Jason Kreis was Major League Soccer's all-time goals leader (with 108) when he retired at the start of the 2007 season to become Real Salt Lake's head coach. Two months later, he added Robin Fraser to his staff.
Together -- and with general manager Garth Lagerwey and goalkeeper coach Jeff Cassar -- they transformed MLS's weakest side into its best, winning the MLS Cup title in 2009 and playing the league's finest soccer most of the 2010 campaign.
ESPN Los Angeles talked Tuesday afternoon with Kreis about Fraser, who earlier in the day was announced as the sixth head coach in Chivas USA history. Fraser, a former center back who starred for the Galaxy and two other MLS clubs, will be asked to turn around a Chivas USA team that finished last in the Western Conference last season.
I imagine you're happy for Robin but hate to see him go.
It's a very, very bittersweet situation. I'm extremely pleased for Robin. I had it in mind the last three years that he's going to be a head coach in this league at some point. Now I'm kind of wishing it would be next year, next year, next year. It leaves a gigantic hole in our coaching staff.
What's makes Robin a special coach?
A lot of what made him special [at RSL] is our relationship and how we worked together. I really think he saw the game a little different way than I did. I thought it was really good when were were trying to communicate with players, because players see the game in different ways. We were able to reach out to all the players in a different fashion. I felt I learned a lot from him, to hear a different opinion, [one] that has not always been yours all the time."
What was he in charge of for RSL?
We kind of had on our staff the ideal situation. Robin Fraser is a defender. Myself, I was a forward. Miles Joseph [a former MLS player who joined the staff last season] is a midfielder. And Jeff Cassar, a goalkeeper. We had everything, from a technical and tactical aspect. Robin looked over the defense, but really all the players. Occasionally, he'd run [training] sessions. He did the video scouting of our opponents, and he also was in charge of all of our international-player scouting.
Real Salt Lake has had the best backline in MLS the past few years, especially in the middle with MLS Best XI selections Jamison Olave, the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year, and Nat Borchers. How much credit should Robin get for that.
I think he deserves a lot of credit for organizing those guys and working with them on a week-in and week-out basis. He got a lot out of them, and he did a good job with our young center backs, who I felt came a long way. But we never looked at the defensive game just as the back four and the goalkeeper. I have to credit Jeff Cassar and Miles Joseph, too, for getting everyone to buy into the way we play defense.
I covered Robin when he played for the Galaxy in the 1990s, and what always struck me was how classy he was.
He's the ultimate professional. I think he's cut out to coach the game. He's got a terrific soccer mind, and he's an even better person, in general.
What was it like to play against Robin?
I always felt like he was one of the hardest defenders to go against. Of the top five I've ever played against, he was certainly up there in that. He was such a cerebral player, and the way he coaches is like that. He's very cerebral about the game, the way he analyzes it. When he was [playing], he was always coaching at the back.
Robin will have quite a task in turning Chivas USA into winners. How do you think he'll handle it?
I think he'll handle it well. Like any head coach, he probably doesn't have a full understanding of the work it's going to take. I certainly had no understanding when I [became coach at RSL]. I think I was in a very similar situation. It's going to be 18- to 20-hour days for several months to put together a group of players that are going to be to his liking.