It wasn't a surprise to many when it was announced that Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis would be taking the coaching job at New York City FC. The New York City club will become the 20th Major League Soccer franchise to join the league in 2015.
"The opportunity to develop the first professional club in New York City was impossible to pass up,” said Jason Kreis.
Kreis was the first player in RSL history and the only player to have his number retired by the club. Kreis played two seasons for RSL before taking over the coaching ranks for the last seven seasons. Kreis was only the second head coach under former owner Dave Checketts.
"Jason is one of the true pioneers of Major League Soccer and a leader any team would be proud to have at the helm," said NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna via a press release. "His skills and experience, together with his commitment to quality football make him the ideal choice to lead New York City FC in its first season and beyond. 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."
So who is going to take over the reins for RSL?
Bill Riley, tweeted that the top three candidates to replace former RSL coach Jason Kreis include former RSL coach Robin Fraser, current RSL assistant coach Jeff Cassar and former MLS striker Eric Wynalda.
So what do these guys bring to the table and who else might be in the running?
Former RSL assistant 2007-2010, head coach at Chivas USA (2011), New York Red Bulls assistant (2013)
In January of 2013, the New York Red Bulls named Fraser as their newest assistant coach. The Red Bulls explained at the time that Fraser's success, both as a MLS player and former coach, would be an ongoing resource for the team.
"Robin Fraser is a class act,” Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said in a statement following the hiring, according to MLSSoccer.com. “He will bring an enormous amount of enthusiasm, knowledge and coaching acumen to our club.”
New York ended up winning the 2013 Supporters' Shield, finishing with the best record in MLS.
Frasier was also an assistant to Real Salt Lake from 2007-2010 and a part of the team that brought home the MLS Cup in 2009. He entered the management group when Jason Kreis retired as a player and took over the RSL head coaching position. Fraser was a definite help to Kreis while recruiting and coaching an inexperienced team. He would understand the system, due to his assistance in building the team from the ground up in 2007.
Unfortunately, Fraser was unsuccessful in his first opportunity at the helm of a MLS team as the Chivas USA head coach from 2011-2012. The Chivas were a struggling program at the time, and Fraser could not create any kind of a turnaround during his stint.
Former U.S. Men's National Team striker, first American to play in the Bundesliga (Germany), MLS striker, Cal FC coach and Fox Soccer announcer
Wynalda had a storied career as a professional soccer player and is just beginning to make his mark as a coach.
Following two years playing for San Diego State University, Wynalda became one of the first Americans to have success in Europe. He earned several honors while playing in the Bundesliga with FC Saarbrücken. He returned from Europe in 1996 when Major League Soccer was formed and first played with the San Jose Clash. The former USMNT striker also suited up for three consecutive World Cup Championships (1990, 1994, 1998). He retired from the national team as its all-time leading scorer with 34 goals in 106 games.
Wynalda transitioned from playing to broadcasting in 2002, but more importantly for this position, he is now the head coach of the fifth-tier team, Cal FC. In 2012, Wynalda achieved fame again by taking Cal FC to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth round. His team beat the Portland Timbers 1-0 before falling to Seattle in the following round. Cal FC became the first fifth-division club to score against and beat an MLS team in tournament history.
According to NBC Sports, a couple months ago Wynalda had some choice comments about the "mediocre status quo" of professional coaching in America. He is looking to have put his stamp on MLS, but his blunt, outspoken personality makes teams weary of hiring him.
“At some point, I’d like to stop talking about the people who are involved and actually be involved,” he told NBC Sports. “I’d like to be a person with a direct effect.”
He would have that opportunity if Real Salt Lake decides to be the team that takes a chance on him.
Former MLS goalkeeper, current RSL assistant and goalkeeper coach and RSL reserves head coach
Jason Kreis' former teammate Cassar joined the technical staff when Kreis became Real Salt Lake's head coach in 2007. Currently, Cassar is the main goalkeeping coach and the RSL reserves head coach. He's helped RSL's star goalkeeper Nick Rimando reach new highs and develop into one of the best keepers in MLS. Cassar also heads up the RSL reserves squad and plays a significant role in developing the up-and-coming reserve players.
Prior to coaching, Cassar played goalkeeper in MLS for 10 years, spending his time with Dallas (1996-97, 2003-06), Miami Fusion FC (1998-2001) and the MetroStars (2002). He made 76 starts while maintaining a 1.76 goals against average and recording 13 shutouts.
Although Cassar had a quieter playing career compared to the other candidates, he's proven himself within the Real Salt Lake organization and has both personal and professional connections with RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey and the current Real Salt Lake team.
Stepping into the head-coaching role would be an adjustment for the team, but there are no other candidates who know both the system and the capabilities of each RSL player as well as Cassar.
Former MLS player and RSL color commentator
Dunseth is a random wild card and is not a likely candidate, however he is a former RSL player just as Jason Kries was when he took over.
The current RSL commentator started his career at California State University of Fullerton. He captained both the US U-20 national team as well as the 2000 US Olympic team. He played in MLS for nine years and also experienced one year in Sweden during his professional soccer career. He played for Real Salt Lake in 2005 alongside Kreis, who was still in the midst of his playing career.
Dunseth knows the team and the organization like the back of his hand, but would that be enough to hire him as a head coach? It will be interesting to see what the franchise decides.