Former Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis returns to Utah with his U.S. Under-23 team. He still has fond memories of RSL’s title season

Jeff Cassar, Krei’s successor at RSL, is now an assistant with the U-23 team

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Kreis, former RSL coach, now head coach of the United States U-23 men's national soccer team, in Herriman at the Real Salt Lake Training Academy on Wednesday June 12, 2019.

Herriman • During Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup game between Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Football Club at Rio Tinto Stadium — a game RSL lost badly — a couple of familiar faces sat in the crowd. Faces that bring good memories to fans in Salt Lake City. Faces that represent an era in which RSL was a perennial playoff team, a force to be reckoned with, a constant championship contender.

Jason Kreis and Jeff Cassar — both of whom have been head coaches of RSL — watched Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman compete, just as they had back in 2009, when RSL won its first and only Major League Soccer title.

These days, Kreis and Cassar are at the helm of the Under-23 program of the United States Men’s National Team, which is in Utah for a week conducting a camp. Kreis, the team’s head coach, couldn’t help but reminisce when asked what came to his mind as he watched his former team play.

“It was a special time,” Kreis said Wednesday after a USMNT training session at the RSL training facility. “More so than any of the results or holding up the trophy was just all those times with those players and with the people that were involved. “The culture in that team was second to none.”

Kreis joined the USMNT program in March, and is on his second camp. He brought in four current RSL players — Sebastian Saucedo, Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon — to participate. He tried to get them in March, too, he said, but RLS did not release them at the time.

Glad started his tenure with RSL around the same time Kreis was on his way out. He knew of Kreis somewhat, and said he liked finally being able to “put a sense of style of play to a face.” Glad also compared him to his RSL coach, Mike Petke.

“He’s a little more reserved than Mike, obviously,” Glad said. “But he’s about his business. He makes it clear, he knows what he wants and he shows it on the field and in our meetings. He knows what he expects from us and it makes our job easy when you have a clear cut picture like that.”

The review of Kreis by some other U-23 players mirror Glad’s: a good coach who doesn’t mince words and says what he means. Marco Farfan, who plays for the Portland Timbers, had nothing but good things to say about Kreis.

“I love his coaching,” Farfan said. “He motivates his players and he wants his players to be great and take chances. He’s always straight to the point. He wants players to exploit their qualities and play a certain style of play.”

That style of play, Kreis said, is similar to the one he implemented as coach of RSL, where he spent six seasons before leaving 2013. The club retired his No. 9 jersey two years earlier.

“The system looks different, some of the movements look different, some of what we’re asking from the details look a little different,” Kreis said. “But from an overall soccer perspective, what I want to see in the players and what I want to see in a tactical system and how we move the ball is the same.”

Kreis admitted that watching a soccer game from the stands is a rare occurrence for him since he’s started coaching. But he still has fond memories of not only coaching RSL, but living in the Salt Lake City area. He longer owns a home in Utah, he said, but he wishes he still did.

“It’s a big sense of sorrow, actually,” Kreis said. “Both my wife and I remark on that so often, that we wish we had kept our last house here. As the years have gone on and some of the situations we’ve been in, it would have been really nice to kind of come back in here between jobs.”

Added Kreis: “I love this place. I did love it and I still do love it. Every time I come here I have great feelings.”