December 17, 2013
A QUESTION OF PATIENCE
Manning says Kreis can be a winner in NYC, but will club give him time?
By Michael Lewis
|Bill Manning on Jason Kreis (above): "I think Jason will win. The question is: will be will they give him enough time?"
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Jason Kreis' former colleagues on Real Salt Lake, who know a little something about the pressures of being on a New York City sports team, feel he will acquit himself well in his latest challenge as NYC FC coach -- as long as the 2015 expansion team is patient, says RSL president Bill Manning.
Manning hails from Massapequa, N.Y.
"I know New York really well and you have to win. Bottom line," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "You see it in every sport there. I think Jason will win. The question is: will be will they give him enough time? Hopefully, the organization supports him as he tries to build that into a champion. New York is what have you done for me lately? I just hope they give him the time."
MLS expansion teams have experienced both ends of the won-loss spectrum. In its first year in 1998, the Chicago Fire won MLS Cup. Then there's Toronto FC, a 2007 expansion side that has never reached the playoffs in seven years.
"Montreal was competitive in year one and in year two they were competitive as well," Manning said. "Their owner wants to win. They had a coaching change after year one. ... I imagine New York is going to want to be competitive from Day One. I can't imagine else-wise."
Kreis, who was named NYC FC last Tuesday, has the backbone not just to survive, but to thrive in New York City.
"I think he's going to be very successful," said RSL left back Chris Wingert, a Babylon, N.Y. native who still follows several metropolitan area teams from two time zones away.
"That doesn't mean there's not going to be any adversity during his time as a coach in New York. But I have no doubt he's going to be successful. Jason is very capable of being successful in any franchise in MLS, especially with a team I would assume is going to spend a ton of money to bring in great players. I think Jason will help mold that team and mold the guys into a team, not just a group of guys, a team that will not only play for each other but find a way to have a great chemistry.
"But, even if they were to have some tough times -- which I'm sure they will at some point -- it's not going to be an easy ride, that's for sure. I think that he's definitely capable of handling it. The reason why is that as much as the pressure and the influence the media can have whether it is a coach or a team or a player in a place like New York, I think no one is going to put more pressure on Jason than himself. I don't think anyone is going to set the bar higher than he does within his own mind. The expectations are going to be there from the start because of the way he approaches things. I don't think that it won't be anything that he can't handle when he goes to NYC FC."
Of course, Manning and Wingert just might be biased a bit. They've known and watching Kreis coach RSL to success for years, with the team winning MLS Cup in 2009, reaching the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2011 and falling in this year's MLS championship game to Sporting Kansas City Dec. 7.
"Jason is very detailed," Manning said. "He's very intense. I would say he's a players' coach. He's always thinking what's best for the players. He feels if you do what's right by the players they'll give you their maximum. He's a guy I think has that special ability as a coach to will his team on to victory. I think Bruce [Arena, LA Galaxy coach] has that quality. Jason is one of those through sheer will and his leadership, the guys go the extra yard."
As it turns out, Manning was impressed with the way Kreis handled a failure and not an RSL win in the playoffs.
"There have been a number of times over the last six season you've seen his character as a person, not only as a coach," he said, remembering when Kreis decided to deploy a defensive-minded 4-5-1 formation in a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy Nov. 4.
"He admitted after the game that he got away from our system. He made a mistake. So when you get a coach who recognizes that, he doesn't always make the right decision and takes ownership on that I think the players see that and they say, 'Man, our coach just told us that he put us in the wrong formation and we gave away a game rather than blame it on players.' ... He came back and said, 'I learned a lesson.' We have to play our system whether we are at home or on the road. That shows you some character as well and that he's willing to step up in a situation like that and take ownership."
Wingert played for Kreis for seven years, the longest tenure he had under a coach during his soccer career, youth, high school, college or pro. Kreis' secret of success? Easy. Hard work.
"The biggest thing I learned from him [was] that he just had a way of showing there's no substitute for hard work," he said. "Jason has kind of been showing that his whole life in soccer. As I've gotten to know him I've seen how true that was. As a player, he is actually the first person to say that he wasn't very gifted in terms of physical ability. He just shows that hard work pays off and that's the ultimate way to succeed in anything, not just in sports.”
Wingert said that he heard former RSL owner Dave Checketts talk about that.
“When he got to know him as a person, he knew that he had all of the qualities to be a great coach and that was why he had no doubt when he had … [him] stop playing in the middle of the season and take over as head coach immediately. He had no uncertainty that Jason was going to be extremely successful. It's not an accident that Jason has been put in a position where he's going to have a lot of people coming in and trying [obtain] his services. When a team like New York City FC or a management group like Man City realizes that and saw the quality that Jason had, it's not an accident, not a surprise that they wanted him. I'm sure there's a bunch of other teams out there would have loved to have Jason as well."