SANDY — On the day Real Salt Lake founder Dave Checketts announced plans to retire Jason Kreis' No. 9 later this summer, the RSL boss also inked his coach to a three-year contract extension.
It's easy to see why Checketts was anxious to keep Kreis around through the 2013 season.
Since retiring just a month into the 2007 season to take over as head coach, Kreis has helped transform Real Salt Lake into arguably the best franchise in MLS.
RSL won the 2009 MLS Cup, was in hunt for the 2010 MLS Supporter's Shield until the final weekend of the season and is on the doorstep of advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League final next month.
"As I've said many times in the nearly seven years since he became the face of our franchise, Jason continues to fit the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career," said Checketts in a statement. "The vote of confidence that ownership and management give today to Jason speaks for itself. Not only is he one of the best young coaches in MLS, he's one of the best — period. We are thrilled to have him here for a very long time."
An MVP-caliber player for over a decade in MLS, as a coach Kreis has amassed a 51-42-34 record in the MLS regular season, MLS playoffs and Champions League play.
His team hosts last year's Supporter's Shield winner Los Angeles this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the team is unbeaten in 35 straight in all competitions.
Kreis never had the pleasure of playing at Rio Tinto Stadium, but he became the franchise's first-ever player in November of 2004 in a trade with Dallas. He scored 17 goals with RSL and retired with 108 career goals. At the time of his retirement he was the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, but he's since been passed by three others.
Despite scoring just 17 goals in an RSL uniform, Checketts believes strongly in retiring his No. 9 jersey during RSL's home game on July 4 against New England.
"We understand that retiring a player's number is not a normal part of soccer protocol. While we have great respect for the game, we seek to honor an exceptional player and coach to our organization. Jason was the first player signed at Real Salt Lake, he established and broke significant MLS records while wearing our uniform, has provided exceptional leadership both on and off the field. In my mind, no one at RSL should ever wear No. 9 again."