Jason Kreis is not the first to make the jump from MLS player to MLS coach. But there seems to be something different not only about how he made the jump, but how he has done in a role he had never undertaken before. Going from player to head coach virtually overnight was not something we are all that accustomed to, so not only was there some shock value in how it happened. But I think there have been some pretty consistent surprises since Jason has taken over at Real Salt Lake.
In a short amount of time Jason went from being a player on an under performing RSL team, to the head coach of a team that was competing against and beating the best in the league. Since he has taken over RSL has not only won an MLS Cup, but has shown flashes of some very good play. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making a successful franchise, and one of those is obviously the coach. And Jason has by all accounts been a huge success in his early coaching career.
With Jason’s success as both an MLS player and coach, I can’t help but wonder if Jason represents the next evolution of coaches in American soccer. Coaches that not only played the game, but succeeded at it at very high levels. Former players who not only understand the demands and realities that players face, but also understand the way the league works. That understand how difficult it is to travel to Central America for a mid week Cup game, and then to Canada for a league match on the weekend.
It’s often said that the little things matter the most. And when you have gone through the experiences that the players you coach are currently going through, there is a different level of trust and understanding shared by all parties.
Through all of this, being a great player by no means ensures you will be a great coach. They are entirely different realms and being talented at one does not mean you will be talented at the other. But it seems that in Jason we are looking at someone laying the groundwork for MLS players moving on to MLS coaches. We get to see the evolution happen in front of us and see what works, what doesn’t and some of the challenges that face a young head coach who has just made the transition from player. If we can understand this better, then we may be able to help players make more successful and seamless transitions into not only coaching roles but other roles in the game. Jason Kreis may just be laying that blueprint for this.