SANDY — Jason Kreis always seemed a bit uncomfortable about the thought of Real Salt Lake retiring his No. 9 jersey.
When the moment finally arrived on Monday though, he was taken a back by the scene as thousands of fans and numerous family members and friends paid tribute to him in a postgame ceremony at Rio Tinto Stadium.
In typical Kreis fashion, first and foremost he deflected praise to his players for their fighting spirit in battling back for the 3-3 draw, which generated the biggest cheers of the evening.
Standing at the podium at midfield, Kreis teared up as he thanked Dave Checketts, the RSL owner who believed enough in him to make him the youngest head coach in MLS back in 2007.
"Thank you for bringing me here, for making this club truly special, for believing in me and supporting me every step of the way, but most importantly for being the man I look up to," said Kreis.
By retiring Kreis' No. 9, RSL became the first team in Major League Soccer to officially retire a number.
"Today we honor his goal in building this sport, this league and this team, by taking a rather unprecedented move of forever retiring the number he wore," said Checketts.
Ninety-one of Kreis' 108 career goals were scored during his nine seasons in Dallas, with only 17 coming in an RSL uniform. Arguably the best season of Kreis' career came back in 1999 in Dallas, when he scored 18 goals and finished with 15 assists in becoming just the third U.S.-born player in MLS history to win the MVP award.
Checketts' decision to retire the No. 9 was about celebrating Kreis' entire career and what he's meant as a coach to RSL as well.
"We understand that retiring a player's number is unprecedented, according to soccer protocol. While we have great respect for the game, we seek to honor an exceptional player and coach for our organization," said Checketts.
"Jason was the first player signed at Real Salt Lake, he established and broke significant MLS records while wearing our uniform and has provided exceptional leadership both on and off the field. In my mind, no one at RSL should ever wear No. 9 again."
At the end of the ceremony, a large sign was revealed above the Rio Tinto Stadium press box that read "No. 9 Jason Kreis."
MUCH-NEEDED REST: Kyle Beckerman wasn't in the starting lineup for Real Salt Lake on Monday night, even though he finished the match after entering at halftime.
Beckerman was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for his brother's wedding, and returned to Utah on Monday afternoon.
The decision not to start him was an easy one for Kreis.
"If I had started Kyle and he gets injured because he's just too fatigued to play 90 minutes, then I have a lot of questions to answer from my ownership group and everybody above me," said Kreis.
Beckerman has already started 20 matches this season, so getting a little extra rest was probably a good thing.
RED CARD HISTORY: Monday night was the seventh MLS match officiated by Yader Reyes, and like many of the others there was plenty of drama.
Reyes had shown red cards in two of his previous six league matches, and on Monday he showed a red card to both RSL's Nat Borchers and New England's Ryan Cochrane.
Kreis declined to comment on the officiating after the match, as did several of the players. Their body language did the talking for them all night though.
It was the first red card for Borchers in 108 league matches.
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