Being a head coach of a professional franchise is a difficult and stressful task. Many believe they can do it, but only a few can handle it and even fewer can obtain success.
“Sometimes it can be a very lonely job,” New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis said. “Sometimes you feel the entire world is on your shoulders, so it’s always nice to have people you worked with in the past by your side.”
That’s why Kreis prioritized bringing a support system – both on the sideline and on the field – with him from Real Salt Lake to New York to help shoulder the burden.
Former RSL assistants Miles Joseph and CJ Brown are on Kreis’ staff while a slew of former players made the trek east to continue playing for their former manager. Midfielders Sebastian Velasquez and Ned Grabavoy, defenders Chris Wingert and Kwame Watson-Siriboe and goalkeeper Josh Saunders all played for Kreis at Salt Lake.
Head Athletic Trainer Kevin Christen and Equipment Manager Danny Laroche were also on Kreis' staff at RSL.
“It’s a perfect situation to be playing with a number of teammates I played with for years on another team in the league,” said Wingert, who played at RSL from 2007-14. “Even though it’s a new club and there are plenty of new guys I haven’t played with, it’s a fairly easy transition for me because of the guys I worked with in the past.”
Kreis and New York City FC travel to Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening. Kickoff from Rio Tinto Stadium is 10 p.m. EDT. The match will be broadcast on YES Network, WFAN and WADO.
Grabavoy played under Kreis from 2009-14, while Velasquez and Watson-Siriboe were at the club from 2012-14 and Saunders spent the 2013 campaign in Utah.
“For us to know his methodology and what we’re getting ourselves into helps some of the new players who’ve never been coached by him,” Watson-Siriboe said. “We also take it upon ourselves to help everybody else get acclimated with training and what Jason expects. I think we have to take that responsibility and that lead to make sure we are continuing what Jason instilled in us from RSL to here.”
On the field, Kreis stresses possession. Off the field, he stresses character. Those philosophies and beliefs have been instilled on his players at Real Salt Lake and are currently being portrayed to his new roster at New York City FC.
“He looks for quality character players. Obviously, he wants the best players with the best character because over the course of the year you want a familiarity with your teammates,” Saunders said. “Having that already established with the five of us who played for him, we know. We can obviously give that information, not just how Jason gives it to players, but coming player to player, it helps as well.
“It helps to get his message across in how he wants to play and how he wants to be successful.”
The former Real Salt Lake players know first-hand that Kreis’ tactics and points of emphasis pay major dividends. RSL beat the Los Angeles Galaxy in penalty kicks to win 2009 MLS Cup and the club finished runners up to Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup final, Kreis’ final year.
“It makes it easier that we know each other and coach knows us as players and knows us as people,” Velasquez said. “We’ve played against or with a lot of these guys and we know each other on and off the field. It’s nice a couple of us have played together. We know the system Jason wants to play and that helps us put ourselves in a position where we can help others and be leaders on the team.”