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Former RSL coach Jason Kreis, twice-fired, deserves patience

The former RSL head honcho deserves a club that will show him the patience any coach needs.

Real Salt Lake v Seattle Sounders Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Jason Kreis’s coaching career in Major League Soccer has now seen him fired twice.

It’s not a career record I expected when Kreis led Real Salt Lake to a second-place spot in MLS Cup 2013. At the time, he was the anointed one; he was a coach who was on his way to great heights, including, but not limited to, the United States men’s national team.

But four years and change is a long time. Kreis, the first coach at New York City FC, was fired after his first year in charge. He was fired last week from his post at Orlando City SC, barely over a year into his tenure.

It’s a tricky thing to evaluate, given what some call “MLS 3.0” is a league plagued by a certain rashness in decision-making. OCSC and NYCFC are both teams with owners that are heavily involved in the day-to-day, and these firings probably reflect a bit of that.

The Mane Land, SB Nation’s OCSC blog, had some words to that effect:

Kreis was let go with his team still in playoff position — a spot he helped lead the team to by way of that six-game winning streak. The winning streak came with most of the roster fully fit and in form. He and his staff aren’t completely blameless, of course, but the losing streak certainly did not feature an optimal lineup for most of it.

There’s a lot of good stuff there. It’s well worth reading.

This all makes you wonder, though. Was Jason Kreis’s time at Real Salt Lake an anomaly? Were we attributing to him success that should be attributed elsewhere, like at the feet of Garth Lagerwey? There’s something to be said there, too, because RSL’s former GM Lagerwey hasn’t been particularly well-received in Seattle at times.

I’d posit that it wasn’t an anomaly, but he may be having trouble adapting to owners that are a bit more meddlesome than Dell Loy Hansen, which isn’t to say he’s not that way at times. Why isn’t it an anomaly?

We saw Kreis have success across a significant span of time in MLS. Perhaps a timeline is sufficient:

  • 2008, RSL make the Western Conference Finals, lose to New York Red Bulls
  • 2009, RSL wins MLS Cup against LA Galaxy
  • 2010, RSL posts second-best regular season record
  • 2011, RSL makes CONCACAF Champions League final
  • 2013, RSL makes MLS Cup against Sporting KC, makes US Open Cup final against D.C. United, three points off of Supporters Shield

I know there are several ‘second-best’ things here — we were three points off a Supporters Shield, we were close to another MLS Cup win and a CCL win, and we somehow lost to the worst MLS team in the Open Cup. Yeah, those things sting. But they’re indicative of a team that was highly competitive, and there was never a doubt under Jason Kreis that we could compete.

When those opportunities come across an eight-year coaching career, I really do think you see a coach that had things figured out. Sure, he made some missteps, and he was hardly a perfect coach. But I do think he showed enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt at least once in his coaching career.

It will be a sad thing if Jason Kreis’s coaching career continues in this fashion. He’s a talented individual who needs the right setup, but he also needs time. He isn’t the sort of coach that can come in and make everything work. There are few coaches in the world who can do that.

I don’t think there’s a place for Kreis at Real Salt Lake now, and I’m not advocating for his return here. But as a coach that led us to glory we haven’t even glimpsed since, he’s still very much part of our collective ethos. He’s in our blood. It’s a shame to see somebody that elevated us to such heights struggling to keep a job, and I’m hoping he doesn’t have to wait long for some stability.