After just one season, the first-ever season for New York City FC, head coach Jason Kreis was fired for failing to make the playoffs. The journey ahead for the Blues just became interesting.
He was a great player and, given time, was a solid coach in Major League Soccer. After winning just five games with Real Salt Lake in his first year ever as a head coach, he built RSL into one of MLS’s perennial postseason teams, winning the MLS Cup in 2009 and guiding the Crimson back to the Cup Final in 2013, losing in penalty kicks to Sporting Kansas City.
Unfortunately Kreis wasn’t given that kind of time in New York City and instead of given a second year to learn from his mistakes and to work with a full roster, he was given the boot on Monday going from the first-ever head coach in NYCFC history, to the first fired head coach in the team’s young history.
Maybe it was too soon, maybe it was well-deserved and maybe, to point out the extreme argument by some NYCFC supporters, he should’ve been fired over the summer before the Blues made their last-gasp effort at making the postseason in the final six matches. They won their first three straight before collapsing “gloriously” in the final three matches of the year, putting together a lackluster performance defensively against New England in the finale at Yankee Stadium.
City Football Group made their position clear while firing Kreis: you either win or you leave – plain and simple.
“Prior to the start of the season, it was agreed with the coaching team that the securing of a playoff place was an appropriate target for this year,” the Club said in their statement earlier in the week.
It’s a mentality that seems absurd for a first-year club in a league where only two first-year teams have went to the playoffs – Chicago shockingly won it all in 1998 and Seattle went to the playoffs in 2009 – but it’s a mentality that matches the very city they play in. New York City isn’t a patient city. You either win or nobody cares. CFG didn’t spend a lot of money on this club for nobody to care.
Although the Club’s goal was the MLS Cup, or a playoff spot (but let’s be real, he would’ve been fired if they lost in the knockouts or the conference semis), Kreis and his staff saw things differently.
“We never really had a set plan for what those expectations were,” he said before the Blues’ final match against New England, a 3-1 defeat.
“As a coaching staff and as a team we thought we could be a playoff team and a team that could contest for (the) MLS Cup in year one. Truthfully, I think that was a little far-fetched.”
What was very far-fetched is Kreis’s ability to lead this club going forward.
Sources have indicated that NYCFC’s three designated players Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa, the faces of the franchise, played a role in Kreis’s exit. The three highly decorated internationals did not see a future for the Blues with a coach who has only worked in the U.S.
It’s not surprising that CFG would listen to their international players given that fact that very few members from City Football Group’s hierarchy have actually stepped foot onto the Yankee Stadium pitch, spent time around the team in training or in meetings, or at all. CFG gave the U.S. a chance and, to them, the U.S. failed.
With Kreis out, there will be many changes in the Bronx in 2016. Obviously there will be a new head coach – an international head coach. Patrick Vieira and Fabio Capello are the current front-runners for the NYCFC gig and both could either push the Blues over the red-line in 2016, or set the Blues back about three years.
Vieira, a former World Cup winner with the French national team, has been working with Manchester City’s youth development squad for the past four years and coaching their reserves. He’s worked with guys like Angelino and Shay Facey in the past and, ironically enough, worked with Kreis while he was in Manchester learning the Man City way.
He’s been keen on getting a first-team coaching job in England, however turned down an offer to manage Newcastle United over the summer. For him, NYCFC would be a good fit to start his coaching career as he would be fully supported by CFG and Manchester City.
Capello, on the other hand, would be another outsider, however his credibility coaching in Europe makes him a very solid hire. He’s won four Serie A titles with AC Milan, two La Liga titles with Real Madrid, most recently in 2007 and has coached both the English and Russian national teams. He is highly regarded by Lampard, whom he coached with England and by Pirlo, whom Capello tried to serenade over to Real Madrid.
In his book “I Think Therefore I Play,” Pirlo calls Capello “only one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport.”
Whichever of the two takeover NYCFC will create significant changes on the roster, at least outside of the three DP’s. There’s a high possibility that fan favorites like Josh Saunders, Mix Diskerud, Khiry Shelton and Tommy McNamara would be gone and replaced by, possibly, more technical players – free transfers from overseas, free agents during the MLS offseason and their one draft pick in this year’s SuperDraft.
The challenge for both potential new managers will be the nuances of Major League Soccer. Unlike the leagues overseas, MLS has a salary cap, numerous roster limitations and a schedule that doesn’t follow the FIFA schedule. It has a different collective bargaining agreement with its player’s union that works differently than Europe and, as everyone has mentioned, less domestic talent.
There’s a saying in life that “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” In this case, with a new head coach and a new look NYCFC coming to the Bronx in 2016, City Football Group has to hope that the pitch really is greener across the pond. There won’t be an American head coach for the Blues in 2016 (unless they miraculously get Bob Bradley), that’s for certain.
We’ll never know what could’ve been in the Bronx under a second-year with Kreis. As his resume and history has shown, he’s been successful in his coaching career in the second year and beyond.
There’s no question that he’ll get a job. Early signs have Kreis going to Toronto FC with former RSL president Bill Manning running the show, or he could take over the Chicago Fire gig. He could also possibly end up with another expansion team in Atlanta in 2017 where he’ll expectedly have more control of his roster and probably won’t get fired after year one.
Jason Kreis will do fine in MLS in 2016 and beyond. New York City FC under an organization that will fire a head coach for not making the playoffs in their first year and allowing much needed designated players to come late, well we’re just going to see what happens there.
Again, the grass may not always be greener on the other side.
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