Almost ever since the Seattle Sounders made Garth Lagerwey their general manager and president of soccer, there have been rumblings that his reunion with Jason Kreis was inevitable. It started as a quiet rumbling, just people connecting dots because of their personal and professional history together, but picked up a bit of steam a few weeks ago when New York Red Bulls announcer Shep Messing claimed to have sources telling him Kreis and Sigi Schmid would effectively swap positions.
The idea of two high-profile teams with virtually identical goals swapping coaches has been mostly dismissed -- and roundly denied by all involved parties -- but the idea of Kreis eventually becoming the head coach of the Sounders has picked up some steam on the rumor mill after he was cut loose by New York City FC on Monday evening.
Lagerwey addressed those rumors on Tuesday. While acknowledging Kreis is a close friend with whom he's shared a fair amount of professional success, Lagerwey also did what he could to pump the brakes on any speculation:
"When I came here I knew mostly of what I was getting into. I've really enjoyed working with Sigi. He's a guy who's been inducted into the Hall of Fame, he's had really the best regular season record in MLS history. I'm happy, I'm happy with the direction of the club, and I'm happy with Sig, I'm happy with the staff.
"All this [speculation] goes away if we win. That's the simple answer in sports over and over and over again. Will people speculate if we lose? Yeah. Nothing that I say is going to change that. And if we win, no one will, and everyone will forget about it and move on. And hopefully we can win some stuff this year and everybody will be writing the articles about the great partnership between Sigi and Garth and the whole rest of the staff. That's my goal."
Lagerwey's comments really get to the heart of the matter: There's nothing he can do to make the rumors go away and the best way to quiet them is for the Sounders to keep winning.
As of right now, there's not much reason to think the Sounders would pursue Kreis aside from the same kind of connecting-of-dots there has always been. If you're the type of person who felt Kreis eventually becoming Sounders head coach was inevitable back in January, you probably feel the same way now. Nothing has really changed, aside from Kreis actually being available.
But the fact that he is available should give pause to anyone who thinks Kreis is an automatic upgrade over Schmid. Hudson River Blue did a wonderful job documenting some of the reasons Kreis was fired after having actually coached NYCFC for less time than he was theoretically taught the "Manchester City way." You might be surprised that there are actually quite a few reasons aside from "Manchester City lost their minds" and it's worth noting that some of what tripped him up there could just as easily happen here.
Among the things Hudson River Blue said doomed Kreis:
1. Failure to build a winning team: While he wouldn't need to start from scratch like he did in New York, the pressure to win now would be even more intense in Seattle. He would, at the very least, be taking over a team that has never missed the playoffs in seven years and would immediately expect to contend for MLS Cup. There would be no real adjustment period.
2. Failure to implement a style: During his time at Real Salt Lake, Kreis became wedded to a diamond formation. It worked well enough to make the playoffs for six straight years, qualify for two MLS Cup finals and actually win the big prize once and it had been assumed he'd try to implement something similar in New York. That didn't happen. Whether or not it was his fault, NYCFC never settled on anything resembling a style and Kreis never figured out how to most effectively utilize the admittedly poorly-fit-together talent he was handed. In some ways, he'll face similar challenges in Seattle as he'll have limited ability to mold the roster immediately.
3. Lack of buy-in: Perhaps the thing that doomed Kreis more than the results, was that never really seemed to win the respect of his star players. While Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey may not be legends on the level of Frank Lampard or Andrea Pirlo, they have strong opinions and have competed on the world's biggest stages. Say this for Schmid: His resume and experience speak for themselves. Whether or not players think of him as the best coach in MLS, they recognize he knows of what he speaks. It's not at all far-fetched to think Kreis will have work to do in order to get that same level of respect, at least from the club's veterans. Whoever coaches the Sounders also has to find a way to bridge that gap between stars and players making a fraction of their salaries, something else Kreis doesn't seem to have done in NY.
Of course none of this precludes Kreis from being hired some day. Maybe Lagerwey would be willing to go to bat for someone like Kreis, convinced his friend was in a position to fail with NYCFC. Maybe Sounders ownership would fall in love with him. But my suspicion is that the person who replaces Schmid -- whenever that is -- will either be someone like Brian Schmetzer or someone they find after an exhaustive search. I suspect Kreis will have no trouble finding his next job, I'm just more than a little skeptical that it will be in Seattle.