Jason Kreis had a plan for Orlando City.
He knew the direction he wanted to go. After bringing in a host of new players to start the 2018 MLS season, he thought he was going to be given time to execute that plan.
It didn’t work out. Kreis had high hopes early in the season, but after a six-match win streak, Orlando City came crashing back down. Kreis was fired six matches into what eventually became a club-record nine-match losing streak in league play.
He was fired on June 15, after a loss to the Montreal Impact, two years into his 4.5-year deal and when Orlando City was still above the playoff line. Since then, Kreis has stepped away from soccer, somewhat.
That time away has been important.
“Since I got fired, I’ve been on a family vacation to Miami. A family vacation to St. Pete’s beach. A family vacation to Captiva Island. A family vacation to Southern California, south of L.A., Orange County. And then, most recently, I took my boys down to Chile for a ski trip,” Kreis told Pro Soccer USA, counting each location on his fingers.
“There’s five vacations that I’ve had in the last two months, whereby the last 11 years, I’ve had one vacation per year. I really have enjoyed catching up with and spending a lot of time with my wife and my two boys and traveling. It’s been great.”
The Chile trip was the only one that wasn’t based around a beach, he said. He’ll go mountain biking in September and hopes to visit Napa, Calif., in the fall.
Kreis in July put out a statement on Twitter, saying, among other things, that he was “sincerely grateful” to club owners Flavio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins for the opportunity to coach Orlando City. He added he was disheartened he wasn’t given a chance to see the project through.
Sitting in Foxtail Coffee Shop in Winter Park, Kreis said he hasn’t been actively searching for a new coaching job.
Kreis still lives with his wife, Kimberly, and one of his sons, in the home he purchased when he was named Orlando City’s coach.
Obviously, Kreis wants to return to coaching at some point, so that house will need to be sold, and Kreis has been steadily making improvements to his home in preparation for that.
While he was coaching, that work was contracted out, he said. Now, since he has the time, he’s been undertaking various home-improvement projects on his own.
“We absolutely love it here,” Kreis said. “I don’t think my family has been this happy, really, ever, living somewhere. My wife loves the sun, loves the warmth, the heat. She was born and raised in Louisiana, so for her, it’s very similar to being home.
“My boys have adjusted really well. My oldest son goes to the University of Miami. He absolutely loves it there. My youngest son is at Winter Park High School. He has a bunch of friends. He’s in a good soccer culture in the club he’s playing in. We love it here.
“We’re not leaving for any reason other than if another job comes up.”
For now, Kreis is digesting what’s happened to him during the past few years as a coach. He was also fired from New York City FC after a short stint as head coach, but he was the youngest coach in MLS history to win the MLS Cup when he won the title with Real Salt Lake.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Obviously, really, really tough after so much success at [Real Salt Lake]. I never – even after my last firing – I didn’t really get a chance to walk away because I spent the next six months working for the national team. So now, I think it’s really important that I spend several months to just kind of relax. Get away from it. Get a little bit of a break.”
Kreis said coaching in MLS is extremely difficult, which is why stepping away for a bit has helped. He’s watched matches from time to time, though he hasn’t devoted hours on end to keeping up with every club.
After so much time giving himself to coaching, he’s relishing some time that’s his own.
“It demands your concentration, your focus, for almost every hour of the day,” Kreis said about coaching. “Even when you’re at home, oftentimes, your mind is somewhere else, thinking about the next training session. The next decision that has to be made. The next meeting with a player. The next meeting with the GM.
“I just think the grind of that, the pressure of that means that when you get an opportunity, you take it to step away and refresh.”
And Kreis is confident in what he gave while with Orlando City, even if things didn’t work out.
“I would want everyone to know how much we truly loved this city and truly loved this club,” he said. “I hope people know that I felt I gave everything I could to this job and everything I could to try to get this club headed in the right direction. I hope people understand that I literally gave everything, my heart and soul, to this project.”