New York City FC’s first year in MLS has been interesting. Though the new club hasn’t exactly wowed on the field (they’ve been eliminated from the MLS Playoffs, a week before the season ends), they’ve certainly awakened a sleeping giant in the New York City soccer scene.
At the beginning of October, NYCFC announced that they reached 19,600 season ticket holders, a number previously unheard of in New York soccer circles, and one of the highest totals in the entire league. Despite poor team performance, the support for the team has been passionate, with supporter groups like the Third Rail bringing the noise in the Yankee Stadium bleachers, making soccer games feel like a rowdier version of an October baseball matchup.
In order to bring these fans out, City Football Group, the owners of NYCFC, knew they must put stars on the field and by bringing in David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, they truly have produced three of the best career players MLS has ever seen. However, despite the fact that these men have two World Cups, three Champions Leagues and a handful of domestic titles between them, they have been unable to produce the results that the fans and owners demand.
Thus, the owners and fans have looked past the players, and directly at the head coach, Jason Kreis. Kreis has as good an MLS resume as anyone, winning a MLS Cup and Supporters Shield with Real Salt Lake in consecutive seasons in 2009 and 2010, and spent a year learning the “City Football way,” when he spent a year in Manchester observing the parent club’s Premier League academy. However, when gifted a team riddled with talent, Kreis was unable to build the cohesion that defined his RSL squads, and now could be on his way out.
In his place, NYCFC’s Abu Dhabi-based ownership group could install Patrick Vieira, the former French international most famous for his days as the Arsenal captain, where he won three Premier League titles. Vieira is currently the coach for Man City’s reserve squad, and was considered for both the Sunderland and Newcastle managerial roles, but now seems poised to take his place as a head coach in MLS.
A name like Vieira gives a certain notoriety to NYCFC as a club and MLS as a league. That kind of headline-grabbing name could attract more top players in their prime that MLS fans so desperately covet. Kreis can’t get those guys.
Additionally, Vieira has a history of dealing with world-class superstars on a daily basis. Kreis, while very successful in MLS, does not. There were times this season where it seemed Villa, Lampard and Pirlo were not engaged with their new club, and maybe a managerial switch could help that.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Vieira is an academy specialist who has worked with the Man City youngsters basically since his retirement from playing. For a team that can bring in up to four loanees from Man City’s youth ranks, having the guy who coached them for the past few years is a pretty big advantage.
MLS is a growing league, and in order to cultivate world-class talent, the league needs world-class managers. Vieira could spark that trend.