Kragthorpe: RSL's showing justifies coach's contract
Mean-looking clouds surrounded Rio Tinto Stadium all evening, but nothing was going to spoil this show.
Jason Kreis must be in charge of the weather, too.
Light rain arrived only in the last few minutes of Real Salt Lake's 4-1 defeat of the Los Angeles Galaxy, a victory that further validated the club ownership's awarding the coach a two-year contract extension.
If anything, Kreis should have waited to sign the deal until after this performance in front of a record crowd in its Major League Soccer home opener Saturday giving him more bargaining power, right?
"I should hire you as my agent," Kreis said, in his usual, dry manner.
The contract actually was "done and dusted a month ago," by Kreis' account, but the timing of Thursday's announcement hardly could be better. Real is rolling, through five games of Champions League and MLS play. For everybody in the stadium, especially the guy wearing a suit on the sideline, RSL's three-goal first half was just as Kreis described it: "a sheer delight to watch."
Suddenly, RSL was scoring from everywhere about like Jimmer Fredette, who wore a Real jacket while witnessing the game from a club box.
Andy Williams delivered a goal in the game's opening 75 seconds, Javier Morales scored twice before halftime and Paulo Junior added a second-half goal. This was an overwhelming performance against David Beckham and the Galaxy, one of the best teams in MLS.
Being "a perfectionist by trade," Kreis was not fully satisfied. Yet if RSL is anywhere near as good as it looked Saturday, this could be an amazing season, continuing the good times with Kreis.
"Everything we've done at this point, as far as our success, reflects Jason's vision and his passion for this club," said RSL defender Nat Borchers.
Kreis continually preaches "the team is the star," and that message gets across. "It's one of those things that sounds a bit clichÃ©, but we all bought into it," Borchers said. "We're a bunch of guys who work hard for each other. It's a simple recipe, but one that in professional sports is hard to find."
And to think the driving force was right there in May 2007, as a veteran MLS striker with no coaching experience.
This franchise stood 15-37-16 in the middle of its third season before Kreis took over as coach. Of course, that's also Real's record in his days as a player, which hardly endorses the team's decision to retire his No. 9 jersey in July. But that's another issue.
The real story is how this guy has thrived as a coach. Saturday's victory pushed his record to 44-39-33 in MLS regular-season games and 52-42-34 in all competitions, which includes the 2009 MLS Cup defeat of the Galaxy.
RSL owner Dave Checketts has made a bunch of bold decisions in his pro sports career. Some have worked out better than others. But promoting Kreis after firing RSL's original coach may have been the best move of them all. Beyond the way the players have responded to him, Kreis and general manager Garth Lagerwey have built Real to last. This team will be very good and very well coached for a long time.