The next week isn’t going to get any easier for Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
After a crushing loss to Sporting Kansas City that went to 10 penalty kicks for each side in the MLS Cup on Saturday, his attention will now shift to his own uncertain role in the organization in which his contract is set to expire.
“It’s interesting that the last couple weeks have been so hectic with all the details to consider, all of the preparation for the match, all the families coming to the Cup, hotel rooms and tickets, but all of that was pretty easy,” Kreis said. “What happens the next couple days is going to be hard.”
In recent weeks, Kreis has been linked to coaching openings with the Vancouver Whitecaps and expansion New York City FC, with the latter looking more likely.
“He’s been the leader of the team for seven years now, and he is huge for us,” Salt Lake defender and captain Kyle Beckerman said. “We would miss him if he leaves, but what will we do? We’ve got to pick up, carry on and try to keep building what he started.”
Kreis has been an integral part of Salt Lake’s success from the beginning. On November 17, 2004 he became the first player in Real Salt Lake history when he was acquired from FC Dallas. He scored the first goal in franchise history against the Kansas City Wizards and still holds the team record as the lone player to score three goals in one game.
His playing career didn’t last long, just two years, but shortly after retiring in May 2007, he rejoined the club as its new head coach.
Two short years later, he became the youngest coach to ever win an MLS Cup when Real Salt Lake beat the LA Galaxy in 2009. Under his leadership, Salt Lake has qualified for the postseason six consecutive seasons. That is the second longest active streak in MLS.
“I think the whole city can talk at length about how Jason has been so important to our franchise being a player, to coaching the team, to winning a championship,” keeper Nick Rimando said. “When you have a winning team in a city, people like to go in that same path. Jason has put us on the map for sure.”
Though the season didn’t end with a victory, Kreis said it was one of his best as a player or a coach because of what his team accomplished.
“This was the funnest season I’ve ever been a part of,” Kreis said. “It was enjoyable to go out to training every day and ask these guys to do incredible things, but have them say, ‘Ablsolutely, I want to do it.’ ”