Real Salt Lake catch up post - Kreis = new deal & #9 retired, Chinn gets a contract, oh and the Home Opener

RSL Head Coach Jason Kries

OK, it has been a crazy week for me but I am going to try to catch up on a number of things with this post:

First up is perhaps the most controversy that Real Salt Lake has caused since the selection of their name as Dave Checketts (you know the guy who still owns the majority of the team) finally gets his wish and they will retire the jersey #9 in honor of Jason Kreis, the teams first player, the teams first captain, the first MLS player to score 100 goals, the youngest coach to ever win MLS Cup, and the first coach to take a MLS team to the Semi-finals (and beyond) in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Now some soccer purists will say that this is a bad move and that the #9 is above and beyond any player, it does in the aspect of players used to chose their numbers based on their position but that tradition has lost most of it's punch over the years and in MLS you are much more likely to see a wide variety of numbers on the pitch.  This is a move that Dave has wanted to do for some time, and that Jason has protested, but there is only so long so can stop an owner from doing what they want.  Yes there are other deals they could have done, things like a ring of honor, a statue, and others but this is the move that the owner wanted to make and I will respect his right as the owner to make such a decision.  This is his statement about the situation:

"It will be a great day on July 4, 2011, when we officially recognize Jason for his contributions to RSL," said Checketts. "We understand that retiring a player's number is not a normal part of soccer protocol. While we have great respect for the game, we seek to honor an exceptional player and coach for our organization. Jason was the first player signed at Real Salt Lake, he established and broke significant MLS records while wearing our uniform and has provided exceptional leadership both on and off the field. In my mind, no one at RSL should ever wear #9 again."    

after the jump way more news:

New Deal for Jason Kreis:

On the same day as the controversial announcement of the retirement of jersey #9, came a move that should make most RSL fans very happy, a new contract that will keep Jason Kreis in charge of Real Salt Lake through the 2013 season.  This is huge news for the man who has helped be the foundation for the rebuilding of Real Salt Lake from the lovable losers of MLS to being one of the top teams in the league and the region.  

Jason made the following quote about the deal:

"When I was hired nearly four years ago, I stated that it was time for action, that I was embracing a complete and utter challenge, undertaking tremendous responsibility," said Kreis. "We have enjoyed some success here now at Real Salt Lake and the entire organization - players, coaches, staff, ownership, management and most importantly, the fans - believes, as I do, that ‘The Team is the Star.' Everyone involved in establishing and raising our expectations continues to work towards earning championships, and no one takes that responsibility lightly. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue in this great endeavor."

The details of the press release will be at the bottom of the post.

RSL Home Opener:

While it may be snowing outside now the forecast for Saturday's RSL home opener against the LA Galaxy is better with a Saturday high of 50 with a 40% chance of rain in the morning and afternoon.  Each team will be missing some players due to call ups and injuries, more on that this afternoon in my match preview.  As of 11am there were only a couple thousand tickets left, so it should be a great crowd to cheer on the homeside as they look to continue there home unbeaten streak.

RSL signs Chinn:

While the New York Red Bulls deal with another TH14 injury that will keep him out of action against the Crew this weekend and Juan Agudelo is with the USMNT this weekend, one has to think they might be a bit upset that RSL signed former Red Bull forward Conor Chinn to a contract this week, he will wear # 16 for the Claret and Cobalt.  I think this is great news for RSL, he is a young kid who last year showed signs of real flash in US Open Cup and in the NYRB friendly against Juvi.  He has been a energetic player at practice and appears to be really willing to listen and learn, a real positive attitude kid.

OFFICIAL RSL Press Release on Jason's new contract:

REAL SALT LAKE INKS HEAD COACH JASON KREIS

TO TWO-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION

Youngest Cup-winning Manager in MLS History Secured through 2013 Season;

Former RSL Captain, 1st-ever 100-Goal MLS Scorer to See His #9 Jersey Retired on July 4

SANDY, UT (Thursday, March 24, 2011) - Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis has signed a two-year contract extension, ensuring his presence on the RSL sidelines through the 2013 Major League Soccer season, RSL President Bill Manning announced today. Kreis became the youngest MLS Cup-winning coach in League history when he led RSL to the title in 2009, his second full season at the competitive helm. All-time, Kreis owns a 51-42-34 mark in MLS regular-season, playoff and CONCACAF Champions League play. 

"As I've said many times in the nearly seven years since he became the face of our franchise, Jason continues to fit the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career," said RSL Founder Dave Checketts. "The vote of confidence that ownership and management give today to Jason speaks for itself. Not only is he one of the best young coaches in MLS, he's one of the best - period. We are thrilled to have him here for a very long time."

At a team function earlier today, Mr. Checketts also announced that Real Salt Lake will retire Kreis' #9 jersey in a special ceremony this coming Independence Day, in conjunction with that night's game against the New England Revolution, to be televised live nationwide on ESPN2. 

"It will be a great day on July 4, 2011, when we officially recognize Jason for his contributions to RSL," said Checketts. "We understand that retiring a player's number is not a normal part of soccer protocol. While we have great respect for the game, we seek to honor an exceptional player and coach for our organization. Jason was the first player signed at Real Salt Lake, he established and broke significant MLS records while wearing our uniform and has provided exceptional leadership both on and off the field. In my mind, no one at RSL should ever wear #9 again."

Kreis, an American soccer icon and Major League Soccer pioneer, embarks on the 2011 MLS season with "unfinished business" driving this year's CONCACAF Champions League and Major League Soccer ambitions. Last year's squad dropped just four games across the last seven months of play in all competitions, yet were sent home unceremoniously in the first round of the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs by finalist FC Dallas.

"When I was hired nearly four years ago, I stated that it was time for action, that I was embracing a complete and utter challenge, undertaking tremendous responsibility," said Kreis. "We have enjoyed some success here now at Real Salt Lake and the entire organization - players, coaches, staff, ownership, management and most importantly, the fans - believes, as I do, that ‘The Team is the Star.' Everyone involved in establishing and raising our expectations continues to work towards earning championships, and no one takes that responsibility lightly.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue in this great endeavor."

While RSL did not repeat in 2010 - something that has happened just twice in the first 15 years of MLS - Kreis' organization, leadership, drive and determination inspired Real Salt Lake (15-4-11, 56 points, Supporters' Shield runners-up) to a nearly unprecedented run, amassing 64 points in 30 games combined - the equivalent of an MLS season - from May 1 to Oct. 19 in both MLS and CCL play, a points haul equal to the 3rd-best run EVER by an MLS team (Los Angeles - 70 pts - Sept. 7, 1997 to Aug. 8, 1998; Los Angeles - 66 pts - June 28, 2009 to June 26, 2010).

"It is imperative that the competitive side of our organization maintain continuity and build off the success of recent seasons," said Manning, working closely with Kreis and General Manger Garth Lagerwey as the trio prepare for Saturday's 2011 MLS home opener against Los Angeles in a rematch of MLS Cup 2009. "The dedication, work ethic and commitment to excel on the team side have been exemplary under Jason's direction, and I felt it was important to secure the future of our coaching staff before going long into the last year of his current deal. We could not be more pleased as an organization that Jason will continue to guide our team on the field."

Kreis led the 2010 RSL side to become the first-ever MLS team (and one of just three non-Mexican teams) to win a CONCACAF group, posting a 4-1-1 mark and advancing now to the Semifinal Round in 2011, where RSL takes a 2-0 lead into the second leg at Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday, April 5. The former striker's side was also the second-highest-scoring team in CONCACAF's group stage, with 17 goals in six games (2.83 goals/game). During MLS play in 2010, the following numbers established by RSL set or tied new single-season league standards: fewest goals allowed (20), overall goal differential (+25), total home points (37), fewest home losses (0) and fewest home goals allowed (7). In addition to those league benchmarks, last year's edition set franchise-high records in wins (15), goals (45), scoring output (1.50/game), points (56), shutouts (15), road points (19) and road goal differential (+1).

In 2009, RSL finished the regular season with an 11-12-5 mark, earning the final MLS Cup Playoff spot on the last day of the season with a complete and dominating 3-0 win over rival Colorado. Just as in the year before, RSL played its best when the pressure was highest, reeling off four consecutive postseason results to bring the State of Utah its first major league professional title in nearly 40 years - and allowing Kreis to become the youngest Championship-winning manager in MLS' first 15 years after RSL's dramatic penalty-kick win over a star-studded Los Angeles team in MLS Cup 2009.

Kreis became the second head coach in Real Salt Lake history on May 3, 2007, when Checketts tabbed the team's Captain, its first-ever player and (at the time) the League's all-time leading scorer to seize the reins of Utah's Division I professional soccer team. The Duke University product was the eleventh ex-MLS player (not including interim stints) to take over a League side, and is currently one of eight head coaches in the League to make the switch from an MLS pitch to the sideline.

Intense and passionate, Kreis went 6-13-7 (25 points) during the partial 2007 season, enduring an expectedly steep learning curve before steadying his squad to a 4-4-3 finish down the stretch, a sign of things to come. In his first full season at the helm in 2008, Kreis led Real Salt Lake to its first-ever playoff berth on the heels of a 10-10-10 (40 points) regular season, a turnaround for which Kreis was rewarded with a previous contract extension that kept him on the Rio Tinto Stadium sideline through the 2011 MLS season.

The 2008 campaign reflected the results of an extensive team overhaul, which saw the team mold 21 new faces - added since the final half of the 2007 season - into a competitive unit. The landmark 2008 season under Kreis' direction saw Real Salt Lake open the state-of-the-art Rio Tinto Stadium, dramatically qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs in the final minute of the year and defeat the higher-seeded Chivas USA in the West Semifinals before ultimately bowing to the New York Red Bulls one step shy of MLS Cup, all resulting in the most successful and competitive campaign in Real Salt Lake's four-season history both on and off the field, prior to the Cup win one year later.

At the time of his hire, Mr. Kreis became the youngest active head coach in MLS at 34 years and 127 days of age. Kreis works closely with his former Blue Devil and Dallas Burn teammate Lagerwey regarding player acquisitions, scouting, MLS drafts and all player personnel-related matters. The Kreis-Lagerwey partnership has resulted in the implementation of a culture where players, staff and fans work as one for the RSL shield, epitomizing a "Team is the Star" attitude. Kreis, Lagerwey and the team's coaching staff - Jeff Cassar, Miles Joseph and C.J. Brown - compose the lone technical staff among MLS' 16 teams comprised entirely of ex-MLS players. This distinction means that the RSL braintrust now boasts cumulative MLS experience of 71,242 total minutes, covering 902 games and including 126 goals and 22 shutouts (the equivalent of nearly 30 complete seasons of service). The RSL staff has the unparalleled ability to tap into personal experience as it guides, assists and develops current RSL players.

Kreis abruptly retired with 108 career goals to his credit, becoming just the eighth person in the history of the five major U.S. sports leagues to serve as a head coach while holding his league's career scoring record (and only the third athlete in the post-World War II era). The first MLS player to break the century mark in goals scored, Mr. Kreis' 108 total goals scored still ranks fourth behind Jaime Moreno (131), Jeff Cunningham (130) and Ante Razov (114) heading into the 2011 season.

The native of Omaha, Neb., was the first American-born player in MLS history to earn MVP honors (Kreis remains one of just three U.S.-born MVPs in 14 MLS seasons), capturing the 1999 award after leading the Dallas Burn in goals (18) and assists (15), a stellar campaign which marked the first "15-15" season in League annals. Coming through in the clutch is a Kreis trademark, with an astounding 31 of his 108 career goals game-winners. The Duke graduate ranks among the top 10 MLS career leaders in games (305 - 10th), starts (282), minutes (25,242 - 7th), shots (818 - 2nd) and shots on goal (370).

Kreis became the first player in Real Salt Lake history on November 17, 2004, when the 12-year MLS veteran was acquired from FC Dallas in exchange for future considerations. He has the unique distinction of scoring the first-ever goals in two MLS team histories, finding the back of the net for both RSL and the Dallas Burn. Interestingly, career strikes #1 and #100 shared a common opponent - the Kansas City Wizards, also the victim of Kreis' lone career MLS hat trick. Until the heroics of former RSL striker Robbie Findley in the 2008 home opener, Kreis was the lone RSL player ever to notch three goals in one game, albeit in a 4-6 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss at Minnesota in 2005.

Kreis, an avid woodworker, oenophile and golfer with a voracious appetite for reading, resides in Park City, Utah, with his wife, Kimberly, and two sons.

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