Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has told management that he intends to leave the club, and take up a position with MLS expansion side New York City FC, the team announced Tuesday.
"Jason is one of the true pioneers of Major League Soccer, and a leader any team would be proud to have at the helm," said NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna via a press release. "His skills and experience, together with his commitment to quality football make him the ideal choice to lead New York City FC in its first season and beyond. He has already left a historic mark on the league, both as a player and coach and we have every confidence in him continuing to do so at New York City FC."
With his contract set to expire, Kreis met with RSL team president Bill Manning on Tuesday evening and told him of his decision. "[Kreis] and I met, and he let me know," said Manning via telephone. "Then he had a meeting with the players and let them now. Certainly we felt he was going to leave and we were prepared. We hugged, told each other how much we love each other, and I wished him a lot luck. He said it's the most difficult decision he's had to make in his life." Manning added that Kreis will meet with RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen on Thursday morning to discuss the move further.
NYCFC is owned in part by EPL side Manchester City, and Manning said that Kreis told him the opportunity to work under such a club in the lead up to the team's opening in 2015 was too good to pass up. "It's an opportunity to start a new franchise, and very rarely do you get that opportunity," said Manning. "That was really appealing to him.
"Kreis' departure from Salt Lake City signals the end of an era for RSL. Kreis took over the manager's post just a month into the 2007 season, and in conjunction with G.M. and former teammate Garth Lagerwey, proceeded to turn around the once-struggling franchise. RSL reached the playoffs in each of Kreis' six full seasons in charge, and won the 2009 MLS Cup final via a penalty shootout over the L.A. Galaxy.
That proved to be the only silverware the club would ever win under Kreis, however, despite reaching the championship round of several competitions over the years. RSL fell to Monterrey in the finals of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League, lost the 2013 U.S. Open Cup final to D.C. United, and last Saturday fell on penalties to Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup final. But Kreis has long harbored ambitions of one day coaching the U.S. men's national team, as well as clubs in Europe, and it is expected that such a high-profile post will give him the kind of platform needed to scale those heights.
"I am looking forward to making my contribution to New York City FC from the very outset," Kreis said in a statement.
"The opportunity to develop the first professional club based in New York City was impossible to pass up as was the chance to immerse myself in the football operations in Manchester observing some of the leading figures in European football. There will be a lot to do before our inaugural season in 2015, but I'm confident that with the support teams in the City organization, we will be well placed to hit the ground running.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with Real Salt Lake, including its fantastic fans for the many special years I spent there. I wish them all the very best for the future." Kreis leaves RSL with a record of 112-88-67 in all competitions.