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Now thrust into unfamiliar territory, Real Salt Lake has to make sure it nails this next decision. It's a big one. That's what RSL general manager Craig Waibel said earlier this week when the club announced it had fired Jeff Cassar after three-plus seasons as head coach.
"I will tell you that the sense of urgency to move forward is definitely something we are taking into consideration," Waibel said. "We will work diligently over the next couple of weeks and hopefully the process is certainly shorter than longer. We have no intention of dragging this out."
Now for the waiting game.
Any rumors of potential candidates, Waibel explained, will not come from "within the walls of our organization." It will be, the RSL GM said, a "very private search." In the meantime, RSL assistant coach Daryl Shore has been tabbed as interim head coach. Shore, who Cassar brought onto the staff with him in 2014, said he would like to see his name be in contention for the full-time job.
Shore said he hasn't had an official interview for the gig yet.
"This is not the way I want my name to be in contention for a head coaching job," he said, "but at the same time, growing up in the sports business my whole life with my father as a coach, I understand the business. I would love nothing more than the opportunity to lead this group of players moving forward. That's not my decision."
A name speculated by many to have a shot at the job is Mike Petke, hired this offseason to be the head coach of Real Monarchs, RSL's USL affiliate. Petke, 41, was last head coach of the New York Red Bulls, but was surprisingly let go after the 2014 season. The Red Bulls won the 2013 Supporters' Shield title and made back-to-back Eastern Conference final appearances with Petke as coach. Under Petke, New York had a record of 30-19-19.
Asked if he expects his name to be in consideration for the RSL coaching vacancy, Petke said this week, "I'm the Monarchs coach and that's what I'm focusing on."
When Petke was informed on Monday of Cassar's firing, he said he had immediate flashbacks of what he went through just over two years ago. Petke said his wife, still on the East Coast with their family for the remainder of the school year, called him to check on how Cassar was dealing with the news.
"We've been through this, you know?" Petke said. "It's never easy. It's a terrible ordeal. The first day you're hired to be a coach, the clock's already ticking down. It's inevitable, it's going to happen."
Petke said when he saw Cassar Tuesday, the former RSL coach was "handling it a hell of a lot better the day after than I was the day after I got fired." The 43-year-old Cassar, Petke believes, will get through the rough patch soon.
"He gets it," Petke said. "He's not happy, I'm sure, but at the end of the day, he understands the life that he chose, we all chose."
The rumor mill regarding the vacancy began churning Wednesday evening.
A report from MSG Network Red Bull Insider Kristian Dyer stated that current New York assistant coach Chris Armas declined the opportunity to pursue the RSL job after a source informed Dyer that the club had enquired to former MLS midfielder about the job.