Yesterday afternoon we found out that MLS’s newest franchise is looking to make Jason Kreis their head coach, to the point that their taskmasters in Manchester City flew him over for a conversation during RSL’s off week a couple weeks ago. You can read that story from Brian Straus (one of the best in the business) on the Sports Illustrated website. The conversation about Jason contract, which expires at the end of the year has been a talking point for many online and in the stands all year, Brian’s article will only fuel the talk to a new feverish pitch, so I figured why not contribute my thoughts.
My reality is that the fan in me never wants to see Jason leave RSL, he has been here from the start and has played such a huge part in establishing RSL as what it is today. While it would be easy for him to claim credit for things he never does, instead he points out the efforts of others. He gave us the concept and the reality that “The Team is the Star”, I could go on and on with the things that I admire and respect about Jason and reasons why I hope he never leaves the RSL Family. I love looking up at the West side of Rio Tinto Stadium and seeing Jason’s name and number 9 up there for all to see.
The reality is that Jason is a 40 years old guy with 7 years of MLS head coaching experience, he will likely be the first MLS coach to have 4 back to back seasons with at least 15 wins and 50 points. Every GM, President, and owner of a MLS club should be trying to hire him, and if I were starting a new MLS franchise I sure as hell would be trying to hire as many folks from the RSL staff as I could. NYCFC will have no budget concerns, they could hire any number of big name coaches, but if you look at how few outside coaches have been successful in MLS, you can see why they would look at Jason as a top candidate for the job. Don’t be surprised if they aren’t (along with others) talking to Garth Lagerway as well.
Jason today after practice again addressed the issue from his perspective, he is focused on doing his job which is trying to win the trophy opportunities that present themselves. The contract is being worked on by his agent, his focus is on the team. I expect nothing less, and if he made a quick trip to the UK as reported, I don’t think it impacts his ability or focus on the tasks at hand. You can see the video of him answering the question on the RSL website.
I also believe that Jason would be foolish not to entertain offers, but when he says he will deal with it at the end of the season I believe him. I know how much Jason, and other want another crack at the Champions League, I know how much work he and others have put into this team to get back in and to be able to make a real run at that title again. Jason has always seemed a goal driven individual, he wants to be the very best at what he does and being in a small market with a team with a fairly tight budget can pose unique challenges to that, but I also believe Jason knows what he means to this team and the fans, and I also think there is the reality of where you want your family to be and your kids to grow up. Lots of things that are likely on his mind
This week was RSL’s annual “Meet the Team day” and one of the best parts of the day was talking with fellow fans in lines around the stadium, and one of the most common questions is what does the “AFJ” mean below Jason’s signature?
It took me a minute the first time I was asked, but only a minute to figure it out. Jason has more times than I can count said “Fortune Favors the Bold” or in Latin “audentes fortuna juvat” it is how he has managed, it seems that it is how he lives his life as well. He was a bold player, never the biggest or the fastest, but brave and bold often taking chances that resulted in him being the first MLS player to ever hit 100 goals. It was one of the first things he said when he made the decision to stop playing one day and become the head coach the next day, and we have seen that he often will make changes in matches.
I think back earlier this year when on the road at Montreal when in the 85th minute of a 2-2 match on the road, Jason doesn’t pull of Devon Sandoval in favor of a defensive player to try and hold on to the draw, nope he brings on Joao Plata and goes for the win. It didn’t work out this time, but it sent an important message to his players, the fans, and every other team in MLS, that RSL wasn’t going to go quietly, not at home, not on the road, and he has stuck with that.
I like that attitude, I like that Jason has surrounded himself with of a similar mindset, guys he has played with or played against, that RSL has the only coaching staff that is made up of all former MLS players. The success RSL has had on the pitch has brought attention from other teams, we saw it when Robin Fraser was snagged by Chvias USA, we saw it last year when teams like New York and Portland came looking for players, we will see it more and more as RSL continues to be successful.
So while Jason is more a UB40 kinda guy, I imagine the soundtrack that he has been hearing in his head more and more lately is “Should I stay, or Should I go” by The Clash. I sure am hoping he stays, but it would be hard to blame him if the temptation of a bigger paycheck, a bigger payroll, a bigger stage, is too much to resist, remember “Fortune Favors the Bold”.
Jason has a couple times in the past written an open letter to the fans, if I were to write a letter to him, it would look like this:
I understand the temptation, I could never hold it against you for taking another opportunity to further your coaching career as much as it might hurt to see you leave. Since the start of this journey that has become the RSL Family, you have been one of the central figures, from how you played, to the mentality you have brought to the organization as the coach, it all has been hugely important to the fans, to the staff, to the players. No relationship is perfect, but you have shown a love and passion for this team and for this city that is inspirational and I want to thank you publicly for it. You have helped to show all soccer fans in the US, that it isn’t about big names, or big dollars, it is about “The team is the star” which has been the foundation of the RSL Family.
I hope that you choose to stay with RSL long into the future, what we have here is special, if you don’t believe me just walk around the stands on match day and ask anyone, or ask the guys in your locker room, because we all know it. New York is a big stage, a huge opportunity, but there is no way that anywhere is ever going to be able to replicate the last 9 years here in Salt Lake City. Wherever you go, whatever challenges you accept, I will always be proud to be a fan of Jason Kreis.
If I were to write a letter to RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen it would be less emotional and much shorter:
Dear Dell Loy,
Make it Happen.
That’s How I See It