We all know the story. The new MLS franchise that struggles in their inaugural season. They pin their hopes on a young coach, untested at this level. The young coach then goes on to lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in their history. Sound familiar?
Martin Rennie’s Whitecaps FC career has so far gone to script; a script written earlier by Jason Kreis, Rennie’s opponent this Saturday, when he was appointed Real Salt Lake head coach at the sprightly age of 34.
Taking the helm in May of the 2007 season, Kreis oversaw a disappointing maiden campaign with Real Salt Lake, finishing bottom of the Western Conference. However, the Claret and Cobalt have since qualified for the playoffs in every season since then, winning the MLS Cup in 2009, and reaching the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2010.
Kreis had enjoyed a successful career as a player in MLS. As a young striker he was signed up for the inaugural MLS season by Dallas Burn and became something of a fan favourite with the Texas team. He was the Burn’s top scorer five times and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1999 after plundering 18 goals and contributing 15 assists.
In 2004, Kreis was traded to expansion side Real Salt Lake, becoming the first player in the club’s history. He was top scorer for the team in his debut season in Utah and finished with 17 goals in two seasons before stepping up to take the reins after four matches of the 2007 season. Despite only playing two seasons, he is still the joint sixth top scorer in Real Salt Lake history.
Unsurprisingly for someone who guaranteed goals wherever he went, Kreis is a keen disciple of attacking soccer. Racking up impressive goal difference totals in recent seasons and with one of MLS’ most reliable goalscorers, in the form of Alvaro Saborio, Kreis has built a formidable attacking unit at RSL.
After focusing on stabilizing the defence in his first season in Vancouver, Rennie has looked to emulate Kreis’ offensive outlook with several attacking acquisitions brought in over the offseason. The early signs are promising that the ‘Caps can improve their goalscoring output.
Two of the top young coaches in the league, Rennie and Kreis share several similarities. Both are known as motivators and cut a studious figure on the touchline.
Kreis was a hard worker as a player and demands the same strong work ethic from his players. As does Rennie, who concentrated on building up his coaching qualifications after having his playing career cut short at the age of 26.
Despite being a hard taskmaster on the training field, Kreis is also one of the more approachable MLS coaches. A quick glance at his Twitter shows that he’s more than happy to talk tactics with fans. Rennie is equally apporachable and media friendly and has stated his intent on eventually landing on the twittersphere.
Still a couple years behind his counterpart in terms of MLS experience, Rennie would surely love to emulate the Real Salt Lake boss’ achievement of winning MLS Cup in his second full season. Now that would make 2013 a very successful year for Whitecaps FC.