Photo by Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports
By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah. — It looks like Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar is going to be shaving his head real soon.
After struggling during two straight losses the previous two weeks, Real Salt Lake ran over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, 2-0, moving into the playoffs with a little help from their youth.
Earlier in the year Cassar had promised his team that if they were to qualify for the playoffs, he would shave his head. The team has delivered on their part, now it’s time for the first-year head coach to do his — Cassar said after Saturday’s win he would keep his promise.
Goals from midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Sebastian Velasquez were enough as the home side cruised to the victory, finally securing their place in the postseason on their third attempt.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Cassar said of his first season as a head coach with RSL. “All the way around for myself, but I’m so blessed to lead these men. They’re an unbelievable group of men. They’re competitors. They’re excellent people. It’s been a pleasure.”
Grabavoy secured the opener in the 24th minute when he put a sneaky shot into the back of the net.
Velasquez sent a cross into the box that pinged around and eventually squirted out to the top of the box where Grabavoy was waiting. The veteran midfielder sent a low, side-footed shot through traffic that slipped just inside the far post to give RSL the early lead.
Only a few minutes later, in the 28th minute, Velasquez got his first goal of the season.
RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland sent in a perfect cross to the top of the six-yard box where Velasquez was lurking. The diminutive Colombian jumped up and got his knee to the ball, directing it past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch and into the net, making it 2-0.
“It came off a corner,” Velasquez said. “I had actually gone out for a short corner and ended up in the box and no one followed me. The cross came across and I kneed it in. It was kind of funny how it went in. The important thing was that we got the victory, we qualified for the the playoffs and we gotta keep this rhythm going. We’ve got to keep winning”
RSL would continue to cruise the rest of the match, never really threatened by the depleted Quakes side apart from a few flashes of Yannick Djalo.
Velasquez had only just heard about the prospect of a bald Cassar but said that there might be a roadblock to a shorn head coach.
“I just heard about it. Actually Bill [Manning] had told me about it and I wonder what his wife has to say about it. That’s the only thing. Other than that I’m sure he’s willing to do it.”
RSL will now head to Portland where the desperate Timbers will come out firing in the hope’s of securing their own place in the postseason.
Here are the match highlights: