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Should RSL consider Jason Kreis for head coach gig?

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A trio of writers take you through their thoughts.

Vancouver Whitecaps v Real Salt Lake Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Should RSL hire Jason Kreis as head coach?

Miles - Let me answer this question with another question, what has he succeeded at since leaving RSL in 2013? I’ll wait. NYCFC was a failure, Orlando was a failure, Olympic qualifying was a failure. I love the glory days of Real Salt Lake and I miss them as much as the rest of you, but just because something worked 10 years ago doesn’t mean it will work now, quite the opposite given the evolution of the league.

I think there is another component of this question that is often overlooked. What has been the end result of every coach before and since Jason Kreis? They have all left unceremoniously and even disgraced. Do we really want to take this legend, our first player, our first captain, our first winning coach and run the risk of tainting his legacy and falling out of favor with the fanbase? I don’t think it’s worth it, let him be a hero and let his legacy remain untarnished. In the famous words of Harvey Dent, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Do we really want to see Jason become the villain, let me answer that for you, no we don’t. We have been through enough, don’t take away the only glimmer of glory we’ve ever enjoyed.

Randal - Maybe. I have a tough time saying yes to this question, but I also have a tough time saying no. There are very, very few examples of professional sports organizations re-hiring previous coaches after they moved on to other opportunities in their career. We all know that when Kreis was the head coach of RSL, the club went through its best times as an organization both on and off the field. But once a coach moves on, they tend to move on for good. In this case, Kreis saw an opportunity that was hard to turn down and was dealing with a new owner that was in many ways antithetical to the previous one. So it is really hard to blame him for moving on.

The downside of bringing back Kreis as head coach is that it may look like RSL is desperate and has little to no other options to grow the club in a new direction. And of course, we do not know for sure that Kreis could coach RSL back to a top-tier club. MLS is a much different league than it was when he was at the helm. There are higher priced players and higher maintenance egos to deal with. The competition is higher and there are a lot more teams which statistically lowers your chances of winning a trophy. And even though Kreis has undoubtedly learned a lot over the past seven or eight years, he did not prove that he can win wherever he goes.

The upside of bringing Kreis back is that he made clear that he still has a lot of love for RSL and the state of Utah. He knows what this club is capable of. The fanbase is familiar with him and trusts him. He could very well be the stable coaching force that we lacked ever since he left.

Matt - It must first be known that I am big on nostalgia. When I watch Real Salt Lake, I want to feel good about the club, even if I feel bad about a loss. An easy shortcut for feeling good about the club is to bring in people that remind you of good times, and maybe that’s not the right approach, but it’s an easy one.

But it’s not just about nostalgia. For me, Kreis is a coach with talent that has been wasted over the last seven years. (This begins my apologia for Jason Kreis.) At New York City FC, he was stuck with an utterly weird roster: Frank Lampard? Andrea Pirlo? When two of your highest-paid signings are old and basically useless in Major League Soccer, you’re in for a bad time. Even the best coach couldn’t win with those two as the stars at the tail of their career. David Villa was a better signing, but it was the sort of thing that put the roster in an unbalanced spot. Combine all that with a postage stamp of a stadium, and I think you’ve got enough to excuse at least a little bit of Kreis’s struggles in New York. Was he a perfect coach that went astray? Obviously not. But it did not help.

It was weird, then, that Kreis joined Orlando City SC, whose ownership — while not directly associated with another club providing chaos — saddled him with a similarly oddball lineup. Kaka? More like come on. In his only full season in Orlando, Kreis led the team to a pretty dismal record — just 1.15 points per game. That’s not a reason to hire him, but it’s important context. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they struggled the following season, too — Kreis’s record and Adrian Heath’s record were very similar, and 2019 coach James O’Connor’s was much worse.

I hold that Kreis was not great at picking his next role, and I would argue he did his career potential harm by leaving a meddlesome owner to be with another meddlesome owner, then another. But none of that means he can’t be a great coach again with the right support. I remain optimistic of that fact, and of the notion that we will end up with an owner who plays a supportive role and not a disruptive one.

This isn’t the most exacting reason to hire a coach, but we know his good qualities, and I am confident that the right owner can bring them out in him again.

Should RSL hire Jason Kreis to run the soccer organization?

Miles - I struggle to understand why this is under consideration, has he run an organization before? The answer is no he hasn’t. He’s been around a lot of front offices during his time coaching and it is possible that some things have rubbed off, but Jason is old school, he doesn’t seem like the type to schmooze up to corporate sponsors nor do I think he wants to. Jason Kreis’s passion has always been coaching and this seems like a way of trying to force him into a role he wouldn’t succeed at just to get him back at the club. Now if you told me he was going to start in a lesser role with the plan being to take the reins after a few years of development, yeah sure, why not?

Randal - Similar to how I feel about Kreis coming back to coach RSL, I hesitate to say that this would be a homerun for the organization. However, I do think there is more upside in this opportunity than bringing Kreis back as head coach. In many ways, I think a high-level front office job would suit Kreis well for a few reasons. First, Kreis seems like the perfect fit to take a new opportunity and a new role and thrive in it. He has a lot of drive and passion to prove himself and to do well by the club. Second, a new opportunity at RSL would allow him to work behind the scenes and not try to recapture the glory days of his time as a coach here. Third, and maybe most importantly, is that he has a unique perspective having coached in multiple places and how that relates to the front office positions. He has great experience dealing with various administrations and saw what works well and what does not. He would bring a fresh look at the job, whether as GM or President or whatever other administrative position I may be overlooking.

The counterpoint is that given that he has no direct experience in this area, would RSL be better off hiring someone who does have that experience and proved themselves successful?

Matt - I brought this question into the mix because it was reported as one of the proposals when Kreis was in contention for the job after the firing of Mike Petke. I don’t really have strong feelings, so I’ll just lean on everything Randal side.

Should RSL build a coaching staff of club legends?

Miles - So my role in this article has been to be the contrarian, and I think I have been pretty clear in the points I have presented. Here is where I deviate and say ABSOLUTELY YES we should build a legends coaching staff. The only acceptable way Jason Kreis returns as head coach for me is if he brings Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Nick Rimando back as his assistant coaches. Imagine Roy Kent (Jason), Dani Rojas (Javi) and Jamie Tart (Nick...yeah you heard me) as our coaches along with Sam Obisanya (Kyle). Who wouldn’t want to see that week in and week out. Of the 14 million possibilities this would be the only one that will see the club rise from the ashes to its former glory.

Randal - Once again, probably not. But maybe. We all know and love the club legends. Names like Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Jamison Olave, and others all immediately bring us back to the glory days of Real Salt Lake when we were dominant at home and competing for everything.

My response to this question is that I would not recommend a coaching staff solely made up of club legends, no. That seems like a silly move that would not result in the desired outcome. I see a lot of potential for things turning ugly over time. However, Maybe one or two of them really could excel in that role. Olave is showing that he is a capable coach in USL. Beckerman looks like he is off to a good start with Utah Valley University. By all accounts, Morales is doing great things with the Inter Miami Academy. However, chemistry matters. Working relationships matter. Dynamics matter. I think it’s fair to say that all of them have more to show before they are a proven commodity.

Hiring them all as a group to coach would be a fun story and undoubtedly would re-engage a lot of fans. But if they ultimately do return to RSL, I think the better approach is to put them where they fit best and engage their unique skillsets. And that may not necessarily be as coach or assistant coach.

Matt - Yes. give me all of the nostalgia. I need it. But Randal is smarter than me, so read what he wrote, and I’ll keep this from hitting over 2,000 words.