For Kreis family, soccer strikes close to home

Step on to Loeffler Field any fall afternoon, and you’ll hear a cacophony of cheers from fans basking in the autumn sunlight as a motley team of players try to score.

But less than a mile away, up the hill and past Bedford Middle School, is where the real story is – at the Staples soccer junior varsity game.

There you will find Kason Kreis ’18, a forward with spiky blonde hair and the son of former Major League Soccer player and present coach of the recently formed New York City Football Club, Jason Kreis. While some may expect the son of a head coach of a professional sports team, affiliated with English soccer powerhouse Manchester City, to boast of his title, Kason is a bit more reserved.

“I’ve grown up with it, so I’m far used to it, but obviously I’ve grown into that,” Kason said. “I’m really grateful for the experiences that I’ve had.”

Jason has enjoyed an illustrious career in MLS, finishing his playing days as the fifth leading goalscorer in league history, along with 14 United States National Team appearances. His coaching career has been just as successful, becoming the youngest head coach to win a MLS Cup at age 36 in just his second year at the helm of Real Salt Lake.

Jason’s newest coaching endeavors began on March 8, 2015, when he became the first head coach in NYC FC franchise history, as the season kicked off against Orlando City. The current record is 1-1-2, and his team currently sits in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

“He has already left a historic mark on the league, both as a player and coach, and we have every confidence in him continuing to do so at New York City FC,” team sporting director, Claudio Reyna, said in the statement announcing Jason’s hire.

Historically, MLS expansion teams have not fared well in their first season. For example, Real Salt Lake, where Jason formerly both played and coached, went just 5-22-5 in 2005–their opening year in the league. Still, NYC FC is affiliated with a team that is accustomed to winning– Manchester City. The team is an English Premier League powerhouse that has captured four European titles since 2011.

“[The organization] offered us a fantastic opportunity to come [to New York] and be the club’s first ever head coach. They also offered us the opportunity to go to Manchester for five months,” Jason said. “It was an amazing experience for myself professionally and for my family. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Eight-thousand-and-five miles is the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah to Manchester, England, to Westport, Connecticut. This is the distance Jason traveled after being named head coach of the NYC FCon Dec. 11, 2013.

Jason spent the five months in England familiarizing himself with the set up of the franchise from Manchester City’s Under-21 team, the Elite Development Squad, a subsidiary of the Manchester City franchise that owns NYC FC.

For a man who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, life across the pond was a challenge.“The differences from England to the U.S. are certainly plenty, starting with driving on the opposite side of the road,” Jason said with a laugh.

While fans may think of this as just a business trip for an MLS head coach, some may forget the toll it takes on his family. “School was challenging [in Manchester]. It’s a very different system,” Kason said.

Perhaps the toughest part of the two-year whirlwind that took the Kreis family back and forth across the Atlantic was leaving Utah.

“When I moved from there after nine years, [after] growing up there—making a lot of friends—it was really hard,” Kason said. “I met a few people in Manchester, and that really helped my transition, and now I’m here, and once again I found a few friends that help me with that transition.”

One thing that has crossed the many borders with the Kreis’ is their love for soccer. Kason has taken after his dad in that regard, though Jason reserves the credit for his son.

“I don’t think I’ve had to do a whole lot, honestly. He’s been around the game at the highest levels since he was born, literally. I think [he has] fallen in love with it,” Jason said. “He’s a big, big fan, and he knows probably more about players around the world and in the MLS sometimes than I think I do.”

Kason’s teammates on the Staples soccer team also saw his passion for the game.

“Kason always puts in 100 percent effort on the field,” teammate Griffin O’Neill said. “[He’s a] really likeable kid.”

Though students can’t see Kason’s prowess on the pitch until next September, he urges them to support soccer for now through his dad instead, adding, “Go New York City FC.”