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Reaction – Real Salt Lake’s coaching search broadens

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We now know of ten possible candidates; our staff gives their response

Real Salt Lake v Chivas USA

The search for the next head coach for Real Salt Lake is in full swing and unlike vacancies in the past, we have good insight into who the front office is considering for the job.

Over the last several weeks, names of candidates interviewing for the head coaching job of Real Salt Lake have made their way into the open, largely through the reporting of Sam Stejskal of the Athletic and Spencer Checketts of ESPN700. A source confirmed to RSL Soapbox that Mark Briggs is also being considered for the position. Earlier this week, Jeff Rueter reported that Pat Noonan was in Utah for a second round of interviews, so we know that process is still ongoing and advancing.

Our staff reacts to each potential hire and that they could bring to the club.

Mark Briggs

Real Salt Lake (https://www.rsl.com/post/2017/10/25/view-booth-curtains-close-monarchs-season)

Lucas Muller
Grade: B-
Reaction: Briggs is a good USL coach who was well loved by his players, and won the Monarchs their first piece of hardware. The biggest marks against him is that doesn’t have experience at the MLS level and some fans have concerns about his character due to legal trouble during his time with the Monarchs.

Megan Webb
Grade: B
Reaction: I think as much as Mark Briggs has proved his success at the USL level, I don’t know if it is the right time to give him the reigns of an MLS team. Although he dose have the advantage of prior experience with a fair amount of players on the roster, I think its time to go to a brand new, outside of the organization, coach.

Andy Graff
Grade: D
Reaction: Nah. Not yet.

Dave Cheever
Grade: C+
Reaction: Great team building skills, but has yet to face a lot of players with atmospheric star level egos. Also a bit too tied to the organization as it was. Would also probably want to build a team from scratch to match his goals and desired one true way playing style.

Kreg Asay
Grade: B-
Reaction: Shown he can do fairly well as a coach in USL, but he has yet to prove it can translate to MLS. Let him get some time in as an Asst. before jumping in headfirst, there’s a learning curve in MLS.


Steve Cherundolo

Hannover 96 Team Presentation Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

Andy Graff
Grade: B
Reaction: Cherundolo is a young coach who just might not be ready yet, but he comes with some interesting assistant coaching background. There’s an intriguing maybe here.

Dave Cheever
Grade: C
Reaction: Does not know MLS. RSL needs someone who understands MLS going in and will not take a few years to understand the league. If he even had some MLS Assistant coaching experience I would boost this rating.

Kreg Asay
Grade: D
Reaction: All of his playing career was in Germany, and his only coaching experience in the US has been for USL’s Las Vegas Lights (hired for 2021). The Lights have been at or near the bottom of the table every year of it’s existence, and he hasn’t been able to do any better with them this year.

Lucas Muller
Grade: C+
Reaction: Cherundolo is a guy who has a good deal of international experience, both as a player and as an assistant coach. he’s recently been given his first head coaching role in Las Vegas. He’s never managed at any level in MLS, but his experience as a player and an assistant could make up for his limited time as a head coach.


Landon Donovan

Lucas Muller
Grade: B
Reaction: Donovan might be the name that has me most excited, even if I think he’s inexperience (like many of the others on this list). Not only is Landon one of the most reconginizable names in US Men’s soccer, but he seems hungry to grow. He’s also a coach who has shown he’s willing to stand up for what he believes, such as taking the Loyal off the field after a homophobic slur was used by an opposing player and the ref would not take action. That kind of moral backbone is something RSL needs have the Dell Loy and Andy Carrol days.

Andy Graff
Grade: A
Reaction: I love Landy-Poo (that’s what he’s known as, right?). Vast coaching experience? Not really. But it’s still Landy-Poo.

Stockton Mair
Grade B+
Reaction: Landon Donovan could be a really interesting addition to the club if hired. I don’t know much about the results on the field, but I do know that he will stand up for and support his players, as (unfortunately due to racism and homophobia) seen on a few occasions with San Diego.

Dave Cheever
Grade: D-
Reaction: Heart is in SoCal and not really even if he does take the job. SLC is not a major media market and his style and philosophy might serve to alienate portions of the local fanbase.

Kreg Asay
Grade: C-
Reaction: I’ve never really been on the Donovan train. As with Briggs, he may have the chops for USL, but he’s never been tried in MLS.


Dominic Kinnear

Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Andy Graff
Grade: C-
Reaction: This is a strange one to me. He’s had both successes and failures in MLS. His win percentage as a coach is barely above that of Jason Kreis, but not anywhere near Bruce Arena’s or Sigi Schmid’s. I’d say pass, but I could be wrong.

Dave Cheever
Grade: B+
Reaction: An excellent choice for interim coach with tacit understanding that he may leave upon the arrival of new ownership. Can get up and running quickly and good at dealing with players with atmospheric star level egos.

Kreg Asay
Grade: A-
Reaction: He has MLS experience, and teams he has coached (and been Asst. on) have won silverware. I’d rank Kinnear top of this list.

Lucas Muller
Grade: C
Reaction: He has a ton of know how in the league, but I’m not sure what we’ve seen from him in recent years that would make him an inspiring hire. RSL could do a lot worse, though.


Jason Kreis

Inter Miami CF v New York City FC Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Joseph Hutchison
Grade: C-
Reaction: I don’t want Kreis to come back for a couple reasons. 1) He has not done very well in any head coaching position post-RSL. Not all of it was his fault, but it still worries me. 2) I don’t want his amazing legacy tarnished by a non-successful return. I fear that people may see Kreis’s return as a “savior” situation, and any failure could endanger the memory of his past successes.

Andy Graff
Grade: D
Reaction: Nah. Not again.

Stockton Mair
Grade A+
Reaction: Jason Kreis has been the only successful head coach this club has seen. Ever since he left to go to New York City FC, our club has been lost. We don’t have a true identity as we did with him. If one person could put this club back on track, I think it would be Kreis.

Dave Cheever
Grade: D-
Reaction: Been there and done that. If he couldn’t get the US into the Olympics he might not be the coach we need to handle a team that will continue to be build upon young inexperienced players.

Kreg Asay
Grade: C
Reaction: His two subsequent attempts at coaching MLS have been failures - albeit their owners didn’t allow him as much lee-way in creating the team as Dave Checketts did (with Garth as GM). If he did return and turn things around it would further raise his status with fans (and MLS) to legendary heights, but do we really want to take the chance without knowing what the ownership situation will be?

Lucas Muller
Grade: D or A
Reaction: This is the hardest one to react to. Like many, I fell in love with RSL under Kreis. He is THE Real Salt Lake coach and brining him back, particularly without DLH in charge, could be incredible. But Kreis hasn’t had much success since leaving RSL. I’d be happy to see him return, but I’d also be nervous.


Pablo Mastroeni

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Finals - Leg 2 Photo by Daniel Petty/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Megan Webb
Grade: B+
Reaction: I am not opposed to letting Mastroeni finish out the season. I think it’s not the best option for head coach for a long term. But, I’m not opposed to letting him finish out the season and prove me wrong. I think he has the capabilities to be a good head coach, I just haven’t seen much so far that makes me want to keep him in Salt Lake, but I’d love for him to prove me wrong.

Andy Graff
Grade: D
Reaction: Nah. Not yet.

Stockton Mair
Grade: D+
Reaction: I think we need to avoid yet another in-house hire and go outside the organization. In his first match in charge, RSL had by far the worst loss this season. I think he could be a good assistant, but I do NOT want him as head coach. He makes confusing and baffling decisions at times.

Dave Cheever
Grade: B+
Reaction: Still approaching the team from the viewpoint of an outsider. Has really done nothing to automatically exclude himself from consideration and the upheaval from changing the coach is already started if not behind the team. Has always proven willing to tinker and make changes instead of relying on the one true method of winning matches.

Kreg Asay
Grade: C
Reaction: I’m fine letting him finish the season, and seeing what happens; if the changes he’s making ends up working then he deserves a shot. We’ve only seen a small handful of games, but so far the jury’s still out for me.


Javier Morales

Los Angeles Galaxy v Real Salt Lake Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Joseph Hutchison
Grade: C+
Reaction: Shout out to RSL Legend Trey Fitz-Gerald’s #1 pic for the job (see El Show RSL’s video for his thoughts on Javi https://youtu.be/ks-nB4m-eOE). I have a few reservations on Javi as our new head coach, mainly due to his lack of coaching experience. I don’t doubt his devotion and love for RSL, but I’d rather see him as an assistant first. He does have the unknown/wildcard factor that means you can’t really rule him out though.

Andy Graff
Grade: A+/D-
Reaction: I love Javi even more than Landy-Poo. He’s my favorite of all time. But what if he sucks as a coach? I couldn’t handle the conflicting emotions. Imagine having to criticize and be mad at Javi.

Stockton Mair
Grade: A+
Reaction: I love Javi. He’s the greatest player in club history. He was unceremoniously forced out of the club, and I will always be furious at how that happened. I would love to have him come back to the club and community that loves him, and I think he could be a successful head coach.

Dave Cheever
Grade: C-
Reaction: Understands MLS as a player and has Spanish language skills and ties. Understands what it takes to integrate into a new team in foreign country. However, still very unproven as a MLS head coach.

Kreg Asay
Grade: C-
Reaction: All of his coaching experience so far has been on the youth level. Much like Kreis’ I’d hate to have him come in and have his image with RSL be tarnished with a complete failure. Bring him back as an Asst. for RSL or with the Monarchs and move up from there.


Pat Noonan

Los Angeles Galaxy v Vancouver Whitecaps Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Joseph Hutchison
Grade: B+
Reaction: Noonan is one of the coaches on this list that most RSL fans aren’t familiar with. After having a successful career as a player, he transitioned to coaching as an assistant with LA Galaxy and now with Philadelphia. Having been with the Union in their most successful time of player development and overall success, he would be an interesting pick for someone who’s done his time as an assistant for successful teams.

Andy Graff
Grade: B+
Reaction: An MLSer with a long MLS background. He knows what it takes to win in MLS. I’m actually a bit intrigued by this one.

Dave Cheever
Grade: B+
Reaction: The safe neutral choice. Not much gained but also not much lost. Has done a credible job as a assistant with winning LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union sides in MLS. Will be hungry and looking to prove himself prior to any ownership changes. Would be happy to see RSL emulate the styles of both the aforementioned teams.

Kreg Asay
Grade: B+
Reaction: MLS lifer who understands the league well, and while he’s only been an Asst. coach in MLS, much of that has been under Bruce Arena. He deserves a shot in the first chair. He’d be my 2nd pick of this list.


Jamison Olave

Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Megan Webb
Grade: C
Reaction: I love Olave, the verb, as much as anyone else, but I don’t think its the right fit. Again I think it is time to hire outside of the organization. I would be 100% okay with bringing him in as some sort of defense / center backs coach, but as a head coach I don’t think he has the strength as a head coach to do so just yet.

Andy Graff
Grade: D
Reaction: Nah. Not yet.

Dave Cheever
Grade: D-
Reaction: Great player who is learning to coach but still has a distance to go. Keep him in the developmental ranks and give him time to pick up better offensive coaching skills.

Kreg Asay
Grade: C
Reaction: Olave says no. He has had one great year with the Monarchs, but results from other years have been very inconsistent. One major drawback is having nearly complete team turnover every year which doesn’t help build from year-to-year, so in some sense he has done well with what he’s been dealt. It’s possible he could do OK with a stable team, but I’d still like to see a bit more consistency with the Monarchs before promotion.


Rob Valentino

SOCCER: AUG 28 MLS - Nashville SC at Atlanta United FC Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Andy Graff
Grade: D-
Reaction: Who?

Dave Cheever
Grade: D-
Reaction: Is learning MLS but failed to make any kind of difference when Atlanta United went south under the past two head coaches who basically blew up the team. Can he handle a locker room in contentious situations or will it all be too much for him?

Kreg Asay
Grade: F
Reaction: A name very few would recognize (I had to google him!), he played in fairly short-lived runs in MLS, and has coached one USL level team before becoming Atlanta United’s asst. Let’s give this one a pass.

Which candidate would you be most excited to see take the helm for RSL and why?