"We are building a truly authentic New York team. This is not a Manchester City team or a brand play or a marketing trick -- this is real. This is a team that's going to play beautiful soccer in New York."
That is what New York City FC chief executive Ferran Soriano told ESPN's Men in Blazers podcast in July 2014 ahead of the club's inaugural campaign – 16 months before Monday's appointment of Patrick Vieira as their new head coach supplied further ammunition to critics who have given City Football Group's MLS outfit the derogatory "feeder team" label.
Vieira, who retired as a player with Manchester City in 2011 before initially moving into an ambassadorial role, has been managing the Blues' reserve and Elite Development Squad since 2013, and given that he is known to be highly-regarded by the Abu Dhabi-based owners, his hiring come as no real surprise.
Having worked his way through the youth setup, it is widely assumed that the ex-Arsenal midfielder is being groomed for bigger things at the Etihad Stadium, but with a burning desire to begin his managerial career, the threat of losing him to another club has been looming for some time.
The 39-year-old Frenchman was reportedly interviewed for the head coaching vacancy at Newcastle United in June, and while a deal failed to materialise over an alleged difference in policies [h/t Sky Sports], other clubs across Europe are also believed to have expressed interest in his services.
The risk of seeing City’s potential manager of the future leave was seemingly the driving force behind the decision to name Vieira as Jason Kreis’ successor at Yankee Stadium, where he will essentially be auditioning for the top job back in Manchester, but what CFG appear to have overlooked in making the move is that MLS is a far from ideal place to assess a coach’s Premier League credentials.
The salary cap, complex rules and roster regulations and arduous travel schedule make the league a completely different animal to anything experienced across the Atlantic, and its track record for foreign coaching hires does not make for pleasant reading as a result.
As well as the most infamous example of Ruud Gullit’s spell with the LA Galaxy, the likes of Aron Winter, Hans Backe, John Carver and Carlos Alberto Parreira have all endured ill-fated stints in the States, while Owen Coyle is currently discovering with the Houston Dynamo just how hard it can be to adapt.
The belief across the British press at present seems to be that MLS is the perfect destination for Vieira to cut his teeth, learn from his mistakes and eventually move on to bigger and better things, but while that may serve the best interests of both CFG and the man himself, it is also an enormous slap in the face to NYCFC fans, while lending further credence to the argument that the league should never have got into bed with the City family in the first place.
The decision to sack Kreis earlier this month after NYCFC missed the playoffs in their debut season had already attracted plenty of criticism, having insinuated that CFG believed building an MLS powerhouse would be relatively straightforward with their vast resources and global footprint – a notion that could not be further from the truth.
Since the Seattle Sounders in 2009, none of the following six expansion teams have made the playoffs in their first campaign, while the current group of sides left in the postseason also highlights that a deep and balanced roster is more important than building around big-name veterans like David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.
The four remaining MLS Cup contenders are ranked 11th, 13th, 19th and 20th in payroll this term, while the highest-paid players left in the playoffs are Gonzalo Higuain and Liam Ridgewell, who are both earning just over $1 million-per-year [£661,412].
Of course, Vieira will have people around him who will help him make decisions, but as long CFG maintain the Eurocentric mantra they have exhibited thus far, it is hard to see how he is going to outperform his predecessor.
The City “loan” fiasco that saw Lampard turn up in New York six months late and in no condition to play certainly highlighted how Kreis was fighting a losing battle with ownership during his tenure, but the summer signing of Pirlo was perhaps an even better indicator of the clash in philosophies.
NYCFC’s surplus of midfield options left them with no real need for the 36-year-old Italian and his ageing legs, but rather than use the cap space on the porous defence or a strike-partner for the isolated Villa, ownership reportedly went against Kreis’ wishes in their search for star power [h/t NY Daily News].
The former Juventus man proceeded to struggle mightily over the rest of the season as the club finished 12 points outside the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but instead of those higher up taking the blame for their failed moves, it was instead the 2009 MLS Cup-winning boss who became the fall guy.
Most originally saw Kreis as the perfect hire for the club, having built a lowly Real Salt Lake side into perennial title contenders before moving to New York, and Vieira’s reputation in the game adds even more pressure on him to deliver better results.
The Gunners legend could well become a top Premier League manager down the road, but with an unbalanced roster, unfamiliar American player pool and the need to learn the league’s unique rules in his first head coaching job, the odds of him proving a success in MLS are most certainly against him.
NYCFC fans can at least take some comfort in the fact that their club will likely receive a few more headlines in 2016, but if they also want to enjoy a first playoff appearance, it is currently hard to see how Vieira is a better option than Kreis to get them there.