While Jaurez Has Proven Himself, RSL Should Search Before Making Final Decision
SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake has a number of months to dwell on what could have been in the 2019 season and perhaps the biggest question they face is whether or not to make interim head coach Freddy Jaurez the full time manager.
They were eliminated by the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, for the second consecutive year. However, the somewhat short offseason allows the front office and ownership to make some very important decisions.
Will Freddy Juarez be rewarded with the full-time manager position? Or will RSL hire someone else? Who will be the general manager moving forward? Will players like Jefferson Savarino, who has been linked to European clubs, stay at the club?
Only time will tell, however, in the meantime lets have some fun and try to predict the outcomes of the questions that need answering.
During this article, we will take a dive into the future of the manager position at RSL.
Freddy Or Not At Manager?
Freddy Juarez has a case to make when it comes to why he should be hired as the full-time manager at RSL.
After the ugly departure of former head coach Mike Petke, Juarez took over the reins in an interim role and succeeded. Despite all the turmoil within the club, Juarez solidified the three seed entering the MLS Playoffs. He was able to beat a team RSL could not beat during the regular season, The Portland Timbers, in the first round of the playoffs and advance to the Western Conference Semi-finals.
Although the outcome against Seattle did not go in favor of RSL, and the performance was less than convincing, RSL exceeded expectations by simply making it to the semi-finals.
When Juarez took over as interim manager, he changed the way the team played. Under Petke, you would often see long balls being played into the attacking third through the air. Players like Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera and even Nedum Onuoha would try and play attackers such as Sam Johnson, Jefferson Savarino and Corey Baird in and behind the opposing team’s back line by putting the ball in the air.
Under Juarez, that seemingly stopped. He changed the approach in moving the ball forward, and unlike Petke, the ball stayed on the ground. Winning possession also became a priority. Juarez believed that if RSL could control the ball and subsequently control the game, then the chances for his team would increase the longer the game went on.
For the most part, this change in tactic worked. RSL broke down their opponents by controlling the ball and creating better chances than their opponent.
Formation Change(s) Required
However, if RSL is going to keep Juarez around I think he is going to need to tinker with the formation. The 4-2-3-1 RSL has been operating with for a number of years does not work with the current group of players. Granted, I also believe that Kyle Beckerman’s role at the club needs to change, that is, of course, if he decides to play on for another season.
Beckerman is 37 years old and is understandably not the same player he was 10 years ago. His speed has slowed down, making it harder to intercept passes, his touch and quality of disposal is starting to decline as well. This is not to say Beckerman does not warrant a roster spot in 2020. His experience and leadership qualities are priceless and I firmly believe he has 30 odd minutes here and there when he can help RSL win but he needs to come off the bench, he is not a solidified MLS starter anymore. Another great example where father time clearly waits for nobody.
If Beckerman agrees and is willing to play the majority of his soccer in 2020 coming off the bench, then the formation does not need to change. Everton Luiz and Damir Kreilach will control the middle of the park, with Albert Rusnak playing in front of them. Jefferson Savarino and Corey Baird should be your starting wingmen and Sam Johnson is your striker.
Towards the end of the season, Johnson, who RSL is paying way too much money for to come off the bench mind you, was coming off the bench and Kreilach was playing at the number nine spot. Kreilach is RSL’s equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, meaning that he can adapt and play a multitude of positions. However, his best position is as an attacking midfielder, a position that Albert Rusnak currently holds and will continue to facilitate.
If Kreilach plays alongside Luiz in the center of the park, he can push forward and allow Luiz to pick up any crumbs that are left behind. You do not need two defensive midfielders, especially when you have the fearless menace that is Everton Luiz on your team. He is more than capable when it comes to impacting the defensive side of the midfield.
Importance Of Academy
Another aspect Juarez has going for him is his knowledge of the players in the RSL Academy. In fact, Juarez has previously been in charge of the academy back when it was located in Casa Grande, Arizona.
For many years, prior to his head coaching role at the Real Monarchs, Juarez has been nurturing and identifying young talent for RSL.
He remains heavily involved with the academy and has a deep understanding of how the academy works and the players they are looking for.
If RSL were to bring a new coach in, he/she would need to adapt and learn the intricacies of how the academy is run. That would, unfortunately, take some time and could result in a potential decline when it comes to academy efficiency.
The Bottom Line
A part of me believes the best option for the club is to bring someone in. However, tradition shows that ownership has been known to take the cheaper option and hire managers from within the organization.
For example, when Jason Kreiss left for a job with the New York City Football Club Jeff Cassar was promoted from assistant to head coach. Similarly when Cassar was fired Petke was promoted from being the Monarchs head coach to being the leader of RSL.
The potential for RSL under the leadership of Juarez and/or an out of house candidate is high. Which is a great problem to have. If Juarez takes over, he could revolutionize the club and take them to trophies in the future. His knowledge on the academy players and youth of the club is a big plus for Jaurez.
RSL is a small market team, and will forever have a challenge when it comes to bringing in top-class soccer players with names such as Vela and Ibrahimovic. Hence why the youth movement is critical for RSL to stay competitive.
Therefore, RSL will continue to win by bringing in the likes of Savarino, a no-named Venezualian, who has since become very attractive to European clubs and is a no question starter for his national team.
Bofo Saucedo, Justen Glad, Brooks Lennon, and Aaron Herrera are also great examples of why the RSL academy is influential on the team’s future success. Developing talent is a priority for every club, it’s just when you are in a smaller market, your future success often relies upon your ability to develop. Fortunately, RSL has had success in the past and will look to continue that trend moving forward.
With all of that being said, if I were the one making the final decision, I would go on a worldwide search and spend some money to get a young, proven and eager manager with experience in winning.
Although Juarez has shown glimmers of tactical brilliance throughout his short stint as interim manager, I feel as though RSL needs new life at the manager position, someone who can bring a new perspective to the sideline. From the way the club is managed to on-field strategy, a new set of eyes and ears would greatly benefit Real Salt Lake.
KSLSports.com in collaboration with Real Salt Lake has launched a new podcast, The RSL Lion’s Den. It is the official Real Salt Lake podcast for all your club news and updates. Tom Hackett, Spencer Warne and RSL’s Director of PR, Matt Gaschk break down the games and discuss important club matters.
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