Okay, now that we’re getting near the end of the season, and we’ve all had our freak out about Jason Kreis’ contract expiring, let’s have that conversation about his future (or not) with Real Salt Lake. This can be broken down into very simple parts.
1. Jason’s contract is expiring
We know this. We’ve known this. We also know that Del Loy Hanson just took over ownership of RSL and didn’t give as good of an offer as he could have earlier in the season to renew Kreis’ contract. This has contributed to the freak out but shouldn’t. After all, Jason, his manager, and all of the fans of RSL know what he’s worth, or at least know how valuable his philosophy and approach has been to the team. The fact that there’s only one trophy (so far) on the shelf does not diminish his contribution.
2. Jason was invited to talk to NYCFC ownership
We know this, too. However, this is the only other club that we know about who’s been in contact with him. I’m guessing the only reason we know this is because it would be hard to hide a trip to Manchester. It certainly does not mean that it’s any more serious than any other offer or that there haven’t been any other offers. Pretty much any team in the league would love to have Kreis at their bench and that’s just domestically. Who knows what international offers have come in. This should neither be surprising nor overly worrisome.
3. Jason is a sought-after commodity
…and his value only increases by the minute. RSL is poised to either win the Western Conference Championship and a ticket to the MLS Cup or die trying. And, to put it into perspective, not only has Portland not beaten RSL all season, but in order to salvage their Cup dreams, they will need to do so by a wider margin than any team has beaten RSL by this season. You read that right — Portland is down by 2 goals, meaning they need to win by 3. The largest goal difference against RSL sll season has been 2 goals (at Seattle on 9/13, at LA on 8/17 and at home v LA on 4/27). Not only will Portland need to get over the hump of just beating Jason’s squad, they will need to do so spectacularly. This only adds to Jason’s price tag, which one might argue only validates his claim earlier in the season when he turned down the initial, low-ball offer.
Independently and taken together, these three things are terrifying to RSL fans. We’ve known for a while that Jason is one of the best coaches (if not the best) in MLS. But to that I say one thing:
Real Salt Lake ownership would have to be fantastically dumb to let him go.
Let’s face it, not doing everything in our power to keep Jason happy would be a crime against the team and the fans. Sure, we’d recover, and the team would recover, and maybe RSL would even get another fantastic coach. But Jason has been more than a coach to the club and RSL supporters know it. He’s been the foundation of everything the team and the organization has stood for, the voice of the ideology and philosophy of the team. Losing him would be tantamount to losing RSL’s soul.
And there are a few other talking points that have come up since the whole freak out period.
1. Jason has been offered a new contract that is rumored to make him the 2nd highest paid coach in the MLS. No, he hasn’t accepted it yet, but that is because (and I tend to believe Jason when he says stuff like this) he wants to focus on the team and the season and not get distracted by all this other stuff off the field.
2. Real Salt Lake has gained a sizable jersey sponsor contract. Now, I don’t do math. In fact, I hate math. But the numbers seem to indicate something along the lines of $30 million over the next
4 years or something (Edit: It’s actually 10 years…). We’ve already got a squad that’s bursting at the seams and renewed some expensive contracts last year in retaining Javi and Sabo and Gil. Some of that money may go to further contracts, but there’s the salary cap, so I have to assume that — unless we’re going to get a Dempsey-style DP on the squad, which would go against RSL’s philosophy — most of that money is going to go toward other stuff. And in this bag of other stuff, I lump Jason Kreis. Meaning, whereas at one time maybe RSL may not have been able to afford lavishing him with big piles of money, that’s a lot more realistic right now. At least, that’s my going theory.
Now, it’s possible that NYCFC could offer him a contract that would make him the highest paid coach in the MLS. And I’m sure they could. But that would be a question of choosing the money, and the opportunity to build a squad from scratch at the expense of uprooting his family to move to New York as opposed to staying where he is established with the club and the players and the fans and where he has built his home for the last several years. At some point, in some interview, I remember Jason saying something along the lines of he’s been doing things that were good for him and not for his family for a long time and he needs to take time to do the thing that is right for his family. Only Jason knows which of those options would better, but I’m almost certain that that will be the main deciding factor. (I’ll tip my hand and say that I suspect staying in Salt Lake would be better than moving, but then, I think his family is from the east coast, so you never know…)
In conclusion, and if it isn’t already obvious, this is no time to freak out. Not about this anyway. If everything goes horribly awry and RSL doesn’t land a deal with Jason then it will be time to freak out.