June 3, 2016
The honeymoon is over for NYC FC
By Michael Lewis
It has not been a glorious start to the season at Yankee Stadium for Andrea Pirlo and his NYC FC teammates.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Call it what you want:
The rose is off the bloom.
The honeymoon is over.
The bottom line is that New York City FC has to produce at home and it's downright embarrassing.
Boasting a $20 million-plus roster featuring the likes of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, City has set a modern Major League Soccer standard of underachieving at its home venue.
Some observers might say let up on the team because it is only a second-year franchise, and there should not be great expectations.
But if you think I am being too tough on the team, I point to NYC FC's management and owners, Manchester City, who set those lofty expectations. They gave Jason Kreis the ax last season because the team failed to reach the playoffs. In fact, he was a dead coach walking the final weeks of the season. Management wanted more.
In Kreis' place came Patrick Vieira, a 1998 World Cup winner with an impressive resume who is in his first coaching gig.
Vieira has introduced a unique attacking set up to City, using as many as four midfielders and three forwards in the attack. Sometimes it works, many times it hasn't.
Especially at home, if that's what you call a place in which a team has accumulated eight points in nine matches (1-3-5).
The team has been abysmal at Yankee Stadium, where it has lost 19 out of a possible 27 points. Those points can never be recovered. Call it many lost opportunities.
No soccer team can except success with such an poor home record.
Perhaps hitting the road will be the right tonic since the side has an excellent 3-2-1 record away.
But that's not the way it's supposed to be.
You're supposed to entertain your home fans with, hopefully, lots of goals and stellar play and plenty of points from wins and an occasional draw and even a loss once in awhile.
NYC FC (4-5-6, 18 points), which is fortunate to play in the mediocre Eastern Conference, is in fourth place, trailing the leading Philadelphia Union (6-3-5, 23) by five points.
The team has 11 of its 19 remaining games at enemy venues. With so much traveling ahead, you have to wonder if the miles will catch up to the team and its three over-30 Designated Players in the long run.
And if Vieira fails to revive the team's home fortunes, you have to wonder if the powers that be across the Atlantic will show him the door.
A third coach this early is a club's history would not be healthy.
City's stumbling start hearkens back to the early underachieving days of the MetroStars/Red Bulls in which there was a new coach at the start of the season for franchise's first five years. Nothing like seeing history repeating itself some 20 years later.
Gee, I thought we would learn from past mistakes.
The crowds have been solid, even though the faithful that showed up for Thursday's 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake hardly looked close to the 20,000 or so that was announced. While the team has a sizable season ticket base, the goal will be to grow it and not to see frustrated fans move away and spend their hard-earned money elsewhere in a city that has something for everyone.
NYC FC needs a victory -- make that many victories at home -- or face a sophomore season of great expectations and little realization and great disappointment.
There is time for City to turn things around, but when?
While the familiar refrain from players and coach has been "We're playing well and creating chances," that doesn't make the grade or help in the standings.
Points and results do because the last time I looked, MLS does not hand out points for almost goals or great play, but it does for draws and wins.
What has transpired at Yankee Stadium this season is highly unacceptable and downright embarrassing.
The fans deserve better.