Sandy • It is a contract year for Jason Kreis, but the Real Salt Lake coach says he's not allowing thoughts of the future to interfere with how he approaches the present.
"It's the reality, and it's difficult for sure," Kreis said of the midseason negotiations. "But I think myself, my entire coaching staff and the whole management group has done a really good job of allowing us to stay focused on what we need to stay focused on, which is just doing the absolute best we can for the team."
RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey, who is not involved in the contract negotiations, said RSL ownership has extended an offer to Kreis.
The 40-year-old coach, meanwhile, has seemingly given himself plenty of leverage in negotiations, with his club atop the MLS table.
"It's coach of the year type stuff, and I don't say that lightly," Lagerwey said. "I don't think we've ever espoused that view before."
That's not to say Lagerwey has been unimpressed with Kreis' efforts up to this point. After taking over a struggling RSL side in 2007, Kreis helped turn the franchise around, leading the team to an MLS Cup in 2009.
But after trading away three All-Star players this offseason, Kreis has helped refocus his veterans while coaxing tremendous performances from a new, and very young, cast of players.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Lagerwey said. "But we're ahead of schedule, and I attribute that to coaching."
Kreis' players have watched his maturation as a coach, and said the qualities that made him one of MLS' best players have carried over.
"We've all grown together," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Just like me, he's still learning and going to do some new things he wants to perfect."
The past two offseasons, Kreis has traveled to Europe for weeks at a time to meet with coaches from other organizations to learn tactics and skills.
"He's a hard-working person and I think those types of people tend to be able to develop because they're always hungry to learn more," Lagerwey said. "Jason's always been fantastic about that, and I think it's reaping dividends now."
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy said Kreis has been invaluable to the club.
"I find it pretty unthinkable that you wouldn't do everything in your power to bring him back," Grabavoy said. "I'm not sure who you could find who would be better suited to lead this team. … Jason deserves everything he [gets]. Because at the end of the day, let's be honest, winning is what makes your club important. This club wasn't relevant; we now are relevant, and that's all from winning."
Players said they cannot be affected by any uncertainty around Kreis' deal.
"Jason's a loyal guy," Rimando said. "But those options are always open, as they are for players. If he continues to do this, there's no reason why he couldn't get any job around the country or the world."
But, for now, Kreis said his focus is on how to beat RSL's next opponent.
"We're going to let the people who are going to negotiate that [negotiate]," he said. "We have an agent now that works on that with our ownership group. It's been really good. Both parties have been really respectful of each other and both parties are continuing to move forward. And both parties are allowing me and the coaches to stay focused on the team. Obviously, we've seen some success with that."
Real Salt Lake at L.A. Galaxy
O At StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
Kickoff • Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4
Last meeting • RSL 3, Galaxy 1 (June 8)
Records • RSL 12-7-5 (41 points); L.A. 10-9-4 (34 points)
About RSL • Major League Soccer's first-place team has won back-to-back games after a three-match winless streak. … RSL has scored more goals than any other team in the league. Surprisingly, 20 have come on the road compared with 19 at home. … Forward Alvaro Saborio has scored six goals in four games since returning to RSL from Costa Rica. … After getting a lighter week of practice, captain Kyle Beckerman is expected to be available Saturday night. … RSL has won five games in a row in Carson between matches against the Galaxy and Chivas.
About the Galaxy • Attacker Landon Donovan carried his brilliant play in Gold Cup over to MLS, scoring a hat trick last week against Dallas. … The team just gave a new Designated Player contract to defender Omar Gonzalez. … Forward Robbie Keane leads the team in goals with seven. … He also is tops on the club with nine assists.
Jason Kreis' record
Season • W-L-T
2007 • 6-13-7
2008 • 10-10-10
2009 • 11-12-7
2010 • 15-4-11
2011 • 15-11-8
2012 • 17-11-6
2013 • 12-7-5
Before coaching • Kreis played for RSL from 2005-2007, scoring 17 goals in 58 appearances.