Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kreis overcoming the odds

Jason Kreis continues to blaze trails in the American game, and his Real Salt Lake team is primed for their appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League final versus Monterrey.

Andrea Canales of Goal.com writes of Kreis' path to coaching fame, as well as on his philosophies on the game.

Omaha, Neb., isn't really considered a soccer hotbed, and it was even less so when young Jason Kreis was growing up in the area. Yet the budding player and his parents didn't let that deter them from developing his game.

Kreis went on to be drafted in the fifth round of the inaugural MLS draft, 43rd overall. He will probably retain forever the record of the lowest draft pick to be league MVP (Kreis won that honor in 1999).

It seemed Kreis was constantly being a pioneer. He wasn't particularly fast or extremely technical, but he had excellent instincts, and he scored goals in buckets. Kreis was the first American-born player to be voted MVP in MLS, and the first-ever player to score 100 league goals. In another historic accomplishment, Kreis is also the first person in MLS to go from player to coach overnight.

To an individualist who isn't afraid of the road less traveled, the bleak record of MLS teams playing in Mexico doesn't matter much.

Conventional wisdom would declaim that Real Salt Lake's coach should caution his team to play as defensively as possible in the opening leg of its CONCACAF Champions League final versus Monterrey. After all, Real Salt Lake is playing away.

Yet Kreis is not conventional, and RSL didn't sit back in the semifinals versus Saprissa, even in the intimidating Saprissa Stadium. Kreis didn't anticipate doing differently in the Estadio Tecnológico.

"I am a big believer that in the game of soccer, if you attack well enough, you will limit the amount of times that you have to defend," Kreis said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "We're not going to change our philosophy now that we're in the finals."

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