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Real Salt Lake coach, GM a functional odd couple

Long history between Kreis, Lagerwey makes “antagonistic” relationship work.

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"He comes in here and he goes crazy," Manning says, laughing. "Oh, these coaches gang up on him and everything else. Right? And I have to calm him down. But I think what they have for each other is a mutual respect. And I think they challenge each other."

"There’s a natural tension — and there’s clearly tension," Manning says. "But it’s a healthy tension. And I think that’s what makes us successful."

At a glance

San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake

At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy.

Kickoff » Saturday,7 p.m.

TV » CW30

Radio » 700 AM, 102.3 FM

Records » San Jose 9-3-3, RSL 10-4-2

All-time series » Tied 2-2

Last meeting » San Jose 3-1 (April 21)

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But it didn’t develop overnight.

Kreis and Lagerwey have a history that dates back further than many people realize, to when they were teenagers. They wound up at Duke together (and reached the Final Four), often trained together in hopes of turning pro (and both got drafted), played professionally together for the Dallas Burn in MLS (and won a U.S. Open Cup championship), and attended each other’s weddings while growing to know each other’s families.

They even lived with each other, back between years of college when Lagerwey needed to perform an internship to earn his degree. Lagerwey interned for Kreis’ mother’s law firm in New Orleans, and the two played together on the same minor-league team there.

"We literally slept in the same room," Lagerwey recalls.

Beyond that, Lagerwey remembers starting the 1997 season in the minor leagues, when goalkeeper Jeff Cassar — now an RSL assistant coach — was injured playing for the Burn, leaving the team in need of a replacement. On his way then to becoming the most potent scorer the league had ever seen, Kreis recommended Lagerwey, who wound up enjoying the best stretch of his professional career after landing the job.

"You don’t forget stuff like that," Lagerwey says.

Which is why the men can be so contentious now, even though Kreis acknowledges that Lagerwey is the boss, who has the final say on most things. "I need to remind myself that that is the way it is," he says. "And I respect that."

Both of them say they’re not sure they could work effectively with a colleague with the same opposing personality but without the shared history.

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"It’s different than any other professional relationship I’ve had, and I trust Jason," Lagerwey says. "I know that whatever happens, whatever goes down, whatever he thinks on a given day, that at the end of the day, he’s got my back and I’ve got his.

"When you go through so much together, especially at a young age … I just think we just have a bond," he says. "And even though we do have different personalities, I think that underpins everything we do. We can tease each other and people don’t take it personally."

Which is good.

Because Kreis says he doesn’t think Lagerwey really knows how to add.

Asked how they approach things differently, Kreis said that Lagerwey "is very … I don’t want to say ‘numbers-driven,’ because I actually don’t think he’s very good at numbers. I think he’s pretty poor at math. But he actually looks at all the numbers a lot, very statistics-driven. Wants to try to find trends and patterns in the game that will help him make good general-manager decisions. And I’m the exact opposite of that. I like to make decisions based on feeling and guts."

And behind Kreis are all his assistant coaches, so equally willing to give Lagerwey a hard time that they have nicknamed themselves the "Wolf Pack," after the band of luckless tourists in the movie "The Hangover."

All of their meetings, Kreis says, begin with 15 minutes of giving each other the business before the work begins.

"I do think that it certainly helps that at the end of it all," Kreis says, "we can slap each other in the arm and say ‘We’re still buddies, right?’ "


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