Replacing Kreis With Vieira Would Be an Unnecessarily Risky Gamble

Vieira is unproven as a first-team coach and surely doesn’t know MLS or the NYCFC players as well as Kreis. The choice is clear.
by Nick Chavez   |   Thursday, October 22, 2015

The New York City FC twitter community exploded in debate when Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported yesterday that NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis may be replaced by Manchester City youth team coach, and former France and Arsenal star, Patrick Vieira for the 2016 MLS season. As Wahl explained in his report

“Multiple sources connected to Manchester City and New York City FC say Jason Kreis’s job as the coach at NYCFC is in real danger. It’s not a done deal yet, but all signs are pointing to his replacement being Patrick Vieira, the 1998 World Cup winner and former Arsenal star who has been serving as Man City’s elite development squad manager.”

I seriously doubted the validity of these rumors, since I was told personally by a reliable CFG source just this summer that Kreis is their guy and, playoffs or not, he was the man for the New York City FC project for the foreseeable future. I also always got the sense that Kreis was very committed and passionate about coaching NYCFC, and his latest remarks about his future didn’t give me a reason to think any differently. 

But, then Christian Araos and Dave Martinez of Empire of Soccer chimed in,  saying their sources “shared similar information” to Wahl’s report regarding Kreis being replaced by Vieira. 

Of course, in the same report, Dave and Christian went on to mention that, “Vieira has been linked to vacancies at Sunderland and Newcastle United this season but reportedly declined the roles stating that he wanted complete control over potential transfers.” 

If true, the fact that Vieira reportedly turned down respectable head coaching positions in the English Premier League because he feels so strongly about having “complete control over potential transfers” is a bit odd considering where he’s now rumored to be going.

 If he’s going to New York City FC, does he expect to have much transfer control… in MLS? The restrictions on transfers and salary are famously frustrating, and if reports of CFG being so “involved” in the player-selection process at NYCFC are true, it seems like that would only further limit his much sought after “control.”

Interesting as that may be, all of that aside, when 3 reporters of the reputation and sources of Martinez, Wahl and Araos say they’re seeing smoke… chances are, there’s fire. 

And if there’s fire (and that still remains a big “if”), that’s quite unfortunate.

Because then it would appear that CFG are making the common, rookie mistake foreign owners often make of thinking the “superior expertise” of their European coaching will solve all of NYCFC’s problems in MLS. 

Problems, by the way, that seemed more likely to sort themselves out next season with this expansion team just starting to gel after having so many important players only arriving in July, and would finally have the time and a full preseason together to do see what they can really do.

But how accustomed will Patrick Vieira be to Major League Soccer’s myriad of strange and frustrating rules, and its salary cap restrictions? How much will he know about the players, teams and rival coach’s playing styles themselves?  How much “catching up” will the former World Cup winner need to do?

Then there is also the small matter of Vieira never coaching first-team soccer before. Anywhere. 

He is completely unproven on the big stage as a coach and dealing with the pressure of a top-flight league. How much respect will he command from his players as a coach, some of which he’s even played against? 

Should New York City FC risk wasting another season on a guy “learning on the job” when they already have Kreis, who has experience and proven success in MLS, who knows the team better than anyone with clear ideas of how to improve it, especially with his team already looking to be turning the corner with the developing chemistry?

All things considered, it would be an ill-advised, unnecessary gamble. Much of my writing on NYCFC has been optimistic, discussing what we have most reason to believe will happen. In this case, though, I don’t have much reason to be confident that Vieira will make the playoffs in his first year with NYCFC. With Kreis, I do have good reason to believe that NYCFC will make the playoffs in 2016.

Kreis knows the league’s rules, teams, coaches, players and all of the bizarre nuances of MLS. There will be no learning curve. He would get an actual, full-preseason with key players like Lampard, Pirlo, Mena, Iraola and potentially Angelino and George John, as well as inevitable reinforcements. His players would not have to adapt to a new system, to a new coach, and new expectations. Kreis and NYCFC would be prepared.

How prepared would Vieira really be? Under first-year coach Vieira, unaccustomed to MLS, we are likely to see a guy struggling to get a handle on the job and the league, complaining about MLS rules and refereeing, and how he’s restricted by the salary cap and how he can’t bring in the players he needs to be successful. That’s how it often goes with bigger name foreign coaches coaching in MLS. Ask the LA Galaxy and former coach Ruud Gullit. 

And how much of a disaster would it be if NYCFC are still struggling next season and miss out on the playoffs again, as becomes more likely by this risky, unnecessary gamble? What a wasted opportunity that would be, as a result of such an ill-advised coaching change. Hopefully, for NYCFC fans’ sake, it isn’t true.

But what If Vieira is NYCFC’s coach next season -- Does this prove that NYCFC is a farm team?

Some people are saying that Vieira would be coming to NYCFC only to prove himself for the Manchester City job, and City themselves are using NYCFC as a means to experiment and develop Vieira. They think that as soon as Vieira proves worthy enough, he’ll be off to Manchester City to coach the first team. 

However, these popular narratives don’t stand up well to scrutiny. Now, of course Vieira wants to get his top-flight coaching career started, and it is highly unlikely that he envisions NYCFC as the pinnacle of his career goals in that regard. But, you also don’t just jump from NYCFC and MLS to coaching Manchester City, no matter how successful you are. 

Manchester City can hire any coach. They are highly unlikely to hand the keys over to Vieira any time soon, even if he wins 3 MLS Cups in a row with NYCFC. City are likely going to ride with Pellegrini until he goes trophyless again, or until Guardiola is ready to coach them. After Pep, they will likely look to sign any other number of big name, flavor of the week, “proven” European coaches. And that’s because they have the money to do so. 

Man City don’t need to rely on potential…. they can (and will) buy proven. And the only way you become “proven” in the eyes of big European clubs is by being highly successful in Europe or the World Cup. NYCFC and MLS aren’t it. Hell, there’s a much better chance that Vieira will never get the chance to coach City, period. Remember when Roy Keane was supposed to coach Manchester United? Or when Zidane was destined to coach Real Madrid? Yup, we’re still waiting for that too. 

If City Football Group do end up cutting Kreis and handing over the NYCFC reigns to Vieira, it’s because they feel that Vieira is better than the other available options, especially in MLS. If CFG make that mistake, it is more of an indication of a commonly held European prejudice against American coaches (and players, for that matter). 

They think Americans don’t know the game well enough, are naive as far as football matters go, and that a seasoned football man like Vieira, steeped in “The City Way” will know how to fix NYCFC. Again, that’s if they make this switch. If they do show faith in Kreis, CFG will be proving that they are wiser than so many before them.

Indeed, rather than CFG doing something at the expense of NYCFC, they would think that they are doing NYCFC a favor by giving them a guy of the pedigree of Patrick Vieira, who “obviously” knows the game better than any other coach in MLS because he’s Patrick Vieira, has his UEFA coaching badges, and won a World Cup. Sound familiar, US Men’s National Team fans? 

Well, as both USMNT fans and MLS fans know well, it’s not that easy. American soccer is a very different beast. We’ll see just how much CFG has learned from the past in the coming weeks and months. But, on the bright side for NYCFC fans, Empire of Soccer’s Christian Araos also reported that NYCFC has denied these initial reports. But, of course, what else would they say with one more game left to play this season?

So, all of this could just be rumors that never materialize, as they often are. Or maybe Vieira will be NYCFC’s coach in 2016, surprise everyone and build a powerful squad that is relatively dominant in his first year, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth will all be for naught. 

Only time will tell, but you do get that sinking feeling that 2016 could be another long season for New York City FC.


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