Real Salt Lake will continue it’s tradition of doing things their own way when they retire the jersey number of it’s head coach Jason Kreis following an Independence Day match against the New England Revolution.
Unlike other sports in the United States, in soccer it is not common to retire the jersey number for a specific player.
While many soccer purists do not agree with the move based largely on worldwide traditions, Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey argues that the the soccer in the United States is different than other places in the world.
Following the announcement several months ago, Lagerwey responded to critics in an article found on the league website:
“We live in America. We play in an American soccer league… We have playoffs. We don’t have relegation. We retire numbers. I can’t imagine anything less controversial. America is a great place. I like living in the United States. I don’t need to live in Europe. I’m not envious of the Europeans.”
Much of the controversy comes because many believe that soccer numbers are more of a symbol rather than belonging to specific players. This stems from tradition that numbers were given out based on position rather than players choosing them.
The number nine has long been associated with an attacking player who scores goals and is one of the more prestigious numbers to wear.
Following a great high school career and playing at Duke University, Kreis began his professional career with the Raleigh Flyers and the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers. In 1995 he signed a contract with the Dallas Burn of the newly formed Major League Soccer.
Jason Kreis went on to have a great career in Dallas where he was a five-time All-Star, the first American born league MVP, and became one of the most feared goals scorers in the league.
Kreis was the first player to score the first franchise goal for two teams in the league when he scored the inaugural goal for both the Dallas Burn, and then later for Real Salt Lake after being selected as the franchises first player.
In 2005, while playing for Real Salt Lake, he became the first player in MLS history to score 100 goals, and ended his career with 108 total goals scored.
At that time he was the all-time leader in goals scored, but now sits fifth on that list.
In the early part of the 2007 season, Kreis made the transition to coach and left the field behind for the sideline.
As a head coach, his success has continued and he led the team to the playoffs in 2008 and to the MLS Cup Championship in 2009.
He also has led his team further into the CONCACAF Champions League tournament than any other team in MLS history. Unfortunately, the lost at home in the final in April 2009.
While the always humble Kreis is honored to receive this award, he stated that he feels it is “a little much,” and added, “I just don’t know whether I really deserve something like that.”
Even though a jersey retirement is a bit out of the norm, for the influence that Jason Kreis has had on the league and on the young Real Salt Lake franchise, it is a fitting honor that is well deserved.
Chris Johstoneaux is the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake Examiner. If you liked this article, please take a moment to leave me a comment and subscribe at the top near my picture. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JazzRSLExaminer.