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Heck of a job, Brownie — really

Striker fitting in well as Kreis overhauls aging Real roster

Real Salt Lake's Chris Brown, third from left, celebrates his tying goal against the New York Red Bulls in MLS action in Salt Lake City.
Real Salt Lake's Chris Brown, third from left, celebrates his tying goal against the New York Red Bulls in MLS action in Salt Lake City.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

With a roster that included Jason Kreis, Eddie Pope, Chris Klein, Carey Talley and Jeff Cunningham, it's easy to see why Real Salt Lake was one of the oldest teams in MLS at the start of the 2007 season.

Kreis took the first step toward decreasing that average age by retiring in late April, and as the team's head coach he's taken drastic steps to decrease that number further. His youth movement has been so successful, RSL is now the second youngest team in MLS, a great foundation to build on heading into the 2008 season.

It wouldn't seem like a 30-year-old striker who's never scored more than five goals in a single season would fit into Kreis' plans, but Chris Brown is doing just that.

With only three games remaining, now seems like the opportune time for Kreis to give his younger players as many opportunities as possible to evaluate and determine who fits into his plans for 2008. Surprisingly, Brown is getting just as many opportunities — if not more.

Brown's making the most of those opportunities as well. He's started three of the four games during RSL's current four-game unbeaten streak, tallying a goal in last week's game at New York and setting up Real's game-winning goal against Colorado the week before on a powerful shot.

"Chris is a good guy to have in the locker room, he's a super good team guy," said Kreis. "We certainly feel he's one of the players that's buying into the whole team concept we're trying to establish."

Brown has scored four goals this year in only nine starts, and he's one goal away from equaling a career high. Just like he's done during his previous two years with Real Salt Lake, he's done so quietly and without much fanfare.

Upon first joining RSL in 2005, the lifelong striker was asked to play an outside midfield role. He was clearly out of position and wore out his welcome pretty quickly with the fans with his mediocre performance. Nonetheless, Brown never complained about the change.

In 2006, he began the year as a defender, an experiment that former coach John Ellinger pulled the plug on pretty quickly. Brown rarely saw the field at any position the rest of the season, but you never heard him gripe. He just went about his business being the best player on the reserve team.

"When I was playing right back I was enjoying it. I'll play anywhere on the field," said Brown. "As long as I'm playing I'm pretty happy."

With the old regime's fickle feelings for Brown, his guaranteed contract is probably the only reason he remained with Real Salt Lake heading into the 2007 season.

Kreis is thrilled he stuck around. After making one brief appearance in RSL's first four games in 2007 — despite enjoying perhaps the best preseason on the team — Kreis used him as a substitute in his head coaching debut, and Brown rewarded him with an improbable tying goal.

Brown's first start of the season came a month-and-a-half later, and he responded with two goals in a 3-2 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy. He injured his hamstring late in that match, and it slowed him down for several months.

He feels 100 percent again, and believes it's starting to show on the pitch.

"I feel like I've been playing well, getting good shots and creating stuff," said Brown. "I feel good overall."

Asked whether it's been enough to warrant a roster spot in 2008, Brown simply shrugs his shoulders.

"I have no idea what (Kreis is) thinking," said Brown. "I just go out there and play hard. For me, I feel your play should do the talking."


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com