In his postgame remarks, New York City head coach Jason Kreis was unusually pointed about his players' performance today against Columbus Crew SC. In fact, he wasn't so much pointed as out-and-out scathingly venomous.
Kreis was understandably upset after today's loss, said he's not sure all his players are committed to NYCFC's cause: pic.twitter.com/3dvuKihkp3— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) August 29, 2015
That's a remarkable statement. It's remarkable because it's the kind of thing you never hear from a functional team, or a successful coach. It's remarkable because it's the kind of thing that you'd never expect to hear from a buttoned-up, staid coach like Kreis, whose statements run more towards the stale cliché end of the spectrum.
It's remarkable because, if someone like Kreis is taking these kinds of shots at the players he's supposed to coach, it's effectively a white flag of sorts. Coaches like Kreis resort to doing something like this as a last resort; if it doesn't work, then he's effectively lost his locker room, and he might as well depart the scene.
Combine that with David Villa's statement after last week's capitulation against the LA Galaxy, and the picture becomes ever more clear: what looked like a team that was coming together in time for a playoff run has instead been thrown into chaos and dysfunction, following the mid-season additions of Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, and to a lesser degree Andoni Iraola. None of these three players have distinguished themselves in their brief tenures in the league.
In fairness, as Kreis mentioned after Lampard's signing last summer, mid-season acquisitions have a rich history of failure in MLS:
"For me, players that enter in the middle of the season are typical fails. The chances for those players to really contribute meaningfully in the second half of a season in MLS are very, very small."
With seven games left in the season, Kreis' words ring prophetic. Whether that's a result of lack of fitness, in Lampard's case, or the inevitable struggle that comes with adapting to playing in an utterly alien environment, as it likely is for Pirlo and Iraola, the result is the same: three players whose ability to contribute is greatly diminished, at a time when their team greatly needs them to do so.
The problem is that, having arrived, Kreis has little choice but to play them, regardless of how they perform. A "healthy" Lampard and a "healthy" Pirlo are always going to play over players like Tommy McNamara and Kwadwo Poku, regardless of whether the latter are more effective contributors than the former. The same goes for Iraola; he's not going to sit for RJ Allen or Jeb Brovsky.
The end result is what we're seeing here: a team that's effectively falling apart, right at the point when it needs to come together. You might ask, But why wouldn't Kreis do this behind closed doors, in the locker room?
How do we know he hasn't? My hunch, from having followed Kreis in Real Salt Lake, and talked with him numerous times, is that he's done that. He's probably done everything he could behind closed doors. This is a last-ditch effort to get his players to snap to attention. It probably won't work. If it doesn't, then Kreis might as well pack his bags.
And if he does? That would be a grievous mistake for a team like New York City. A team like Seattle would love to snap up Jason Kreis; he'd be reunited with his RSL comrade Garth Lagerwey (whom New York City could've hired, but chose not to). And whom would New York City choose to replace him? An untested Patrick Vieira, who would hammer home all the jibes that New York City is a Manchester City satellite? Another European retread, who would continue the rich history of foreign coaches failing in MLS? It's certain that few marquee coaches would countenance the level of control over signings that CFG reputedly have; Bob Bradley certainly wouldn't. So: who replaces Kreis?
The sad thing is, it's entirely unnecessary. We've seen another team run this playbook. They reside in the bucolic environs of Harrison, New Jersey. But so far, New York City FC seem bound and determined to repeat most of the same mistakes that the New York Red Bulls have made as a team. It's said that history repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
One might think to inform New York City FC. But it's doubtful that they'd listen.