The Response From NYCFC Shows the Quality of KreisNYCFC still remaining motivated with playoffs unlikely and gelling in such a short period of time shows why faith in Kreis continues to be well-placed
by Nick Chavez | Monday, September 28, 2015
During New York City Football Club's first tumultuous, rollercoaster season, many fans and some pundits began to lose patience with head coach Jason Kreis. They frequently scratched their heads with some of his team-selection decisions (sometimes with good reason), substitutions, strategies and often questioned whether he was the best man for the job.
Based on the recent response by New York City FC on the pitch from both decorated Designated Players and the less-celebrated roster players of the team, it appears that Kreis still seems to be the right choice to direct NYCFC, and surely the best bet moving forward into the 2016 MLS season.
Not that he was likely ever in any risk of being replaced before NYCFC’s 2nd season, as a CFG source told me over the summer that they have complete faith in Kreis, and that no matter what the team's record ended up being this season, that he is still the man for their project and they would have patience with him, realizing building an expansion team from scratch is a process.
It is certainly a wise course of action, but not one always taken by people in charge of big, wealthy clubs like Manchester City. But City's history of patience with both Pellegrini, and Mancini before him, may have foreshadowed this prudent predisposition on CFG’s part.
I, for one, prefer to err on the side of stability and familiarity, rather than start from scratch. Systems and lessons would need to be re-learned. Chemistry and working relationships would have to be started anew with a coaching change, and NYCFC fans know how difficult growing pains can be.
Besides, three fairly comfortable wins in a row, now, versus two teams still in the playoff picture, and the third away to the number one team in the west in Vancouver is not too shabby from the expansion side.
For Kreis's part on the improved form, effort and chemistry of his world-famous midfield duo of Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, he was expectedly self-effacing saying, "I think it all comes down to them. It has nothing to do with me and the coaching staff. Those players are born competitors. I don’t think that you can be anything but that if you have all the success and all the experience those guys have had and won as many things as those guys have without just something ingrained in you that wants to win and is willing to do anything it takes.”
I'm sure there's a lot to that, but it is likely not the complete truth. Kreis and his staff had to somehow motivate and lift up a team that has had morale-crushing defeats, losing streaks, and frustrating injuries throughout the season, and do it with a newly put-together team in July, motivating these players as they race against the clock with chances of the playoffs slim to none. Kreis also had to make them believe that they are on the right course, even when results continued to indicate that the team seemingly wasn’t.
But still, New York City FC play as if there is something to play for.
It would be easy now for these players to give up, throw up their arms and say, "It's been a long year, we're basically out of the playoffs, what's the point?", and for this attitude to manifest itself on the pitch in the final games of New York City’s inaugural season.
However, it is testament to Kreis, his coaching staff, and the character of his players to step up to the challenge and continue to work on their team chemistry, fight and improve to not only try to give their loyal fans something to celebrate now, but to give them something to be optimistic about next season.
It also demonstrates the meritocracy of Kreis's methods. Most players on the roster got their chances, and players who worked hard in training and during matches were given their opportunities to play and prove themselves. Even personal favorites of Kreis who have worked with him at Real Salt Lake like Grabavoy, Wingert, Velasquez and Watson-Siriboe that were underperforming have made way for players like McNamara, Poku, Angelino, RJ Allen and others.
On the other hand, players with impressive resumes and pedigrees like Andoni Iraola have sometimes had to sit out as much less-decorated players have been more relied upon. And when even consistently performing and trusted players like McNamara are perceived to be lacking in some way, they may be removed from the available squad altogether, even when not being injured and being previously so important.
This "ruthless" streak of Kreis is motivating in several ways: It shows that nobody's spot, neither his "favorites" nor his "marquee" players, are ever completely safe.
On the other hand, it also demonstrates that anyone can find their way back into the starting line-up if they work hard enough in training and show the right attitude. These facts remind the players that they cannot ever slip up if they still want to be in Kreis's plans. And it also allows players who have fallen out of favor to have the hope that they can indeed find their way back in the fold if they work hard enough and take their chances.
This disciplined meritocracy and demand for maximum effort establishes rigorous competition which, of course, breeds excellence like nothing else.
New York City FC may finally be seeing the fruits of this right now.
Though it is likely too late to pay off tangibly this season playoff-wise, it can make NYCFC well-placed to hit the ground running from the beginning of the 2016 season.
It will also help Kreis and his staff separate the wheat from the chaff from this season. One must admit, NYCFC at its best right now, reinforced in the right positions, can really be a force to reckon with next season. Probably not amongst the MLS Cup favorites just yet in 2016, but certainly playoff ready.
With all of this considered, New York City FC fans have a lot to be optimistic about with Kreis and his squad. It's often been a rough season, but it seems there is a sun coming over the horizon in the blue skies of New York City.