SALT LAKE CITY -- Fans have awaited the day team legend and former Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis would return to the Rio Tinto Stadium. On May 23 that day came.
RSL battled against Kreis' brand new team, the New York City Football Club.
It wasn't just Kreis back on the pitch. Beloved players Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert came along for the ride, stolen away in the expansion draft.
This match was a tough one for NYCFC, especially with RSL banging on all cylinders.
In the 25th minute, John Stertzer sneaked past Saunders and hit the back of the net, making his first career goal.
RSL was up 1-0 going into the second half. Luke Mulholland got a solid hit and Alvaro Saborio hit the ball straight into the goal.
RSL beats NYCFC in a 2-0 shutout.
After the match the attitude changed from competitive to reminiscent.
“It was just business as usual," said RSL head coach Jeff Cassar. "You know, I know that sounds cliche but we have a job to do. We can't be distracted by other things and a credit to the players for not because there was a lot of things -- going out to dinners and seeing this and talking here and so for them to focus like they did for this match is just a huge credit to the players. Obviously looking down and seeing Jason on the other end that was awesome. Seeing Miles and CJ and all the guys was extremely special but we had a job to do and we did that."
RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland said it’s always good to play against old teammates.
“You get a little smile from them during the game. But, it's obviously important to put that aside and get the three points,” Mullholland said. “I am just glad that we did that. I think it was good for Coach Cassar, you know, because if you are going to pick one game out of the season that you want to win and I think you choose this one just to prove a point that Cassar can fill Kreis' boots.”
For former the RSL coach, there was only one word to describe coming back into Rio Tinto Stadium, odd.
"It was definitely odd to be on the other side of the bench, the other side of the field,” Kreis said. “It was odd to look out at all those players and see that they are opponents and not my players. Obviously, I think a terrific crowd, great atmosphere for a game. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could and certainly that's not going to be much when you lose 2-0.”
Wingert, now a NYCFC defender, also thought to Salt Lake City was strange.
“Not coming back on the field, but going into the opposing locker room was strange and walking out of the tunnel without them, wearing a different color jersey, all those things were strange for sure,” Wingert said.
Though it may have been strange for Wingert, he made time to walk around the stadium after the match to greet fans, making sure they knew how grateful he was for their continued support.
"Thankful. I just want to say thanks to everybody. I appreciate everybody sticking around and one more thank you to all the fans,” he said. “What a crowd tonight. When [Javier Morales] came in, when [Joao Plata] came in, man, I got the chills. I am so thankful to be here right now. Obviously, bummed about the game but it was a good feeling for me otherwise.”