SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, November 9, 2016) – Real Salt Lake Owner Dell Loy Hansen announced today that the club will retain current Head Coach Jeff Cassar for the 2017 Major League Soccer season, with terms of the new contract agreed upon not disclosed.
“Jeff deserves the 2017 year to continue our club’s competitive growth,” said Hansen, following an extensive evaluation period of Real Salt Lake’s soccer operations in the weeks since an October 26 playoff loss at LA Galaxy ended RSL’s 12th season. “His body of work this year – despite the team’s late-season slide – and the overwhelming endorsement of him by numerous voices in our locker room confirm my belief that his continuity and our foundation set up Claret-and-Cobalt success in an extremely competitive Western Conference next season.”
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity that Mr. Hansen and Real Salt Lake has given me,” said Cassar, entering his 11th season as a member of the RSL staff after a decade as a professional player in Major League Soccer (Dallas Burn, Miami Fusion) and Premiership side Bolton Wanderers, as well as a coach with both FC Dallas (2007) and the U.S. Men’s National Team (various camps with Jurgen Klinsmann). “While I am not satisfied with the lack of hardware during my tenure, I do believe that the infrastructure, resources and talent at our disposal for 2017 will be greatly rewarding for the entire ‘RSL Family,’ especially our incredible fan base.”
RSL’s five-point overall improvement in 2016 was Major League Soccer’s third-best year-over-year increase (trailing only NYCFC and Colorado Rapids), the club returning to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, advancing to the postseason for the eighth time in the last nine years and improving from 16th overall to 9th overall in the MLS table.
The 2016 season also saw RSL capture the fan-created Rocky Mountain Cup series against regional rival Colorado for the eighth time in 10 years, with the club’s 12-12-10 regular-season record (46 points) buoyed by an 8-1-8 mark at Rio Tinto Stadium. A 1-3 loss at LA Galaxy in the Knockout Round of the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on October 26 extended the season-ending winless streak to eight games, just two months after August home wins over Supporters Shield leaders Dallas and Colorado pulled the Claret-and-Cobalt to within two points of the overall league lead.
RSL opened 2016 in the Quarterfinals of the 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League, dropping a two-leg series to Mexican power Tigres UANL after the Utah side won its group in the Fall of 2015 over Municipal (Guatemala) and Santa Tecla (El Salvador).
In Cassar’s seven seasons as an assistant from 2007-13, RSL advanced to two MLS Cup shootouts, a win over LA in 2009 and a loss at Kansas City in 2013, as well as both an Open Cup Final (2013) and a CCL Final series (2011). In his three seasons as head coach, Salt Lake has amassed an overall 31-6-23 mark at its Rio Tinto Stadium fortress across MLS reg. season, MLS Cup Playoff, CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, outscoring opponents by an 87-48 margin. The six home losses during this span are the second fewest in MLS from 2014-16, trailing only LA Galaxy.
Among the 10 MLS head coaches who have held the position the three seasons from 2014-16, Cassar ranks 7th in overall points – ahead of those in Colorado, Vancouver and Columbus – just four points behind West rivals Portland and Kansas City. LA, Dallas, D.C. and New England round out the top four.
Numerous young stars have emerged for RSL during the Cassar era, as FW Joao Plata – the club’s Golden Boot winner during the 2014 and 2016 seasons – leads the under-25 contingent, which also includes DF Justen Glad, M/F Jordan Allen, MF Omar Holness and D/M Danilo Acosta. Meanwhile, numerous others have solidified key roles during the last three seasons, such as DF Aaron Maund, DF Demar Phillips, MF Luke Mulholland, and FW Juan Manuel Martinez, integrating into a core veteran group that has boasted such MLS icons MF Kyle Beckerman, GK Nick Rimando, DF Jamison Olave, MF Javier Morales, DF Tony Beltran and FW Yura Movsisyan, amongst several others.
Season Tickets for Real Salt Lake’s 2017 campaign at Rio Tinto Stadium are now on sale; please visit www.RSL.com/tickets/royalty or call 844.Real.Tix for more information. An overwhelming percentage of current Season Ticket Members have renewed prior to the early deadline, with several hundred STMs looking to upgrade locations and add seats for RSL’s 13th year.
The 2017 Major League Soccer season kicks off in early March, with the entire schedule released in early January, as expansion clubs from Minnesota and Atlanta join MLS’ 22nd season as the 21st and 22nd teams. MLS Cup 2016 will be played on Saturday, Dec. 10 (6:00 p.m. MT, FOX / UniMas), with protected lists for the expansion draft and a half-day trade window taking place on Dec. 11/12 prior to the Atlanta / Minnesota expansion draft on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 12 noon MT.