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.
“I thought the effort [against FC Dallas Saturday] was good, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a shutout, and that is definitely a team that can kind of lull you to sleep and then catch you because they have so many good attacking options. I’m glad we didn’t give up too much.”
[on what needs to change]
“Everything. I don’t know if there is like one glaring thing. I think we still want to continue to get better with set pieces. I think it’s just a tough balance to find, because we need our guys to stay aggressive, and when you stay aggressive sometimes you’re going to give up fouls. And because we tend to dominate possession, obviously that’s not every game, but that’s somewhere where other teams focus on, especially a team like Dallas.”
“There was still plenty of passes to be made and I think we missed some passes going forward. Sometimes we would get past their first line and kind of play it around. I know I did it – I played back a few times, and I thought it wasn’t the worse thing, because when we’re patient and kept moving around we were able to break them down. But I think we needed just a little more urgency to get forward and then keep possession in their half.”
“Like I said, I’m happy with the zero but I wish we would have won the game, but again I think it’s just too early to really even matter. I just am concerned with earning points. Usually, when we don’t earn three [points] at home we’re a bit disappointed.”
“I thought we did a little better job at that [tonight]. But you see it, I mean it happens all over the world. Look at the Champions League Final [today], it’s last minute, everybody is pushing forward and that stuff happens. I think we can continue to get better with that and continue to just improve in every area; play better soccer and really try to take it the teams. I’m not too disappointed with the performance, maybe just a little with the result or effort I should say.”