results. I am well aware that he got fired from the Seattle Sounders last year only to see that same core unit go on to win MLS Cup. Prior to his termination Sigi was no slouch, he has won 3 college championships, a CONCACAF Champions Cup, 5 U.S. Open Cups, 3 MLS Supporter’s Shields, and 2 MLS Cups. Yeah, the guy has won, a lot!
Not only does Sigi know how to win but it’s also most likely that he has a giant chip on his shoulder and something to prove. If RSL signed him, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
#6: Mike Petke: This seems to be the most simple and straightforward choice. He is already within the RSL family as the new head coach of the Real Monarchs although he has yet to coach them in a single match. He won MLS Cup as a player in 2004 with D.C. United and added a Supporter’s Shield in 2013 as the head coach of the New York Red Bulls.
#7: Nat Borchers: The city of Portland might have a meltdown if Nat were to come back as our head coach. Nat only just recently retired after suffering what would prove to be a career ending injury last July 25th when he ruptured his left achilles.
Nat has no head coaching experience. What he does have is an intimate knowledge of the culture and ethos of our club. He knows how to navigate our fan base and front office. It could be an interesting selection.
#8: Roger Schmidt: Recently Schmidt was fired as the head coach of the Bundesliga side Bayern Leverkusen (March 5th) after a 5-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund. He is well travelled, having been the head coach for 5 different clubs. He is German born and spent most of his playing career in the Austrian Bundesliga.
#9: Alex Neil: Unless you are a Norwich Canaries fan you may not have heard of him. He was let go from the Championship League side only 10 days ago. He is young at only 35 years old, but has loads of potential. He has played in the Scottish Football League as well as coached in it, as well as coaching for the Canaries.
#10: Robin Fraser: If you have been a long time fan of RSL then you will know Robin Fraser. He was hired on as an assistant in 2007. He was a part of the club through our run to MLS Cup as well as our second place finish in CONCACAF Champions League.
Fraser has a laundry list of accomplishments as a player and an assistant coach. That being said, his one stint as a head coach was something worth forgetting. He was hired by the now defunct Chivas U.S.A. where in 68 games at the helm he could only muster a 22% winning percentage. Fraser was heavily considered to be Kreis’s replacement 4 seasons ago before Real Salt Lake offered the role to Cassar.
If RSL decides to hire Fraser it wouldn’t be a bad choice. It would make you wonder what could have been had they hired him 4 years ago when he was originally in consideration.
Honorable Mention: Ned Grabavoy, everyone loves Ned and he is recently retired as a player.
The soccer world is vast, and there are a lot of coaches in need of a job. While we may not know for days or weeks who the next head coach will be, it sure will be fun to speculate. We’ll keep a close eye on this one and hope that the great Andy Williams gives us some twitter hints in the very near future.