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.

USMNT vs Iran player ratings out of 10

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Christian Pulisic was injured scoring the lone goal of a 1-0 win over Iran as the United States men’s national team advanced to the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Tuesday.

WATCH IRAN vs USA FULL MATCH REPLAY

Fortunately for the USMNT, his exit from the match did not stop the Yanks from delivering a spot in the knockout rounds.

While the attack sputtered without him, the defenders and midfielders largely stepped into the fold as Yunus Musah and Co. helped Matt Turner keep a second clean sheet in three games.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


Iran vs USA player ratings out of 10

Matt Turner: 6.5 — Some nervy moments late but the Arsenal backup again showed command of his box even when his body didn’t follow-through on good decisions.

Antonee Robinson: 9 — There’s an argument to be made that “Jedi” was the player of the round for the USMNT. He made a few rescue tackles and crosses from the left were few and far between.

Tim Ream: 8 — Quick, someone ask the coach if the guy who played every minute of the group stage is now a good fit for his system.

Cameron Carter-Vickers: 7 — Terrific when the U.S. had the ball and mostly good at the back, too. Is a good fit as a RCB in the back three, if that’s something Berhalter pulls out again.

Sergino Dest (Off 82′): 9 — While Pulisic’s goal was the moment of the game and Musah delivered several other moments, the fullbacks were the story of the entirety. Dest’s assist was massive, too (obviously).

USMNT player ratings
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Tyler Adams: 8 — He rarely has bad games in a USMNT shirt, and there’s a reason he has the captain’s arm band when most teams would’ve automatically allocated it to Pulisic.

Yunus Musah: 8.5 — It’s fair to say the U.S. hasn’t had as a complete a midfield duo in Musah and Adams in two decades, if not longer. Musah was monstrous

Weston McKennie (Off 65′): 6.5 –Still working his way to match sharpness over the hour-plus, and you can pen him in for a start and a sub in every game the rest of the way.

Tim Weah (Off 82′): 7.5 — The team’s second-biggest threat, could’ve had this match salted away at the hour mark with a hat trick on another day.

Josh Sargent (On 75′): 7 — Yeoman’s work from the Norwich City man, who limped off after landing awkwardly on the ball.

Christian Pulisic (Off HT): 8 — Scoring a round-clinching goal in a World Cup game is a really good way to cement your status in a national team program. His abdominal injury required a precautionary trip to the hospital. Fingers are crossed. So are toes. And any new appendages that might evolve.

Subs

Brenden Aaronson (On HT): 7 — A busy boy in his half, had Iran just as enraged as he’s had Premier League opponents

Kellyn Acosta (On 65′): 6.5  — Job done.

Haji Wright (On 75′): 6.5 — See above.

Walker Zimmerman (On 82′): 8 — A goal-line clearance and all the aerials duels you knew would be won when he was plugged into the lineup, were won. Three clearances in 10-plus minutes.

Shaq Moore (On 82′): 6 — Wyd, Gregg? Moore’s only job should’ve been to shut down crosses. He didn’t.


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USMNT player ratings
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USMNT tops Iran to set up World Cup date with Netherlands

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Christian Pulisic was injured scoring the lone goal of a 1-0 win over Iran as the United States men’s national team advanced to the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Tuesday.

The Yanks, runners-up in Group B, will play Group A winners Netherlands at 10am ET Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings vs Iran ]

Pulisic walked off the field on his power and appeared to have taken a hard shot to the midsection. We’ll update his condition as soon as it becomes available.

WATCH IRAN vs USA FULL MATCH REPLAY

England won the group while Iran bows out along with Wales.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


What we learned from Iran vs USA

It’s difficult not to feel good for Christian Pulisic, no longer the young sparkplug hopeful of reaching his potential.

The next great American player actually became the next great American player, and our enduring World Cup-related memory of him was in qualification; The teenage goal scorer who didn’t find a teammate to also score in Couva as the Yanks crashed out of the tournament.

Now the enduring World Cup image of him, rightly so, is as a gamer. Pulisic scored a round-sealing goal while getting kicked in the nether region.

Then his teammates needed to hold on tight.

They mostly did! The USMNT stayed firm after Gregg Berhalter stopped going for the second goal, removing several attackers in favor of Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore.

It was nervy, but they did it. And the U.S. moves forward…


Stars of the Show

Christian Pulisic

Antonee Robinson

Tyler Adams

Majid Hosseini

Tim Ream

USMNT player ratings
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Christian Pulisic goal video: Dest cues up USMNT star

How to watch Iran vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Nov. 29
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Iran, it’s about riding the momentum of a huge win after finding inspiration in a huge loss. There’s an ocean’s worth of difference in emotion between the 6-2 tournament-opening loss to England in Al Rayyan and the 2-0 triumph over Wales In the same city. Can Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun succeed where Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could not and break down the USMNT defense for a goal?

Meanwhile, the Yanks may still be lamenting a 1-1 draw with Wales as much as they are celebrating a strong performance that kept them unbeaten against England at the World Cup after a scoreless draw with Gareth Southgate’s men In Al Khor. Gregg Berhalter has to find a way to unlock the USMNT’s final-third woes when they hit Al Khor on Tuesday.

There has also been some off-field tension brewing between the U.S. and Iran surrounding this game, as Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams responded to in a tense press conference amid questions from the Iranian press.


Iran quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams

Berhalter ‘proud’ of USMNT, looks ahead to Netherlands; Pulisic injury update

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USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was a relieved man as he spoke to media after the USA beat Iran 1-0 to clinch a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

After Christian Pulisic’s first half goal the U.S. held on late on as Iran create three good chances but the young American side dug deep.

They will now face the Netherlands in the last 16 on Saturday (kick off, 10am ET) and Berhalter was asked how proud he was of his side.

USA grind out win after impressive display

“Proud. First half we showed what we can do soccer wise. Second half we showed what we could do determination wise. The guys grinded. They gave every single ounce of energy. We are undefeated going into the knockout round,” Berhalter said.

He was then asked about his nerves late on as Iran almost scored in the 99th minute when Mehdi Taremi nearly got on the end of a ball into the box.

“This new injury time, counting every second, it is stressful. I think I have less hair on my head now,” Berhalter smiled. “We will take it and we will move on and we will go battle Holland.”

Christian Pulisic injury update

Pulisic, the goalscoring hero, was subbed out at half time after getting hit in the abdominal area (it looked like a nasty whack to the groin) when he scored the winning goal.

Asked about the status of the USMNT and Chelsea star, here is what Berhalter had to say.

“No update on his status but I’ve been saying all along, ‘it’s a wonderful thing when one of your best players is also one of your hardest working.’ He is certainly that. I can’t say enough positive things about Christian.”

Another update from Fox said Pulisic was taken to the hospital after the injury.

Australia vs Denmark: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This will be an epic battle in Group D as Australia and Denmark can both reach the last 16 of the World Cup heading into their final group game.

STREAM LIVE AUSTRALIA v DENMARK

After their superb win against Tunisia last time out, Australia know a win against Denmark puts them in the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history. Graham Arnold has had plenty of criticism for the way his team play but they were totally committed against Tunisia and always carried a threat on the counter. They will have to put in a very similar display against the talented Danes but a point could well be enough as Tunisia would have to beat France in the other game in Group D to complicate matters further for Australia and Denmark.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Denmark, they have had a very poor tournament so far. They were woeful in attack against Tunisia in an opening game stalemate, while they were beaten by France last time out and Kasper Hjulmand has failed to get his team going in attack. Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are trying to drive Denmark on from midfield but they just haven’t look dangerous going forward. They have to win against Australia and then hope Tunisia doesn’t beat France and it goes down to goal difference. 

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

Here is everything you need for Australia vs Denmark.


How to watch Australia vs Denmark live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Australia will set up exactly the same as they did against Tunisia as they will whip in balls to Mitchell Duke who was the hero with his superb flicked header. Both Duke and Arnold pointed to the ‘Aussie Spirit’ getting them the win against Tunisia and there is a real grit and determination about this team.

Denmark know they have to win, so they will go for a more attack-minded lineup and they have the quality to beat Australia. They will likely start Braithwaite and Dolberg as they try to get something going in attack and this is basically a knockout game in the group stage.


Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Denmark quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 10
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group F)
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Key players: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen