Real Salt Lake watched its second chance at a championship fade away Saturday December 7 in a frozen Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. A penalty kick in the 10th round gave Sporting KC a comeback victory -- and the 2013 MLS Cup title.
It was a bittersweet way for RSL to go out, especially when you consider that the claret and cobalt had their chances to claim a second title in five years.
Sheer frustration would seemingly sum up how RSL finished a memorable season, again losing a cup final, its second such heartbreak in 2013.
Now that RSL has bowed out, it is time to turn your attention to the real issue at hand, the fact that many media reports have head coach Jason Kreis considering leaving the club for expansion side New York City FC.
With much to play for in the new season that begins in just a few short months this is neither the time for Kreis -- nor GM Garth Lagerwey -- to leave.
Here are the reasons Kreis should stay at Real Salt Lake.
RSL has a great youth movement
If there is any real tangible reason for Kreis to stay, it is this: he took a team that was expected to be in a rebuilding phase this season to new heights with lineups that almost always featured younger players due to international callups and injuries to its deep veteran core. And still RSL finished fourth overall in Major League Soccer, reached the US Open Cup final primarily with these young pups -- and then stunned everyone by scoring eight goals in the playoffs.
Several came from Devon Sandoval and Chris Schuler, two key young players who helped the club to capture the Western Conference title --falling just short at MLS Cup. But, that youth movement that Kreis was forced to use for one reason or another clearly has more work to do next season, and so it would be foolish for Kreis to leave now -- with such a bright future.
RSL has a world class goalkeeper
If anyone disagrees with this sentiment then they didn't watch Nick Rimando make save after save in RSL's MLS Cup loss, not only saving the claret and cobalt's bacon in regulation and extra time -- yet adding another chapter to his amazing storybook season.
But wait, there's more: now that he's in Jurgen Klinsmann's immediate plans as the No. 3 goalkeeper for the U.S. National Team, that also means he has added incentive to continue making amazing, heart-stopping plays in goal this spring -- in order to keep his place on the Nats as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
RSL has an owner committed to keeping the team intact
Say what you will about Dell Loy Hansen, the club's new owner -- but he said quite a mouthful to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Chris Kamrani about his immediate and future plans for the team. That he is as or more hands-on than former owner Dave Checketts, according to captain Kyle Beckerman, has to be somewhat of a relief to RSL fans -- some of whom believed Hansen was taking the club in the wrong direction.
Though Hansen did make a key misstep in handling Kreis' contract negotiations early on -- a foible even he admitted to -- he has been very steadfast in keeping communication lines open with Kreis in these critical past few months, even submitting to Kreis an offer, which the coach will "evaluate after the season."
RSL has a strong system in place
With all due respect to the management team from Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees heading up this expansion New York City FC franchise, what makes Kreis think that this club will be any different from CD Chivas USA, for example? The Goats -- like NYCFC -- come into Major League Soccer promising its major metropolitan fan base the world. The rich tradition of parent club CD Chivas Guadalajara was supposed to provide top players to its American counterpart -- but it never panned out.
Chivas management also hoped that having an American club would give its fans the opportunity to be closer to the team while maintaining its rich history of winning championships. American fans have no interest in following anyone other than the primary Chivas club in Mexico ... what makes NYCFC brass think anything will be different here? And exactly how many Major League Soccer titles have the Goats won? Zero. Kreis is taking a risk by leaving a club like Real Salt Lake that already has a great infrastructure in place, from its successful youth academy system to its first-team -- as well as a committed front office and players who are determined to compete for and win titles. New York City FC hasn't won a thing yet, and if history is to be repeated it may not.
RSL has veteran leadership
Even if Kreis is weighing his options, you would have to think that he knows that his charges have unfinished business at RSL, especially after blowing two opportunities to win a major trophy. He has in place arguably the deepest team in Major League Soccer -- and nobody is going anywhere. In sum, Kreis' best opportunity to make history and possibly position himself into becoming the next U.S. National Team head coach can only come immediately at RSL.
He has players like Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil, Chris Schuler, and Tony Beltran among other notables who have already received caps as U.S. internationals. But that's not all; RSL also has other world-class players like Alvaro Saborio who will be representing Costa Rica in Brazil and Kenny Mansally. And then you have Javier Morales who is arguably the best playmaker in North America.
From top to bottom no other team in MLS has the kind of depth as RSL -- and that's not even counting guys like Ned Grabavoy, Chris Wingert and Nat Borchers. Any of RSL's first 11 could start for any other team in the league. Not only that, the youth academy system is feeding top players like Carlos Salcedo into the first-team at a faster rate than any team in MLS. Simply put, Kreis would be foolish to leave now -- especially when the club lost out on so many opportunities in the present.