10 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Vieira’s Hiring

Firing former MLS champion Jason Kreis after one season was ill-advised, but Vieira’s hiring could prove a shrewd move
by Nick Chavez   |   Thursday, November 19, 2015

In my previous piece, I discussed at length why firing Kreis and replacing him with a foreign coach unaccustomed to the byzantine rules and nuances of Major League Soccer was an imprudent gamble, so I’m not going to talk any more about that.

So, now that we’ve had time to take deep breaths into the brown paper bag and carefully reflect upon City Football Group’s ill-advised move of firing former MLS Cup Champion Jason Kreis, I think we’re ready to turn the page and look forward.

In that spirit, I’ve put together a handy list of reasons to believe that the great Patrick Vieira could indeed be a good thing for New York City Football Club:

1) NYCFC have a better chance of longer-term coaching stability with Patrick Vieira.

Vieira has signed a three-year contract with the New York City FC, and his relationship with City Football Group and assumed expertise in “The City Way” suggests some stability in the NYCFC head coach position. He is likely to enjoy more patience and trust from the CFG brass, so expect him to get a second season under his belt even his NYCFC side fails to make the playoffs in 2016. 

There is also a strong chance that Vieira will look to at least honor his contract since his pay should be very competitive, and even success in MLS doesn’t exactly put a coach in high demand amongst European clubs.            

2) Vieira should be hungry for success.

Since this New York City FC opportunity is Vieira’s first job as the head coach of a club’s first-team, it is likely that he will take it quite seriously and will look to be successful in this role. Even if Vieira’s future ambitions of coaching in one of the “Big Four” European leagues weighs heavily in his mind, few European clubs will be very interested in him if he fails to impress in Major League Soccer, and any offers he does end up receiving from abroad will likely reflect that.

3) Vieira has been coached by Wenger, Capello, Mourinho, Mancini and other managers of repute.

Throughout Patrick Vieira’s illustrious career, he has played at the highest level and has been coached by the very best in world football. His list of former coaches includes Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and his coaches from the French National Team that helped manage his side to both World Cup and Euro Cup glory. 

What coaching lessons might Vieira have learned from these greats about man-management, leadership, inspiring one’s team, getting the most out of talent, tactical expertise, and other areas of strategy and team-building? It is likely that Vieira will be drawing upon the personal experience he’s had over his career working with some bonafide coaching legends while managing his New York City squad.

4) Patrick Vieira’s resume will command respect amongst his players, including Designated Players.

As a player, Patrick Vieira has done it all: He’s captained the French National team, won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro Cup with France, and his club honors include three English Premier League titles, five FA Cup titles and three Serie A titles, and a Supercoppa Italiana. At the moment, most MLS players can only dream of the opportunity to even begin competing for these titles, let alone win them.

Being the legend that he is, and with many MLS players likely growing up admiring Vieira as he dominated the game in the unique way that he did, there is no doubt that his accomplishments themselves will command total respect in the locker room.

MLS regulars will know that they have a lot to learn from a guy who has won it all for club and country, been coached by the very best, and has been sharpened by the very highest level of competition that only elite football can truly provide. 

Furthermore, if it's true that New York City FC’s legendary Designated Players were less-than-convinced about Kreis’s decisions and knowledge of the game, you must expect that they will view a true peer of the game like Vieira with a lot more trust and deference. If they doubted Kreis for never playing or coaching outside of MLS, they couldn’t have the same doubts or prejudices about Vieira, who is of the very same elite pedigree as they are. This should lead to less potential friction in the locker room between the DPs and the new coach. 

5) Vieira’s hiring is another “DP-like” signing, which will attract more media and fan attention.

Whether you agree with the various DP signings NYCFC has made and their effectiveness on the field, you can’t deny the benefits of the signings of Villa, Lampard, Pirlo, and even Mix off the field. 

The media attention, and the ability to attract new fans to MLS due to the star power of these players is a big part of what MLS needs to keep growing its fan base and media footprint. In short, if these recognizable names weren’t signed, it’s likely a lot less season tickets would’ve been sold, a lot less people would’ve been paying attention, and a lot more media might’ve been assigned elsewhere. Such is the struggle of a still-emerging league like MLS, especially in a media market that is never short of stories, sports teams and forms of entertainment. 

Another legendary name like Patrick Vieira, with the interesting story of beginning his senior coaching career in New York City, will likely have a similar effect. One of the greatest players of his generation, Vieira taking the reigns at New York City FC is likely to further increase media and soccer fan curiosity in the area, whether these new eyes want him and NYCFC to succeed or not. 

In short, the combined star power of NYCFC’s DPs and Vieira just might be enough to draw the interest of certain fans and media outlets who otherwise wouldn’t have given MLS a chance. And MLS needs that, especially in the Media Capital of the World. 

6) Vieira has the youth to endure the rigors of MLS travel, and the inexperience as a coach to more openly embrace MLS’s idiosyncrasies

When Fabio Capello’s name was first mentioned as a potential candidate for the NYCFC job, part of me was optimistic about the idea, since he is a winning coach that has coached some of the best sides in the world and has won a number of titles with them. He’s also known for making a team defensively disciplined (sorely needed at NYCFC) and commanding respect. 

However, Capello is also 69 years and he has a reputation for being stubborn. The rigors of travel in the vast North American continent are difficult for anyone, but especially for 69-year old man who is not accustomed to this having only coached in Europe. And it’s also hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and Capello would have to learn many new tricks and rules if he became an MLS coach. Something tells me he wouldn’t be too open-minded or enthused about it. 

With Vieira, he is young enough to handle the physical and mental challenges of transcontinental travel, and you would expect that he won’t be as set in his ways since he is a first-time manager and only 39-years old.

7) Having drilled the Manchester City Elite Development Squad on “The City Way” since 2013, he must be one of the few experts on implementing it

The oft-talked about “City Way”, which I explained in 2014 is based heavily off of “The Barca Way” (Think Guardiola-ball), was certainly not on display for most of New York City FC’s inaugural season. Part of this lack of attractive, meaningful possession seems part of the reason why Jason Kreis was so unceremoniously dismissed from his job. 

Patrick Vieira has been entrusted with teaching and developing this style in Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad since 2013, and has had some success competitively with the EDS securing a Premier League International Cup under his leadership and is currently top of its group in the UEFA Youth League. So, if anyone (besides Pep Guardiola himself) can teach New York City FC “The City Way”, it should be him. 

8) Vieira’s tenure as NYCFC coach should reveal to City Football Group whether “The City Way” will actually work in MLS or not.

As NYCFC supporter Mike Coniaris said in a conversation we had on the “From The Factory Floor” podcast, CFG bringing in “their guy” Vieira to try to implement the “City Way” and do things the way CFG wants him to do it could bring “a moment of clarity” for CFG in that they will learn that either their approach works in MLS, or it will fail and they will learn that they’ll have to adjust their seemingly “European approach” to a more traditionally MLS approach in order for NYCFC to achieve that on-field success. 

With Kreis getting let go, it’s better for CFG to “get this out of their system” and find out now if their way can work in MLS, rather than going through more American coaches getting scapegoated when things don’t go as planned. There will be no more excuses.

9) Vieira can bring his youth developing expertise to help guide New York City FC’s academy, and he seems to have a passionate interest in developing the game in the US, in general.

Most knowledgeable fans of Major League Soccer and US Soccer believe youth soccer development in North America is extremely important, and New York City FC fans are no different. In an excellent, revealing interview with Hudson River Blue’s Sam Dunn, Patrick Vieira shares his passion and vision for youth development, growing the game in North America and benefiting local communities in the process with City Football Group’s expertise and resources. 

What’s clear from this interview is that Vieira has given the topic of “growing the game” in the US some real thought, and he has a plan and the ambition to help improve several aspects of the game in the New York City area through his work with NYCFC. Here are some important quotes from that interview with Vieira

“I personally believe that, in the next ten years, soccer will be on the same level as the NBA, baseball, the NFL, because of how it's been developing itself.

..To catch these sports, it will take time. What is important is how improved soccer has been in the last few years. It has to keep improving like that: having more franchises, having more fan bases, more kids playing...

..I think having City (Football Group/NYCFC) here, and having other teams around, we can increase the number of young kids growing up in soccer, because of the knowledge that we have at Manchester City Football Club.

...What can help soccer is the national team. The national team has to do well. I watched [the U.S. men's team] against Germany and against Holland-- unbelievable performances! I will help young boys to have these dreams of playing for the national team.

Perhaps Coach Vieira was just saying all of the right things because he knew he was speaking to the American media, or maybe he really meant the things he said. Only time will tell. But, when NYCFC finally flesh out their much-anticipated academy, Vieira’s experience and influence should be a positive. 

And, if nothing else, Vieira may not be an expert on MLS, but he is an expert of Manchester City’s EDS, and he’ll know better than anyone which players he can count on when he inevitably brings a number of them to New York City FC.

10) If Vieira’s reputation is anything to go by, he may have all the tools to be an excellent first team coach.

Commenting on Vieira’s hiring, Brian Marwood (Who Vieira credits for “guiding” him into considering working as a coach), Managing Director of City Football Services said: 

“Patrick is a special individual and a rare talent. He is the ultimate leader but at the same time, the ultimate team player. His time in Manchester as a player, in football administration and as the Head of the Elite Development Squad is testament to his capacity to succeed in all he does and of course his career prior to joining Manchester City more than speaks for itself. I have no doubt that he will thrive at New York City FC.”

A basic PR response, for sure, but it’s also sentiments that have been more or less echoed by most people who have worked with Patrick Vieira as a player and as a youth team coach. 

Vieira is almost universally lauded for his natural leadership qualities, his dedication to whatever job he does, and his exemplary character as a person. 

He seems to be the type of person you’d feel good about trusting with such a vital role.

So, I hope with all of these things considered, that New York City FC’s faithful also start feeling good about him as well, and give this footballing icon a chance to fight for their great City. He’s one of your own now. 

I leave you all with a final word from Coach Vieira:

“The message to the [NYCFC] fans will be... Keep following the team, keep supporting the players, because altogether we can achieve something really special here, because there is a desire and a commitment for success, and we are not going to achieve it if you’re not behind us, and we need your help to achieve our targets and our success.” 


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