SALT LAKE CITY (Thursday, May 3, 2007) -- Jason Kreis, Major League Soccer's all-time leading scorer, ended his playing career today to become head coach of the third-year expansion franchise Real Salt Lake. Kreis replaced John Ellinger, who was reassigned to the position of technical director\director of soccer operations.
Additionally, general manager Steve Pastorino resigned, triggering a search for a replacement.
Kreis will run his first practice Friday in preparation for Saturday's home match against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls (3-0-1). Salt Lake then plays its next four games on the road.
"This signals a new beginning for our franchise," said owner\operator Dave Checketts, whose club has the worst record in the league since joining MLS with Chivas USA for the 2005 season, in a press release. "Jason fits the profile of every great leader I have worked with throughout my career. He is a hard-working, dedicated over-achiever who refuses to accept anything less than maximum effort from everyone around him."
"While I know his leadership and ability on the field will be missed, we need his efforts to be completely focused on the many responsibilities that lie in front of him as our new head coach. I have total confidence in his ability to make the transition and look forward to working with him as we embark on this new chapter for our organization."
On Saturday, Kreis, will become the youngest fulltime head coach in MLS history at 34 years, 127 days old. Only Roy Wegerle, who was a player-coach of the Colorado Rockies for the final game of 1996 at 32 years, 186 days old, was younger. Kreis became the 11th former MLS player (not including Wegerle) to take over as coach; seven current coaches make the switch from field to sideline.
"Becoming a coach in this league has been a serious goal of mine for the past few years," Kreis said in the release. "To be afforded this opportunity now is truly a blessing. What this does is allow me the opportunity to end one career and jump right into the next one without skipping a beat."
Ellinger was hired as the first coach in RSL history on October 6, 2004, and led the team to a 15-37-16 (,340) record, including a 0-2-2 to open 2007.
"John Ellinger is the consummate gentleman; a first-class person in every possible way," Checketts said of the former United States under-17 coach. "I feel he will be a great benefit for our club moving forward as he works with Jason to oversee all player personnel-related matters. I am thrilled he has accepted my offer to remain with the club in this capacity.
Ellinger will continue to run the club's youth academy, which is operated with Spanish power Real Madrid, as well as the RSL youth development program which has under-16 and under-17 youth teams in Utah and Arizona. The teams compete in the new Rocky Mountain Division of the United Soccer Leagues Super Y-League.
"His track record of identifying and developing young talent speaks for itself," Checketts said of Ellinger. "I know that he will add tremendous value for our academy and youth development programs as we move forward with those initiatives."
With 108 goals, Kreis is two ahead of D.C. United's Jaime Moreno on the all-time goal-scoring list after Moreno converted a penalty kick tonight in United's 1-1 draw with the visiting New England Revolution. Like Moreno, Kreis joined MLS in its 1996 inaugural season and he spent nine seasons in Dallas before moving to Salt Lake.
"Although I have enjoyed my playing career immensely, there is no time for reminiscing," said Kreis, who was the 1999 league "Most Valuable Player." "It is time for action and time to move on. I am viewing this as a complete and utter challenge, as well as a tremendous responsibility. . . I plan on approaching this next endeavor the same way I approached every day and every game of my last one -- with complete passion and voracity. I feel fully prepared for this move, and I look forward to the future with tremendous excitement and eager anticipation."
In 1999, Kries became the first MLs player to record 15 goals and 15 assists in a single season. The all-time MLS leader with 31 game-winning goals, he is in the top five in career in regular-season games (305), starts (282), minutes (25,242), shots (818) and shots on goal (370).
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