This season has been a hot mess of expectations, anticipation and disappointment, leaving entering the 2nd half of the season with some embarrassing numbers. 17 points from 18 matches, worst in MLS and -20 goal differential, also worst in MLS are the two that are most telling. Now fans will have very different places they put the blame, but the harsh reality is that beyond the coaching change, beyond injuries, beyond players coming and going and national team callups, something changed in the middle of last season. RSL went from a team that appeared to have it all going their way just before labor day, to a group who simply looked like they stopped caring and for the most part that has been the theme of this season.
Now before you jump all over me, I know that the players and staff care, I know they are passionate about the game, I know they hate losing more than the fans do, I know all of that. I also know what it looks like both live and on TV, we get glimpses that give us hope like a good performance vs Minnesota (a not so good team) and then we get duds like the match against San Jose (also a not so good team). I am not sure what changes are needed, I will leave that up to the folks running the team, but I know what I see on the pitch and in the standings and neither of them are close to what the level of expectations has been for Real Salt Lake.
Enter our only national TV appearance of the year, a pre-holiday weekend kick off match against a team with several familiar faces. It will be hard to see Jason coaching Orlando, he was such a huge part of RSL becoming a success (yes that is his name and number on the building, and yes it belongs there). It is always hard to see a guy with so much passion and who plays with the intensity that Will Johnson does in anything but Claret and Cobalt. Then there are the ones with so much potential still Luis Gil and Donny Toia, guys for whom leaving RSL may have been the best thing for them.
Neither side is happy with where they are right now, Orlando got off to a 6-1-0 start to their season, but in their last 10 they have just a single win. RSL is close to setting a record for most losses in a season at Rio Tinto or since moving to Rio Tinto with 11 losses so far and 3 home losses. So which team can find a spark to get their season on track?
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.