Tuesday was a big day for New York City Football Club and their head coach, Jason Kreis, as they introduced English star Frank Lampard, Angelino, and Andoni Iraola (all pictured above). They will be making their debuts this Sunday against Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium.
This also came a day after the team signed Italian legend Andrea Pirlo from Juventus, and he will be making his debut on July 26th against Orlando City FC.
In addition to the excitement of Pirlo and Lampard joining David Villa, who has been phenomenal with a team-leading eight goals, NYC FC is playing their best soccer of the season. They have won four of their last five games and have 20 points with a 5-8-5 record, just three points behind the Red Bulls for the 6th and final playoff spot in the MLS Eastern Conference.
On Lampard’s debut on the 12th followed by Pirlo’s two weeks later being like a second opening day to the season, Kreis said, “For me, it’s just an exciting time. We’ve won some games, we’ve found some form, we’ve got players that are feeling more confident now, and now we’re adding in players to compete for positions, we’re adding in depth. It’s just a really good time I think to be a member of this group.”
Kreis said of Lampard now being a part of the team, “It’s been spectacular, I really couldn’t be happier. I didn’t really know what kind of trainer he was because when we were at Manchester, obviously we were very busy training our own team for the preseason, so didn’t actually get to go over and watch any of the first team train (Kreis was referring to January when NYC FC was at Manchester City headquarters and Lampard was playing for Man City), but from Minute One of our very first training session, he has shone to be a guy that leads by example and works extremely hard, so really couldn’t be happier as a coach – those are exactly the type of players that you want involved in your training sessions and that you want leading young players.”
On if his team is in a great spot entering the second half of the season after a rough start, Kreis said, “First, I think you can say rough start. It was rough, and it wasn’t that the start was rough, we actually started pretty well. We went through a stretch where we just couldn’t get things hammered out, couldn’t get all the details sorted out to get the results. Having said that, even through that stretch, there was always moments in every single game where it was good and you saw what we could be. We still aren’t a finished product. I feel very good where we’re at at the moment. I feel very good about the momentum that we have and I feel extremely good about all the additions that we’re making so it’s a positive time for our team and for our club and we need to enjoy that, but we also need to keep our feet on the ground and recognize that we need to continue to improve if we want to have a chance to do what we want to do, which is to win.”
Pirlo, Lampard, and Villa are three of the finest players to ever grace a football pitch. On how they can help the team in others ways besides on the field, Kreis said, “I talked to all three of the players individually about that because I think it’s critical that it’s not only what they’re going to do on the field, and it’s not only what they’re going to do on the field during the matches. In this league, you need to be focused on winning games, but you also need to be focused on developing young players, and that’s I think a little bit more important in our system because of our salary cap. All the players I think have a clear understanding that that’s something that I want, for them to work with the younger players, to talk with the younger players, to teach the younger players, and to speak with me because I’m a guy that has ambitions to continue to improve as a coach. I think that all those players certainly have experiences that they can share with me to help me improve as I move forward as well.”
Kreis said of any worries about working in Pirlo and Lampard into a team that has improved greatly of late, “No, I can’t say that I’m too concerned about it, honestly. I think that we’ve got a team that’s heading in the right direction, as I said. I think we’ve got a group of players that are rational and realistic about where we’re at right now. I don’t think that anybody in our group thinks that we’re at the top of the world and we shouldn’t be making additions. I think everybody recognizes that we need to improve, and in order to improve, you have to add players, and quality players. I think everybody feels very positive and very confident about where we’re at right now and where we’re going.”
On what position Pirlo will be playing, Kreis said, “I don’t think that it’s our intention to ask any player to come here and play differently than they have their entire career. We made these acquisitions and we’re able to make these signings because they fit with what we’re trying to do, and so I don’t think we’ll ask Andrea to play any differently than he has his entire career.”
Kreis said of any game of Pirlo’s for Italy or his clubs Juventus and AC Milan that stuck with him, “I don’t think there’s individual memories. With players like that, they have so many positive and spectacular contributions that to pick one out’s impossible. I think we just look at the player and look at the history and look at what he’s been able to do in his career, and say that this is an absolute no-brainer. If you have an opportunity to sign a player like this, you do so.”
To the question of if players like Pirlo, Villa, and Lampard, who played at the elite level of the sport will have issues with motivation here, Kreis said, “I think it’s something that you can be concerned with, but you do the right things by asking the players about that and getting them to speak openly and also being open with them about what this league is and how it can present some frustrations with dealing with young players and with dealing with players that maybe aren’t at the world-class level that you are and understanding in those players’ answers what their motivation is. But all three players are very clear in my mind extremely motivated to finish their career in a positive way and be part of something that could be truly special here.”
The MLS has become very west-coast centered, with the main clubs being in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, and Vancouver. On if NYC FC can become the anchor on the east coast, Kreis said, “I don’t know that I’d be too concerned or try to guess whether or not we can be an anchor. I do think that the Eastern Conference teams have typically been a little bit weaker, haven’t picked up as many point as the Western Conference teams. The Western Conference teams are the ones that are typically winning the MLS Cup. It’d be nice to be part of a shift in that metric for sure.”