Interviews

Kreis: Fuzzy memory of 1997 Open Cup triumph, but I was mad I didn’t start

Press Association

Jason Kreis helped Dallas win its only trophy to date in 1997. He just doesn't remember many details, but the Orlando coach is rooting for FC Dallas in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup final.

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FC Dallas has just one trophy in its cabinet, for winning the 1997 U.S. Open Cup title, and the Hoops are hoping to add another Tuesday when they welcome the New England Revolution to Frisco for this year's final of American soccer's oldest competition.

They were known as the Dallas Burn in the early years of MLS, and the most prominent of Burn players – forward/midfielder Jason Kreis, now Orlando City SC's head coach – was part of the group that captured the championship 19 years ago, beating D.C. United on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw.

Just don't ask him what happened.

“I can't remember anything,” Kreis, who 24 year old at the time of that final, told FourFourTwo. “I can't remember the chances, I can't remember – it had to be an even affair, right? I mean, it went all the way to penalties. But I don't know if it was lopsided, if they were all over us, or if we were all over them. I have no idea.”

D.C. United at that point had won every meaningful domestic trophy since MLS' debut – the Supporters' Shield didn't yet exist – capturing the MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup double in 1996, Major League's Soccer's first season, and beating the Colorado Rapids for its second MLS Cup crown three days before the Oct. 29 clash with Dallas in Indianapolis.

“I know we looked at that as an opportunity,” Kreis said, “to take advantage of a team that probably was a little bit in – I don't know what you would call that; hangover from winning a championship is what I think you want to call it. And we did.

“It was a very even game. I can't tell you that I remember a lot of the details.”

What he does remember is that “I didn't start.”

Young, immature at that time, and didn't quite get what it meant to be a part of a team, but in the end, I got subbed in at the end of the game and took my penalty and scored it, so in some small way, I guess I contributed."

“I was very angry about that, because I had started in all the games in the Open Cup that year,” said Kreis, who holds Dallas club records for, among other things, games (247), starts (227), minutes (20,290), goals (91) and assists (65). “That was the year we had Alain Sutter, [who] kind of took the position that I was playing and played most of the MLS games, but our coach, [Dave] Dir, allowed me to play in all the Open Cup games all the way to the final, and then found out I wasn't going to be in the lineup, so I wasn't a happy person.

“Young, immature at that time, and didn't quite get what it meant to be a part of a team, but in the end, I got subbed in at the end of the game and took my penalty and scored it, so in some small way, I guess I contributed.”

Sutter, who had starred for Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup, did get the start against New England, joining Mark Santel, Ted Eck and Daniel Peinado in midfield. Mark Dodd, who had been MLS' Goalkeeper of the Year in the inaugural season, was in the nets, the backline was Tom Soehn, Wade Webber, Brandon Pollard and Richard Farrer, and Dante Washington and Gerell Elliott started up top.

It was a lively affair, with 34 shots (20 by Dallas) and 53 fouls (29 by D.C.), and the Burn's attack was stymied by seven offside calls. Dodd faced 10 corner kicks and made big stops on Brian Kamler and Jaime Moreno among his five saves to keep the shutout.

Dir made an attacking move in the 68th minute, bringing Jorge Rodriguez on for Farrer, and Mexican forward Damian Alvarez replaced Elliott five minutes later. Kreis came on for Santel 10 minutes into the extra period, and after 120 minutes, it went to penalties.

The first shooters for each team – Alvarez for Dallas, Marco Etcheverry for D.C. – converted, and Kreis stepped up to give the Burn a 2-1 advantage.

D.C.'s Raul Diaz Arce was off target on the following attempt, and the last three Dallas shooters – Sutter, Peinado and Rodriguez – connected for a 5-3 triumph in the tiebreaker.

“I don't know that we recognized that it was a huge deal,” Kreis said. “It was only the second year of the league, but I know that everyone loves to win a trophy. There was a little bit of money that we split up, too, so that was awesome. In those days, you're making, you know, $30,000 a year or something like that, so a $2,000 bonus or something like that per player was a big, big deal. So that meant a lot.

“And I know the next year, the club made a big deal of it by putting it on our shirts or on our jackets or something, and the rest of the league was kind of making fun of us for that. But it was OK by me.”

Kreis has warm memories of his years with Dallas, which he departed for Real Salt Lake in the expansion draft before the 2005 season. He played a little more than two years with RSL, then retired to become the club's coach, quickly building it into one of MLS's perennially strongest sides. He coached at New York City FC last year and took over Orlando City SC in July.

“I remember that it was a very, very fun group to be part of,” he said. “We really got along well. And I thought we were a good team, a good team atmosphere. I don't know how great a team we were ever, but it was a good group to be a part of and certainly had some special players that you could learn from.

“From my point of view, the best player and probably the one I learned the most from in my entire career was [Colombian midfielder] Leonel Alvarez [who played for the Burn in 1996, 1998 and 1999]. It was massive to be able to play alongside him.”

Kreis says a victory in Tuesday's final “would be massive” for FC Dallas, and he's hoping to see them prevail.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That's where I started my career and spent the most of it, nine years there, so certainly a lot of kindred spirit for the club. I also have a lot of admiration and respect for [head coach Oscar Pareja], so I'm going to be rooting for them, for sure.”

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Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.