Much was made of City Football Group's (CFG) decision to sack Jason Kreis, a popular young American coach whose record of success in Major League Soccer was nearly unparalleled over the course of his tenure as manager of Real Salt Lake. Kreis' sacking was used as proof that CFG was not interested in cultivating American players or a local product with New York City FC, the MLS club managed by Manchester City's owners. The critics claimed that NYCFC was merely being used as a "feeder" club or "farm" team for Manchester City.
Those cries became even louder when Patrick Vieira was jettisoned in from Manchester where he had led the MCFC Elite Development Squad for the previous few seasons. Vieira's appointment confirmed to some the suspicions they had of CFG's intent to turn NYCFC into a feeder club for MCFC. The development of a "feeder" club however is difficult however in the highly regulated marketplace of Major League Soccer, and any claim that NYCFC would somehow become simply a reserve side for Manchester City ignores that reality.
After Vieira's appointment, fans in the United States were subjected to countless articles like this one. In fairness, I was one of the critics who has always felt MLS clubs are better off with coaches who have played or worked in the league previously.
Despite the uninformed critiques of many European-based writers and fans, Major League Soccer is a difficult league with unique challenges not found in Europe - it can be argued that it is far more difficult for a coach to excel consistently in MLS than with a big European club. For example, dropping Pep Guardiola into a coaching role with let's say the Chicago Fire is likely to make little difference in terms of the team's overall results.
Historically outsiders have come to MLS to manage and have failed. The most recent example of this is Owen Coyle, whose Houston Dynamo teams have gone from among the best in MLS before he took the job to one of the worst. But Vieira is proving to be the exception to this rule.
Inheriting a New York City FC squad that had far more questions than answers, Vieira has been able to tactically deploy a setup that has allowed individuals to show their own creative ability while creating a stronger defensive shape as the season has entered its third month. The result is that NYCFC after a bumpy start is sitting joint-top in the MLS' Eastern Conference. In the process he's unearthed a gem in left-back Ronald Matarrita who will represent Costa Rica at the Copa America next month and used both Tommy McNamara and Khiry Shelton so well as auxiliary attacking options from the midfield that both are being talked about as potential US internationals in the near future.
Meanwhile he's continued to get the very best out of David Villa, found a role for Andrea Pirlo, survived the absence of Frank Lampard and placated the supporters who constantly have been calling for Kwadwo Poku to get extensive playing time.
Vieira's American adventure is going so well that the Blues might just have a built-in ready made replacement after Pep Guardiola inevitably leaves the club at the end of his contract (if not sooner).
Acclimating to MLS and finding quick success is no small feat. In the league's recent history no manager from outside the family of American or Canadian club soccer has started as well as Vieira. That includes the likes of Coyle, John Carver, former MCFC assistant Hans Backe and Ruud Gullit among others.
Irrespective of whether you support NYCFC or even watch MLS, Manchester City supporters should all be pulling for Vieira to continue his early run of success in the Big Apple.