November 2, 2015
Can NYC FC find a way to avoid being he modern-day version of the MetroStars?
By Michael Lewis
Once upon a time there was a soccer team from the New York area playing in its first professional soccer season ever in a league called Major League Soccer.
Let's call them the MetroStars.
They turned out to be a mess from the very start. By the start of their second season, they were on their third coach and wound up as the laughing stock of the league. It took them years to get back on track and to shed their reputation.
It began in 1996.
Eddie Firmani, who directed the original incarnation of the Cosmos to a pair of North American Soccer League titles was their first coach and he left some eight games into the team's inaugural season (depending on who you believe, he either was fired or resigned). He was replaced by Carlos Queiroz, who actually directed the team into the playoffs, but after the season the one-time Portuguese national coach was lured by the millions of Grampus Eight of the J-League in Japan.
He was succeeded by Carlos Alberto Parriera. Uneducated of the league's many unusual rules and regulations and a severe salary cap, the man who led Brazil to its first World Cup crown in 24 years in 1994 could not guide the MetroStars into the playoffs.
Parreira was lured by Saudi Arabia millions to coach its team at the 1998 World Cup. He was replaced by Alfonso Mondelo. Mondelo did not last out he season. Despite clinching a playoff berth in August, Mondelo was given the boot during a losing streak late in the regular season and was replaced by former U.S. national coach Bora Milutinovic. The team did not get out of the opening round of the playoffs.
Bora came back for the 1999 season in one of the most disastrous years for a team in the league's 20-year history.
Every time a new coach came in, he brought in new players as the roster was a revolving door.
Are you seeing a trend here?
Super fast forward to 2015.
As you probably know all too well already, a local team named New York City FC fired its coach after its inaugural season as Jason Kreis was given his marching orders Monday night.
It's not all that surprising considering there were reports about his possible demise two weeks ago.
Yet, that becoming reality on Monday doesn't make the announcement any saner.
I just hope NYC FC and its owners, Manchester City, know what they are doing.
While they are upset that the team underachieved and failed to reach the playoffs despite having players such as David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, they failed to learn from the recent history of MLS expansion teams that it takes a while for sides to literally get on their feet.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Neither was Roma.
Ditto for NYC FC.
I think the team has made a big mistake in giving Kreis the boot. He is one of American's best coaches, someone who I think can coach the U.S. national team someday. He'll find greener pastures in MLS, I am sure and he will be successful wherever he lands.
There is talk that City wants to bring in a foreign coach.
I'm not necessarily certain that is necessarily a good idea. History says that foreign coaches havenít enjoyed much success in the first two decades of the league. Perhaps City will buck the trend.
You need people who understand what is up, what is down and what goes sideways.
MLS has more convoluted rules and regulations than ever.
I like to compare them to balancing two quadratic equations on either side of a giant equal sign.
It ain't easy.
So, NYC FC will hire is second coach before it even starts its second season.
Usually a new coach means new players, which means whatever Kreis was trying to build will be dismantled.
Not a very good start, huh?
And this franchise has enough on its plate, having to play a baseball stadium for the foreseeable future (that is at least five years given how difficult it is to build a stadium in NYC (and the stadium search has been a confounding experience for the league and club, since MLS tried to force feed the citizens of Queens a stadium they did not want before an owner of a NYC expansion team was named).
Listen, I am a student of history. I try to learn from it and even from my mistakes.
I don't know if there is anyone a NYC FC, or Manchester City for that matter, who understands what has transpired before in the league, especially in a franchise that is across the river.
If not, they should do some remedial reading and make sure they don't repeat history.
After all, the last thing MLS needs is another laughing stock of a soccer team in New York City, especially with so much at stake in the 21st century.