Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saunders to Man City?

Well, this is interesting. According to the Sun, Man City is looking at Josh Saunders.
MANCHESTER CITY are bringing in New York City keeper Josh Saunders for a month to have a look at him. Saunders, 34, was one of the success stories of a hard first season for the new MLS outfit, which is owned by City. He did enough to earn an extended review by Manuel Pellegrini’s club. The Puerto Rico international could be offered the chance to become a back-up keeper at the Etihad. And he will benefit from working with Joe Hart while he is over.
Good opportunity for Josh, although I'd rather keep our players here to work with Vieira.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fansided: "NYCFC Will Become American Arsenal"

Fansided's Arsenal blog Pain in the Arsenal has an interesting take on the Vieira hire.
Patrick Vieira's NYCFC Will Become American Arsenal

By Josh Sippie

Patrick Vieira has crossed the big Atlantic pond to assume the duties of manager of New York City Football Club. NYCFC is loaded with talent and they were a major disappointment to have missed the MLS playoffs. With the likes of Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa, a little time may solve everything.

But so, too, could a new look.

Patrick Vieira has been working within the Manchester City system since he retired from football. He is staying in that system by moving to their sister club, NYCFC. But that does not mean that Vieira has turned baby blue on us.

“I think the one who really inspired me was Arsene Wenger because of the number years I spent with him at Arsenal,” Patrick Vieira said, as quoted by InsideFutbol.

While we don’t want to read into his statements too much, it is rather obvious that in terms of coaching, we are going to see a lot of Arsene Wenger coming out in Patrick Vieira. That is who Vieira played over 400 matches for. That style of play and management is built into his internal wiring. But it is a successful style of play and management.

NYCFC has the tools to enact a similar style. They have the pass master in Andrea Pirlo. They have the running striker in David Villa, they have plenty of wild card attackers like Poku and Khiry Shelton. The midfield is bolstered by Frank Lampard. This is a team with quality, they just need unity and a direction. And a defense. But that is a topic for another blog. No one brings out a spirit of team unity like Arsene Wenger. Good thing his protege will be taking over a team in need of unity.

Patrick Vieira was the heart and spine of Arsenal’s Invincible squad that went on to find so much success. He has been in the trenches as the team captain, knowing full well what has to be done to establish consistent success. He witnessed it for nine years and he is still seeing it today. Arsenal is what prolonged success looks like. That is the kind of thing that Patrick Vieira is going to try to build for NYCFC.

They have the foundation, as mentioned. They have youth, experience and flare. Patrick Vieira can bring that unity out of them and build a lasting legacy at the club. There is no one better to model something like that after than Arsene Wenger. Patrick Vieira also cited inspirations like Jose Mourinho and Fabio Capello, but the predominant voice in his head is going to be the deep, French-accented, Terminator-like voice of Arsene Wenger. And that is going to benefit NYCFC immensely.

Although, he better do it soon because once Arsene Wenger retires, Arsenal is stealing Patrick Vieira back to the Emirates.
He's pretty bullish on NYCFC's upside; I'm a little more skeptical. But if Vieira can do anything like this in New York, it's going to be amazing to watch.

Friday, November 13, 2015

More on the MCFC Badge Consultation

I'm watching with interest as Man City continues its badge re-design process, to see what we can learn about City Football Group.

They've set up a "consultation space" outside the stadium, where Cityzens, fans, and members of the supporters groups can make their voices heard.

Lots of emphasis on the old badge. Lends weight to the thought that they might be going back to an older design, if possibly updated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

ESPN: "The Turf War"

ESPN is running, as part of its E:60 series of short films, a report that all fans of the sport should see.

There appears to be a link between crumb rubber (those sticky black pellets used on artificial turf) and cancer in soccer players, especially goalkeepers.

Watch it. Now.

I'm very glad that my kids only play on grass. We know that concussions and sub-concussive hits from headers can potentially cause health problems, but it looks as though the turf we've used to grow the game across the nation could also pose its own risk to the sport.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's Vieira!

Getty Images

It's official - Patrick Vieira has been named the new head coach of New York City FC. We had discussed the possibility on the most recent "From the Factory Floor" podcast and I had thought him a pretty good potential hire.

From the press release:
Patrick Vieira appointed as New York City FC Head Coach

November 9, 2015
10:30 AM EST

New York City Football Club is delighted to announce the appointment of Patrick Vieira as the new head coach. Vieira has signed a three-year contract with the Club and takes up his role on 1 January 2016 in advance of pre-season for its second MLS campaign.

Patrick joins New York City FC from his role as head coach of the Elite Development Squad at Manchester City Football Club, a position he took up following retirement from an unrivalled playing career that saw him compete at the highest level in Italy, the UK and his native France. He captained the French National team and was part of their World Cup winning side in 1998. Alongside a World Cup winners’ medal, his playing honors include a UEFA European Championship with France and at Club level, three English Premier League titles, five FA Cup titles and three Serie A titles.

Vieira, who is known for his leadership and motivational skills at the highest senior level, also has extensive experience developing youth talent. His Elite Development Squad has secured a Premier League International Cup under his leadership and is currently top of its group in the UEFA Youth League.

Patrick will travel to New York tomorrow to meet his playing squad and to spend time with Sporting Director Claudio Reyna and Goalkeeping coach Rob Vartughian.

Details of the wider coaching team will be announced in due course.

Speaking of the appointment, New York City FC President Tom Glick said,

“The open position of head coach at New York City FC has prompted significant interest and I have no doubt that in Patrick, we have one of the most impressive young coaches I have encountered. Patrick’s ability, vision and the respect in which he is held by everyone who works with him, speaks volumes for his character and capacity to succeed. I am excited to work with him and I know the energy he will bring to the role will have a hugely positive impact across the Club.”

Echoing these thoughts, Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said,

“Patrick was a legendary player and has all the characteristics required to make a fantastic Head Coach. His exemplary drive, passion and dedication have always marked him out as a rare talent and all of those qualities, alongside his understanding of the game, make him a natural choice.

Patrick is a natural born leader. He has played under some of the best managers in the world and experienced different leagues and playing styles, enjoying success everywhere he has been. We believe he can bring that knowledge and experience to take New York City FC forward in MLS. We are looking forward to him joining us in the coming weeks.”

Talking of his new role, Patrick Vieira said,

“I am delighted to take up the role of Head Coach of New York City FC. To work with this squad, with Claudio Reyna and Rob Vartughian and the fantastic support team that is in place, is an exciting prospect for any coach.

This established football set up, together with a passionate and loyal fan base, located in a special city which I know well, makes for an unparalleled opportunity that I am delighted to seize with both hands. I cannot wait to get started.”
Obviously, as a Gooner from way back I'll always remember him in red and white, especially as the captain of the "Invincibles" in 2003–04. I'm excited to see him here.

From Vieira's perspective, this looks like a no-brainer; if he succeeds then he'll be hailed as a hero of soccer in this country and will have his pick of managerial jobs and if he fails then the blame will most likely fall on City Football Group or MLS in general.

I respect what Vieira has been doing since hanging up his boots; building his coaching career from the ground up. He's been steeped in City Football Group's philosophy, whatever that is, and we'll see what he can bring to the touchline.

At the very least, he's familiar with world-class football and what it takes to win.

Hopefully we'll get to see him raise the MLS Cup.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sports Business Journal Interview: Tom Glick

Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal has an interview with NYCFC's team president. This was originally published before the firing of Jason Kries, and while it might have been an interesting bit of fluff before it seems positively inconsequential now.

We have clubs in New York, Manchester, Yokohama and Melbourne, but we have offices in nine locations. … You just learn to use your smartphone to see what time it is in all these places and if it’s an acceptable time to call.

What we knew is that New York has more soccer fans than any other city in the country, so this is all about creating a club for New Yorkers with New Yorkers, a real sense of belonging.

We’re averaging 30,000 fans. We just sold our 19,000th season ticket, well ahead of our plan, which was to sell 17,000.

The atmosphere at Yankee Stadium is maybe the best surprise. An authentic, organic soccer experience, and it’s a real distinctive atmosphere in New York sports.

The English Premier League is the best and most important league in the world. I think it’s hard to argue otherwise.

The revenues, the global viewership, the talent … it’s … continuing to now put some space between itself and the other leagues, so it’s exciting to be part of that, something that is truly global and being viewed in all parts of the world at all times.

This was a bet on the city of New York as well as on soccer in the U.S., but specifically on Major League Soccer’s model as a league. We’re convinced that the growth will continue to be steady, and may even accelerate.

Startups are a lot of fun.

I have been blessed to be part of a few startups and stadium builds in minor league baseball. We built a stadium in Lansing, Mich., in 1996, [and the] city of Sacramento in 2000, and had new clubs arrive. They’re incredibly fun times, intense and fast paced.

It’s completely different than Manchester City, a 130-year-old team that is now on a very exciting journey these last seven years — the fastest-growing club over those seven years — but this is a brand-new team.

The sport of soccer is unique, and maybe a bit more similar to ice hockey here in the States in terms of the undivided attention that it commands amongst its fans.

The thing you will notice if you’ve been to a game in Europe [is] no one wants to say hello, to be thanked for coming, to be asked how things are going, no matter how friendly you are while the game is going on, because the game is so important. So for 90 minutes, it is commanding everyone’s attention.

In the States we are more commercial, and I think that’s OK.

It’s OK to be more commercial, because ultimately the business of sports and entertainment continues to grow.

These sorts of American sports management commercial techniques are being spread around the globe, but there are also great ideas in Europe, in Asia, in the U.K. that are also coming the other way.

If I reflect on what’s been important to me and the organizations I’ve worked for, it’s probably two things. The first is having a great upline. Really being conscious of the organization that you’re joining and the people or the person who is your upline and who you will learn from and get advice.

I’ve been really fortunate to have people like Tom Dickson and Sherry Myers in Lansing, Mich., to Art Savage in Sacramento, Scott O’Neil when I was at the NBA, and now I have a great upline here in Ferran Soriano. Just really bright, strategic, analytical, creative leaders, marketers and managers.

The second is having great people in my teams, and this is certainly one of the things in terms of leadership that I focus on: building teams, building teams with great people.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working with City Football Group [is] just the personal and professional adventure of doing business in Shanghai, Tokyo, Melbourne, Jakarta, Paris, Los Angeles, New York. It’s the global aspect of being relevant and meeting people around the world.

Being able to reflect that in our team, including in terms of having people from so many cultural backgrounds, allows us to not only relate better, but to have better solutions.

What is happening around the sport of soccer in China is fascinating right now. There is a top-down commitment, an ambitious commitment, to the sport.

Everything that is being done in creating and distributing more content around the life of an athlete, a club or a sport is fascinating.

We’re always trying to think of ways to get things in the hands of the consumers, whether it’s someone taking a taxicab across town or the subway, or on a flight on their handheld.

Tend to still be a nut for a ballpark, so it’s always exciting to see the innovations when there are new stadiums, or in renovations like we’ve seen with the Dolphins and Patriots.

My recipe on the New York to Manchester or London flight is to eat at the airport. No dinner, no drinks, no movie and get your head right down. … Just be in denial about the jet lag.

Just had a few days down in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, so I got through a couple of rounds of golf and a couple of good books.

I enjoy a bit of running, and watching live sports, which allows me to switch off a bit. I get too wound up at our games.
All well and good. Now find us a coach.

Friday, November 6, 2015

From the Factory Floor: "Until Next Year"

I was honored to join the From the Factory Floor podcast for the NYCFC season-review show.

Not surprisingly, we talk about the decision to fire Coach Kreis. I hadn't really considered the season a failure until the club fired him. It's an expansion franchise that garnered 20,000 season ticket holders and began to make Major League Soccer a real force in this city.

Listen to the podcast on their site.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Where Have We Seen That Badge Before?

Yesterday, the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) announced its newest club = Memphis City FC.

Hmm. That badge looks very familiar. Where have I seen that before?

Huh. Would you look at that.

Let's stop the animation for a moment and superimpose the NYCFC badge on top of the Memphis badge at 50% transparency.

They didn't even bother to disguise it very much; the rings are all the same, from the dark/orange/dark along the outside to the innermost white ring. In addition, the "FOOTBALL CLUB" text along the bottom is identical. Whoever "designed" the Memphis City version obviously used the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop to change a couple colors, slapped their own MCFC monogram over the NYCFC, and swapped out the upper ring of text and pyramids for New York's pentagons. Really sloppy job.

Now, it's not uncommon for one designer to be inspired by the work of another. But this sure looks to be a direct lift, in which they took the NYCFC crest and made some simple changes. There's a common misconception that if you take somebody else's intellectual property, like a logo, and change it 20% or 25% or 30% or whatever the resulting design is your property. That is utterly false; no amount of changes can make somebody else's IP magically become yours. This is why many professional designers are so careful about their research and influences, as even inadvertent lifts can prevent them from registering their own work. And there's nothing inadvertent about this one, from the circles to the "FOOTBALL CLUB" along the bottom.

We'll see what reaction we get from NYCFC. The NPSL is a combination amateur/semi-pro league, in the fourth tier of the US Soccer pyramid. Copyright law, however, usually requires owners to enforce their legal protections in every case or lose them altogether.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kreis Out!

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

NYCFC has fired head coach Jason Kreis after just one season.

Here's the statement from the club:
New York City Football Club can confirm that they have parted company with Head Coach Jason Kreis. The announcement comes following a review conducted at the end of a disappointing campaign. The decision has also been made for Miles Joseph and CJ Brown to leave the Club.

Prior to the start of the season, it was agreed with the coaching team that the securing of a playoff place was an appropriate target for this year. A win rate of less than one in three games and a points tally which was the second lowest in the league is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed.

While the challenges of building and integrating a new team are recognized, it was felt by the Board, following a comprehensive review, that there was not enough evidence of the dynamics required to improve the performance of the team for the next season and beyond.

Speaking of the decision, New York City FC President Tom Glick, said:

“The decision to part company with Jason and his team after two years of working together has not been taken lightly and this is a difficult announcement for all involved.

We thank Jason for his passion, his efforts and for his contribution to the historic inaugural season of New York City FC. Many memories of this first season will be indelibly etched in the minds of all involved with the Club and Jason and his team have played a huge part in that.

We wish him all the very best in what will undoubtedly be a continued successful career in soccer management.”

The Club is committed to ensuring that a suitable candidate is in place in good time to prepare for the 2016 season and an announcement will be made when a candidate is confirmed.
Just as an aside, can this club please find some somebody to write these press releases in American English? You're in New York now, boys and girls. It's long since time.

I do appreciate that the club isn't satisfied with the results on the pitch. Nobody's satisfied with the results on the pitch. But expansion franchises aren't known for hitting the ground running. We can't have expected this club to pull a Seattle Sounders and win a trophy in their first season; they had fifteen years of infrastructure-building before joining MLS.

I myself have been critical of Kreis over the past few months, his tendency to play his men out of position and his unwillingness to stick with anything long enough to gel. But he hasn't had a full squad for more than a couple months. Hell, City Football Group took away one of his DPs for the first half of the season, and now they're holding him responsible for the results.

The obvious question is: who will they find to replace him? Will they find somebody else steeped in MLS, or look for a big-name European coach?

I've defended this club through its mistakes and missteps because I've chosen to take the long view. Building a true soccer culture in NYC, a true MLS culture, will take time. For the first time, I think the club has lost that perspective. And it bothers me.

UPDATE:  Coach Kreis has issued a statement on Twitter:

A class act all the way. Thank you, coach.