NYCFC Season Discussion 2024: The Definition of NYCFC is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over and Getting the Same Result

I almost lean this way, but two things don't align with it.

First, we're not even playing the kids. Which means either they forced these kids on Nick when he didn't want them, or they did not expect the kids to be ready. If it is the former, they should have put a different coach in place. I think it's the latter.
Second, they have no solid record of getting strong immediate performance from youth. Taty scored 1, 11 and 6 goals in 2018-20 (2018 a half season). Talles scored 2, 7 and 4 his first 3 years. Thiago Andrade 4, 5 and 1. Medina 6, 3, 5 and 9. Even Jack Harrison was only 4 and 10. Pereira moderately better at 8 and 6 in 1.5 seasons before transfer. Santi 3, 4 and 5 (with 10 assists in Year 2). And Santi was 21, at the high end of the youth range among these guys. I think the club has made mistakes, and can make them repeatedly (see thread title), but I don't think they suddenly expected the 2024 teenagers to outperform all their prior teenagers.
I also circle back to the Cushing interview clip I posted a week or two ago where he is talking about a long horizon development project for this team.

I think the big fail from the club perspective is the Bakrar-Santi combo. Bakrar showed up 16 games ago, nearly half a season. They are 24 and 23, not fully mature mid-career players but not green kids either. They both start every game when available. Combined they have 8 goals and 3 assists in those 16 games. That's not enough for a starting 9 and DP 10/swiss army knife who should be the engine of the team. And after them there is close to nothing. We used to get a non-insignificant number of goals from our CBs, and our 6, and at least one fullback. None of that has been replaced.

I think the other possibility is that CFG thought the kids should be good enough when they signed them and Nick realized they are not ready once they arrived and he saw them in practice against MLS-level defending.

Based on how things have been playing out I often wonder if Nick is talking to the higher-ups at CFG as much as he is talking to the fans when he gives quotes like he did in the interview you posted. He's telling CFG you think you gave me a team but you gave me a development project, it's going to take time.

I was thinking the same thing about the Lee Q&A where he talked about how difficult roster building is in the MLS and how careful you have to be about how you use the different roster mechanisms because getting the wrong player or the right player but at the wrong price can set you back. The specific comment about getting the right player but at the wrong price seemed like it could be a subtle comment toward CFG about how negotiations went down with both Santi and Martins. Both were intra-CFG transfers and both could have been under the DP threshold if we had been able to get them at a slightly different price. When things are getting negotiated between teams under the broader CFG umbrella I wonder if CFG higher ups are just working out a number and Lee is there trying to explain to people that certain things about the number matter far more than any of them are used to in all the other leagues they deal with.
 
I think the other possibility is that CFG thought the kids should be good enough when they signed them and Nick realized they are not ready once they arrived and he saw them in practice against MLS-level defending.

Based on how things have been playing out I often wonder if Nick is talking to the higher-ups at CFG as much as he is talking to the fans when he gives quotes like he did in the interview you posted. He's telling CFG you think you gave me a team but you gave me a development project, it's going to take time.

I was thinking the same thing about the Lee Q&A where he talked about how difficult roster building is in the MLS and how careful you have to be about how you use the different roster mechanisms because getting the wrong player or the right player but at the wrong price can set you back. The specific comment about getting the right player but at the wrong price seemed like it could be a subtle comment toward CFG about how negotiations went down with both Santi and Martins. Both were intra-CFG transfers and both could have been under the DP threshold if we had been able to get them at a slightly different price. When things are getting negotiated between teams under the broader CFG umbrella I wonder if CFG higher ups are just working out a number and Lee is there trying to explain to people that certain things about the number matter far more than any of them are used to in all the other leagues they deal with.

While I'm definitely in the "why not both?" club in assigning blame to Lee/CFG and Cushing, I'm still pretty much on the side that this is more a roster failure than a coaching failure. Looking at the totality of our goal contributions from 2018-2022, nearly all of whom left or were released by the end of that period, they have replaced almost none of them. We not only lack a solid top scorer, it's empty all the way down. Total goals scored by players ranked 3-5 on each team:
2018 18
2019 23
2020 12 (17.7 equivalent adjusted for short season)
2021 15
2022 20
2023 10

Coaching could improve that somewhat, but not by a factor of 1.5x to 2x. The tool shed was empty last year, and filled with not-ready-prospects in 2024.
 
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We are a development team designed to hit our stride in 2025-28.
Responding to several posts about my comment on this, I'm not saying it is a well designed strategy or that our stride will be wonderful in those years, just that I think this was the hope.

For those saying the young players were buy and flip types, maybe the stride is supposed to be 2025-26. But still, not 2024.

My question is, if CFG can force Lee to buy players they want as buy and flip prospects, wouldn't they also be able to force Cushing to play those players?
 
Coaching could improve that somewhat, but not by a factor of 1.5x to 2x.
Why can't it? I'm sure I'm ignorant on this.

I understand a player like Maxi makes a huge difference. Coaching can't replace that vision and creativity. But coaching can develop patterns of play. Coaching can send more players forward. Coaching can opt for a high press. There are lots of ways that coaching can create either low risk/low reward or high risk/high reward play. If we were willing to give up more goals, couldn't we play a higher risk style that would also yield more goals?
 
Why can't it? I'm sure I'm ignorant on this.

I understand a player like Maxi makes a huge difference. Coaching can't replace that vision and creativity. But coaching can develop patterns of play. Coaching can send more players forward. Coaching can opt for a high press. There are lots of ways that coaching can create either low risk/low reward or high risk/high reward play. If we were willing to give up more goals, couldn't we play a higher risk style that would also yield more goals?
The evidence is indirect but enough for me.
In short, there's a debate as to whether the new coach/manager bounce exists, and if so, what causes it. One side says it doesn't, because confirmation bias causes us to notice when it happens more than when things stay poor or get worse. They also claim that when it happens it is usually just a G-xG deficit reverting to the mean. Managers tend to get fired when that deficit is big and it's very unlikely to get worse to it gets better often enough around the time the switch happens. The other side says xG is hooey and some g-xG deficits are not luck but residue of poor finishing or poor tactics. I think there has been some work trying to discredit the idea that firings tend to coincide with g-xG deficits but I'm not sure where that stands.

All fine, and I don't need to decide who is right for this purpose, because I am certain I have never seen a study or article where someone claims that when Coach [___] takes over a team he routinely increases their xG or G output by 50% or more, and then maintain that. Even a consistent 10% increase would be remarkable and studied by everyone, because the ability to increase goals by as little as 10%-- if consistent and with the same players -- is an enormous, giant advantage. And if it were due to formations, tactics and such you would be able to point at those things and say this works, that doesn't. Every successful game formation and tactic gets copied fast, and that should lead to a stasis where every reasonably competent coach has roughly the same game effect with the players making the difference.

To the extent coaches create their own success or failure, what do we know? We see that almost every coach succeeds in some jobs, fails in others, and many succeed for a short while before they fail. That's because most of their effect is on atmosphere and temperament and team motivation and cohesion, and that all that fluctuates over time. It works with some players but not others, and often what works when you first take over gets tired after 2-3 years. If it were tactics, strategy, or game management it would not vary so much. It's personality management more than anything. Really, look at Guardiola or Klopp compared to Mourinho. Why do the first two stay in jobs as long as they want, usually several years, while Jose is constantly moving? Because Jose is an asshole whose schtick get tiresome fast while Pep and Jurgen are the type of person you want to be around.

ETA: I can believe that some coaches are stubborn and refuse to follow universal best practices. I do think there is a personality tendency that causes a bias to more or less aggressive play, and a few other things. And coaches on the wrong side of that can be poor, but I think it's much more possible to be consistently poor than to be consistently good. And consistently poor doesn't get you rehired.

ETA2: tl/dr If any coach could consistently increase goals we would know about it. Since we have not seen that ever claimed by anyone , it doesn't happen. And if you can't do it consistently, it's not a skill.
 
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Shockingly, I'm going to buck the consensus here on a couple issues.*

First, let me just say I find the analyses mgarbowski mgarbowski has presented to be enormously helpful. Mark has been intelligent, insightful and accurate. The points he's made are indisputably true.

But some additional context is needed.

For one thing, we're not a team with a new coach. We're a coach with a new team. It's not so much a question of a bounce as a progression.

Viewed in that light, it only makes sense for Nick to pursue a defensive orientation to keep us in games and in contention for a playoff spot -- which we were until the last couple games last season -- while building confidence and cohesion.

Those last are the ingredients necessary for a truly effective attack. It takes a little time. Until the attack develops, the priority is to not leak goals and not squander points in order to not get discouraged.

It doesn't always work out, of course. And it's not the most exciting football. But what we're experiencing now is a necessary passage to something better, not a vision of the finished product.

Which brings up another point about context: imagine you're on a jetliner, and the flight is proceeding smoothly and everything is fine. Then you hit some rough weather, and the plane takes a sudden plunge.

If you look at the flight data during the plunge, then it looks like a disaster and everyone is dead. But what if the pilots recover control and climb out of it and the plane continues on to a smooth landing without further incident? The data from the plunge become an anomaly, a problem in the course of the journey rather than a disaster.

Now, it's entirely possible we won't pull out of the plunge. But we can't assume the plunge will continue.

We also have to keep in mind (I know, I've said this many times before) how young we are. I'll leave out discussing whether it's the proper long-term strategy or not, for now, although I think my own perspective on it is clear. The important thing to remember is how long a season is and how much more of it remains ahead of us. It's called a campaign for a reason. It's not about winning every battle. It's about winning the war.

In fact, here's another analogy. When the U.S. Army first engaged the Wehrmacht in North Africa, we got mauled at Kasserine Pass. For many, our very young, very green army looked like a bunch of kids who weren't up to the job. The Nazis certainly thought so, and continued to think so until we were thoroughly kicking their asses across France and over the Rhine.

Of course, it took a change in leadership to make that happen. A couple, in fact. And I'm sure plenty of people, if not most, on this forum would argue Nick Cushing is our Lloyd Fredendall.

I firmly disagree. Nick is a fine football manager, with the potential to become very fine, if not actually great. That's clearly his ambition, and he's been honest with us concerning where he is. "I'm learning too," he said.

Moreover, I believe he's been entrusted with a very challenging and difficult assignment by the organization; namely, molding a core of young talent at the crown jewel of the CFG network (other than City itself) into a perennial MLS Cup contender and a formidable opponent in any every tournament, including against Liga MX in the Leagues Cup and European sides in the Club World Cup.

Over a single season.

That's not the kind of project you hand to an apple-polishing time server.

I could be totally wrong, of course. We'll find out in the coming couple months. We have four games at home this month, at the end of which we'll have 10 games under our belt. I'm sure the goal is 12 points out of those 10 games, although anything in double digits will do.

Then we have six games in May. The first is at home again, then two on the road, then home-away-home. The goal there would be another 12 points, although again, double digits will do (albeit barely). At the low end, things get seriously tight. But if we're at the high end, or better, and playing really well, then at that point we're cooking with gas.

If we fail to reach double digits in points by the end of this month, we have a problem. If we sputter through May and end up with single digits again, then we know it really is the gaffer. And maybe the sporting director, too. After all, David Lee put this roster together.

But I'll stick my neck out here -- and I never predict, only project -- and say I think we're going to be really good, and soon. Not only that, but the final third of this season, we're going to be fun to watch. Not to mention, an absolute handful in the playoffs.

*Okay, these are geese, not pigeons. But you get the point.

KevinFlockOfGeese.jpg
 
I wish we’d hire Pilkington as the head coach already. Clearly this team wants to develop talent to sell abroad. So why not hire a talent developing coach to run the team? Nick hasn’t given any inclination of improving player performances. Hell, it seems he’s regressing highly rated and talented prospects. Even if we aren’t going to win this year, the least we can do is watch some players try to be better than they were the week before. Not the same or worse.
 
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A trip down Forums memory lane again. The way we were 7 games into 2023 v. Atlanta:

11 v 10 for almost a full half at HOME and that's how we play? sad.

1) Please. Sign. A. Striker. Or. Two.

overall, we still move the ball too slowly.

And we need a striker…
And did I mention that we need a striker?

i miss our stalwart set piece defending. i miss our free flowing attack. we look lost.

We replaced our veteran leadership with kids. And the kids aren’t as good as the guys they replaced.

There is no fire on this team at all without Taty/Callens/Maxi/SJ.

Lot of upside with this team. I keep thinking if we can get through the first 2-3 months in range of the Conference leaders we can have good tournaments and go into playoffs with a top 4 seed, but the attack has to develop more bite.

Dessert at Gino's. Cannolis and dannolis (warm donuts filled with cannoli cream). OMG, dannolis, where have you been all my life?? Fan-freakin-tastic!!!
 
A trip down Forums memory lane again. The way we were 7 games into 2023 v. Atlanta:

11 v 10 for almost a full half at HOME and that's how we play? sad.

1) Please. Sign. A. Striker. Or. Two.

overall, we still move the ball too slowly.

And we need a striker…
And did I mention that we need a striker?

i miss our stalwart set piece defending. i miss our free flowing attack. we look lost.

We replaced our veteran leadership with kids. And the kids aren’t as good as the guys they replaced.

There is no fire on this team at all without Taty/Callens/Maxi/SJ.

Lot of upside with this team. I keep thinking if we can get through the first 2-3 months in range of the Conference leaders we can have good tournaments and go into playoffs with a top 4 seed, but the attack has to develop more bite.

Dessert at Gino's. Cannolis and dannolis (warm donuts filled with cannoli cream). OMG, dannolis, where have you been all my life?? Fan-freakin-tastic!!!
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