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and move (or, spend major time away from his family) is a decision that transcends any short-term misgivings about an out-of-date offer.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.
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.