Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake

Thinking through what we now know about Jason Kreis’s links to NYCFC


Last night on ESPN, Alexi Lalas gave us some new information about Jason Kreis and NYCFC. Thanks to Brian Straus at Sports Illustrated, already knew there was interest, that Kreis had flown to meet with U.K.-based deciders, but we didn’t know much about the other side of the story. Why was Kreis entertaining leaving RSL?

According to Lalas, an initial contract offer made earlier this year was “lowball” one. It’s not hard to see where that information came from (no club is going to call their own offer “lowball”). Since, RSL has offered Kreis another deal, one that would make him the third-highest paid coach in the league. Only Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid could big-time the RSL boss.

Steve’s covered all this before, but with Kreis’s future back in the news (and sure to stay in the news throughout the playoffs), it might be worth another swing at this log; though, if you read that post, feel free to gloss over this. A lot of it is just a different guy’s take on the same speculation.

For a team like RSL, that’s a big commitment, one that’s helped keeps anything related to lowballing out of consideration. Now it’s about life style versus opportunity.

On one hand, it’s about a long relationship with the team and a firmly established life in the area. His kids are entering high school, so to pick up and move (or, spend major time away from his family) is a decision that transcends any short-term misgivings about an out-of-date offer. Kreis wouldn’t uproot his family to play out a grudge.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting the extremely unique nature of the NYCFC job. As we saw in the lead-up to and announcement of MLS’s 20th team, this is going to be a focal point franchise. Whereas New York Red Bulls are out in Harrison, NYCFC is in the league’s backyard. They’re going to have huge financial resources, presumably access to player resources from Manchester City, and will carry other benefits of their link to one of the biggest clubs in the world.

It’s already a $100 million commitment from City’s owners (some Yankees money is in there, too). They’re not going to neglect it.

Think about it: City’s a club that operates at the highest levels of the game. The people you’ll be linked to (like current president, former Barcelona president Txiki Begiristain) carry influence throughout the European game. Sure, you’re not going to be running into them in the company mess hall, but you’ll be working with people that come from their circles. Impress on the ground in MLS, and you could gain access to a world that’s been cut off to American coaching talent.

You may not be the next coach at Manchester City, but with your name in that network, maybe you find yourself interviewing for jobs in Holland or Belgium? Maybe even a club down the English ladder, where coaches and executives from City have taken new positions?

Those are the implications of the NYCFC job. Not only will the club have a number of competitive advantages (thanks to their assumed backing), but there are huge professional implications. For Kreis, only 40 years old, this maybe a line in the sand. If he’s ever going to leave Utah, it will be for an opportunity like this.

New York City FC (NYCFC) will start play in MLS in 2015 as the league’s 20th franchise. While that would mean Jason Kreis, their potential first coach, may sit for one season while waiting for their opener, the opportunities surrounding the club may be too good to pass up.

That’s the other thing about the Kreis-to-NYCFC story. The guy’s been at RSL since 2007. Most coaches don’t get that long with a team, and even those that do run out of steam. Their message gets old. They run out of ways to make things new. They’ve accomplished all they can, or maybe they just want to test themselves against a different set of challenges. Kreis clearly loves Utah, but he’s a competitive man with competitive ambitions. At some point, staying in Utah may feel like a concession – a young man settling in long before he needs to.

In that sense, the only wrinkle is the year off. NYCFC doesn’t start play for another year, but for a man who went straight from playing to coaching, the year off may be plus. We saw Pep Guardiola, 41 when he left Barcelona, spend a year in New York recharging before taking on his new challenge. While Kreis won’t be completely off (presumably, he’ll be helping the franchise prepare for Day 1), he’ll be able to recharge.

How many of us get that kind of opportunity, to step away for a year and regroup? Better yet, how many of us could use it?

It’s a terrible situation for Real Salt Lake, for whom NYCFC wasn’t even on the landscape when they offered Kreis a new deal in January. Since then, a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding stayed a contender, and a new, attractive option has walked into the room. Kreis has gotten to know new owner Dell Loy Hansen, and the team’s new offer reflects the team’s desire to keep somebody who’s become iconic, but now, the situation is beyond RSL’s control.

There’s the growing feeling that Kreis will go, and there’s little RSL can do about it. Who knows if getting him signed to a contract extension in January would have done anything but put them in a position to get compensation. The NYCFC job is just that unique, and for somebody like Jason Kreis, it’s probably an opportunity too good to pass up.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.