Patrick Vieira is rumored to become the coach of Nice in his native France. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — If New York City FC’s 1-1 comeback draw with Atlanta United was Patrick Vieira’s swan song as head coach of the team, he will leave the team in excellent shape.
Rumors and reports out of France still persist that Vieira will leave City soon and join Nice of the French First Division. NYCFC will take a two-week break due to the start of the World Cup. It is not known whether the 41-year-old coach will be in charge when City returns to the field.
Before Saturday postgame press conference began, Vieira laid down the law with the media.
“Just before you guys ask any questions, I just want to talk about the game, nothing else,” he said. “So please, I hope that you understand it. Let’s just talk about the game, nothing else, please.”
There is no arguing Vieira’s impact on the team and organization.
Taking over from Jason Kreis after an abysmal maiden 2015 season, Vieira has rebuilt the club into one of the best in the league.
In the short term, NYCFC (8-3-4, 28 points) was in second place in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta (9-3-2, 30) through Saturday afternoon’s result.
Over the long term, Vieira has built an identity for the team, said captain and striker David Villa.
“We are a strong team,” said Villa, whose header off Mai Moralez’s corner kick set up Alexander Callens’ equalizing goal in the 77th minute.
“We can lose because this is soccer. We can go to the Red Bulls and lose. We can go to Portland, lose. We can go to Houston, lose. Today, draw with a good game. But finally we have an identity. You can see how strong the team is. This is the most important for us. You need to create an identity. We are only 3 1/2 years old in the club when the ball started in Yankee Stadium for NYCFC.
“We need to create this kind of way of play for the team in future and we did it. We did it in a short period of time. Its only three years and a half. I am here from the start and it looks like it happened in 10 years. But it’s not 10 years. It’s only three years and a half and we are fighting with the team. Atlanta, today, of course, with the team that is trying to do the same as us only three years ago. We are happy where we are right now, but we need to keep fighting and keep growing.”
With the possibility of Vieira, a coach who is liked and respected by the players, leaving, the club must continue to maintain that identity and grow, Villa said.
Regardless who is running the team or playing on the field, the club’s identity trumps everything else, the Spanish international said.
Asked about what needed to be done to maintain and grow that identity, Villa replied, “I am not the right person to talk about this situation now. If you ask me about global, I am here right now from the start. Tommy’s [McNamara] here. Others are leaving. The most important is the identity of the club. It doesn’t matter the president, the players, the coaches, the media, the most important is the identity of the club growing.
“One day I am leaving, and the people say, ‘Aw, sorry,’ because they you are leaving. Comes another striker who scores a lot of goals. [They] say, ‘Thank Villa for leaving.’ This is soccer. It’s normal. We need to fight when we are inside of the club. We know we are privileged people to be here.”
Whether Vieira will be here in two weeks remains to be seen.