Jason Kreis returns to a familiar place this weekend, but the New York City FC head coach might have to ask a security guard for directions to the visitors locker room once he arrives at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Kreis was Real Salt Lake’s first-ever player – and goal scorer – and suited up for the club from 2005-07. He was named the team’s head coach five games into the 2007 season and remained at the helm until 2013, while guiding RSL to the 2009 MLS Cup title and a runner-up finish in 2013.
“I’m hopeful to walk to the right locker room,” Kreis said. “That’s the first thing I’ve been thinking about is how different it’s going to feel to be in the away locker room since I didn’t spend much time there. I’ll get a sense of a new surrounding there. To be at a different bench will be odd. To have fans be yelling rowdy stuff at me as they do often with opposing coaches will be new for me and difficult.”
This weekend’s fixture isn’t just a homecoming for Kreis. It will also hold special meaning for a number of players and staff members who have been part of the Real Salt Lake franchise.
Midfielders Ned Grabavoy (2009-14), Sebastian Velasquez (2012-14) and Mehdi Ballouchy (2006-07), defenders Chris Wingert (2007-14) and Kwame Watson-Siriboe (2012-14) and goalkeeper Josh Saunders (2013) all spent time in Utah – many under Kreis’ tutelage.
New York City FC assistant coaches Miles Joseph and CJ Brown as well as Head Athletic Trainer Kevin Christen and Equipment Manager Danny Laroche were part of Kreis’ support system at RSL.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a special weekend not only for myself, but a lot of the players and other guys on the coaching staff,” Kreis said. “The place means a lot to us. Hopefully we’ll go there and enjoy it, but always part of enjoying it is getting results.”
Wingert is looking forward to the return trip to Utah.
The defender made 222 appearances for the club while winning the league crown in 2009. Wingert and Grabavoy both converted from the spot as Real Salt Lake won their first MLS Cup with a 5-4 victory in penalty kicks over the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Coincidentally, Saunders came on in the second half in place of an injured Donovan Ricketts for the Galaxy in that match.
|Real Salt Lake||Made PK?||Los Angeles||Made PK?|
|Clint Mathis||YES||David Beckham||YES|
|Robbie Findley||YES||Gregg Berhalter||YES|
|Kyle Beckerman||NO||Jovan Kirovski||NO|
|Ned Grabavoy||YES||Landon Donovan||NO|
|Andy Williams||NO||Mike Magee||YES|
|Chris Wingert||YES||Chris Klein||YES|
|Robbie Russell||YES||Edson Buddle||NO|
“It’s going to be great,” Wingert said. “I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously the priority and focus is still the match and getting a good result, but I’m excited to see people out there. It’s going to be mixed emotions, but it should be a good weekend.”
New York City FC (1-6-4; 7 points) hopes to build off of a gutsy comeback performance against the Chicago Fire on May 15. Trailing by two goals and down to 10 men after 27 minutes, the Club rallied to salvage a 2-2 draw thanks to key goals by Ballouchy and rookie forward Khiry Shelton.
“To be down a man that long and come back from a two-goal deficit while down a man for that long is a pretty special occurrence,” Kreis said. “It doesn’t happen every day. It doesn’t happen with every team. They have to be proud of that accomplishment, but they also have to recognize that’s the kind of effort that’s needed every week.”
Added Wingert: “Let’s see how we respond after a weekend like that. I have mixed feelings from the game for the most part. I’m certainly proud of everybody’s effort on the team, at the same time we really want to be getting three points, especially at home, so in that sense it still wasn’t great it was only a tie but considering the circumstances, it’s definitely something we can take confidence from.”
Real Salt Lake (3-3-5; 14 points) is in search of consistency and a result after suffering a surprising 4-1 defeat to the Montreal Impact on May 16. Midfielder Javier Morales leads the club in goals (2) and assists (3). Luke Mulholland and Alvaro Saborio have also found the back of the net twice each.
Kyle Beckerman is the catalyst in midfield, while veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando (21 saves) patrols the net.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep working hard,” Wingert said. “It gives us confidence moving forward knowing even if we’re behind early in a match, we can still work toward getting a result and we have confidence we can put forward that type of energy and effort throughout a match even if we’re down a man.
“Hopefully we’ll come out with that type of intensity on Saturday.”