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Jason Kreis takes on new challenge with the U-23 USMNT

Former RSL head coach Jason Kreis returned to Utah for a U-23 USMNT camp

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Jason Kreis returned to Salt Lake City this week with the US U-23 squad. Kreis, who was named the head coach of the U-23 USMNT in March, held a camp at the Zion’s Bank Real Academy and Training Facility from June 9-16. It’s not his first time back to Utah since leaving Real Salt Lake in 2013, but the trip back has been a nostalgic one for the former Real Salt Lake player and coach.

After leaving his post of head coach for Real Salt Lake after the 2013 season, Kreis joined Major League Soccer new comers New York City FC as their first head coach. Kreis led that club through a year of preparation, preseason, and their first year of play before being fired at the end of the 2015 season. The results were never quite there in NYCFC and City Football Group is an ownership group with ambitions to be the best, as evidenced with their success with Manchester City.

In 2016, Orlando City SC fired Adrian Heath and brought in Jason Kreis as their new head coach. Kreis would spend just under two seasons with Orlando City before being let go in June of 2018. His record with the team was 21–29–14.

Jason Kreis is back on the sideline with a different kind of coaching job than the positions he’s held before, that of U-23 US Men’s National Team coach.

Kreis’ trip back to Utah seems to have been a nostalgic time for him, as he spent 2005-2013 with the club. “I love this place, I love it and I will still love it.” He said, “I’m not sure how you can’t enjoy yourself when you have that kind of background (nods towards mountains) behind you.” He also spoke about memories from winning MLS Cup in 2009 and the pride he feels seeing Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando still on the field. He praised the culture of that 2009 team, saying it was second to none.

Every coaching job Kreis has held in MLS has been about building a team. When he took over Real Salt Lake in 2007, the team was just a few years old and had been struggling. He’d been the first signing and goal scorer for RSL and helped to build the team culture since day one. NYCFC has a new team as well, and he spent the year before their first season building the roster and signing players. Orlando City was also a very new team in search of their identity.

The US U-23 team is a different story, though. US Soccer has undergone much change since the failure to quality for the 2018 World Cup. There is a new president of US Soccer in Carlos Cordeiro. He installed Ernie Stewart as the general manager of US Soccer, and Gregg Berhalter was then hired as the manager of the senior US Men’s team. Of the failure to quality for the World Cup Kreis said, “There is an extra sense of urgency but I wouldn’t say it feels like pressure. I think it feels like a new direction and a real sense of organization and a real sense of identity on who we want to be as a national team and how we want to play in the national team program. That’s been really, really nice for me to be a part of… As a coach it’s nice to come into a situation to have the identity and culture defined for you and you just have to carry it out. I’ve enjoyed it for the first several months I’ve been a part of it and the first two camps. This camp has been absolutely fantastic.”

When asked by RSL Soapbox about the difference between coaching in MLS versus the U-23 team, he said, “When you come into a club, it has been a little bit about establishing a cultural point a of view rather than a tactical point of view and all these things take a lot of time. To be involve in those decisions is good in it’s way as well, I think those things are really extremely important but to come into the national team program when I came in in March, that stuff has been clearly defined. Now it’s about applying those decisions and applying those principles and make it right within your camps. It’s taken some of the burden off.”

The goal for the U-23s at this point is clear, make the 2020 Olympics. The US mens teams have an exciting group of young players coming up through the ranks, many of who are playing in the USL, MLS, and even in Europe. This camp included RSL players Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.

In regards to the camp, defender Justen Glad said Jason Kreis has clear exceptions that make the player’s jobs easier, even if Kreis is a more reserved personality. Glad has been enjoying the experience overall. Being at the same training ground where he practices every day is a help, and learning from a club legend like Kreis has been a good experience for the defender. Glad has also been reunited with the RSL coach that first gave him his first team opportunity as Jeff Cassar has taken up goal keeper coaching responsibility’s for the U-23 team.

In addition to his duties with US Soccer, Kreis is also on the technical staff for Inter Miami. This appointments sees him reunited with Javier Morales, who is an academy coach for the south Florida team. Kreis said he is excited to be working with Morales again and the former RSL player-maker will be an incredible coach.

For fans of Real Salt Lake and the US National Team, it’s an exciting time. Qualifying for the Olympics will be a tough task, but with two former RSL coaches on staff and four current RSL players in the pool, there’s a lot of familiar faces to support. The last two coaching jobs for Jason Kreis did not end particularly well, but he’s a gifted leader and this new role is one that fit his strengths and is a job he’s passionate about.