I wrote a version of this essay Monday night, hot on the heels of the news that Jason Kreis and NYCFC had parted ways. That piece was full of vitriol and spleen and would probably have had Securitas escorting me from the premises today.
Wisely, I decided to sleep before posting, and upon reviewing the essay the next morning, discovered that while I still agree with many of the points, there was a more important concern lurking underneath my epithets and outrage – a concern that might even be useful should our Mancunian overlords be interested in listening.
And it’s this: America is not Europe.
Imitation of Kreis: Jason Kreis departs NYCFC
Now, I know what you’re saying: They know this. They get off the plane at JFK and whammo, it hits them right away – hey, what’s with the weird accents? Why is everyone driving on the wrong side of the street? How come my Dr. Who references are only being acknowledged by the guys in IT?
And of course they would know the soccer is different here too. They would say “It’s worse”. “Getting better,” perhaps, but not up to the standards of the Eurozone, with the possible exception of the MPL (the “Maltese Premier League”) or the LFL (the “Luxembourg Football League”).
But it’s different for another, more important, reason. Soccer is still nascent here. The club that Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak own is 19 years older than our country’s governing soccer body. The only player on NYCFC not older than our league is Angelino.
Said another way, we don’t have the infrastructure, the academies, the cultural framework that teams in Europe expect as a matter of course.
And that, frankly, was what was so encouraging about their decision to hire Jason Kreis. For here was a guy who would not make the splashy, superficial play. Here was a guy who patiently managed RSL through a dismal, 5-win first season, while building a team – without stars and without money – into a perennial MLS playoff contender and an MLS cup champion in his third year. (An observation I first heard from XM’s Eric Wynalda – not a Jason Kreis apologist by any stretch of the imagination)
In other words, Jason Kreis was exactly the kind of guy who would build an organization that would last. An organization that CFG really needed. That MLS needed. That would build a loyal fan base in the nation’s largest media market because nothing succeeds here like success.
In short, the hiring of Jason Kreis heralded to fans that we were not going to be in for the kind of revolving door sideline management that Red Bulls fans had endured for the past decade – with a parade of Europeans (Johnston and Backe) and South Americans (Osorio) and Americans (Arena, Bradley and Petke).
“I think CFG thinks they’re really making the right move for NYCFC” SoccerNewsday’s Nick Chavez told me, “But I think they’re looking at this like they would look at a big European club. They don’t trust American soccer minds/coaches, and will probably put a bigger name coach in the NYCFC coaching job and expect him to know how to improve the team.”
Last Word’s own Russ McKenzie – himself no stranger to MLS front office woes – surprisingly agrees with Chavez. “Honestly, I think it’s the best move for both sides. City clearly wanted someone that would do what they wanted, and Kreis wanted to build a team the ‘right way.’”
NBCSN’s Kyle Martino put it to me this way: “City and Kreis define success in different ways; Jason’s is more ‘inside the lines’-focused while NYCFC’s is more ‘outside’. Both are very important in a huge market but NYCFC has, so far, failed outside the lines because of poor decisions AND failed inside the lines by making decisions for Kreis. They have put a hastily built cart in front of an untamed horse.”
But do you think that either of the names being bandied about right now – Capello or Viera – are going to do better?
Chavez isn’t optimistic. “They are likely underestimating how much an outsider will need to adapt to MLS.”
And as Martino points out, that very challenge was exactly one of Kreis’s strengths “One of Jason’s most valuable skills is negotiating the myriad hurdles involved in building a successful team in MLS, but he couldn’t prove it.”
One has the feeling he’ll prove it somewhere. Much to CFG’s – NYCFC’s – ultimate regret.
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images