Garth Lagerwey has always fascinated me. And it’s not just that he and Jason Kreis teamed together to create one of the best turnarounds in Major League Soccer.
A Key Figure
Sure, they took the MLS equivalent of the LA Clippers and helped them win an MLS Cup in just over two years. Then led the same squad to MLS’ first-ever group victory in the CONCACAF Champions League, and even came within one unfortunate goal of winning the entire tournament.
But they did it with a model different from nearly every other team in MLS.
While nearly every team in the league is searching the globe for the next big DP, Salt Lake has ignored Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Rafa Marquez, and other big names to build a deep team that plays together.
I’ve interviewed Lagerwey many times, but I wanted to get him in a different setting and see how he evaluates a game.
The rules were simple:
- We spent the recent Chicago game in a quiet box
- Nothing was off limits
- Anything could be taken off the record after the match
This freed him up to be completely honest and enabled me to get a different perspective on how he views a match.
Our conversation covered everything from the team to the business of soccer, to the Holy War, and everything in between. I learned a ton, but there were five specific lessons learned during a brutal match for Real Salt Lake.
1. Garth is remarkably composed
The laughing, relaxed Garth you hear on the radio each week still shows up during a tough match. The match was an ugly blow-out that Garth called “the worst home loss in franchise history.” Even though he was clearly upset, Garth was able to maintain his composure throughout the match… even when we were off the record.
2. Business is good for RSL
The team sold out a weeknight match against Chicago just a few weeks after selling out against the Holy War football game (BYU vs. Utah). The team has gained prominence in Salt Lake and is getting more successful. If anything, they’ve become the model for other MLS teams to follow in making CONCACAF a legitimate competition on the business side, as well as the soccer side of things.
3. Getting Javier Morales Ready for the Playoffs is Critical
Javi made his return to the field during this match. Garth said the Argentine playmaker would need a few games to get back into his top form, but that the side really needs him ready for the playoffs. We saw flashes of brilliance from Javier that night, and we saw his teammates relearning how to play through him.
4. The Difference Between a Coach and a GM
When captain Kyle Beckerman received an early red card, Garth said the match might get chippy. If it was, Javi was unlikely to make an appearance. Still, Jason Kreis put Morales in to thunderous applause.
Garth quipped… “Now you see the difference between a coach and a GM. Jason wants to get him in, and I’m just worried he’s going to get hurt again.”
5. Simple Possession Means the World
When I asked what statistics and attributes Garth looks for in a match, I was shocked by his answer… “simple possession” was the first thing he mentioned. While he often referred to specific plays as good and bad, that possession really is the focus of the team.
It was fascinating to spend a match with Garth. He and Jason have built an incredible team, and I anticipate they will continue to win as long as these two friends are at the helm.