Jason Kreis' move to New York signals the end of an era at Real Salt Lake, where he helped revitalized a once-putrid club. It's also the start of an era at NYCFC, who now have the manager to mold their very expensive team, but it is much more than that for Kreis personally.
It is the start of Kreis' European adventure.
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There are a lot of reasons for Kreis to leave a stable, comfortable, MLS Cup contending team in Salt Lake. NYCFC is a new challenge on a much bigger stage in a much bigger city with a much, much bigger budget. MLS rules will hamper the club's efforts to become the league's Goliath, but they will have more resources than any other team in the league and, if well run, they should be among the best teams year in, year out. Kreis, believing he can ensure they are well run, is taking over a potential giant, but his move to New York is probably as much about the next job as it is this one.
NYCFC is owned by Manchester City, giving Kreis inroads to European football that few, if any, American managers have ever had before. He will spend next January in Manchester learning about the Citizens and will surely spend more time there before, and after, NYCFC's expansion season in 2015. He will, even if by extension, be a part of one of England's biggest clubs.
With that membership comes privileges — knowledge of how they operate, resources and, maybe most importantly, contacts. Kreis has the stamp of approval from City and the support of those inside the club. That includes the likes of director of football Txiki Begiristain, who also held the same post at Barcelona, and CEO Ferran Soriano, who was vice president at the Catalan club.
After a few years with NYCFC, Kreis could have intimate knowledge of one of Europe's biggest clubs. He could have mastered the technique of how to leverage unimaginable resources. He could have the respect of some of the continent's leading football men. He could have one foot into European football.
That's not to say Kreis has a golden ticket to Europe. If he doesn't win at NYCFC and doesn't make an impression on the Manchester City brass, everything available to him with his new club will be for naught. But he has more resources and more opportunity than any American before him.
American soccer has made massive strides in the last 20 years, from the national team winning their group at the World Cup instead of celebrating simply qualifying, to the establishment of a stable and growing domestic league, to the proliferation of Americans throughout some of Europe's biggest leagues, but there is one nut the United States has yet to crack as a footballing nation — management.
Bruce Arena has won MLS Cup four times and led the U.S. to the World Cup quarterfinals, but he couldn't parlay that into an opportunity in a major European league. Bob Bradley twice captured MLS Cup and guided the Americans to their first World Cup group win in more than 70 years too, but the best he could muster was the Egypt job and some possible interest from Santos Laguna in Mexico. Gregg Berhalter, a well-respected player in Europe, came the closest to making an impact as a manager across the pond when he netted the Hammarby job, but that was in large part because of AEG's ownership of the club and he lasted less than two years in Sweden's second division before being fired and restarting his managing career in MLS.
The U.S. is entering a new era in management, though. Last week's MLS Cup featured two managers who once played in MLS for the first time ever, and Kreis is one of 12 managers in the league who were players in the American top division. The country is now filled with managers who grew up with a top flight professional league and have learned from it, bringing more sophisticated and intensive management to a nation that was once dominated by college coaches.
Kreis is the face of the new generation. The moment he retired as a player in 2007, he was the Real Salt Lake manager and 18 months later, he was a MLS Cup champion. He's been touted as a future U.S. National Team manager for years, but that is an all too-familiar path for Kreis.
A self-admitted soccer-obsessive, Kreis was one of the first of the new generation of American managers. He pushed to do things differently since the day he started managing and while leading MLS's newest glamour club, continuing to succeed domestically and taking over the U.S. one day would be great, it is not different. Becoming the first American to manage in one of Europe's top leagues is and that is what Kreis aiming for. He's aiming to be a revolutionary.