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Job security in the coaching ranks of Major League Soccer was at a premium like never before in 2013, with eight of 19 clubs swapping coaches in and out before the calendar year was through.
But through all the tumult there was certainly a light at the end of the tunnel for Jason Kreis, who completed one of the most monumental coaching shifts in league history. The move from his DIY league powerhouse at Real Salt Lake to to the great unknown of New York City FC was one of the biggest stories of the year in 2013 and will continue to captivate until his coaching debut in 2015.
But before MLS fans can speculate about the future of Kreis and NYCFC, it's important to look back at just how the coach's final year played out at Real Salt Lake. An ownership change, stalled contract talks, hush-hush visits to Manchester and an emotional final push to the MLS Cup final were all par for the course during a dramatic season in Salt Lake City. Here's a look back at how it all went down.
Nov. 8, 2012 – After posting a scoreless draw on the road in the opening leg of the Western Conference semifinals against the Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake fall 1-0 in the decisive second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium. The loss means RSL will miss the MLS Cup final for the third straight year after winning the league title in 2009.
Jan. 19, 2013 – The team’s postseason shortcoming is a major topic at RSL’s annual preseason media day, and Kreis is blunt with his analysis: “I think that all of us felt that we failed. Not just ‘not succeeded,’ but ‘failed.’ I tell the players that we strive for perfection. We’re a victim of our own success.”
Jan. 24, 2013 – Nearly six years after encouraging Kreis to become RSL’s head coach, longtime Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checketts (below, right) announces he has sold his majority share of the team to co-owner and Utah businessman Dell Loy Hansen (below, left). Says defender Nat Borchers: “This club was [Checketts’] idea. He put in a lot of time, effort and money into creating this whole idea of Real Salt Lake. We're all indebted for life to Dave Checketts for doing that."
March 18, 2013 – An article in The Salt Lake Tribune profiles Hansen in his first season as majority owner and quotes him as the man who fixes “broken things.”
May 22, 2013 – New York City FC are announced as the 20th franchise in Major League Soccer, set to debut in 2015. Director of football Claudio Reyna tells media during a ceremony in Manhattan that the club will not name a head coach in 2013: "I think we need someone who’s patient and who understands what the league is about … and is not taken by any surprises.”
Aug. 19, 2013 – Hansen appears on Salt Lake City television and tells KUTV’s Talkin’ Sports that other MLS teams have shown interest in signing Kreis: "When you're the most beautiful coach in MLS, you need a lot of attention. I don't say that in a rude way, but a lot of people would love to have our position and have Jason Kreis as their coach … He's an extremely talented coach. That doesn't go without notice in other franchises."
Sept. 20, 2013 – SI.com breaks the news that Kreis has traveled to England to speak with NYCFC and Manchester City leadership about becoming the expansion club’s first coach in franchise history. Kreis promptly pledges his allegiance to RSL the next day: “Just because somebody comes out with an article yesterday doesn’t change my position. That’s exactly where I have been and that’s where I will continue to be through the end of the season.”
Oct. 1, 2013 – RSL are upset by D.C. United in the US Open Cup final at Rio Tinto Stadium, the second time in two years they’ve lost a tournament title game on home soil after a 2011 loss in the CONCACAF Champions League. Says Kreis: “I think there’s some points where coaches have a lot of answers and there’s some points where coaches look to the players for answers. This will be a moment I look to the players for answers.”
Nov. 24, 2013 – RSL defeat the Portland Timbers 5-2 on aggregate in the Western Conference Championship (above, with Timbers head coach Caleb Porter), sending the club back to the MLS Cup against Sporting Kansas City. "I think that this is a very deserved trophy, both for what we've done over the regular season and certainly in the playoffs," Kreis says. "But more so for what we've done now for five years in a row."
Dec. 2, 2013 – A source tells SI.com that Kreis will “almost 100 percent” become NYCFC’s head coach after Real Salt Lake’s appearance in MLS Cup. Kreis fires back on Twitter: “One would think that during MLS Cup week, there would be a fair amount of actual stories to report. As I said and meant in September, focus needs to be on the team and the job at hand! Decision will come after our final game of 2013!”
- STORIES OF 2013: Kreis' departure makes huge headlines
Dec. 5, 2013 – Kreis tells media in Kansas City that the MLS Cup could be his last game at the helm of RSL, insisting he will “soak it up for sure – every single moment of it.” Hansen, meanwhile, tells MLSsoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio podcast that the club has made a lucrative offer to keep Kreis after allowing him to speak with the New York City leadership in England: “It’s not about a falling out, a lack of resources or any actions between us. It’s about, ‘is this is the opportunity that he thinks is the best for himself?’”
Dec. 7, 2013 – Kreis and RSL fall to Sporting Kansas City in a penalty shootout in the MLS Cup final. After insisting earlier in the week that he will “go into hiding for three days and try and make a decision” about the NYCFC job, Kreis tells media following the game that “what happens over the next couple of days is real hard.”
Dec. 10, 2013 – Kreis is officially announced as the first head coach in NYCFC history, hours after inviting RSL players to his Park City home to break the news. NYCFC’s statement reveals that Kreis will spend an extended period of time with Manchester City’s coaching staff in England, and Kreis insists via statement that “the opportunity to develop the first professional club based in New York City was impossible to pass up.”
Dec. 12, 2013 – Kreis explains part of his rationale for taking the NYCFC job to Salt Lake City’s ESPN 700 radio, insisting that he regrets not taking more big chances during his playing career: “For all those days in my playing career, now’s our time to really see if there’s another big mountain to climb. And so in the end, that’s the decision we made, and that’s why we made it.”
Jan. 10, 2014 - Kreis is unveiled as the first head coach in NYCFC franchise history during a ceremony in Manhattan, even as he reveals he considered taking a break from coaching following his RSL departure. Reyna assures that “we don’t have to change anything, he knows what he’s doing,” and a confident Kreis insists “we know we’re expected to win and frankly, we will win.” He also sums the change up with the understatement of the day: “It’s going to be a whirlwind.”