New York City FC are still searching for a new head coach. As they look to find the right profile, it is crucial that they hire a winner, someone who can instil a winning mentality in a squad that has squandered big games.
New York City FC enjoyed one of the best regular seasons in MLS history. After failing to win any of their first six games, including five draws, they still accrued 64 points and averaged 1.88 points per game — two points per game is largely considered historically elite.
If you were to take out their first six matches and just consider their final 28 games, New York City FC averaged 2.11 points per game. Los Angeles FC, for context, averaged 2.12 points per game in the greatest regular-season performance in MLS history.
This New York City FC team put together one of the best campaigns in MLS history. And yet, when it came to performing in the postseason, they never showed up.
A much lesser Toronto FC, without their star centre-forward and rock-solid centre-back, arrived in New York with a know-how and nous that dismantled the Pigeons. The Reds earned 14 points fewer than their Eastern rivals, travelled on the road in the playoffs, were largely dominated in the game, and still came away with a victory. This Toronto team has now featured in three of the last four MLS Cups, a CONCACAF Champions League final and won a myriad of Canadian Championships in recent years. They know how to handle the big games.
New York City FC, on the other hand, do not. They lost to Toronto because of a penalty and some horrific defending that allowed Alejandro Pozuelo to sneak in behind. This was their fourth appearance in the Conference Semi-Finals. They have lost every single one. The only time they did not lose a Conference Semi-Final was in 2015 — their first year in MLS — when they did not qualify in the playoffs altogether.
At the end of the year, head coach Domenec Torrent departed, reportedly frustrated with many of the unique and unfamiliar mechanisms of MLS. It was not all that surprising. But now, two months later, New York City FC are still searching for his successor, and reports are thin on the ground, to say the least.
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It seemed as though Giovanni van Bronckhorst was in line, the Dutchman coming through the City Football Group’s coaching assembly line like Patrick Vieira and Torrent before him, the last two NYCFC head coaches. That line of report has run dry, however, and it seems as though van Bronckhorst will be waiting his turn in the back corridors of the City Football Group.
And so, for New York, the search continues. They still have plenty of work to do. But whoever they eventually appoint will inherit one of the most complete squads in MLS, a CONCACAF Champions League adventure for the first time in the club’s history, and a spending power that suggests this team can challenge the MLS elite for years to come. This team is ready to win. They just need to learn how.
That is where the profile of the head coach matters. While Jose Mourinho has been derided for his defensive tactics and short-term approach, if there is one thing he is a master at, it is winning. He is a relentless winner. NYCFC are obviously not going to hire Mourinho, but they should be looking for a head coach who can instil a winning mentality in a team that has lost sight of how to perform when it matters most.
For want of a better phrase, this team is a bottle-job. They squander their opportunities and win far fewer titles and trophies than their ability suggests they are capable of. To change that, they need a new head coach. They need to learn how to win, and the right manager can teach them.