Greg Sleter is a journalist, a New Yorker and a football fan. In our latest podcast, we discussed the MLS playoffs. Here, in his debut piece for Under The Cosh, Greg examines New York City FC’s decision to sack their manager after only one season in the job after he failed to take his side to the postseason. Follow Greg on Twitter @GregSleter.
At the start of the 2015 Major League Soccer season, making the playoffs was the goal for expansion side New York City FC.
While admirable, the reality is that first-year teams in U.S.-based sports leagues rarely make the postseason. But this lofty target, and the failure to reach it, ultimately cost NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis his job.
The move is head scratching for a team that while not overly successful on the Yankee Stadium pitch in their first season, did provide New York City with its own major professional soccer franchise. The appetite of New Yorkers for an MLS team was evident early on, with more than 40,000 supporters braving the March cold in the Bronx to cheer their side to a 2-0 home opening victory over defending Eastern Conference champions New England.
Questions as to why Kreis lost his job after one season remain. Was not making the playoffs the only reason? Not likely.
There has been much conjecture online about the former Real Salt Lake head coach’s dismissal, but outside of an explanation coming from Kreis or NYCFC management, the real reasons likely won’t be known for sometime, if ever. One thing for sure is that Kreis will not be out of a job for long, showing that he is a solid coach and one that NYCFC should have given more time to.
But beyond the change in on-field management, there appears to be a bigger issue at hand for the powder blues from New York City.
Firing Kreis after one season is the kind of impatience English Premier League fans have become accustom to, as the coaching carousel in England’s top flight seldom stops spinning. Manchester City is a prime example, having dismissed Roberto Mancini in 2013 a year after leading the Citizens to the Premier League title.
More recently, City have again been champions, but current boss Manuel Pellegrini faces nearly constant speculation that his job is in danger despite the team’s success.
On this side of the Atlantic, patience with NYCFC would be welcome. While any manager bears responsibility for his team’s performance, not all was bad for the MLS newcomers. Despite finishing outside the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, NYC’s 49 goals were more than seven of the 12 teams that qualified for the post season.
In addition, the club regularly attracted crowds of 30,000 to a baseball stadium and its impromptu pitch, with that number swelling to more than 40,000 for key games including the home opener vs. the Revolution and the first home match against metro rivals New York Red Bulls.
But management, be it in New York or Manchester, must also absorb some of the responsibility. Frank Lampard was paraded across the metropolis, then played for Manchester City and subsequently missed several games for NYCFC due to injury. In addition, the signing of Andrea Pirlo was greeted by the fans with excitement, but the Italian legend’s play was often lacking and he did little to help his new club.
As of writing, NYCFC have yet to name a new head coach. Whoever the club brings in, here’s hoping he is given more time to develop a winning side for a fan base that has shown a passion for its new team.