Orangeburg, N.Y. – A flicker of a smile creased Patrick Vieira’s lips on Thursday afternoon when GotSoccer asked the NYCFC coach for his reaction to Jesse Marsch’s recent comments suggesting that MLS coaches have a responsibility to play young Americans and the Red Bulls boss’s suggestion that foreign managers are perhaps not sufficiently interested in that aspect of the job.
“I think I would disagree with that statement,” the Frenchman began, speaking to a small clutch of reporters at New York City Football Club’s new training center in Orangeburg, N.Y. “I think we are talking about talent and talent doesn’t have a nationality.” Vieira noted that NYCFC plays by the rules of the league saying, “when we decide to sign a player, for us, the only thing that we’re looking at is if the player is fitting well with the way we want to play the game.” “So,” Vieira added, “if the players are French or American, just the talent helps us make a decision.”
Asked about two of the young American players on his side, James Sands and Jonathan Lewis, Vieira made it clear that the duo would have to earn what they get. “They are both competing for the spot,” the coach stated and likely thinking back to his own playing days with Arsenal, Vieira continued:
“I strongly believe it is like in England when they said there’s too many foreigners and that’s why there is not enough quality players for the national team and I think,” the former French international said with emphasis, “that is hiding behind the (ineffective) work from the federation and the league.”
Vieira placed the blame for the state of the USMNT squarely on the development system in this country, ladling out an extra dose of culpability on the college game.
“People have to take responsibility, you have to look at how you are developing players, and (those are) the main issues here. How you educate coaches, how do you educate young players at grassroots.”
Vieira was similarly unimpressed when Mexico’s former system requiring guaranteed minutes for “home” players was raised. “You would have to play him, even if he is not good?” Vieira asked with a shrug, adding, “the problem is how come you don’t have quality players to play in the first team.”
“If you want to go to James Sands and say, ok James, I’m going to play you because you are American, I don’t think he is going to be happy about it. James will want to play because he is good enough to play.”
For Vieira, it all comes down to “the number of hours they spend on the field.” According to Vieira, “when you compare the French players, the number of hours that the young players spend on the field” is three times what his U.S. counterpart spends on the pitch.
“There is no secret,” Vieira said, “the more time you spend on the field, the better chance you will have to progress.”
The problem is not when the players reach MLS, the third year New York coach said, “the problem is before they get to the MLS.” To illustrate his point Vieira used his own second-year man Jonathan Lewis as an example.
“When you go to college, for the draft, to pick up a Jonathan Lewis who do four months of competition and training two, three times a week and he is 20 years old, how do you want him to fulfill his potential?”
By Vieira’s reckoning a player like Lewis has “been losing five, six, seven years,” and the coach wonders, “how do you want to get that back?”
And it’s not just with the college that Vieira sees problems, the coach believes that the American players are “losing too many years, between 10 and 20.”
The talent is there Vieira says, mentioning the players he sees at the NYCFC academy. “They’ve got the talent, they are good enough.”
So, no it doesn’t sound as if Vieira will be taking up Marsch’s challenge, because as the Frenchman put it, “we are talking about talent and talent doesn’t have a nationality.”