I shall, until I see convincing evidence to the contrary, regard Jason Kreis not as a failed coach, but as a convenient scapegoat.
The ridiculously named NYCFC has fired him, has issued the usual slick, “this hurts us more than you realize,” press release. Thank you NYCFC, we have seen this type of thing before, you know. Quite often, as it happens.
Anyway, not to waste tears and indignation, the move was not unexpected. A shadow had been hanging over Kreis for some time now. A shadow composed mainly of Frank Lampard, with a significant contribution from Andreas Pirlo. Two highly experienced European players. What had Kreis to offer against that sort of background, once things started to go wrong?
Considering that Kreis had never played or coached outside the USA, not very much. His position was not strong -- at least not strong to the ManCity Euros who were his bosses. Yes, they hired him. But did they then find plenty of occasions to offer advice and even instructions about his job? The betting here is that they did. If they didn’t, then Kreis was at the center of a unique soccer situation: one in which the know-everything Europeans were prepared to allow a know-not-much American to have his way.
I have been on the fringes of, sometimes at the center of, quite a few of these episodes. Because I am European-born, I am often taken by the Europeans to be “one of them,” so they are likely to open up to me. I have learned a lot about European attitudes to American soccer personalities. It is rarely anything to feel happy about. At best it is an arrogant “what the hell do they know?” attitude. At worst it is an overt ridiculing that Americans can ever be considered to know anything about soccer.
That hostility cannot help matters when it is exercised on situations within the USA. Kreis knows the American scene, he knows American players -- all that is a given. But he also showed at Real Salt Lake that he could handle top foreign talent. He quickly built RSL into one of the top teams in MLS -- probably the best, in terms of playing skillful soccer. And he did it by incorporating Latino talent, by building the team around the wonderfully talented Argentine, Javier Morales.
Kreis could not bring Morales to New York with him -- of course RSL was not about to release him -- but then comes the part that is difficult to understand. Why did Kreis not head south to find a new Morales? Why were far from convincing names like Nemec and Brovsky and Diskerud and Williams and Jacobson turning up on the NYC roster?
The early results were not good. But what on earth were those ManCity Euros expecting? This is an expansion team, for Kreis’s sake. Do they have any experience of such a phenomenon? No, they don’t. You can feel the arrogance beginning to seep in. They’re European, they’re rich, they know everything about soccer -- how on earth can it be that their team isn’t up at the top end of an American standings?
Then came the almost laughably expected. Of course, when you deal with an English club, you’re going to get English players. Make way for Frank Lampard. Jason’s choice? I doubt it. But even that went wrong -- and this time there could be no blaming Kreis.
His sudden appearance in ManCity colors, the obvious fact that the NYC fans had been misled -- all of that called for an admission of guilt and an apology from the owners. I must have missed that part of it. The part I didn’t miss was the effect the Lampard saga -- he’s coming, he’s not coming, well he’s coming soon, then not as soon as you thought, and so on -- had on Kreis’ attempts to build a team.
From the start Lampard was billed as a world super star, something he never was. The English always over-rate their top players. Then there was Andrea Pirlo, with more claim to international brilliance. A Kreis choice? Who knows. Anyway, he was also a player who would not be arriving just yet.
While the great Lampard/Pirlo waiting game played itself out, Kreis changed his lineup for almost every game. Players -- including the uniquely ineffective Adam Nemec -- disappeared. Some players -- rather ordinary, really, popped up from the ManCity reserve level. The results -- as you might expect from such an unsettled operation -- were not great.
Lampard arrived, got injured. When he did play, in August, some five months into the season, he added little. Same for Pirlo. Kreis, at last frustrated into words, questioned the commitment of some of the players. He sounded embattled. He got a public response to that ... from Lampard, defending the players. Why would Lampard feel the need to defend himself? Actually I don’t need to ask that question. I have my own opinion, as I had been watching the team -- with and without Lampard -- closely.
So NYC did not make the playoffs. Neither, as it happens, did the other 2015 expansion club, Orlando. So what’s the big deal here? I would suggest that European arrogance is the big deal.
That is what has ushered Kreis out of the door at Yankee Stadium, probably seen as just another American soccer expert who couldn’t cope with the big time. The European arrogance will no doubt continue. So look out for a European coach to be next up at Yankee Stadium. Probably with some sort of pedigree, probably British. And things will not go well. They did not go well up in Toronto. Nor did they go well just across the river in New Jersey for the old MetroStars -- their foreign coaches even included a former World Cup winner.
I would very much like to be completely wrong on all those predictions. I hope I am. In the meantime, any American who might get approached for the NYCFC job should take a hard look at who exactly is in charge of player signings there.
Jason Kreis should not be out of work for too long. There are certainly some MLS clubs that could use his services. And there is also a national team, currently being mismanaged by yet another arrogant European, that would be greatly improved by a Kreis takeover.