When it was first announced that Jason went to Manchester to talk to the Manchester City ownership of NYCFC, I thought sure, of course. If they’re interested, he’d be stupid not to listen to their pitch.
When people started doom-and-glooming about RSL post-Kreis, I thought Jason knows what he’s doing and what he has here. He won’t leave.
When Jason spoke about making a decision that was best for his family, I thought Aha! See? Moving to New York and uprooting his home for the past 9 years wouldn’t be a good family decision (even though I remembered from last year when the storms hit the east coast, his was among the families of the RSL squad that was in the general tragectory of the storms).
When Brian Strauss announced on Twitter (and then ESPN700 and the March to the Match podcast) that Kreis was said to be almost 100% certain to be going to NYCFC, I thought this guy sounds like an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is pure speculation.
And when Jason acknowledged that the MLS Cup may be his last game coaching Real Salt Lake, I thought he was being coy. Of course he’ll be back. He’s just saying that.
And when I saw the first tweet that he was, in fact, going to NYCFC, my heart broke a little bit.
A dream job
Don’t get me wrong. I read the announcement post on NYCFC’s site and it really does sound like a dream gig. Rubbing elbows with EPL players and coaches. Immersing himself in Man City culture and philosophy. Building a team from the ground up. I can understand the attraction. I would like to say I’m angry at Jason for leaving us, but the truth is, I can’t be. I don’t begrudge him one bit. It really is a dream come true, handed on a shining blue platter with an English accent.
It’s been said already that Jason leaves RSL in better shape than he found it. A consistent MLS Cup contender, arguably a stronger showing in 2013 than when they won the Cup in 2009 (despite losing in PKs). But there’s more to it than that.
This season was the first, since the diamond was introduced, that Kreis started playing again with formations. Maybe he had made up his decision to go to
Man City NYCFC already, and wanted to see if the boys were able to take on different shapes which would be likely after he left. Or maybe the squad was so strong this season, that he thought they would be able to experiment a bit. At any rate, they tried different formations, and were pretty good at them — which means to me that any new coach coming in, and introducing a new system, could potentially be just as successful as the diamond was. Will this be the end of the legendary 4-4-2 Diamond RSL has run with the past 4 years? It’s hard to imagine another head coach trying to step into Jason’s sizable footprints to proceed with a formation that’s rarely seen in MLS. It’s not impossible but not very likely.
There’s another way to look at Jason leaving, too. In the years that he’s been head coach, there’s one trophy to show for it. RSL has been close and close and even closer, but still are left with that one. Now I know elsewhere on the blogosphere people are saying “that’s it, that’s the end of RSL and they will be left with a ‘Golden Age’ in which they only earned one trophy.” But I don’t think it has to go down like that. Maybe Jason leaving and a new coaching staff coming in will be the fire that pushes RSL over the edge and finally gets a second (or third or fourth) piece of silverware. We have the players to make it happen.
A world of uncertainty
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple weeks. Whether Del Loy will get Robin Fraser back to Salt Lake, if RSL will lose Jeff Cassar in addition to C.J. Brown (who just went to the Fire to be assistant coach under Frank Yallop), if we’ll lose more of the core team to off-season trades. What I do know is RSL has a lot of young players who will be around for a while and have shown they can carry the torch when needed. I will be interested to see the outcome of the Waiver Draft and the SuperDraft — where we acquired everyone’s favorite Inigo Montoya look-alike, Devon Sandoval — and the pre-season in February in Tucson. I don’t think all is lost because Jason is leaving and I don’t think that this is the end of the “The Team is the Star” motto that made this club great (and, really, was the thing that drew me into Real Salt Lake and this sport). I still believe that RSL can bring home a trophy. And I’m still looking forward to 2014 and beyond.