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Roundtable: Should RSL retain Craig Waibel?

It’s a question without a clear answer. Here are four distinct takes.

File Photo / Matt Montgomery

Hello! I’m your moderator today, which really just means that I’m writing the wrapping text around this week’s roundtable.

The question at hand: Should Craig Waibel return to Real Salt Lake in 2019?

We have several voices at the table here: Andy Graff and Kreg Asay are both writers here at RSL Soapbox. You’ll know Andy from his What We Learned column, and you’ll know Kreg from The Oracle and Power Rankings overviews, among other aspects of the site. I’m here, too. Joining us from the stands today is 15-2-32, who has been a consistent commenter on the site.

Andy Graff, RSL Soapbox

Probably not the most popular take around sports, but as a middle school teacher, I’m all about experimentation, failure, and trying again until it’s right. Failure is the best teacher. We learn more from failures than successes. But in professional sports, you’re expected to win—from day one.

Why are we mad at Waibel? Strikers. Yura and Ortuño. This makes sense as we’ve had problems finishing over the past few years. Should Waibel take the blame, though? Yura was our boy coming home to help us claim victory. Ortuño never looked bad on paper. Two glaring failures for RSL, no doubt.

Yet we’ve also got Rusnák, Marcelo Silva, and Savarino. Lennon and Saucedo came back. Our team has a stack of decent academy talent. There are massive wins in Waibel’s pile. Rusnák’s the kind of player we can build a franchise around if we play smart.

So what do I think? I think Waibel’s still learning the gig; it’s not something that happens quickly, or even over a couple of years. It takes a long time and many errors. He has some wins. Some losses. He had to persevere through the Cassar era. Is he still taking flak for our difficulties under Cassar? Probably.

I think Waibel still has the potential to steer the ship in the right direction. Let’s see what he can do to bring us a worthwhile striker now that we’ve sprung two massive leaks. If he can’t supply that key piece by the start of the 2019 season, I’ll jump to the Waibel Out ship. Problem is, then we’ll have to wait out a new contract. It’s a gamble.

Kreg Asay, RSL Soapbox

It’s a rather mixed bag with Waibel. On one hand he signed Rusnak, M. Silva, Savarino and brought up several of our academy players; but inversely there was the whole mess around Ortuño and Movsisyan. That I think accounts for most of the negative opinions surrounding him. I can’t really put much blame on him for ‘Burrito’ Martinez, his family couldn’t make the adjustment to living here and wanted to leave. Plus it the league may have turned out to be a bit more demanding than he thought; after his first season of running circles around defenders, they resorted to just fouling him at every chance in order to stop him.

I think the biggest failing he’s had is in signing promising Academy players - of course we don’t know if he’s tried or not, and what constraints he was under; but the fact that we’ve now had many opt to go overseas rather than play with RSL or the Monarchs is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

So on the whole; I’d say if RSL makes the playoffs, Waibel deserves an extension. True he’s not the best in the league, but he’s not the worst either — one need only look to Seattle to see how Garth Lagerwey has fared with much deeper pockets.

15-2-32, RSL Soapbox reader and commenter

Let me preface by saying that, in my opinion, the job description of General Manager is not just limited to the first team. To me, the General Manager is in charge of installing and executing a full club idea or path from the youngest level possible all the way to the first team. I do not expect the GM to be involved in the day-to-day of the various steps between, but I do expect the GM to the one pushing the vision along and holding the various steps accountable.

To that end, Craig Waibel has failed quite miserably. The Academy has grown exponentially since 2015 (when Waibel became Technical Director and then General Manager) with the Herriman facility as well as the satellite RSL locations. The opportunity and infrastructure for the club is there and only getting better. However, the execution simply is not. The biggest evidence of this is the current structure of the Real Monarchs roster and the overall objective of the Real Monarchs. Of the 17 players listed on the Monarchs roster, only one (Mastanabal Kacher) is under the age of 23. This is not the full list of players that have suited up for the Monarchs, obviously, but it is disturbing that the official roster for the club does not have anyone at the age of 20 or less. The most concerning part, though, is the lack of academy players. While it is cool to see the likes of Justen Glad, Bofo Saucedo, Aaron Herrera, and Danny Acosta playing on the first team, you cannot help but wonder why there are more academy players on the first team than its feeder team. How can that be? How is that a club vision?

The Real Monarchs are being mismanaged. They are a very successful club in terms of winning games, but they are quite bad at being the middle part of the club pyramid between the Academy and RSL. That falls on the General Manager of the whole setup – Craig Waibel. He has the power to step in and make things change yet has not. The win first mentality of the Monarchs has bastardized development. This makes it not too big of a surprise that the likes of Sebastian Soto and Taylor Booth have left the club. While blame is not wholly on Craig Waibel for that, he certainly shoulders a significant chunk. By not having roster rules such as a 50% academy players or age restrictions on the Monarchs, he has allowed the Monarchs to lose its purpose.

There are reasons that Waibel should not be re-signed as GM. There are also reasons he should be re-signed. If it were clear-cut, this discussion would not happen. The various sides of that argument are presented here. I think he has done a fine enough job, but has lacked in some key areas that are holding the club back. RSL should part ways and try something new.

Matt Montgomery, RSL Soapbox

You’ve had plenty of opinion above, and you don’t really need me to chime in here on that. But I do want to pose another question: Of the criticisms around Waibel, how many are in his control as a general manager, how many are shared by others in the organization, and how many belong wholly on others?

I’m also left wondering about Real Monarchs. Is the state of Real Monarchs as a developmental structure down to Craig Waibel, or is he taking orders from higher up the organizational chain?

If we remember back several years, we will remember chatter about RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen having a very substantial influence on the decision-making at the organization. He was known as a bit of a meddler. I wonder if that’s still the case, and what role that plays at the club.