Jason Kreis, whose contract is up with Real Salt Lake after this year, has told me and everyone else who cares to bring up the situation that he is focused on his team, on Major League Soccer’s regular season stretch drive and on the upcoming U.S. Open Cup final.
Being the soccer-obsessed perfectionist that he is, Kreis is surely telling the truth.
So when news broke from SI.com that Kreis flew to England recently to meet with Manchester City officials about the job soon to open at New York City FC (a club that will become the 20th MLS franchise in 2015), I instantly understood one thing: Kreis is seriously considering this thing. The possibility of it, at least.
It’s not just a bargaining ploy; he could have played a ploy chip without crossing oceans and multiple time zones.
Yes, it was a weekend off for RSL. Still, if I had asked Kreis on a Friday, before a September break in the schedule, if he would be doing any fishing or head to Vegas for a boys weekend or whatever during the little break, he would have laughed at me. He would talk about a bunch of scouting and video study, about youth academy catch-up sessions and meetings with management on upcoming contract and 100 things that needed doing for RSL. In other words, he would have found plenty of club-related things to do. So … Kreis is clearly intrigued.
Best guess here as someone who has known the guy since he was a rookie player in MLS back in 1996: This isn’t about money. Rather, it’s about a potential life-shifting opportunity. Because he knows what he has at Rio Tinto is a good thing.
Besides, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen is a smart guy who sees the big picture when it comes to financial matters. Sources say RSL’s offer already on the table would put Kreis among the three highest paid MLS managers. That’s not bad considering that he coaches in a smaller market and that, at age 40, Kreis remains among the youngest MLS managers.
So let’s quickly examine the pros and cons of the NYCFC position:
Kreis is an ambitious guy, and hooking up with the Manchester City organization could provide extra exposure and open doors for Kreis to eventually become the first American to manage at the highest level in Europe. Don’t forget, he was the youngest manager to win an MLS Cup (still is), so Kreis already has accomplished a lot, even though he is really just getting started in the managerial biz. Getting into a bigger market could best position Kreis for maximum future achievement.
The big money sure to come cascading through the second Big Apple club could provide access to players Kreis and RSL are just never going to get. Even if Hansen were willing to drop huge bucks on a pricey transfer fee for some top-line man, luring the game’s global A-listers to Utah will always be tricky.
Further, having the opportunity to build something from the ground up, with near unlimited resources, surely must be intriguing.
Kreis already has a great situation at RSL, clearly. He has a terrific and effective working relationship with ownership – perhaps he is not as close to Hansen as he was with former owner Dave Checketts, but the relationship seems solid – and with upper management.
He has already accomplished so much, and that buys latitude and benefit of the doubt if things ever begin going sideways. Kreis certainly won’t get that in New York, a tough and demanding market where he will start from scratch in terms of building organizational chops.
Working with Claudio Reyna, the upstart club’s director of soccer operations, might be wonderful. But who knows at this point? Since this is a spanking new club, Kreis has zero idea of the politics he could be walking into. I am not saying it’s going to be a fiasco or even difficult … just saying that there is no way anyone could know at this point.
At RSL, Kreis controls so much regarding training, travel and operational scheduling, plus a big say in personnel. At New York City FC … who knows? What will the organizational structure look like, for instance?
By the way, where is the team going to play? Where will the team train? I mean, the franchise’s initial training camp is 16 months away. That may sound like a lot, but it’s really not when it comes to these momentous choices. Remind me what progress NYCFC has made on these critical elements since the splashy announcement in May? Exactly, there hasn’t been much.
There are lots of questions here. At RSL, the upside is hardly as vast, but at least Kreis knows his upsides and his downsides.