SANDY — And now a city and franchise waits.
The 2013 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Real Salt Lake, but behind head coach Jason Kreis the club overachieved throughout the campaign and came within one kick of winning MLS Cup.
Now everyone waits to learn whether Kreis will be back in 2014 to build on that foundation.
Kreis’ contract with Real Salt Lake is up, and there’s a lucrative offer on the table from 2015 expansion club New York City FC — not to mention a lucrative offer to return to the club he’s guided the past seven years.
Over the past couple of months Kreis routinely stressed that he wouldn't make a decision about his future until the end of the season. That day has finally arrived.
“It’s interesting that the last couple weeks have been so hectic with all the details to consider, all the preparation for the match, families coming to the cup, hotel rooms and tickets and everything else. But all of that was pretty easy. What happens over the next couple days is real hard,” said Kreis.
If Kreis does leave, which many believe he will, he said losing MLS Cup on Saturday doesn’t detract at all from what his team achieved in 2013.
“I’m really, really pleased — over the moon — with what this group did this year. Surprised, I think they overachieved. I think they proved me wrong. It’s just been an incredible, incredible year,” said Kreis.
RSL ended up losing two finals in 2013, but Kreis refuses to look the defeats as negatives.
“It’s remarkable that this group has put themselves in so many positions to win things and unfortunately things, one thing or another, just haven’t gone our way. It’s easy to look at that in a negative way, but I don’t think we should because I thought we played outstanding tonight,” said Kreis.
As soon as word surfaced that Kreis might leave after the season, RSL’s players have been unanimous in their support regardless of his decision.
That tone was the same in a somber locker room Saturday night at Sporting Park.
“We’d hope he’d stay for sure. If he does end up leaving I’ll respect his decision. He’s an ambitious guy. You got to be happy for him if he wants to make a change and further his career,” said defender Nat Borchers.
If Kreis does leave, it will certainly be an uncertain future for a franchise he molded into one of MLS’s best, but one definitely capable of competing for an MLS Cup in 2014.
“I don’t think this team is going to be changed in any large way. Again you have gotten too successful to really do anything else. There’s a ton of really young, talented players with this group,” Kreis said.
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy echoed that sentiment while briefly looking at 2014.
“You’d be crazy to break up a good portion of this group, I don’t think that’s coming. They’ll tweak some things here and there,” he said.
“Look, we have a group of really good young players. I think we’ve proven that this year. Some of these guys, (Joao) Plata, (Olmes) Garcia, Sebastian (Velasquez), Luis (Gil), some of these other guys coming along, give them another year in the systems with the club you can’t help but think they’re going to grow even more.”
Only time will tell if Kreis will be involved in their continued development.