Say Goodbye to Jason Kreis.
The coach, the manager, the man has earned a proper send-off — and a huge payday.
He’ll get both, one here, the other in New York, where he will take the helm of a new MLS endeavor — the New York City Football Club, scheduled to hit the field in 2015 — that has deep pockets and deeper connections, from the Yankees all the way across the pond to the Premier League’s Manchester City FC. NYCFC and Man City are owned by the same people, and those people, led by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, not only have a partnership with the Yanks, they have a whole lot of money. I have no clue how much money, but the guess here is probably a billion dollars for every vowel in the sheik’s name.
And the sheik has more vowels than Dell Loy Hansen.
We can look back at the way Real Salt Lake blew it with Kreis, not nailing down his continued services before the season started, when he was entering the last year of his deal and RSL thought it should sit tight with a tight fist to see what the coach could make of a revamped roster in what was projected as a rebuilding year. If he and his team performed up to snuff, Hansen would extend a decent deal. If not, maybe the deal wouldn’t be so decent.
How decent should the deal have been?
Kreis, who already was making a few bucks, should have been favored to motor up next to Hansen and ask from the cabin of one Rolls-Royce to the cabin of another: Would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?
And Hansen should have answered: Why, yes … and with your mustard, Jay, here’s a million dollars a year to coach my team, to coach our team.
It didn’t happen that way. In fact, Kreis considered Hansen’s initial offer an insult. By the time the offer was right, it was too late. Even though Kreis didn’t make his final decision until Tuesday, he was halfway out the door. He firmed up his choice early in the day and already had a team dinner planned at his home. He decided to inform the players of his decision Tuesday evening.
All he accomplished in 2013, without a new contract, was blend a veteran core with a bunch of 21-year-olds to make it within one chip off a goalpost of the MLS Cup. En route, the smart dudes in New York gave him the offer he wanted. But they did something else, too. They handed over opportunity for a greater reach. And that’s something that is irresistible to Kreis.
The coach, who came to Salt Lake as a player and promptly began RSL’s upward turn when he was handed the wheel to the club as a 34-year-old coach in 2008, has always had big ambitious eyes. He was underappreciated as a player, never having made the U.S. Men’s National Team despite his run toward the top of MLS’ all-time goal-scoring list. As a junior player, he was shut out of national teams.
He’s always had something to prove.
And he still does.
Those close to him say he would like nothing more than to coach the USMNT at the World Cup, the tournament he missed as a player. His profile is bound to rise higher as the manager at NYCFC, and with that club’s ties to Man City, who knows … he could, if he were hugely successful, get a shot at moving to an enviable position with the mother ship or somewhere else in the lofty EPL. He wants that in the worst way — to become the first American to break through at the top level of European soccer.
Either way, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, and while we’re at it, we have to wonder about two subsequent RSL moves: 1) Will general manager Garth Lagerwey, who partnered with Kreis in transforming Real into what it is, remain with the club when his deal is up after next season? And, 2) Who will replace Kreis as RSL’s next coach?
The guess here is that Hansen will have to unload a lot of cake on Lagerwey to keep him. As for the coach, Robin Fraser makes a lot of sense. The former RSL assistant who failed at Chivas — who wouldn’t have? — looks like a solid favorite. The club is familiar with him and he’s familiar with a roster that will stay mostly intact heading into next season. Continuity is important. Look for an announcement on that pick, whoever it is, middle of next week.
In the meantime, bid adieu to a great coach who is being lured away by big money, bright lights and a state-of-the-art approach to soccer that is unknown in this country. Kreis hopes to make it known, compliments of the guy with the vowels in his name on the other side of the Atlantic.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.