NEW YORK – With a veritable army of scouts at their disposal – and a budget unlikely to be exceeded in MLS – the quest to introduce New York City FC in 2015 as a winning side has begun in earnest.
No, there are no signings to speak of – unlike the other 2015 expansion side, Orlando City FC, who announced their first MLS player on Friday – but efforts are well under way to put together the squad that head coach Jason Kreis will field a little more than 12 months from now.
“The clock is ticking and we’re looking now,” director of soccer Claudio Reyna told reporters on Friday at Kreis' official unveiling. “We have 36 scouts within City Football Group and we started to speak with them last year already, started to make contact with them. Remember, we need to find Designated Players, but we need to find other players as well.”
To be more specific, NYCFC will need to identify and sign three DPs if, as expected, they fill each of their allotted slots. Just don’t expect them to take chances on high-risk players from a character perspective.
“I’m quite certain that New York City FC will sign three Designated Players,” Kreis said. “I’m also quite certain that those players will be extremely well vetted, researched, talked to [in order to] make sure they’re not only the right player for this team but the right person.”
Kreis’ motto at Real Salt Lake, where he spent the first seven years of his head-coaching career, was “the team is the star.” That won’t change, he says, at NYCFC, despite the fact that he’s certain to have more high-profile players at his disposal.
Some of those could certainly be talented youngsters from parent club Manchester City, a pipeline that Kreis will become familiar with as he spends the next six months shadowing manager Manuel Pellegrini and his coaching staff.
But don’t expect the relationship between the two clubs to resemble anything that would suggest a parent-child relationship. NYCFC may not be poaching players from the Manchester City first team, but Kreis and Reyna will be the ones who ultimately choose whether or not they want to take on a player.
“These guys who would come from Manchester [would not be] here just because they need some games,” Reyna said. “We’re not a feeder team.”
The real challenge, in fact, may be filling out the rest of the roster. NYCFC will join Orlando City in acquiring established MLS players from teams during the expansion draft, as well as picking up college talent though the 2015 SuperDraft. But Kreis said that almost certainly won’t be enough.
“With expansion, and certainly with expansion of two teams next year, I think [the dilution of the talent pool] is a concerning thing for us to consider,” he said. “What we need to remember is that we don’t have to get all of our players from expansion. We have the ability to go out and find new players for this league, new creative, attacking-type players that fit in to the City way of playing.
"I think we have a singular opportunity and almost a responsibility to go out and find new players to bring in to bolster the league a little bit.”
No matter how they assemble their roster a year from now, Kreis made it clear he won’t play favorites when it comes to nationality or otherwise. At NYCFC, it will be all about identifying talent and ensuring that talent fits into the framework of the team.
“Our job is to win games. Here it will about finding the best player that’s the best person that’s the right fit for our group,” Kreis said. “It won’t matter whether he’s from America or Zimbabwe.”