By Ridge Mahoney
If you were searching for polar
opposites in the coaching world, Fabio Capello
and Patrick Vieira
would neatly fit the bill.
Capello, a former Italian international, is
one of the most famous -- and successful -- managers in the modern game, with seven domestic league titles and one Champions League trophy dotting his resume. Vieira, a star on France’s 1998
World Cup championship team and a member of the Arsenal squad that went through the 2004-05 Premier League season undefeated, is the reserve team head coach and director of Manchester City’s
Elite Development Squad.
Neither seems to make much sense to anyone but those apparently empowered to make the decision, and so NYCFC lurches forward in
the wake of Jason Kreis
Kreis, we are told, has been fired because of poor results and on that charge he is assuredly guilty.
NYCFC missed the playoffs and didn’t match the performance of the other 2015 expansion team, Orlando City SC, which posted one of the best records compiled by first-year teams in the past
MLS Expansion Teams, 2005-15:
TEAM (YEAR) RECORD, PTS, PPG
Seattle (2009) 12-7-11, 47 pts. Avg: 1.57.
Orlando City (2015) 12-14-8, 44 pts. Avg.:
Montreal (2012) 12-16-6, 42 pts. Avg.:1.24.
Portland (2011) 11-14-9, 42 pts. Avg.: 1.24.
San Jose (2008) 8-13-9, 33 pts. Avg: 1.10.
New York City (2015) 10-17-7, 37 pts. Avg.: 1.09.
Philadelphia (2010) 8-15-7, 31 pts. Avg.: 1.03.
Toronto FC (2007) 6-17-7, 25 points. Avg.: 0.83.
(2011) 6-18-10, 28 pts. Avg.: 0.82.
Real Salt Lake (2005) 5-22-5, 20 pts, Avg. 0.60.
Chivas USA (2005) 4-22-6, 18 pts., Avg. 0.56.
Looking at those numbers, first of all, give a shout-out to Adrian Heath
and Orlando City SC, not to mention
, whose first -- and only -- year at the helm in Montreal impressed everybody except Impact owner Joey Saputo
and one or two of its international players. And in some ways,
the Kreis experience at NYCFC parallels that of Marsch -- the record wasn’t good, expectations weren’t met, friction developed between the coach and prominent players, and disagreements
arose regarding how to go forward.
It shouldn’t be any great surprise that team management took out its disappointment on Kreis, since the bosses
of Manchester City have no idea what is New York City FC. Expansion teams don’t exist in foreign leagues. Teams share stadiums, they go bankrupt, very rarely they may merge or move to another
city, but they don’t spring into the top division freshly born, and in most cases, take their lumps for at least a season or two.
An average season, by MLS expansion standards,
wasn't good enough for NYCFC to retain Kreis. But if the team believed his replacement was already lined up, it may have committed an egregious miscalculation.
Rumors that Vieira could be in line to take over have been in the mix since May, when he interviewed for the vacant job at Newcastle United, which instead hired Steve McClaren
Given how frequently Manchester City has changed managers the past eight seasons -- Manuel Pellegrini
is the fourth full-time manager hired since 2007 -- perhaps his best move would be to stay
put, yet his own club doesn’t seem eager to utilize his coaching acumen.
Running a team’s academy program is a vastly different world than
heading the first team, as Greg Vanney
has found out in Toronto. And Vanney had worked as an assistant coach at Chivas USA, so he at least brought some experience to his first stint as a head
coach. Vieira’s highest level of coaching is City’s reserve team.
An ideal scenario is probably that of FC Dallas head coach Oscar
. He played eight MLS seasons for the team, upon retirement ran its academy program, worked two years as Colorado’s head coach, then returned to FCD. He took over from Schellas
well-grounded in the ways of MLS and with inherent knowledge of those players FCD had developed. Homegrown products Victor Ulloa
, Kellyn Acosta
, and Jesse Gonzalez
start regularly for FCD, and in Pareja’s second year at the helm FCD tied New York for the best overall record.
Maybe Vieira’s statement of
interest in the Newcastle job was also the club’s first ploy to put pressure on Kreis, tasked with getting results while still preparing for a the drastic overhaul that would be needed once
and Frank Lampard
got into the team. The team’s fortunes didn’t markedly improve once the stars took their places, though appalling defensive errors caused far
more problems than did Lampard’s injury issues or Pirlo’s occasional clunker.
Since then, Vieira’s name has come up linked to several
Premier League clubs,-- indeed, one English paper reported
that he prefers an EPL job to coaching NYCFC --
but none of which have apparently pursued him aggressively, if at all. He enjoyed some of his best seasons as a player with Arsenal, so in that sense he commands great respect around the Premier
League. But teams tend to recycle managers -- Alan Pardew
, Sam Allardyce
, Mark Hughes
, McClaren -- rather than gamble on unknown quantities.
Of course, the attitude in
much of the English press
is MLS is an ideal playground for him to take his tumbles, make his mistakes,and eventually move on to coach a real team in a real league. That might serve the best
interests of ownership and Vieira personally, but it would be a real slap in the face to NYCFC fans, even those familiar with Vieira’s remarkable accomplishments for France (1998 World Cup
champion, 2000 European champion) and Arsenal, Juventus and AC Milan (seven domestic titles). The sad sagas of Ruud Gullit
with the Galaxy and Aron Winter
in Toronto -- both men came to
MLS with more coaching experience than would Vieira -- should bring out the caution flag.
NYCFC fans are already stuck in a baseball stadium -- an
iconic one, it must be said, but it still belongs to gazillionaires who play another sport -- and they’ve watched Man City products Angelino
and Shay Facey
display their potential and ineptitude. That was how NYCFC responded to defensive chaos. We don't know how Kreis would have restructured the back line given its shakiness, but his bosses gave him two
very young, inexperienced players and told him to make it work.
So far, it seems, the fans take their team much more seriously than do the team officials supposedly devoted to its
success. The crowds at Yankee Stadium have been large and vocal and they deserve much better value for their commitment and expenditure.
In the case of
Vieira, Man City is underestimating the demands of MLS. As for Capello, he probably has much better options elsewhere, or will soon enough. A case can be make for sacking Kreis, but NYCFC apparently
has little idea of what to do next. It can blame the coach, but now what?
Hiring someone, anyone, who prefers to coach somewhere else -- a la Vieira --
and would regard MLS as a last resort is a terrible idea. But just the notion that NYCFC would seriously consider him is clear evidence it has much to learn about the game in America.