With Olympic Qualifying looming in October, US Soccer has named longtime MLS coach Jason Kreis to fill the vacant U23 men’s coaching position. The U.S. failure to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics bore bitter fruit when the USMNT failed to advance to the 2018 World Cup, missing out the sport’s marquee event for the first time since 1986.
US Soccer also named a 23-man squad to contest a pair of friendlies in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain this weekend. They’ll play against Egypt this Friday, March 22 and the Netherlands on Sunday, March 24.
Short Prep Bolstered by Big Talent
The 46-year-old Kreis won’t have much time to prepare this group before his debut but the former MLS coach with Real Salt Lake, NYCFC, and Orlando City SC will have some genuine talent at his disposal.
Kreis will benefit from the surprising decision by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter to leave strikers Tim Weah and Josh Sargent off of the full national team that has gathered in Orlando ahead of games versus Ecuador, in Orlando, March 21, and Chile five days later in Houston.
High Stakes for Kreis
The stakes with this hiring are high for both US Soccer, which cannot afford another failure at the level, and for Kreis who is coming off of back-to-back firings with NYCFC and Orlando. These two firings have tarnished a previously stellar reputation as one of the top American coaches in the sport–a reputation earned during Kreis’ six-year stint with Real Salt Lake, which included winning MLS Cup in 2009.
In a statement from US Soccer, Earnie Stewart, the Men’s National Team General Manager said:
“Jason’s qualities and experience made him stand out as the best candidate to lead our U23 Men’s National Team in this important cycle towards the 2020 Olympics. The U23s are a significant part of our program, and Jason is an experienced head coach with significant success both in league and CONCACAF competitions. His knowledge of the player pool is impressive, and we are confident in his ability to implement the style of play we are building with the senior MNT and throughout our national teams. We appreciate the willingness of Inter Miami CF to allow us the opportunity to take advantage of Jason’s abilities to guide this group.”
Kreis recently took on a role on the technical staff with David Beckham‘s Inter Miami franchise, a job Kreis will retain even as he attempts to get his coaching career back on track while leading the American men through CONCACAF Qualification.
Kreis went straight from the pitch to the bench when he was named head coach of RSL on May 3, 2007, ending an impressive playing career that saw him become the first player to score 100 goals in Major League Soccer.
Kreis had tremendous success with Real Salt Lake, becoming the youngest coach to win MLS Cup in 2009. Kreis stepped down at RSL to take on the challenge of building a team from scratch with NYCFC but was fired after just one season, harshly, many observers felt.
The Orlando job then seemed like a good step on the road to redemption for Kreis, but after taking over midway through the 2016 campaign, Kreis would compile a record of 23 wins, 28 losses, and 12 ties in 63 matches before getting the sack last June.
Orlando’s struggles under Kreis’ successor, James O’Connor, offer some vindication, but Olympic Qualification may be the former MLS Cup winners best chance to right his coaching career.
It is an opportunity Kreis seems eager to embrace, saying, via US Soccer:
“It’s a tremendous opportunity, it’s an opportunity to be a part of a new system under the leadership of Gregg Berhalter and Earnie Stewart leading the national team the way that they are. It’s an opportunity to work with the country’s brightest young stars, and it’s an opportunity to represent your country. In my opinion, that’s the highest honor of all.”
The U23 USMNT Roster
U.S. U-23 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC/GER; Newport Beach, Calif.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; Alamo, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompac, Calif.), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; Southend-on-Sea, England), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers; Portland, Ore.), Jack Maher (Indiana; Caseyville, Ill.), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United/ENG; Trenton, N.J.), Donovan Pines (D.C. United; Clarksville, Md.), Lucas Pos (FC Lausanne-Sport/SUI; Irvine, Calif.), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; Milton Keyes, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; Arlington, Mass.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Penn.), Cameron Lindley (Orlando City SC; Carmel, Ind.), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; Lemont, Ill.), Keaton Parks (New York City FC; Plano, Texas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; Alexandria, Va.), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; St. Paul, Minn.)
FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Josh Perez (LAFC; La Habra, Calif.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Hobro IK/DEN; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; O’Fallon, MO), Tim Weah (Celtic FC/SCO; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Schalke/GER; Los Angeles, Calif.)