New York City FC should look to get younger, better
Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York City FC midfielder Jack Harrison (11) reacts to a call against him during the first half against the Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

With veteran Frank Lampard now off the table for 2017, New York City FC will look to get younger and better. 

It’s hard to blame a first-year coach after his club has shown such improvement over a one-year span, but Patrick Vieira, after taking a hard look, saw that it may be time for New York City FC to start answering some of the hard questions especially in one area: youth.

Patrick Vieira took over the expansion franchise NYCFC which included three international superstars in David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo that underachieved finishing with a losing record and placing 17th in the MLS overall standings. But in its second season, Vieira, the former World Cup champion with France and Premier League winning midfielder with Arsenal, led them to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a playoff appearance.

New York City Football Club is fortunate to have him at all as Vieira pointed out by way of James Ducker in The Telegraph. Patrick recognized that the transition from player to coach was a big jump even though he gained some experience coaching the Manchester City Elite Development Squad.

“For me, the problem was jumping from playing straight in to coach a first team. It’s too difficult,” Vieira shared.

Patrick went on to point out that if the offers came from DC United or Atlanta, a move to MLS was not going to happen. He also recognized that in New York he would have a learning curve that would not happen in a higher profile league. Vieira chose New York City because of the ties it has with Manchester City.

“I’ve made decisions I wouldn’t be allowed to if I was managing a Premier League team because you are not given the time.”

He now has gotten through season one but the sudden rash of retirements and expired contracts that followed their playoff first round ouster makes it obvious that NYCFC should start the process of getting younger. Just one look at their two remaining stars Villa, 35, and Pirlo, 37, suggests that now is better than later.

The emergence of Jack Harrison is an example of what the youth club system can bring. NYCFC would like to find more Harrison’s and by patterning their development system after their sister club Manchester City’ one they may well find more diamonds in the rough.

The losses are tough. Frank Lampard completed his term here and shortly after Andoni Iraola and Mehdi Ballouchy announced their retirements from the sport after double-digit careers. This means that the DP or Designated Player spot is open and a major decision to be made in the process.

Where and who should NYCFC target? Of course it’s a balancing act of sorts. If you can acquire a quality player equal to the talent of a Lampard then you have to consider it. Vieira has a reason to avoid that option and it’s in the demeanor of today’s players.

“I think players maybe now want to look more pretty than anything else,” Vieira explained, “Still good players, maybe better than were, but looking too much at themselves.”

NYCFC wants to cultivate younger stars with a longer shelf life and is willing to commit to it. Their network of club affiliates in the city are the fields that they intend to draw from. Vieira is not exactly under the looking glass but in season three if NYCFC does not get better, the goodwill he built up will be depleted quicker than a star retirement announcement.

I am a veteran sports writer who has contributed to New York City Sporting News, Double G Sports, and Latino Sports. As the Voice of the Voiceless, I serve as the instrument that educates and informs.