With the rumors of Kreis perhaps being fired and replaced with Patrick Viera and now Fabio Capello, I've seen a lot of outcry over this as a foolish thing for CFG to do. And while I understand the reasons why it's silly to fire your coach after one season as an expansion franchise, I also look at the past year and don't see what Kreis has displayed with NYCFC to prove he's the right coach moving forward either. Here's why:
I saw a coach reluctant to give consistent minutes to young talent. Shelton looked like an ideal strike partner for Villa since the preseason but we saw Nemec start instead with Shelton being played out wide all season with very few minutes in a striker role. Then we struck gold with Poku, but all year Kreis refused to give him consistent starts and/or minutes even in the face of consistent production. And I've heard many fans claim that this was perhaps his hands being tied by CFG but Kreis' reluctance was there even before Lampard and Pirlo arrived. And he's made constant critiques about Poku you haven't heard about almost any other player. First calling out his fitness, not wanting to comment on him after a brilliant performance, and then saying he needed more from Poku on the defensive end. And now we found out that Kreis was trying to trade Poku in the summer window to the Union, with CFG possibly nixing the deal. Remember - this wasn't a loan deal, this wasn't NYCFC getting a nice transfer offer from a club in Europe. This would've been a trade for allocation money or some asset like that. So it's quite clear that Kreis just did not really did rate Poku highly at all.
And then over the last month of the season he's given Angelino very little time once Wingert returned to full health. Even though Angelino had been one of the better players on the team, and not to mention Angelino is on loan and any hopes of perhaps getting him again on loan next season would depend on how much he was being used now. Kreis showed himself needing to stick to his "proven" veterans over younger talent, despite the fact we lost the majority of the games we did this season playing those same veterans. NYCFC has a talented young nucleus of players when you line them up: Mullins, Shelton, Poku, Mix, and McNamara. All talented players. There will be an opportunity to add another premium young talent in the upcoming SuperDraft. And with the ability to loan up to 4 players from Manchester City's Development Academy, an injection of youth should be a consistent occurrence for the club. Do you feel confident Kreis will trust younger players to take on bigger roles for the club, something that will be needed with players like Lampard and Pirlo (maybe even Villa) not guaranteed to play past this upcoming season?
Tactics & Leadership
All year it's been pretty obvious there has been a dearth in quality in the back line. Blame that on CFG, blame that on Reyna, blame whoever you like for that being the case. But even with that in mind Kreis has been very adamant in playing a possession based style. That works well when you have strong defenders and are capable of passing out of the back. With the exception of Angelino, and even Allen in this late run of form he's had, it was painfully obvious we could not play out of the back. And even the midfield was constantly susceptible to turning over the ball. If you have a poor defense and are not effective at keeping possession you are going to constantly require your defense to make great play after great play to keep a goal out. And that simply wasn't the case, even with Saunders' heroics. All year it seemed like the team was better suited to play a counter attacking style. Regardless of formation, which was another issue, we should've been more focused on fixing that defense and getting the ball to playmakers to strike back quickly. And with guys like Poku, Shelton, and Villa they had the pace and finishing ability to make teams pay on the counter. Mix also has done well in counter attacking play for the USMNT. Pirlo's passing and Lampard's trailing runs into the box would also play well on the counter too.
Building the type of back line needed for Kreis' style of play is hard to do on an MLS salary cap. It will take time and will probably have to come through building with youth. In the meantime, can Kreis cater his tactics to the roster he has available? Structure and leadership are more important right now than a specific system or style of play.
And speaking of leadership, one thing that can't be overlooked is he threw the team under the bus. These were his exact words again:
We need to work really hard," Kreis said. "We need to show — the players need to show — if they want to be here and they want to be a part of this. 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. But I’m not so sure that all the players do."
Kreis chose to take the team to task by way of the media. Maybe it was his last resort. Maybe he talked his head off to the club and it wasn't getting through. Maybe he was feeling the heat and chose to deflect it elsewhere. Who knows why he chose to make that comment. But can we say he endeared himself to the locker room by doing so?
Let's also consider this fact: even for the most realistic fan who knew playoffs would be too difficult to achieve in year one, who thought NYCFC would finish third worst in the league? Who thought the team would perform worse than Orlando City? Yes, even the most pragmatic fan would have to admit the results were not acceptable even considering all factors. The 13 game winless streak was abysmal. And while the team did not have Villa (injured), Mix (USMNT call-ups), or Lampard and Pirlo yet (summer window) for that stretch, there were also other issues at play. McNamara and Poku got little playing time in that stretch. Ned Grabavoy played consistent time as the team's lead playmaker at the tip of the diamond. Chris Wingert played consistent minutes at CB (until Kreis decided to try Facey there). And we cannot forget the Open Cup loss to the Cosmos. Any owner would be right to question their coach after losing to a team in a lower division league. But that leads into a bigger problem for Kreis: he was winless in the Battle for New York.
The team lost all 3 matches against the Red Bulls, and then loss the Open Cup match to the Cosmos. Would these losses have mattered if the team still made the playoffs? Maybe not. But losing those 3 matches played a big role in not only NYCFC missing the playoffs, but also in helping the Red Bulls win the Supporters Shield. CFG came in looking to take New York by storm and capitalize on the Red Bulls' lack of marketing to be the top team in the city. And all that did was essentially set up Red Bulls to piggy back on that marketing and then look the better by handing us 3 convincing losses (on nationally televised games no less). CFG could not be happy with that, nor should any ownership group be. And can we say that the Red Bulls were the more talented team? Not at all. But their coach had them fired up and hungry to win all 3 of those games. NYCFC could not say the same. NYCFC should've been the hungrier team, the team looking to prove themselves. Instead it was the Red Bulls.
I am not saying that firing Kreis is definitely the answer to make the team better, but let's go back to the original point: what has Kreis shown so far with NYCFC that proves he should continue with the club? What foundation have you seen him lay down that proves to you he's going to have this team playing at a much higher level? Me personally I would hope that's the case and I want this team to win whether he's the coach or not. But I have not much else to go on but hope right now. So I am honestly asking what he has shown as a coach this year to garner trust moving forward. Let's not keep talking about 2009 and RSL. If he's the right coach for NYCFC there should be key takeaways from this season that shows he is the man for the job. So, what are they?