A Good Performance

[ 1 ] March 25, 2012 |

It’s hard to be a soccer coach. In a sport where the best team doesn’t always win and inconsistent officials get coaches particularly animated on the sideline, these leaders are expected to put that all aside and calmly speak with the media after matches.

In these meetings, coaches say profound things like “we didn’t give it our best tonight” and “that was a great shot.”

When their teams win, they’re typically happy. When they lose, disappointed.

Successful coaches often have outsized personalities and a particular way of handling such meetings. Dominic Kinnear of Houston sits calmly with a beer and discusses the match like a guy you wish you could watch the match with. Bruce Arena condescends to meet with mere mortals, taking credit for wins and assigning blame for losses.

While each coach handles media members differently, most are reduced to the role of pundit as media members pepper them with questions that they wouldn’t like to answer in public:

  • Who was out of position on this play?
  • What do you think of X’s performance?
  • What did you think of the officiating? (Hint: This one usually leads to a fine)

Jason Kreis has always objected to this. In a league where the lowest-seeded playoff team has won 2 of the last 3 MLS Cups, Kreis avoids playing pundit and instead talks about performance.

This season, he has taken a hard line on the subject. Now that the league has abandoned a balanced schedule, he has derided the Supporter’s Shield as irrelevant. Given a veteran team and a secure job, each match is less about wins, losses and points than it is about improving performance and preparing to compete for the MLS Cup in the fall. He allows his key starters extra time to recover from injuries and focuses about the quality of his side’s play rather than the results that come.

That’s why Kreis’ key message after Saturday’s loss was one that Arena, Kinnear or most other MLS coaches simply wouldn’t touch. It’s also why none of the media were shocked to hear it.

“I’m not talking too much about results at the moment,” Kreis said. “I’m pretty pleased with the performance again. We created a ton of chances. We had a majority of possession. We were the more attacking-minded team.”

It is the same theme he has given after every match. After the New York match, he confessed he thought his team “should have been scored on.” After Saturday’s performance, he was pleased with the performance, in spite of the results.

“On a different night, we win that game by multiple goals,” Kreis said.

Kreis hopes that the night in question will happen on December 1, 2012. Everything else is just about performance.

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