In-depth Q&A with New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis ahead of MLS entry

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Kreis is hungry to succeed with NYCFC.

MANCHESTER — Watching on eagerly from the sidelines during a training game to end the morning session on a cold, gray day in England, New York City FC’s head coach Jason Kreis looks refreshed and raring to go.

[ RELATED: MLS schedule ]

After joining NYCFC as their first-ever head coach back in December 2013, Kreis is preparing his meticulously assembled squad for their opening game as an Major League Soccer franchise on Mar. 8 at fellow expansion side Orlando City.

[ RELATED: NYCFC – Inside look at the beginning of the Big Apple’s MLS team ]

On NYCFC’s preseason trip to Manchester, England to spend 10 days at the incredible City Football Academy which acts as the world headquarters for the City Football Group (CFG) who own NYCFC, Manchester City, Melbourne City and Yokohama Marinos, I sat down with Kreis to preview the 2015 MLS season, talk about the incredible project he and Sporting Director Claudio Reyna have built from scratch, plus much more.

Here’s what the former Real Salt Lake coach had to say as NYCFC prepares to enter the fray…

Okay, so you’ve spent plenty of time planning out this preseason, what has the process been like to build this team?

Gosh. So many things. From an initial point of view, it was nice to get away from the trials, tribulations and pressures of day in and day out training sessions and preparing for the weekend to try and get a result every week.

That was a factor as to why I wanted to take the opportunity, because I could do a little bit of looking back and look at where I was. I went right from playing to coaching, so I never had the time, not a week or a month away from it. So, it was a nice to get that… but I certainly didn’t need a year of it and I didn’t get a year of it.

[ WATCH: David Villa scores NYCFC’s first-ever goal ]

As soon as I got over here I did plenty of work right away to observe and learn, get involved with all the different teams here, different groups and different methodology. Right away I was already scouting players. Scouting live, scouting video with David Lee, Claudio, Miles Joseph, to start to put the pieces together on a weekly basis. We had discussions about players we like, options for Designated Players and all these things. It has been an incredible year, that’s for sure. With a little bit of rest and an ability to take some reflection. But we have worked incredibly hard to find players to make up a squad that we are now quite happy with.

How has it been shadowing Manuel Pellegrini, Man City’s coaches and watching their games?

It has been terrific. Everyone here has been so accommodating and so welcoming to me. It was special for me on a personal and professional level. It was also special for my family to experience what it is like to live in a different country and what it is like to live in a soccer mad country. That was really quite unique for us.

[ RELATED: Villa not worried about Lampard’s late arrival ]

From a learning point of view it was very good to see some other ways to do it and other thoughts around it. But it wasn’t as if it was completely different to what we had been doing in the States for a long time. In some ways it was good to see that, to see that we are not doing something completely different. It makes you feel, as a coach and someone that hasn’t had a whole lot of experience to step away and see other things, it is reaffirming that you are doing the right things.

source: AP
Kreis and Reyna have painstakingly put the inaugural NYCFC squad together.

The tactics and beliefs you championed at Real Salt Lake, are they going to be prevalent here?

I think it is important to consider that I was hired by this club for a reason. A big portion of that reason was what had done at Real Salt Lake and how we had tried to play. It is their ideal that they are going to hire coaches to coach their top teams that see the game the same way they do and want to play the same way they do. I don’t think I would surprise anybody to say ‘yeah, we are going to play a very similar style to the one we played at RSL in the past seven years.’

Diamond formation in midfield?

That’s too early to say. Formations for me are just that. It is a way to start and a way to talks about your shape defensive. But some of the methodology and the philosophies about how you want to play can be played in any formation.

The brand, the linkup between the clubs, what does it all mean?

I think it’s early days. It really is. This brand. This global club concept, it has only been in place now for a little over a year. Basically when they bought the Melbourne team, that made it more global and now the relationship with the Japanese team shortly after that. I think we are still learning exactly how that is going to play out. I think that there is certainly a very clear for where they want that to get to and I think we are moving towards that. It is incredibly important to be a part of something like that.

You’ve had a few weeks with the team now, how is the ideology developing and how long do you expect it to take until they are 100 percent a Kreis team?

All I can really say is three things: I could not be happier with the character of the players we have. I could not be happier with how they seem to be coming together from a chemistry point of view. From a team building perspective they seem to be really getting along well and mixing in well with each other. And the third thing is that they work extremely hard in the training sessions. I don’t think there’s any other way. If we want to play the way we want to play we need guys who are willing to work extremely hard. We certainly have that, no doubt.

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Kreis expects his NYCFC team to resemble the squad he had at RSL.

Frank Lampard, David Villa, Mix Diskerud… apart from their ability on the pitch, what else will those guys bring to the table to help mold this team?

In particular from Frank and David, these are two guys who have had so many incredible international experiences and been a part of so many successful teams that there has been a leadership element. There’s a leadership element in terms of what happens on the field, the communication and leading of the others players and instructing them on where they are meant to be.

But there’s also a leadership element about how you need to behave as a professional. What you need to do to take care of your body to extend your career as long as they have. They are both are very keen on that idea, with David for sure, he is showing it, day in, day out, that he is willing to lead by example.

What has the dialogue been with Lampard over the past six months or so since he signed? Constant contact?

He’s been in constant communication with myself and Claudio about how things are going here. We have obviously been so pleased to see how successful he has been as a part of such a big team. Going into it, none of us had any expectations for what that would look like. I was over here and I knew what kind of team this is and what kind of depth we had here. Part of me was saying, ‘I hope that he gets to play a part! I hope that we haven’t just sent him over there to train.’ Then he comes on and starts scoring and is doing well, the team is doing well. So I look at it as a really successful story.

I think it is easy to look at the negative part of it, which for a guy in my position you could certainly take that stance. But I look from more of a positive perspective and say we are going to be adding a player this summer who is going to be fit and sharp and has played at the highest level. I’m part of this club. It is not just New York City. I’m part of the City Football Group (CFG), so if Frank can play a part in a successful story and help to win a Premier League title or any kind of trophy here, then that is a good thing for all of us.

Watching him play for City, where do you see him fitting in for NYCFC? Maybe in a deeper role similar to what Steven Gerrard has been doing for Liverpool of late?

Not quite sure of that yet… and if I was, I wouldn’t say!

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Kreis believes Frank Lampard’s arrival will take his team to a different level.

Going back to the brand, is there a lot of pressure to become a winning team right away? In NYC you will be at the center of the biggest sports market in the world.

I look at this in a couple of different ways. Firstly, I was in a job that was very comfortable and I was a big part of building that club from the ground up. And I loved it there. The club will hold a special place in my heart forever and it was a great place to live and it was an inexpensive place to live. So economically it made sense for me to stay. I wasn’t going to leave for any job. I was only going to leave for this kind of opportunity and this is what I wanted. I wanted a big job, I wanted to coach a big team. I wanted to have the opportunity to coach guys like Frank Lampard and David Villa. I wanted to test myself at the next level. So, I’ve accepted this challenge with open eyes.

I used to say this a lot, and I will continue to say this: ‘I didn’t sign up for easy.’

I am ready. The pressures of winning are no different for me whether I coach Real Salt Lake, a high school team in Connecticut or New York City FC. I put the pressure on myself. I don’t need anybody to add it in. Nobody can put more pressure on me than myself.

How important is it to get off to a winning start in the first year to ingrain yourself in the sports culture of NYC?

I know from being in our league that it is always important to start well. You can really put yourselves in a great place if you can get out with a couple of wins and put them in your pocket. But I know at the same time that it isn’t going to be so easy for a team that is brand new. It may not come that quickly and we shouldn’t expect that this is going to be a team that’s playing at the top of its form at Week 1,2,3,4. We need to have a longer view of that, than perhaps I would have had in the past.

In the past I would have gone into coaching RSL for the fifth or sixth year and you expect to win the majority of your early games. But here I am only hopeful to have a longer view of it and to hopefully have the ability to have a little more patience than I typically am. To see the positives and continue to coach the team and teach the team what we are after.

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During recent friendlies in England, Kreis’ men have started to build their own identity.

When Sheikh Mansour took over Man City, the manager and players were given time to build things up gradually. Is it encouraging that you will get the chance to build something sustainable and be given time?

I believe that if we do the right things and show that we have a plan, as we have already really started from a year ago, showing that we have a very set plan and that we are moving things forward in a positive direction. I believe the people here who are in the decision making positions are very soccer savvy. They understand that this is probably not going to happen overnight. I believe that we are going to be afforded the opportunity to get it right over a period of time. But the one thing I need to show is that we are moving in the right direction.

Could you sum up NYC in a few words or a phrase, something which encapsulates what has been achieved so far?

Well. Nothing has been achieved so far. All we have achieved so far is that we seems to have put a great group of men together who work extremely hard and are pretty talented soccer players. We have to bring that group together and keep improving day-by-day and week-by-week. I think to try and encapsulate what New York City Football Club is right now, I would tell you that I think it’s way too early.

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

Nuno Wolves
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Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.

Europa League: Wolves knocked out by late Sevilla winner

Europa League Wolves
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Europa League: Wolves’ magical run through the Europa League came to an end on Tuesday, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by UEL specialists Sevilla.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Sevilla

Sevilla were quite comfortably the better side on the night, the side with the vast majority of the scoring chances, and thoroughly deserving semifinalists. Julen Lopetegui’s side will face Manchester United in the semis on Sunday.

It didn’t come easily for Sevilla, though. The game remained level at 0-0 for 87 minutes, until Lucas Ocampos rose above the crowd to head home his 16th goal of the season in the 88th minute.

Wolves had the game’s first — and virtually their only — chance to go ahead inside the first quarter-hour, but Raul Jimenez was denied from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. The real story here, however, is the ease with which Adama Traore left the pack behind and dribbled the ball 81 yards before Diego Carlos cut him down from behind.

Jimenez’s blunder from the spot was one of just two shots on target — both by Jimenez — that Wolves could muster in the game.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

Sevilla began to ramp up the pressure after halftime and went dangerously close to breaking the deadlock just after the hour mark, as Youssef En-Nesyri weaved his way through traffic inside the penalty area before firing a low strike on goal. Fortunately for Wolves, Rui Patricio was all over and denied En-Nesyri his wondergoal.

Ever Banega forced Patricio to make a vital save of his curling free kick in the 77th minute, but again the Portuguese was up to the challenge. He scrambled across goal and rose high to get a hand on the ball and push it over the crossbar.

Shakhtar Donetsk thrashed Basel 4-1 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. They will face Inter Milan in the second semifinal next Monday.

Other Europa League scores

Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 Basel
Man United 1-0 Copenhagen (Monday)
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Monday)

Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David

Lille sign Jonathan David
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Lille sign Jonathan David: Lille announced on Tuesday their signing of Canadian star Jonathan David from Belgian side Gent for a reported transfer fee of $35 million.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

The fee paid is a record not only for a Canadian player, but also makes David Lille’s club-record signing and the most expensive player ever sold by a Belgian club.

David had been linked with a move to dozens of clubs across Europe, including a handful of Premier League sides, in recent weeks but it would appear that Lille’s recent success with young players starring in the first team, before selling them to those bigger European sides for massive profits, was an important factor in David’s decision to move to Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Hojbjerg from Southampton; Walker-Peters to Saints ]

The 20-year-old operates predominantly as a center forward but has, on rare occasions, played as a second striker underneath the main man. David racked up 48 goals and 20 assists in his two seasons at Gent, including a number of standout performances in the Europa League.

Wolves – Sevilla: How to watch, start time, prediction

Wolves - Sevilla
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Wolves – Sevilla should be an epic UEFA Europa League quarterfinal on Tuesday (start time, 3pm ET) in Duisburg, Germany as both teams will fancy their chances of winning the trophy if they advance.

Remember: these ties are one-legged encounters so the winner on the night will advance to the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves have come through the qualifying rounds to get this far as the Premier League side have been in the 2019-20 Europa League for over a year, while Sevilla are the unofficial top dogs in the competition having won it more times than any team in history.

The La Liga side finished fourth this season in Spain under Julen Lopetegui, while Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League and know the only way they will be playing in Europe next season is if they win this competition and there qualify for the Champions League.

Ahead of a huge night for Wolves, below is a look at how to watch Wolves – Sevilla in the USA, the betting odds, prediction and much more.


Team news

What they’re saying

Nuno Espirito Santo praised Sevilla and knows his team have a big challenge ahead, while he backed his team to take the next step on their three-year journey together:

“It’s been a long journey, not only this season. A long journey that started three seasons ago in the Championship. It’s basically the same group of players. It was about trying to build a team, creating an identity, and we look forward to tomorrow to compete well and play a good game. We’ve been able to create an identity. It’s one of the most precious things in football – having an identity, based on a style of play and how we deal and socialize with our rules and tasks, how we deal with problems that happen. Trying to create a team, recruiting players, some take time, some not, but this is what it’s all about. We have to manage the result and I’m very proud of how we’ve done things and now I can say we have our own identity. It’s based on strong foundations of respect and hard work, and this is what we want to show tomorrow – a good team, with an identity, committed to the challenge.”

Sevilla star Lucas Ocamps on the threat Wolves possess: “Anyone who watches a little football has already seen them play. I feel like they are very competitive and physical. They have great players and they come here hungry for glory to beat us. I think it will be evenly matched because we’ll have the same desire and it’s going to be tough.”


Odds for Wolves – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

Wolves are the underdogs (pardon the pun) as they are +235 to beat Sevilla who are +120, but the tie at +230 is interesting. We can see this going to extra time and maybe even penalty kicks.


Prediction for Wolves – Sevilla

Wolves love upsetting the odds and Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore will be looking to exploit Sevilla on the counter, but Sevilla are a savvy team and are third favorites to win the Europa League yet again. Wolves are dangerous but I’m going for a Sevilla win after extra time. 2-1.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com