SANDY, Utah — Nobody knew exactly how it all would turn out, but looking back to May 3, 2007, it was a monumental, fate-changing event when then owner and team founder Dave Checketts announced that Jason Kreis was hanging up his cleats and picking up a whistle for Real Salt Lake.
Just over six years later, RSL is sitting atop the MLS standings in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, have been to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, won a MLS Cup in 2009 and is a model of consistency, especially for a small-market club.
In last week’s 3-0 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal win over Carolina, Kreis notched win No. 100 over all competitions as coach of RSL. Ironically, he did it against RailHawks Coach Colin Clarke, who coached Kreis for his last two seasons with the Dallas Burn before he was traded to RSL to become their first ever player.
"I'm happy I was able to give it to him," joked Clarke after learning of the mark for Kreis.
But Clarke also said he saw the traits necessary for his former player to become the coach he is today.
"He's that type of person. He's a student of the game and he studies it. He's a deep thinker. I knew once he came here and had the opportunity to coach, he'd be successful,” Clarke said.
Winning a MLS Cup and reaching the CONCACAF Champions League Final both point to the success of Kreis as a coach, but perhaps even more than those accomplishments, this year’s surprise run to the top of the table speaks volumes for what the 40-year-old is capable of getting out of his club. After trading away three all-star caliber players and letting a couple of other veterans go in last offseason, there were more questions than answers for how RSL would perform in 2013.
Looking at the team’s 10-5-3 record and Kreis’ 101-79-60 all-time coaching record, there probably shouldn’t have been any doubt on how things would go. Particularly with how the coach feels about and treats being a member of Real Salt Lake.
“I feel like this is my home, my family,” he said after last Wednesday’s game. “ This is where it all started, and this is where I was given my first chance. It’s an amazing opportunity by a guy that had more belief than all of us put together — an incredible leader in Dave Checketts. And now with the new ownership group, I feel just as supported. It’s been amazing what the guys have given me, and given to this club — it’s been second-to-none. I feel that people recognize that it’s not just a crest on a shirt or a name on a stadium, it’s part of us.”