If Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar is the team’s unofficial leader in positive thinking, defender Chris Wingert is his top assistant. In a way, the two have much in common. Wingert absorbs the brunt of opponents’ ferocious attacks with calming precision--while Cassar deflects what criticism is levied his way with humor and prescience.
Time and again star players fly into Wingert's path looking to score --and time and again Wingert comes away with the ball down that left wing he patrols, not by brute force but by cleverly positioning himself and using his brains--not necessarily his speed--to slow down and eventually thwart the opposition.
The beauty about Wingert is that the words he uses to describe his play and the play of others on the field is just as uncomplicated and positive. Not only is he approachable on social media, the native of Babylon, Long Island in New York is not your typical boisterous, loudmouthed New Yorker.
Like Cassar, Wingert reminds you of your old youth soccer coach who would bend over backwards to make you happy. He’s a kid in an adult’s body who for 12 years has managed to do what he does well enough to stay in the league, and thrive.
Wingert will never lead RSL in scoring. In fact, he hasn’t scored a goal in Major League Soccer since 2010--and that was the only MLS goal he’s scored in his career, other than one in a 2013 U.S. Open Cup game. In a way, Wingert has been with the team as long as Cassar. Both are somewhat forgotten because they don’t command--nor do they seek--the limelight.
Wingert has logged over nearly 20,000 minutes of professional soccer in his career. At 31, Wingert certainly isn’t getting any younger. Keep in mind, however. that at 31 he's still younger than teammates Kyle Beckerman--and four years younger than goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Will Wingert be around forever? Time will tell; his current two-year deal expires after this season and his old coach Jason Kreis has a new team in Wingert's old stomping grounds of NYC. So for Real Salt Lake and for the legions of fans who support him, you get him this year for sure--and after that you never know.
But what you get now from Wingert is an unwavering commitment to his club, his team and that philosophy of “the team is the star.” Here are five reasons Wingert is RSL's mainstay at left defense.