By: Marco D'Onofrio
When Manchester City and the New York Yankees paid Major League Soccer an expansion fee of $100 million to ensure that New York City FC would become the league's 20th franchise, they had made their intentions clear right off the bat. They were not interested in doing things the traditional MLS way, but were willing to spend big dollars and wanted immediate success.
While the club were more interested in international stars as opposed to experienced domestic talent on the pitch, they decided that the franchise's first ever head coach should be someone who understands the intricacies of the league. Jason Kreis had played in MLS with FC Dallas since its inception, and took on a coaching role as soon as he retired.
Not only did Kreis lead Real Salt Lake to their first ever playoff appearance in 2008, he also coached the team to the club's only MLS Cup victory in 2009, to become the youngest head coach in league history to accomplish the feat.
There is little denying Kreis thoroughly enjoyed his time at the helm of Real Salt Lake, but even he could not stay away from the allure of New York City's bright lights and NYCFC's big budget.
However, after the expansion club's first year in the league, the team opted for the same off-field policy as they had gone with on the field. Big names mean more than MLS experience, and Kreis was sacked in favour 1998 World Cup winner, Patrick Vieira.
Vieira, has never held a head coaching position, but had taken up a training and youth development role with Manchester City shortly after he had retired in 2011. He was appointed as the club’s reserve team and Elite Development squad manager in 2013.
Much like the whole Frank Lampard fiasco that took place at the start of the 2015 campaign, the appointment of Vieira does not look very good from a public relations standpoint.
Manchester City has been accused in the past of using NYCFC as a farm team, and the hiring of Vieira does not
do much to change that. The Premier League giants seem to be using the MLS expansion club as a way to groom the Frenchman and to determine whether he is capable of managing a Premier League side one day.
Not only has Vieira never coached before, he has also never played professionally in North America. Simply put, he knows little about the soccer landscape on this side of the pond.
The 39-year-old could very well go on to have a joyous time in New York City, which may ultimately lead to a very successful coaching career down the line. But the fact that he will cut his teeth in MLS is not a good look for the club or the league.
Kreis was an experienced coach, who knew the league as well as anyone, and should have been given at least a second season to prove his worth. Instead, he was let go in favour of someone whose name will garner international headlines and is much more familiar to soccer fans across the globe.
It is no coincidence that all four teams remaining in the MLS playoffs have head coaches who have played in the league. Only time will tell if the decision to bring in Vieira was a good one, but for the time being, NYCFC fans have a reason to feel skeptical.