It is hard to put into words what Jason Kreis meant to the Real Salt Lake family. He was the savior of a stumbling franchise and a leader who took it to its only championship. So it’s not surprising that Kreis’ departure is very upsetting for many fans.
In the spirit of moving forward, I’ve written this Q&A about Kreis’ departure and the future of Real Salt Lake.
How surprised are you?
Not at all. It was pretty obvious by the time MLS Cup rolled around that Kreis was leaving. I took a private moment to say goodbye to Kreis right after his post-game press conference.
Is RSL doomed to become a bad franchise again?
The “Team is the Star” philosophy Kreis installed was the real star of the team – more than Kyle Beckerman, more than Javier Morales, more than even Kreis himself. Fortunately, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen appears to agree. Here is a portion of his statement from the departure press release:
“We will continue to move forward – quickly – with the ‘Team is the Star’ ethos that he [Kreis] and our General Manager Garth Lagerwey implemented back in 2007.”
If Real Salt Lake continues with this system, it will succeed.
What worries do you have about this?
There are two things that could potentially go wrong and send the organization in the wrong direction.
First, RSL could potentially go away from the Team is the Star philosophy. I don’t think this is likely in the short term. Dell Loy appears to want to keep that philosophy intact; however, RSL will be in trouble if this changes in the coming years.
Second, I’m worried that Real Salt Lake could become a less desirable destination for coaches and front office managers. This is a very real concern that ought to keep Dell Loy up at night. It is easy to rationalize away Kreis’ departure as a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to England and work within the Man City system. Fair enough. But what if Garth Lagerwey leaves after his contract expires next season?
I’m not sure any organization can maintain its success after losing a coach and a GM within a year of each other. Dell Loy needs to solidify his relationship with Garth and offer a contract the media friendly GM cannot refuse.
Who should be the next RSL coach?
There is an obvious successor to Kreis who would continue this philosophy and might bring the team to a new level of success – Robin Fraser. Fraser was the first assistant coach during the MLS Cup winning campaign of 2009 and the impressive 2010 season. The latter’s success was principally founded upon a record-setting defense, of which Fraser was the architect.
In 2011, Fraser took over as head coach of Chivas USA. After leaving that disastrous situation, he went to New York as the lead assistant to Mike Petke. Virtually every person in MLS circles knows that at least part (if not most) of Petke’s success came from Fraser. New York had struggled mightily over previous seasons to play defense, burning out goalkeeper after goalkeeper. This season, New York won the Supporters’ Shield, in large part due to an improved defense. Don’t overlook Fraser’s role in this.
So what are you watching for now?
If Robin Fraser is the new head coach, and Garth Lagerwey signs a contract extension, then Real Salt Lake is in great hands. I think the side might get even better.
If either of those things doesn’t happen… well, I won’t be sleeping well for awhile.