Firing Kreis is one thing, but NYCFC apparently has little idea of what to do next

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’ dismissal.

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 decade:
MLS Expansion Teams, 2005-15:
Seattle (2009) 12-7-11, 47 pts. Avg: 1.57.
Orlando City (2015) 12-14-8, 44 pts. Avg.: 1.29.
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.
Vancouver (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 Jesse Marsch, 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 Pareja. 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 Hyndman 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 Andres Pirlo 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 (age 18) and Shay Facey (20) 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.
11 comments about "Firing Kreis is one thing, but NYCFC apparently has little idea of what to do next".
  1. Raymond Weigand, November 3, 2015 at 6:53 p.m.

    Bring in Vieira and he will be the best player on the team that isn't playing. A good example for all the other old timers and semi-retired of the MLS.

  2. BJ Genovese, November 3, 2015 at 9:56 p.m.

    A modern coach for a modern holding mid (Pirlo). Not easy to find.

  3. Ric Fonseca, November 3, 2015 at 10:07 p.m.

    I nominate EL PIOJO HERRERA of Mexico! Heck he surely knows all about the merry go-round kind of job he'd be entering in NY, and he surely knows all about the foreign elements of a club team!

  4. John Soares, November 4, 2015 at 12:36 a.m.

    Removing Kreis was NOT a solution. It IS an excuse (scape goat) to bring in a (probably) English coach of choice. Results remain to be seen. BUT with BIG money players Lampard producing at an unremarkable level, Villas and Pirlo just slightly better it will take more than a new coach to make this team a winner.

  5. Zoe Willet, November 4, 2015 at 1:06 a.m.

    NY won only 2 games less than Orlando? Give me a break! I think they acquitted themselves well! And let us not forget that Lampard and Pirlo were not there from the first day.

  6. A. Torres, November 4, 2015 at 8:55 a.m.

    Speaking as a NYCFC season ticket holder let me just say that removing Kreis is a total mistake. However if I was Kreis I would have left on my own. The team started off on a high note by winning its first game and as expected it had its ups and downs during the season. But the team did manage to find some consistency when Kwadwo Poku and Thomas McNamara staked their spots in the midfield of the team. However, this run of form was short lived because once Lampard became healthy Kreis was forced to play him. Even Pirlo’s inclusion in the team was not as disruptive as that of Lampard.
    Once these changes took place, the team never regained stability. I’m sure Kreis was able to deduce the same conclusion but was force to keep playing Lampard. Therefore If I was in the same position as him, where I am the coach but not allowed to coach my way I would have left on my own.

  7. Woody Woodpecker, November 4, 2015 at 10:24 a.m.

    Raymond. I guess Drogba is an exception. The problem is the league is far better than many of the players coming over realize. American athletes are world class competitive to start with and let's be honest their technique and tactical abilities are not that far "behind". The quality of the MLS is definitely better than English Div. 1. Go thru the roster of any team it's chalk full of international players from around the world....

  8. Raymond Weigand replied, November 6, 2015 at 2:30 p.m.

    I am even more doubtful ... these old folks rely on the MLS as a portfolio item in their retirement plan ... slumber around the field ... pose for pictures ... sign some autographs ... collect millions. Of course, their health is much more important than money, hence, their play is as tame as a Sunday morning pick up game.

  9. Eric Piazzoni, November 4, 2015 at 2:13 p.m.

    This looks a lot like the Chivas USA blueprint.

  10. Ric Fonseca replied, November 4, 2015 at 4:24 p.m.

    Eric, NAH!!! Not even a shadow of a chance this being a "Chivas blueprint," simply and because, NYCFC does not have an owner the likes of the defunct Chivas USA had to endure, one who claimed that Chivas USA would end up teaching the rest of MLS how to play "real futbol!!!" But are the NYCFC owners telling MLS and noo-yawkers how to play real football a-la-Euros??? Sorry, but Jason Kreis just did not have it to take the helm of the new club, but one thing for sure, I sure as heck hope that the LAFC will not send him a text message or twitter him to come to our neck of the woods! Now wouldn't that be a laugher!!!

  11. b short, November 7, 2015 at 10:49 a.m.

    Its too bad. Hire a coach, give him a year to find players b4 the season. Then have them play in the sand box that is Yankee Stadium. Games were fun to watch there but no back line is going to be steady with the pressure that comes from a 100 x 58 yd field. Jason is a good manager and had a good staff. You can't play wide and create space for Pirlo and Lampard in the middle when there is no room on the pitch no matter how you play. Finished 2 games behind Orlando and didn't have their DP's healthy and ready until Late August. No big name coach will do better because you won't be able to keep scores down in that stadium. Watched Saunders since his days in Miami, he had a great year and still had games where he gave up 3.

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