Schott: Has NYC FC’s Kreis Lost His Team?

New York City Football Club Head Coach Jason Kreis called out his team after their loss to the Colombus Crew on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, leading to concerns that there is a crisis, or Kreis-is, in this case.

Kreis said sternly about his team, “We need to work really hard, and we need to show, the players need to show if they want to be here and if they want to be a part of this, because I know the coaching staff does. I know the coaching staff cares an awful lot about this club and about the job we’re attempting to do. I’m not so sure that all the players do.”

NYC FC players posing before the game on Saturday against Columbus. Photo by Mike Lawrence.
NYC FC players posing before the game on Saturday against Columbus. Photo by Mike Lawrence.

The loss to Columbus dropped NYC FC to a 7-13-7 record with 28 points, just outside the last playoff spot. They have only seven games remaining, with only three left at Yankee Stadium. The issue is not the standings so much as how they are playing, which is not well, with a 1-4-1 in August.

NYC FC is not the typical expansion team, based on the fact that their parent club is Manchester City, they play in Yankee Stadium, and they signed three of the most accomplished soccer players ever, David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo.

Kreis said of the pressure on them to make the playoffs, ” First of all, I think it’s unfair. I think that there’s clearly not enough credit given to how hard it is to be an expansion team. In my point of view, expansion teams are set up in our league to not be able to succeed, for it to take some time, and that’s probably the right way to do it. Unfortunately, that means there has to be some patience and a bit of a longer view, which is very difficult to have.

“I think I’m probably more guilty than anybody in this club about having a lack of patience and wanting to win immediately. And yes, we have three very high-profile players (Villa, Pirlo, Lampard), but we have one (Villa) up until about a month ago, and we had two (Villa and Pirlo) until basically, he’s (Lampard) played two full matches. So, I think it would be very unfair to say that we spent all this money on three DP’s and come to the conclusion that we should make the playoffs. That’s a completely incorrect statement,” said Kreis.

Kreis said of the time before their next game on September 12th at F.C. Dallas, “First of all, we need to take a little bit of a break, step back and collect ourselves for what is, I think, pretty clear that we need to win every game that we play, in my point of view. And then we need to, after that small break, we need to work.”

This has been an up-and-down season for NYC FC, to say the least. They opened the season with a tie in Kansas City and then a magical 2-0 win over New England in their home opener at Yankee Stadium.

They did not win another game until June 6th, with an 11-game winless streak in between victories. David Villa missed time in that stretch, but was back by June, and they won three in a row.

They hosted the Red Bulls on June 28th, and it’s funny to say now considering where the teams presently are (Red Bulls in second place, NYC eighth), but NYC was going in on a high and the Red Bulls were reeling.

NYC FC got a goal from Tommy McNamara to open the scoring very early, but the Red Bulls got three goals in the second half to win it 3-1. Even though NYC won the next week, in July 4th in Montreal, they haven’t really been the same since the Red Bulls raided Yankee Stadium.

In early July, NYC FC began to drastically change their team, as they brought in Andoni Iraola from Atletico Bilbao, and Angelino, an 18-year old from the Manchester City Academy, to join the defense. Iraola has been mediocre, while Angelino is very speedy, but misses his assignments too often.

They also added Jefferson Mena, who has been nothing short of a disaster. One of his many low points came when he whiffed on clearing a pass against the Red Bulls on August 9th that led to a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal, part of their 2-0 win that night.

Frank Lampard, the midfielder who they brought in from Chelsea and then went to play for Manchester City last season, finally was set to play July 12th against Toronto. A couple of days before that game, he suffered a calf injury that set him back three weeks.

Lampard made his debut on August 1st against Montreal, coming off the bench to play the final 30 minutes and looked rusty out there, having issues completing his passes. He started the following week’s game on August 9th against the Red Bulls, and was very quiet except for a high-quality chance in the opening minutes.

Lampard then missed the next three games due to a quad injury before playing the game against Columbus on Saturday and was largely inneffective.

NYC FC also brought in Italian star midfielder Andrea Pirlo from Juventus on July 6th.

Pirlo made his debut against Orlando City on July 26th at Yankee Stadium, and he set up David Villa and Kwadwo Poku with some long passes for electrifying goals in a 5-3 win. The only other game in which he was as effective was the 3-1 win against DC United on August 13th.

Out of seven games Pirlo has played, he has been shut down in five of them, as the book on him is simple: just don’t give him any room to operate at midfield and be physical. The MLS is a far more physical league than Italy’s Serie A.

A lot of what Kreis said Saturday is a reflection of all these changes, and that the players have not had enough time to get continuity with each other. It was very tough to have a “transition time” to work in Lampard, Pirlo, Iraola, Angelino, and Mena 20 games into a 34-game season.

The time spent working in these players might “transition” NYC FC right out of the playoffs, and who knows how many out the door.

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