This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Garth Lagerwey's run at Real Salt Lake is over.
A source confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune late Monday night that the long-tenured RSL general manager won't be back with the club in 2015 on the heels of multiple reports that he's bound for the Seattle Sounders' front office. The same source informed the Tribune that with Lagerwey's departure comes a new structure in RSL's front office with new faces in new roles.
Assistant coach Craig Waibel will assume the role of Technical Director at RSL, which include Lagerwey's former duties. The 39-year-old four-time MLS Cup winner was hired by Jeff Cassar prior to the start of the 2014 season. The former Houston Dynamo defender will now report, along with Cassar, to club president Bill Manning. Director of Soccer Operations Elliot Fall will now assume the role of assistant general manager at RSL and will report to Waibel on matters of player movement and management.
The move to promote Waibel follows a similar and established track at RSL. Former head coach Jason Kreis quickly retired in early 2007 to assume the role of head coach. After Kreis left to become the head coach at NYCFC in Dec. 2013, his longtime assistant, Cassar, another former MLS name, was hired as his successor.
Even Lagerwey, a former goalkeeper like Cassar, was hired by former owner Dave Checketts in Sept. 2007 to help lead the club out of its severe struggles. Waibel, an 11-year veteran of Major League Soccer, played collegiately at the University of Washington before going on to win MLS Cups with the L.A. Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Dynamo. After retiring in 2011, Waibel was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan for a year before joining his alma mater Huskies as an assistant for two seasons.
Upon joining RSL in January, Waibel spoke to the Tribune during the club's 2014 preseason in Casa Grande, Ariz., about his decision to return to MLS as an assistant. (Cassar will begin interviewing assistant coach candidates to replace Waibel, who coached RSL's defenders in 2014).
"The dream for me is to be good and to continue to grow and to continue to be challenged and obviously compete at the highest level I'm able to," he said. "That's how I was as an athlete and that's how I am as a coach.
"I think if you stop allowing yourself to grow in any job you're in, you start to settle. I don't think that's in my DNA."
Early Monday evening, ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman reported on Twitter that he heard Lagerwey was bound for Seattle.
"Hearing at the start of the 2015 @MLS season, Garth Lagerwey will not be with @RealSaltLake….instead he will be with @SoundersFC," Twellman tweeted.
The 42-year-old Lagerwey is officially out of contract at RSL on Jan. 1 as the four-year contract extension penned in 2011 will soon expire as he'll move on to what is expected to be the Sounders' front office. He responded to the Tribune by text message Monday night saying, "I have no written offers from anyone. I'm under contract to RSL through Dec. 31."
SI.com scribe Brian Straus reported he confirmed Twellman's initial report and added that it was likely that Lagerwey would take on GM duties in the Sounders' front office. His report included that Lagerwey cleaned out his office last week.
Lagerwey entered this 2014 season much like Kreis did in 2013: In a contract year with swirling rumors that this might be his last in Utah. And like 2013 with Kreis, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen reiterated throughout this season that money would never be an issue when it came to keeping Lagerwey in Utah.
It'd be opportunity. Much like the one that Kreis took when expansion side New York City FC approached and offered him the opportunity to coach the high-profile club in Dec. 2013.
"The league is growing rapidly," Hansen told the Tribune in late August. "Teams are being added. A lot of opportunities are there and for the league, that's not unhealthy. Great teams help other people mature. However, all that said, we will kill for Garth to stay here and I don't think money will ever be the issue. It would be opportunity, as it was, I believe, with Jason. You can never take that away from someone and you can't negotiate it away from them either."
In RSL's exit interviews on Nov. 12 following the club's 5-0 season-ending loss at L.A. in the Western Conference semifinals, Lagerwey said a flurry of factors would go into his decision to stay at RSL or perhaps move on.
"It's been a real pleasure to build this organization, along with Jason and Jeff and Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen and everybody," Lagerwey said on Nov. 12. "I hope we can have the spirit at some point that we all did this together and it wasn't one person and it wasn't one entity and probably without our collective efforts it probably wouldn't have made it.
"The fans here are amazing. People saying things on social media or coming up to me on the street and saying, 'Thank you,' and being appreciative. It's the kind of thing that honestly doesn't happen in big cities. So it's been a neat place for us. That'll be a factor. Professionally, what's the best opportunity? That'll be a factor. Although I would tell you that money's not going to decide anything, money will be a factor. Mr. Hansen's got plenty of money. I don't see that being the deciding factor in this one, honestly, don't believe it was with Jason. Don't think it will be with me. It's opportunity, it's career, it's what puts me on the best path going forward, understanding that in a lot of ways, there's a lot of positives here."
I'll have more throughout the week as I'll be speaking with Manning, Hansen, Waibel, Cassar and, hopefully, Lagerwey. Just a bit of context, though: Since 2012, RSL has been forced to say goodbye to Checketts, Kreis, Lagerwey, as well as established players such as Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave (although he returned last week), Nat Borchers, Ned Grabavoy, Chris Wingert and Robbie Findley.