SANDY – While the rumors are swirling about who may buy Real Salt Lake, players and coaches say they’re trying to keep their focus on things they can control. Their main goal is to find success on the field, and they credit that mindset as the reason why they were able to tie Portland after being two goals down late in the game.
Team Captain Kyle Beckerman has been playing for Major League Soccer since 2002, and in those 18 years, he doesn’t believe he has ever been through as wild of a ride as he has seen in the past several days. Team owner Dell Loy Hansen publicly criticized the team for not playing against LAFC on Wednesday, which sparked outrage across the country.
Beckerman says it was important for the players to present a united front in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, and he says everyone was on the same page.
“We knew we were in the right, and that we just had to stick together and be ready for whatever comes next,” Beckerman says.
Since Hansen’s initial comments, he has since publicly apologized, but a scathing article from The Athletic further tarnished his image. Former players accused Hansen of racist behavior, which sparked an investigation by MLS. Over the weekend, Hansen decided to sell the team and top-level athletes like former USMNT player Jozy Altidore and JJ Watt from the Houston Texans have expressed interest in buying it.
Beckerman says the players are looking forward to new ownership. He says Hansen bought into the team when RSL was at the top of the league, and Hansen may have underestimated how hard it is to put a championship team together.
“I think that’s something we’re pretty excited about, is getting an owner here who wants to win and it isn’t just about money,” he says.
Beckerman says when the focus becomes more about money than about winning games, it puts a tremendous strain on the team.
He adds, “All of those little things your owner can do and help out, it definitely pushes you and helps you win games.”
This isn’t the first time the team has gone through serious drama happening in the front office. Former Head Coach Mike Petke was fired after reportedly saying a Spanish homophobic slur to a referee one year ago. Just two years prior, Jeff Cassar was let go from the head coach’s position.
Current Head Coach Freddy Juarez says those issues have made the team stronger and more prepared for the situation they’re currently in.
Juarez says, “The leadership we have in the group, as far as players are concerned… Beckerman, Nedum [Onuoha], Marcelo [Silva], Albert [Rusnák], Damir [Kreilach]… those guys have seen a lot.”
Juarez says Hansen was always nice and supportive to him, personally, but, he felt he had to stand with his players in this case. He hopes Hansen meant the apology he issued to the players.
“I think the best thing you can do in a situation like that is always to meet it, head on, and talk to the individuals and the groups about it. That can go a long way,” he says.
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