On Monday afternoon, Real Salt Lake announced that they were parting ways with head coach Jeff Cassar. He was let go after only three games in the 2017 season, marking the fastest firing of a coach in MLS history. 2017 was his fourth year as head coach of the club, but his time with the team goes back much further than that.
In May 2007, newly appointed head coach Jason Kreis appointed his former Dallas Burn teammate Jeff Cassar as the goal keeper coach. Cassar had been a keeper, primarily for MLS and NASL teams, and his first coaching opportunity was with Dallas before being hired by RSL.
During Jeff’s time as goal keeping coach, RSL won the MLS Cup in 2009 after a penalty shootout. Rimando had two big saves. It’s worth noting that Cassar coached Nick Rimando for the majority of his time in goal with RSL.
After leading RSL to the MLS Cup final in 2013, Jason Kreis soon announced his departure from the club. Cassar was then announced as the new head coach for the 2014 season. In Cassar’s first 12 matches, the team went unbeaten. RSL finished third in the west that year but went out in the first round of the playoffs after tying in the first game, but losing 5-0 in the second leg against the LA Galaxy. RSL finished the season 4th in MLS and with a win rate of 60 percent.
The 2015 season was not a strong year for the team. RSL did not make the playoffs, and finished 2nd from the bottom in western conference table with a win rate of 44 percent. It was the first time since 2007 that Real did not qualify for the playoffs.
The last full season Cassar oversaw was a mixed one. RSL made it to the quarterfinals of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League. RSL did not win a match in MLS in September or October. Their win rate was 50% for the season, and while they made it to the playoffs, they lost to LA (again) in the Western Conference Knockout round.
The start of the present season was marred by injury, with 2 losses and a tie in the first three matches. While many fans were calling for Cassar to be let go, it is surprising how quickly his firing came in the season. His overall win rate was 50.8 percent, just 4.4 percent behind Jason Kreis’. It’s hard to say what Cassar’s lasting legacy will be with Real Salt Lake. He’s been with the club just shy of a decade, and has been a part of shaping Real’s culture in ways we may fully appreciate.