Gripped by Ambition, Kreis Will Lead NYCFC

If successful, it may propel him to heights never seen before by an American soccer coach
by Nick Chavez   |   Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

So begins the foretold partnership of New York City FC and Jason Kreis, a pact forged in fiery ambition. After a couple days of reflection by Kreis following Real Salt Lake’s agonizing MLS Cup loss deep into penalty kicks, and making sure to ceremoniously inform his RSL players of his decision at a privately-hosted dinner at his home, Kreis finally made his decision public.

Though faced with the decision of having to leave the club that he loves and has helped build, Kreis fully recognized that this was a golden opportunity. He embraced it, when in the past he may have shirked a similar challenge. If he succeeds, his glory will be magnified under the global scrutiny of the fledgling NYCFC. If he fails, he will need to start all over, once again relocate his family and reconsider the extent of his talents.

But these are the decisions that separate average men from the greats, and at NYCFC, Kreis has the stage to show the world what he is made of, as well as potentially convince the skeptics that an American-born and bred soccer mind can be trusted at the helm of a big European club. American players are being more and more considered for major playing roles in some of Europe’s elite leagues (like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and others), but the fact remains that American coaches have not enjoyed the same confidence in their abilities from those across the pond. Kreis’s path with NYCFC may be the first step in changing that.

His task, depending on his talents, the players at his disposal and his ability to develop the synergy of his future group of players to their maximum potential, may be very difficult or quite manageable. Of course, much of it also depends on how much Kreis is able to buy into Manchester City’s system, but also on how much power NYCFC gives him to choose his own players and not be coerced into accepting big-name designated players that he doesn’t need, or wouldn’t be helpful to the overall performance of the team.

NYCFC’s owners would do well to allow a shrewd, proven soccer mind like Kreis to make the sporting decisions, especially in terms of who he wants in his roster. Big-spending, overzealous owners of some of Europe’s biggest clubs have often played “Football Manager” with their sides, when they should really leave that to the men with the experience and expertise. And the results on the field after millions spent have often reflected that.

Kreis’s famous “Team is the Star” ethos that he championed at Real Salt Lake would be wisely adopted at NYCFC, if they hope to get immediate results.

It seems clear that in NYCFC Kreis could have all the possibilities to develop and lead what could be America’s biggest, most high-profile soccer club since the New York Cosmos of the 1970’s. A club that can attract the “Eurosnobs” that ignore MLS, as well as foreign football supporters who admire the greatness and glamor of New York City, and dream of the possibilities of their Manchester City-tied team, the first to play permanently within the city limits.

Much has been said in the media about Kreis’ “Fortune Favors The Bold” motto, and he explained recently to ESPN 700’s Bill Riley that he has not always lived up to it himself, rejecting opportunities to compete in Europe, preferring to keep it safe in Major League Soccer when he could have challenged himself further in some of Europe’s elite leagues:

“We [Kreis and his wife] have some angst about that, honestly, through my playing career, and looking back and saying, ‘What if?’” Kreis told Riley. “What if I had taken the chance to go on some trials in Europe? What if I had not made the safe choice? As this opportunity [with NYCFC] became available through the summer … I think we both thought that it was kind of eerie, that we were being faced with this opportunity, and we’ve always looked back at [his career] and said, ‘What if we had made a decision the other way?’”

Kreis seems to have lost the stomach for the “What if?” question, perhaps a sign of his growing maturity and confidence as a man and a coach. There’s a growing sense that he has proven himself enough at the smaller stages, and that he may yet achieve more internationally recognized greatness. That he has ambition to coach the US Men’s National Team one day is no secret. And one would suspect that he can also foresee himself managing in some of Europe’s elite leagues, if given the opportunity.

It is difficult to imagine a bigger launchpad for such an ambitious trajectory than NYCFC’s inaugural seasons, and the opportunities presented to him in his connections and upcoming coaching development with some of the best in football at Manchester City.

He will be shadowing “el Ingeniero” (The Engineer), Manuel Pellegrini, who has coached very modest Spanish clubs Villarreal and Málaga both deep into the UEFA Champion’s League, and won a championship with Argentinian giant River Plate. And his season at the helm coaching Real Madrid into one of its biggest La Liga point totals in their history, only to lose out by a small margin to the best Barcelona side of all time in the 2009-2010 La Liga season, only adds to the wealth of big-time experience that Kreis will be studying closely during his imminent Manchester adventure.

By all accounts, Kreis is the type of man who is humble and intelligent enough to have the right attitude and to absorb everything he can in these upcoming months in England. But he also seems to have the confidence, talents and drive to win the respect and admiration of all the “big shots” he’ll come across at Manchester City and the English Premier league.

Kreis has now officially laid claim to his golden opportunity, and who would bet against him?


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