It turns out Jason Kreis is still having an influence on the New York City Football Club.
Fired in 2015 after his first and only season in the Bronx, Kreis is serving as a youth national team mentor for NYCFC midfielder Keaton Parks.
On March 19, U.S. Soccer named Kreis head coach of their U-23 program and he included Parks on his roster for a pair of friendlies against Egypt and Holland at Pinatar Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain – the first camp of the 2020 Olympic cycle.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” the 21-year old Parks told Pro Soccer USA. “It was a new coach, Jason Kreis who I hadn’t play for yet and all the new players I hadn’t met and hadn’t played with. Jason talked to us a lot. We had a lot of meetings. We talked a lot teammate to teammate.”
Egypt topped the U.S. in the opener, 2-0 – the Americans managing just a single shot on goal. Parks was in the starting XI in a match where Kreis elected to play an entirely new group after the halftime interval.
“It was a new system, a new coach – everything was new to us,” Parks said. “So, I think it was even harder than normal. Going into the Egypt game it was the fourth day of camp so we should have had something good going by then but it was hard – a lot of new stuff going on.”
Evident to Parks, who has one cap with the senior team, was an environment of preparation for the next step.
“He’s (Kreis) definitely trying to get us ready for the first team and Gregg’s (Berhalter) system,” Parks said. “Jason was teaching us the same system and trying to put that into the games. That’s what we were working on all week. We had a lot of meetings, showing us the formations, showing us the movements. That’s what we were learning all week and trying to make it work in the games.”
While struggling to connect against Egypt, a scoreless draw to close camp versus the Netherlands was a positive stride.
“By the Netherlands game, we fixed it up – we built a lot of chemistry throughout the week,” Parks said. “It was a good start to the Olympic cycle.”
Parks started and logged an 84-minute shift against the Dutch in a 0-0 draw that included a crisp exchange with midfield mate Djordje Mihailovic leading to Parks’ well struck drive on goal in the 31st minute.
“I was a No. 8, the attacking mid role along side Djordje,” Parks said. “We had a lot of midfielders there – a lot of depth in each position. I was just trying to do my best.”
Parks asserted that his effectiveness in training led to starting roles in both friendlies.
“He (Kreis) emphasized that the first day of camp, that he said he looks for what we do in training,” Parks said.” He said he doesn’t just have his lineup set – ever. So, the whole week everyone was putting in 100-percent every training trying to earn their starting spot.”
The maximum effort refrain is familiar to the Frisco, Texas native.
“Dome (NYCFC head coach Torrent) emphasizes that a lot, too,’ Parks said. “He wants us to work hard every day in training. if you are doing that over other players in that position it gets rewarded with Dome and Jason.”
Kreis coached 10 seasons in MLS. He won an MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake in 2009 but after a failed single-season with the expansion side, New York City, Kreis was terminated in his third year at Orlando City SC prior to his assignment with the U-23’s.