The life of a soccer manager is precarious at the best of times, but taking on the senior role at a Major League Soccer expansion club is clearly a triumph of hope over the experience of others. The dismissal last week of Jason Kreis by New York City FC only adds to the already dismal record of inaugural managers of Major League Soccer clubs.
Of the 24 first year teams entering MLS, 46% of their managers have survived for only one season or less, and 75% have failed to make it beyond two seasons.
The rather terse announcement of Kreis’ departure was in stark contrast to the optimism surrounding his appointment in Dec. 2013. At that time there was heavy emphasis placed on Kreis’s MLS experience and how pivotal it was in making the appointment.
“His experience in MLS speaks for itself,” and “with the leadership of Jason and Claudio (Reyna, NYCFC’s Sporting Director) we are providing New York City FC with both top-level knowledge of soccer in the US and world class soccer know-how from Europe. This is the ideal platform for NYCFC to start,” opined the club’s Chief Executive Officer, Ferran Soriano. Nearly two years later and after a first season record of 10 wins, 7 draws, 17 losses, the initial appointment has Kreis looking more like a sacrificial lamb than a key element in building NYCFC.
Monday’s announcement of Patrick Vieira’s appointment as the next NYCFC manager on a three-year contract is no ordinary importation of another foreign coach to MLS but rather a visible demonstration of Manchester City’s strategy of global diversification.
There again, to describe it as a Manchester City strategy may not be totally accurate. Manchester City is only one of four club entities located around the world owned by the City Football Group, an Abu Dhabi based holding company. Manchester City in England, NYCFC of MLS, Melbourne City in Australia and Yokohama F. Marinos that plays in Japan’s J-League are all owned by CFG.
The CFG approach is certainly innovative. Ownership of four clubs allows CFG to spread overhead over a broader base while operating in four different regions of the world. The structure also means CFG can offer global companies activation opportunities around the world. The Nissan deal consummated in July is a visible success of the CFG approach.
These and some others are the positives than come from the CFG plan. But there are drawbacks and discernible differences between theory and practice; or, as Mike Tyson, once pointed out, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”