But a whole lot has changed since Kreis departed RSL at the end of the 2013 season.
Since then, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen has revamped the club, launching USL side Real Monarchs, opening the $78-million Zions Bank Real Academy training facility for the club and its vaunted youth system, and investing in new National Women’s Soccer League team Utah Royals FC.
That’s a lot of progress, Kreis says, that sets the standard across Major League Soccer.
“It’s really exciting that the way [Dell Loy] Hansen has put in the resources he has into that club,” Orlando’s head coach said on Wednesday. “Always felt it was a terrific club, which could have established its own real identity, and I’m really happy to see that Dell Loy has continued that process, especially with the academy.
“I think that’s something that Real Salt Lake can be proud of, with the number of high-quality players that they produced. Now, they have the infrastructure to do it really well. I think that’s a super thing that all of us in the league should be striving for.”
With the Lions set to host Salt Lake on Sunday at Orlando City Stadium (5 pm ET | TV & streaming info), Kreis doesn’t think there’s much emotion left to influence extra motivation to win against his former club.
“It’s been a long time since I was at RSL, so there’s not a whole lot left – not really an extra motivation at all,” said Kreis, who departed Utah to become New York City FC's first head coach and landed in Orlando after his NYC experience lasted just one season. “I left there on really good terms. A club that I got a lot of fondness for, but to me it’s just another opponent, another important game for us.”
Though winless in four road games this season, Real Salt Lake don’t lack quality, and the Lions (5-2-1) have to be prepared as they look to extend their five-game winning streak.
“To me, it’s a very typical young team that has some really talented attacking players, as well as talented defensive players, but are prone to making mental mistakes that young players make,” Kreis said. “It’s a team that we need to be prepared for and have a ton of respect for, because they are quality and they can score goals and really hurt you.”