New York City FC hires Kreis as coach
Look at the job he just completed at Real Salt Lake. He stepped off the field in May 2007 and walked straight into the dugout. He slowly and surely turned a small-market club with minimal resources into a consistent title contender. He did it by partnering with general manager Garth Lagerwey to create and cultivate an identity capable of producing results and upholding his ambitious, possession-oriented approach to the game.
Kreis did more than coach his team: he implemented, refined and reinforced a philosophy. His core players bought the concept wholesale. The subsequent achievements — MLS Cup glory in 2009 and a slew of final defeats in domestic and international competitions, including the gripping finale to his RSL tenure in Kansas City on Saturday — reflected his ability to extract the most of the talent assembled by Lagerwey within the system he devised and maintained.
The success inevitably raised questions about the next step. Kreis, 40, is an ambitious and intense manager. RSL offered him a steady path, but it never represented the end of the line for a man with plenty more still to accomplish. The final objective — coach the US men’s national team or transition to a European job, perhaps — required another challenge and another opportunity to test his skills elsewhere.
New York City FC provided a glimpse into the future when it first approached Kreis to take charge this summer. The post carried all of the attention-based challenges and supplied all of the resources Kreis never had in Salt Lake City. The additional spending power comes with its own strings, but it also opens new doors and wields immense weight in a league with few clubs willing to splash the cash.
Everything unfolds on a larger stage, too. RSL occupies a disproportionate and ultimately deserved status in American soccer culture based upon its engaging style of play and its extended run of success. It is a rather micro sort of attention, predicated on the engagement of the market, the size of the league and the widespread appreciation garnered elsewhere. NYCFC functions in a macro world: the largest city in the country, the might of Manchester City and the New York Yankees and the prospect of combining those forces to form a club with an identity beyond North America create a much wider scope.
Stepping into this scene is not an assignment for the timid or the weak. Building an expansion team from scratch requires confidence, diligence and patience. NYCFC does not have a base of players or an extensive technical infrastructure on this side of the Atlantic. The structures must take shape over the next year in order to place the side in a position to contend from the moment it takes the field.
This project isn’t a slow, methodical build, either. The pressure starts from the first kick of the first match. It is a fraught, tense construction process with plenty of high-profile pieces involved and a narrow margin for error. Both primary investor expect immediate results from their expenditures. The travails of the Metrostars-now-Red Bulls underscore the peril of early missteps in the New York market.
Kreis pondered the ramifications of success and failure and selected NYCFC anyways. He invited his RSL players over to his house on Tuesday night and told them the news about his new job in New York. On some level, they already knew. The words only confirmed what they felt in their gut about their ambitious coach and his plans for the future. More than a few of them said they understood why he might leave well before he actually did.
Every last one of those players saw enough of what Kreis envisioned in New York to identify with his decision. He leaves for a job where he can continue his development as a manager and spend a full year plotting for NYCFC’s debut in 2015. He joins a club willing to share its knowledge across the pond to impart some of the ethos it wishes to see adopted under his new regime.
Most of all, Kreis sees a blank canvas waiting for him. It is just sitting there, waiting for him to fill it in the years to come.