Major League Soccer
Jason Kreis Named Coach of New York City FC
The MLS lifer was the face of Real Salt Lake for nearly nine years, but he has now left the rugged beauty of Utah in favor of the concrete-and-steel intensity of New York City.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedTHE RUMORS STARTED SWIRLING around Jason Kreis before Saturday’s MLS Cup final, and on Tuesday it became official: New York City FC has hired Kreis to be its first-ever head coach. Kreis, 40, a former midfielder, joined MLS in its inaugural season and went on to make 305 appearances for the Dallas Burn and Real Salt Lake. In May 2007 he retired as a player and was promptly named Real Salt Lake head coach despite being just 34 years old. Kreis led Real Salt Lake to the 2009 MLS championship—the youngest coach to do so—and to the 2013 MLS Cup, which it lost in penalties. NYCFC’s first game is still not for another 15 months, so much about the club remains a mystery. Initially it hired former U.S. national team captain and Manchester City midfielder Claudio Reyna as Director of Football Operations, but other than that, it has been mostly silent in terms of direction of the team. That changed yesterday as it now has a head coach—and a good one too. Skepticism has followed NYCFC ever since it was announced as the 20th MLS franchise in 2013. Was the club going to have its own identity or was it going to be an extension of the Manchester City brand? MLS has gone down that path before, and it hasn't been pretty: Chivas USA was brought into the league to expand the Chivas de Guadalajara brand in Los Angeles and the club has been a black eye on the league for years. NYCFC appears as if it will feature the same baby blue color scheme as Manchester City. Promotional links with the Premier League club are also prevalent. In the news section of the NYCFC website, there are two prominent links to Manchester City’s recent U.S tours. On the fan section of the website, the top tab is “Learn about MCFC” which is above “Learn about MLS” and “Learn about NYC Supporters Club.” It only begs the question of whether NYCFC is an independent entity or is it a feeder club with the primary intent of helping Manchester City gain fans/awareness, and maybe help discover a player or two? That being said, hiring Jason Kreis helps the club in two important fronts. First, it sets the right tone. In 1996, the Metrostars hired former New York Cosmos manager Eddie Firmani as its first coach, with an eye toward carrying on the NASL team’s legacy. Looking back instead of forward proved to be a complete disaster, and Firmani was fired a few weeks into the season. By contrast, NYCFC will have strong leadership from the start. It would have been very easy for the club to bring in an overpaid foreign coach or someone with deep ties to Manchester City. It didn’t fall for that trap. Second, the hiring of Kreis (and Reyna) indicates that the new ownership respects American talent to lead the club in its formative years. The first few seasons are crucial. The Metrostars were terrible from the start and it can be argued that the club never really fully recovered from its early struggles. The NYCFC ownership recognized the importance of having someone with knowledge of the league, its numerous quirks, and the American player base. Would hiring a big name European coach draw better initially? Yes. But NYCFC didn’t go down the path many expected and instead realized Kreis offers a better chance at winning. The move is risky for Kreis. He had a great situation in Real Salt Lake where he was comfortable and could likely continue to contend for the MLS Cup and perhaps the CONCACAF Champions League for the foreseeable future. With NYCFC he will have the opportunity to step into the spotlight in one of the biggest media markets in the world, and work for owners who are very powerful in the game. If he ever has ambitions of coaching in Europe, this could be an important steppingstone. NYCFC still has many questions to be answered and it will be interesting to see how the events unfold over the next 12 months. The club still needs an identity aside from Manchester City and, even more importantly, the proposed stadium in the Bronx will need to progress quickly. The New York sports market is a tough place to make it but making a commitment to winning can go a long way. In that regard, the club is off on the right foot.
December 11, 2013
December 11, 2013