SALT LAKE CITY — To almost no one’s surprise, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis is leaving RSL to take over as the new coach of New York City FC, a 2015 Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
"I'd like to thank Jason for a remarkably successful run during his nine years with Real Salt Lake as both a player and as a head coach," RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said in a statement Tuesday night. "Jason obviously leaves the Utah soccer scene significantly better than he found it, building the competitive foundation of one of Major League Soccer's elite organizations.’’
Hansen said the club would name a new coach as soon as the end of next week.
“We will continue to move forward — quickly — with the 'team is the star' ethos that he and our general manager Garth Lagerwey implemented back in 2007," Hansen said. “We are certain that the job Jason leaves behind — with both the accomplished veteran core and the glut of promising youth — is quite attractive to potential candidates.’’
It has been no secret that Kreis was the top candidate for the New York job and rumors have been circulating since September. Kreis even addressed the possibility after Saturday’s MLS Cup loss to Kansas City, saying he was “going into hiding for three days" and adding, “What happens over the next couple of days is real hard.’’
According to a report on MLSsoccer.com, Kreis informed his players of his decision over dinner at his house Tuesday night.
“I would like to thank everyone associated with Real Salt Lake, including the fantastic fans, for the many special years I spent there,’’ Kreis said in a statement from the New York club. “I wish them the very best for the future.’’
The New York franchise is owned by the same owners of Manchester City FC of the English Premier League and Kreis said he will “immerse myself in football in the football operations in Manchester, observing some of the leading figures of European football.’’
“I am looking forward to making my contribution to New York City FC from the very outset,’’ Kreis also said. “The opportunity to develop the first professional club based in New York City was impossible to pass up. There will be a lot to do before our inaugural season in 2015, but I am confident that with the support teams in the (Manchester) City organization, we will be well-placed to hit the ground running.’’
Kreis, who turns 41 at the end of this month, played college soccer at Duke and then competed in Major League Soccer for 12 seasons. He played nine years with the Dallas Burn before finishing his playing career with Real Salt Lake. He retired early in the 2007 season to take over as RSL's head coach, replacing John Ellinger.
Kreis’ biggest accomplishment was winning the MLS championship in 2009 over the L.A. Galaxy. Besides last week’s second-place finish in MLS Cup, he also led RSL to a CONCACAF Champions League final appearance in 2011 and a U.S. Open Cup final appearance this past fall. His record with RSL over all competitions was 111-87-69. His No. 9 jersey was retired by RSL in 2011.
In his postgame remarks Saturday, Kreis said the future looks bright for RSL.
“I don’t think this team is going to be changed in any large way,’’ Kreis said. “There’s a ton of really young talented players with this group.’’
Earlier this week, RSL announced that it had declined the options of four players — midfielders Yordany Alvarez and Khari Stephenson, defender Brandon McDonald and goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
The two-stage MLS re-entry draft will take place Dec. 12 and Dec. 18 and RSL could pick up some of the aforementioned players.