Patrick Vieira makes sense for NYCFC, regardless of stereotypes and generalizations

The announcement that Patrick Vieira will replace Jason Kreis as manager of New York City FC has been meet with near unanimous disapproval. He’s foreign! He has no MLS experience! He’s foreign! He’s only using this as a stepping stone to the Man City job! HE’S FOREIGN!!!!

Though the limited track record for great European footballers turned MLS managers isn’t great, Vieira and NYCFC are both unique cases that complicate comparisons to previous failures.

First and foremost, there’s the matter of Vieira’s willingness to learn. MLS fans and journalists seem to take a perverse delight in the notion that foreign players and coaches couldn’t possibly grasp the intricacies of the league, whether it be the travel and wide array of climates or the bureaucratic and ever changing league rules. It speaks to a deep-seated inferiority complex that there’s always a rush to assess internationally renowned legends of the game as being cut down to size by a league its backers feel is constantly disrespected and underappreciated.

But if any outsider is going to respect the league and not assume that his vast knowledge of the game is all he needs to get by in MLS, it’s probably Vieira. He’s already demonstrated a willingness to learn and toil out of the spotlight by working up the youth development ranks at Man City after his retirement, instead of holding out for a job as Premier League manager as others of his stature might have. Which brings us to the next criticism of Vieira’s NYCFC appointment: that he’s only taking the job to work his way up the City Football Group organization.

Again, that this is viewed as a negative only proves the unwillingness to accept MLS’s place in the world. New York City FC becoming the biggest club in MLS and a feeder for Man City are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts.

For better or worse, CFG have made it clear that they have no intention of building a typical MLS club. Their priority is aging stars and their own youth prospects, which is why Kreis simply wasn’t a good fit. He didn’t have the respect of either of those groups and cared more for the MLS journeymen that he’s grown accustomed to in his lifetime within the league (and CFG couldn’t care less about). Someone like Vieira, however, will have more clout with the likes of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, and Frank Lampard, as well as the young players “on loan” from Man City, perhaps being able to get more out of them. And if Vieira is only taking this job to prove himself to his bosses, then it stands to reason that he will be desperate to succeed and prove his worth, while they, in turn, might be willing to give a like-minded apprentice they’ve been grooming for years now a bit more slack than someone like Kreis.

Will Vieira definitely succeed? Of course not. MLS is, by design, one giant coin flip. The league’s desire to put parity above all else has made it so the final four teams in the playoffs this season have the 11th, 13th, 19th and 20th largest payrolls in the league. There are no guarantees for anyone.

But if we’re going to assume that no foreign manager will ever succeed in MLS because that’s the way it’s been to this point and every such appointment should be met with immediate derision, then, by that logic, the U.S. men’s national team will never win a World Cup and should probably stop trying, because they’ve never done it before, right?


  1. lah says:

    “by that logic, the U.S. men’s national team will never win a World Cup and should probably stop trying, because they’ve never done it before, right?”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

  2. tp says:

    two things-

    1. Gary Smith

    2. Fair enough analysis of Kreis, but the NYCFC heads are idiots to expect anyone to succeed in any league when forced to create a midfield with (the current stylings of) Lampard and Pirlo shoehorned in. Not because they are aging stars (Villa was fantastic all year, for example), but because they completely destabilize central midfield when played together. NYCFC failed because of a massive lack in defensive midfield last season. So if Vieira is expected to start the (even more) aging stars again next season, he’ll fail too. Good luck to him, though.

    • Brooks Peck says:

      Re: Gary Smith, those with modest careers abroad are welcomed with open arms in MLS, but those who dare to succeed at the highest levels must be taken down a peg.

      And on Lampard and Pirlo, I’m not convinced that definitely won’t work at all. I think the fact that both came in midseason had a lot to do with their problems.

  3. I don’t think the fact that Vieira is a foreigner is the big issue here.

    I think it’s his lack of experience in the US that will be the big issue to overcome.

    There have been foreign coaches with success in MLS. There is a guy in Seattle that isn’t an American that has done quite well throughout his MLS career.

    I believe the fact that something that has never worked before should be met with skepticism about it’s ability to work in the future. That’s not to say that Vieira is guaranteed to fail with NYCFC. I’m just saying I wouldn’t bet a large sum of money on Vieira working out all that well.

    And as far as Vieira using the job as a stepping stone, so what if he is? How many players want to use MLS as a stepping stone to playing in Europe? Most do! Why would a coach doing the same thing be an issue?

    • ajksoccer says:

      Sigi moved to the US when he was 4 so I wouldn’t exactly call him a foreign coach. I agree with you, the lack of experience in the US with MLS is the big issue. But there’s a first time for everything so maybe it’ll work out.

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