SANDY, Utah — To most, the retirement on Monday night of Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis’s former playing number, #9, is not much of a surprise. After all, Kreis is considered one of the best attackers in the history of the league.
But RSL’s Argentine striker Fabian Espindola isn’t quite sure what to make of it all.
“It is a little bit (unusual),” Espindola said. “To see that in Argentina it would have to be somebody like Maradona, and then it might happen.
“But he was a great player. He scored a lot of goals, right?”
He sure did. Over a 12-year career in MLS, Kreis scored 108 regular-season goals. He was the first player to break the 100-goal mark, was named an all-star five times, and was honored as MVP in 1999 after leading the league in goals and points.
RSL defender Nat Borchers was with the Colorado Rapids when he played against Kreis a few times.
“I think he was the most intelligent striker in this league, hands down,” he recalled. “He was so smart with his movements and so clinical in his finishing. I think he was the hardest guy to play when I was playing center back against him.”
Only 58 of Kreis’ 305 league matches came in an RSL kit, but the upcoming ceremony on Monday night recognizing the Omaha, Nebraska, native is not just about his contribution on the field, but for the totality of what he’s meant to the team – as a player, as a coach, and as an ambassador for the club.
“He practically built this organization,” Borchers said. “He was the first guy … for Real Salt Lake. He’s done so much for this club. He changed pretty much everything here as far as the mentality and the results.”
“He’s such an ambassador to the club,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “He’s the reason why this club is where it’s at. Any MLS fan and anyone who has been a part of the MLS has got to be happy for him.”
And what does Kreis himself think? The coach is grateful to be honored on Monday, but he’s a coach, a competitor, and RSL are facing the New England Revolution (8:30 pm ET, ESPN2).
"We have a big game,” Kreis said. “My focus and attention is going to be completely on the game."