New York City – For Kreis Sake?

Much could be subjectively offered here on the strengths and weaknesses of Jason Kreis and the decision by New York City FC to sack him; but not knowing the details behind the decision means it’s not worthy to comment.  

Instead – some analysis using the foundation of Possession with Purpose – on the why and how those team performance statistics highlight some issues that their leadership may need to address now that the season has ended.

A few caveats:

The overall PWP Index correlation, to points earned in the league table, wasn’t quite as high this year (.76/2015) as in previous years (.84/2013 & .85/2014).

I put that down to greater parity – meaning teams that didn’t possess the ball (as much) or teams that had lower passing accuracy (across the entire pitch) were just as likely to take three points as teams that didn’t.

Finally, there is no intent to point out individual player performance here either – like having no awareness of internal decision-making I also had no access to witness training sessions nor the in-depth tactics Kreis asked his players to perform.

To start – New York City fell into a category of teams who possessed the ball with higher than average passing accuracy (3rd highest and 6th highest respectively).  

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


That 3rd highest in possession translated to 2nd highest away from home and 5th highest when playing at home.

Only New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew exceeded them in overall possession.

In terms of passing accuracy they were 4th highest on the road and 9th lowest at home.

To put some additional context to this – like last year – eight teams averaged more than 50% possession this season; three of them failed to make the playoffs – New York City, Real Salt Lake, and Orlando.

Those same three teams were also in the top ten for passing accuracy – and as in possession – they were the only teams who didn’t make the playoffs out of those top ten.

But high percentages in passing accuracy and possession don’t necessarily mean you make the playoffs – this past year all three of the top three teams out west failed to exceed 50% in possession and only Portland finished in the top ten for passing accuracy.

So is the demise of New York City, not making the playoffs, down to poor attacking?  No…

Overall, they finished in the top ten of the APWP Index and nine of those top ten teams made the playoffs.

In conclusion, I sense it’s reasonable to offer that their combined quality, with respect to possession, passing accuracy, penetration, shot creation, and goals scored per shot creation, was good enough to get them in the playoffs but it didn’t.

Meaning there is need to look elsewhere… Team Defending.


When viewing defending team performance indicators the one that sticks out the most is New York City allowed their opponent’s the highest percentage of shots taken per penetration.

Even more disturbing, is even though opponent’s had the third lowest overall possession they also had the highest volume of shots taken…

In other words, their opponent’s didn’t have much of the ball, but when they did, they not only created quality shots per penetration they also generated the most shots regardless of volume in penetration.

So in terms of both quality and quantity New York City were left wanting in defending, and those opponent totals lead to the highest goals against, per game, in MLS (1.76).

But like possession and passing accuracy, my intent isn’t to pidgeon-hole one or two specific team performance indicators but to look at the breadth and depth of overall team performance in defending.

Overall, New York City were 8th worst in team performance defending.

And of the bottom ten teams in the Defending PWP Index only five made the playoffs.

Of note – the top four teams in the DPWP Index were Seattle, New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas, and Vancouver.

And all four of those teams made the playoffs with New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas tying for most points earned in MLS; defense matters… even in a league rife with parity!

New York City moving forward:

The big picture:

First things first – just because Manchester City is extremely successful in a possession-based attack doesn’t mean that same tactical philosophy works across the pond.

Major League Soccer is NOT the English Premier League – parity thrives to a far greater extent in this league than in England.

Meaning – from my viewpoint – if New York City is going to continue to work towards a possession-based style they will need to find better defenders and midfielders who defend without the ball as well as with the ball.

And with a number of foreign players already in the mix, it’s likely those new players may need to be Americans!

So here we potentially have an organization, founded as part of the Manchester City organization, one with an extensive pedigree in developing players, that is most likely going to have to find Americans to bolster quality (in defending as much as attacking) as they look to improve their possession-based attack where passing and first touch are a premium.

Others may disagree, but I think that bodes well in this country – and – eventually – it should help strengthen further development for our national team.

The little picture:

Changes in players are needed – who goes and when and who replaces them is not for me to figure out – but given the pedigree of the Manchester City statistics and scouting department I imagine they’ve got a few players in mind.

As for Jason Kreis:

There are a number of different paths forward for this very good Head Coach – perhaps he gets picked up by Chicago?  I’d imagine everyone who follows #CF97 would love to see that.

Or perhaps another twist – Jason returns to Real Salt Lake – or…

As we spoke about on the Yellowcardedpod the other night, with Thomas Rongen, maybe Sigi Schmid retires and Garth Lagerway calls on Jason Kreis to lead Seattle?  Personally I hope not (#RCTID)

It was good to see Jason Kreis move to the Eastern Conference – if you ask me Chicago is the place to be – not that city up north from Portland.

However viewed, I don’t think Jason will remain out of employment very long.

Best, Chris