Real Salt Lake Glowing Under Improved Management, Ownership

Jun 20, 2022, 4:32 PM

Photo courtesy: Laura Dearden of Real Salt Lake....

Photo courtesy: Laura Dearden of Real Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake is two points shy of league leaders LAFC through the opening 16 games of the regular season. The club has sold out every home game and is yet to lose on the hallowed Rio Tinto Stadium pitch in 2022. Manager Pablo Mastroeni has been a revelation.

The turnaround at Real Salt Lake has been rapid, extreme, and certainly welcomed. It was not long ago that Real Salt Lake was constantly under scrutiny, under the guidance of an owner that only cared for his dividends. The employees within the club were unhappy, the work environment was unhealthy, and the lockeroom was broken. Real Salt Lake has returned from the dead in a very short amount of time. How?

August 27, 2021

Everything always starts at the top, but in this case, it didn’t. Rather, the emergence of Real Salt Lake began on August 27, 2021, when news broke that manager Freddy Juarez was stepping down from his post and Mastroeni was taking over on an interim basis. The search for a new gaffer began immediately.

Just two days before an away trip to Vancouver, Mastroeni initiated changes. Gone were the days of zonal marking on set pieces, low percentage long through balls, and a lack of creativity.

Real Salt Lake began working on the locker room environment, team chemistry, and belief amongst the group. Without belief, Mastroeni knew that he had no hope of succeeding.

Now, Real Salt Lake is viewed as an entirely different club, and it has not even been a year since Mastroeni took over control.

Confidence is the most powerful drug in sports. For Mastroeni, he understood that it was his first obligation to try and instill a sense of belief amongst the group. He had to galvanize the playing group, to force them to buy in, and to believe. It was almost as if Mastroeni was fueling his inner Ted Lasso, which ironically was in the midst of its second season when Mastroeni was named the interim.

Despite nearly failing to make the playoffs in 2021, Real Salt Lake quickly found themselves in the Western Conference Final following unlikely road playoff wins against Seattle and Sporting Kansas City. Believe they did.

The addition of new ownership in January of 2022 also aided the club’s return from the depths. The stadium was blessed with color, gone were the days of concrete suffocating the walls of Rio Tinto Stadium. The excitement of new ownership welcomed a flurry of new season ticket holders, and the energy of the soccer community in Utah was immediately elevated.

The supporter groups who had notoriously refused to cooperate with one another began practicing during the week in preparation for the season. Strange.

The Work Never Ends

As exciting and rewarding as the 2022 season has been to date, it has not been perfect, but it was never going to be, perfection does not exist in sport. Upon reflection, the 6-0 loss to NYCFC was arguably the best thing that has happened to the club this year. It was a reality check, a firm reminder that victory in MLS is never given and always earned. Since the 6-0 loss, the club has only managed to lose two games, both on the road.

The future of the club is in good hands. The work done up to this point has been remarkable but plenty of work still remains. The return of silverware to Real Salt Lake must still be acquired, CONCACAF Champions League fixtures in Sandy must return.

Nobody cares about how you start, but rather how you finish.

Next Match

Real Salt Lake will host Colombus on Saturday, June 25, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m.

The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports and KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.


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Real Salt Lake Glowing Under Improved Management, Ownership