KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Real Salt Lake players say they have no idea which way Jason Kreis is leaning. But if there is a chance MLS Cup is their longtime head coach’s final game in charge, it’s a little extra motivation to win one for the gaffer.
“He’s the father of this team,” midfielder Javier Morales told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “I don’t know what he’s going to do, but if he leaves next year, [winning] would be the best thing we could do for him.”
But it’s not just Kreis potentially leaving for New York City FC that gives the players impetus to defeat Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. The 40-year-old’s departure would signal the end of an era.
Kreis and GM Garth Lagerwey have kept the nucleus of RSL together for six seasons, building around longtime veterans including Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to form a group that has won an MLS Cup, reached the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League and has been among the elite of the league for half a decade.
A future without Kreis would be an uncertain one, especially if Lagerwey also were to depart eventually, as some have speculated. That makes Saturday’s match a little more emotional.
“We all love Jason,” veteran left back Chris Wingert told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We don’t want him to leave. I think everybody’s on the same page. We love Jason and the rest of his staff and we don’t really want that to change. If it does, it does, and we’ll be happy for him doing what’s best for his family.”
There is, of course, a chance Kreis accepts a contract extension that RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen told ExtraTime Radio has been on the table for some time and returns to the team he’s led since 2007.
But if not, they’d better win on Saturday “just in case,” according to Morales.
“It would be a good present for him from the team,” he said.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.