Kreis Firing Shows NYCFC Lacks Long-term Vision
November 03, 2015
On Monday New York City FC made the decision to fire head coach Jason Kreis after just its first year of existence. The move was both telling and not surprising. If, however, the history of Major League Soccer is any indication, it was probably a big mistake.
The press release was revealing. It citied expectations for Kreis to win right away. “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 release stated. “A win rate of less than one in three games and a points tally which was the second lowest in the league is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed.”
That final sentence is true, but it's only part of the picture. New York City has been adrift from day one. The stadium situation is devolving. The saga of Frank Lampard’s late arrival was an embarrassing joke. A press release lacking quotes from or a mention technical director Claudio Reyna reeks of internal strife. What is Reyna’s role here? Shouldn’t he be making the decision or is he just an American figurehead for City Football Group?
Kreis was not perfect, but expansion teams should be about building up depth for future success. The win-at-all-costs approach from day one can often lead to costly consequences. When an elite European organization that is out of touch with American soccer spends a lot of money to bring over Lampard and Pirlo, how do you bench one in favor of a younger player like Kwadwo Poku?
Kreis has been a successful MLS coach. That's what drew NYCFC to him in the first place. His Real Salt Lake teams were some of the best in league history. Building them took time. The development of Luis Gil was a gradual process, but it paid off. Kreis developed a system around players like Kyle Beckerman, and it resulted in a disciplined team that no one wanted to play. RSL nearly won the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League as a result.
Now, after a single season at NYCFC, he's gone.
NYCFC will likely bring in a household name as its next head coach. The problem is that the ownership group is blind to the league’s history.
They only have to look across the river to the history of the MetroStars/Red Bulls organization to see the pitfalls. Carlos Alberto Parreira failed. Carlos Queiroz failed. Bora Milutinovic failed. The Red Bulls briefly hired Bruce Arena, only the most proven American coach in the history of the sport, then prematurely fired him. He joined the Galaxy and won championships while the Red Bulls underachieved under Juan Carlos Osorio and Hans Backe.
New York City FC appears intent on relearning the lessons of yesterday. Other teams now know that there is no substitute for a committed head coach who has experience in this league. Unlike in Europe, you can’t throw money at a team here and expect success. Money can put a team over the top, but the foundations for success are built through the knowledge of American soccer and the structure of the league. If thos at City Football Group doesn’t understand that (and it appears they don’t), then the chances are that their next high priced coach will meet the same fate as Parreira and Queiroz.
The winner of this whole debacle is Kreis. He is going to be fine. His NYCFC buyout is likely huge, and he will find a job very soon. There is an open position in Chicago where he will likely emerge as a candidate, and there are also other teams who might consider making a coaching change to land him. Most importantly, he will likely get a job on his terms and not the terms of a group that doesn’t understand the league.
Meanwhile, New York City FC will continue to spend money without a clue of how to win in MLS and continue to play in one of the worst stadiums for soccer in the history of the league. It’s baffling. City Football Group is willing to write pricy checks but seemingly unwilling to take the time and learn the free lessons on how to win here.
What a mess.