Empire XI: NYCFC are Moving in Right Direction


Staff Writer

They are an easy target for rival fans to hate. They are also the perfect object for bloggers to express their cynicism even in its nascent stages.

Nevertheless, New York City FC are on the right path to frustrate them and many others with a plan for on-the-field success that every other team in the league should envy.

While NYCFC Head Coach Jason Kreis acknowledged the dilution of talent as an issue this expansion side would inevitably have to face, the lack of any tangible plan for early success would be just as harmful. As an example, of the five teams to have most recently joined MLS (Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union) the Sounders and the Timbers are the only teams to have won a playoff series. Additionally, the Sounders are the only team to have retained their original coach.

The lack of success that the expansion teams have had is a consequence of overexcitement. Each team successfully created a ton of fanfare for their launch but the fanfare was as much a product of the supporter groups as it was through the work each team put in. Each group did an impressive job to help establish an audience for the on-field product but it was evident that the front offices did not have a cohesive plan to create a successful team.

While 20% (one in five) of these teams retained their original coach, only 10 of the 55 opening day players featured in their team’s last competitive starting lineup of the season. The numbers lead to a simple conclusion; the five newest teams in the league have had a massive amount of overhaul with their rosters and coaching staffs due to a lack of organizational strategy.

That is where NYCFC differs for the good.

While all the talk about the ‘city-way’ may be food for those who call NYCFC a ‘satellite’ team for Manchester City, it would be moronic for the soccer operations staff at City to not maximize the resources that are available. That’s why we heard Claudio Reyna utter the words scouting network so frequently during the team’s press conference. The global scouting network already allows for Reyna to identify potential DPs for City and of course, City has the money to pay for them.

Additionally, letting Kreis work on-site with Manchester City’s staff for the upcoming six months can be classified as a novel concept but it is really just a case of common sense prevailing. For all of Kreis’ positive traits as a head coach, he is still relatively inexperienced and could use as much additional tutelage as possible. Therefore it makes sense for NYCFC to use the built in connections it has and allow him to work with Manuel Pellegrini in Manchester. That should serve as advice for both the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA on how to establish a network of soccer teams that benefits all parties.

The one on-field hurdle that still leaves something to be desired is NYCFC’s youth academy setup. However, it is a little unfair to have expected all those details to have been revealed during Kreis’ introductory press conference and it is a tertiary concern for the team. The first and second concerns for the team are squad building and signing DPs. That being said, the youth academy presents the best opportunity for NYCFC to build a local presence. Most importantly, a solid youth academy presents the most cost-effective strategy in producing first team talent.

For all the rhetoric that is spewed during press conferences, there was one takeaway from NYCFC’s — the team is laying the groundwork for solid organizational success.

Empire XI

1. Michael Bradley’s return to MLS was undoubtedly shocking and it has led to talk about who will be the next American player to return from Europe. Oguchi Onyewu’s name came up after he was released by Queens Park Rangers but the former AC Milan defender quickly moved on to Sheffield Wednesday in the English Championship.

2. It goes without saying that Onyewu needs playing time to be considered for the World Cup but if he gets that, don’t write him off yet. His World Cup experience makes him a valuable asset but that is not enough for him to get a spot alone. If his physical ability returns, then it would be a wise move for Jurgen Klinsmann’s staff to take more than a passing look at him.

3. After refusing to report to Schalke’s winter camp, Jermaine Jones received word that his contract will not be renewed. Jones’ current contract expires on June 30 and Schalke have until the end of the month to sell him but there is no word on any potential suitors.

4. This can be very ugly for Jones who is burning a bridge by not reporting and leaves his playing time with the club in major limbo if a move is not completed. Additionally, his expiring contract makes him a hard to move asset as teams know they can wait six months to sign him for free.

5. It would be highly unlikely for any MLS team to want to pay a transfer fee for the 32-year old Jones and as Steve Davis notes at ProSoccerTalk, age does play a big factor in preventing teams from giving Jones the DP contract he would likely want. Although it would be nice if Davis did not drop the disciplinary record narrative. That should not be as much of a deterrent as he or many other critics of Jones’ play would suggest. Jones does have timing working in favor of him if an MLS team wants to sign him given the combination of the World Cup, contract expiration and MLS transfer window opening for the summer that would allow him to feature soon after the US’ World Cup run ends.

6. While he probably won’t go number one in the draft, UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake is receiving universal praise from those at the MLS Combine. Blake, who already been called into the Jamaican senior national team, has already been labeled a “future face of the franchise” by TopDrawerSoccer who ranked him as the fifth best upperclassmen in college soccer.

7. TopDrawer has Blake going to the Vancouver Whitecaps where he would backup David Ousted in goal and allow the youngster to develop. Ousted is still relatively young at 28 and can be a valuable asset for the Whitecaps in the transfer market once they determine that Blake is ready to take the helm.

8. An overlooked aspect of Mike Petke’s success with the Red Bulls last season was the fact that he was already familiar with the entire team due to his role as assistant manager during the 2012 season. This could have provided a basis for Wilmer Cabrera who looked ready to assume the Colorado Rapids job once Oscar Pareja left for FC Dallas.

9. Instead Cabrera has been hired as manager at Chivas USA and now the Colorado Rapids are in a pickle. For a franchise that had potential to become a contender, losing the two franchise leaders in such a short span with the preseason set to begin is a disaster for a team looking to take the next step.

10. It would not be surprising if the Rapids get a new coach in time for the draft or in its immediate aftermath. It goes without saying that the Rapids need to look for a coach who has a solid reputation working with youngsters but more importantly, the prospective coach needs to have a penchant for helping a team overachieve, maybe Robin Fraser?

11. The BCS MegaCast was television awesomeness that may be reprised for the World Cup Final. The normal broadcast has always been a strongsuit for ESPN but each of the additional aspects of the MegaCast have a place for the final. If this happens, you can guarantee that I will be watching the film room with hopefully some of the best coaches from MLS and Europe. For fun, I’ll say I want to watch a game with Roberto Martinez, Jose Mourinho and Bob Bradley in the film room.


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