Friday, January 25, 2013

Real Salt Lake's New Owner Brings Questions Along with Potential

Article by Anders Aarhus

One of the most successful clubs in MLS has a new owner.

Real Salt Lake announced Thursday that Dave Checketts sold his controlling stake in the club to real estate tycoon Dell Loy Hansen. Denzel Eslingser, a Real Salt Lake blogger, tweeted out the move had been rumored for months among people in the know.

The question now becomes how Hansen will replace Checketts, the man who brought the team to Salt Lake City in 2003, then fought to keep the team in the city while securing a deal to build the gem of a soccer-specific stadium that is Rio Tinto. So how can Hansen help RSL move forward? By sticking to the status quo.

Checketts made brilliant hires in General Manager Garth Lagerwey and Head Coach Jason Kreis, and then was smart enough to step back and let them do their jobs. The result was an MLS Cup in 2009, CONCACAF Champions League Finals appearance in 2010 and a franchise that is a benchmark for success in MLS. Hansen would be wise not to try and fix what isn’t broken.

Not there’s any indication Hansen wants to make sweeping changes. “For now, he [Hansen] sees himself as a hands-on owner, but not an executive who will meddle with day-to-day management of the team,” the Salt Lake Tribune wrote. “He said he has no plans to alter the triumvirate of RSL president Bill Manning, general manager Garth Lagerwey and coach Jason Kreis.” That’s good news for everyone involved with RSL, although the “hands-on owner” phrase might make some cautious.

Hansen also promised that he would provide a new level of financial backing for the club. Head over to to get a full breakdown on Hansen comments, but here’s the most important tidbit from his ESPN 700 interview:

“There are a lot of powerful teams out there," he said on ESPN 700. "If you're going to compete, you're going to need more resources. The trajectory that we're looking at is to bring those resources to the team. This change opens the door to more designated franchise players."

Obviously this is good news for RSL. Already one of the top teams in the league, a little extra financial muscle could push Salt Lake into the echelon of the truly elite. How additional designated players fit into Kreis’ and Lagerwey’s “the team is the star” motto remains to be seen, but they’ve made it work with Alvaro Saborio so future DPs are definitely a possibility.

Hansen also had some interesting comments regarding the club’s youth development, telling ESPN 700 RSL will have a full youth academy in Salt Lake City by 2014. He brought up Barcelona (doesn’t everyone) as a model for the academy system, which, as Eslinger mentioned on Twitter, is interesting considering Hansen was exposed to soccer as a missionary in Spain. The academy would be an addition to an RSL youth setup that already includes a residency program in Arizona that claims such standouts as Tony Cascio and Nick DeLeon as alums.

The club seems to be in good hands going forward, but only time will tell. Having an owner who is willing to invest in the team is never a bad thing, but it’s important that Hansen puts the money in and then steps back to let people in the know put it to good use. RSL has a good thing going and, as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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