At this point, there’s just not much emotion left for Orlando City coach Jason Kreis when it comes to Real Salt Lake.
Kreis joined the club in 2004 as a player and played for three seasons before resigning to become the club’s head coach. From 2008 to 2013, Kreis consistently led Real Salt Lake to the playoffs and hoisted the MLS cup in 2009.
So the memories from Utah are great – but they’re firmly in the past. He’ll face his old team again at 5 p.m. Sunday when the Lions battle Real Salt Lake in Orlando City Stadium.
“Gosh, it’s been a long time since I was with RSL,” Kreis said.
“Not any extra sort of motivation left there at all. Left there on really good terms. A club that I’ve got a lot of fondness for, but to me it’s another opponent and an important game for us.”
That doesn’t mean Kreis hasn’t kept an eye on the progress Real Salt Lake has made. Since his departure, RSL has grown with the addition of a glittering new training facility, a USL side in Real Monarchs and an NWSL club, Utah Royals FC.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Kreis said. “Really exciting the way [club owner Dell Loy] Hansen has put in the resources he has into that club. I’ve always felt it was a terrific club, which could have established its own real identity and I’m really happy to see Dell Loy has continued that process, especially with the academy.
“I think that’s something that Real Salt Lake can be very, very proud of, the number of high-quality players they’ve produced. Now, they have the infrastructure to do it really, really well. I think that’s a super, super thing that all of us in the league should be striving for.”
Orlando City (5-2-1, 16 points) is going for a club-record sixth consecutive MLS victory. Real Salt Lake (3-4-1, 10 points) has yet to win a match on the road in four tries this season.
Right back Will Johnson, another former Real Salt Lake player, isn’t interested in embracing RSL nostalgia, either. He was with the club until 2012.
“I left before [Kreis] did,” Johnson said with a laugh. “This league is different. I think everything we built there has been altered, in a way. I’m not sure there’s anybody left there – other than [midfielder] Kyle [Beckerman] and [goalkeeper] Nick Rimando, who are still doing their thing and a pretty high level, which is cool to see.
“Other than those two guys, there’s just not a whole lot of connections anymore.”
The lack of emotion means the Lions can just focus on win No. 6 of the season. Real Salt Lake has been an up-and-down club this season. Some wins have been solid, including a recent 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids. The losses for the club have been rough, including a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of LAFC.
RSL has given up 16 goals this season – tied for second most in the Western Conference.
“A bunch of those goals come in the LAFC game where they had a good start and then they gave up a goal and then they kind of just gave up and they got pummeled,” Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “They’ve got some good players. They’ve got some new players back there and they’ve kind of been shuffling in around the left back.
“Places where we feel where we can exploit them. … I think we’re really going to have to attack their back line. Then, hopefully, we get a goal early and then the floodgates open and then we can get a big victory.”
Kljestan is a player with some experience playing against his former club. Earlier this season, he helped the Lions defeat the Red Bulls 4-3 in Orlando City Stadium.
“You always want to win against your former teams, that’s for sure,” Kljestan said.