Keith Thelwell Head of Sport, NYRB, Post Armas Press Conference

By Sean McCaffery, September 4, 2020

My first time seeing him, and it was a quick presser not even half an hour long, I am sure he is busy right now. It is never good when a coach loses his job, but if you are hamstrung by the finances to get what you need to get the job done, someone must be the fall guy and it will not be one nearer to top. Over this question and answer session, he kept repeating that he wants the team to play a better quality of soccer, to play their game, to fulfill the expectations of the club. That is all well and good but when you are among the lowest payrolls 3rd lowest the last 2 years and have teams multiple times above yours, Toronto 3x, LAFC & Chicago 2x that of yours it is not easy to compete. Imagine driving a car in a race that is $50,000 facing ones that are $150,000 & $200,000, a horse with similar value differences, a boxer against another 2 - 3 times his weight, good luck to you. Was there a loss of form from last year, yes, did this one start out poorly, yes, fixable yes, but they had faith no more in the coaching staff of late. I have not been to their training sessions to see what is going on, only at the games and that is the finished product, not it being formed. That Kevin kept harping on keeping up with the same style of play, as they are known for, to get a coach in who is able to fit that, to me is a bit wrong, you bring a coach in for what he brings to the table, not for what he may do with the place setting of another. If you had held off on getting new players a week or so, allow the new coach input, if you knew before letting them go who would have the reins for the time until the new coach is found, I would have more faith in what was said. I asked why especially after the Orlando games when there would be a gap to find and install a new coach why the plug was not pulled then, the reply was they wanted to give them every opportuinity. No, at that point it is not about the coaching stafff, but rather the team, you had a month to figure it out, I am sure Thelwell entered those games with an inkling of removing coach, that is when to start making your replacement list, poor showing and he is gone, cut him loose get an interm as you hire the next with plenty of time for all to get familiar. Was I in favor of keeping or not keeping Armas, I had not seen enough of how he does his thing, as I shoot the games, I focus literally and figuartively on the ball, I miss the off ball movement, much is lost watching away games on tv as the camera also follows the ball.

The newly installed Head of Sport made his opening statement giving a huge thanks Chris and CJ for their time with the club, stating they worked hard and were dedicated.

It was asked of Kevin who might be at the helm come Sunday and the Union and whether the DC game was the last straw. He informed that for Sunday to expect the asst. coaches etc. to be in the tehnical area for the team. They did train earlier in the day and it was run by them, the trainers etc. The decision by Kevin was not made based on one game but on the season thus far. He did not feel as if he had seen enough improvement and felt it was right to do now. It was put to him if he considered the difficulties of the Corona virus, the start and stopping of play was taken into consideration for the poor results, assured that yes these issues were fully weighed. However what was being deilivered and not delivered did not sit right. Thelwell stated that the style of play is to remain as it is, that Brad Carrroll may well be the HC Sunday and they seek new coach who will fit the clear identity of the team, help to retain it with some adjustments. On whether he will seek out a candidate with MLS experience or not he gave a great answer, one that may help avoid a retread of sorts. He want one that will do a good job, help the club, the league experience is not so important but one able to manage the other coaches on staff, the team and people. When queried on what he will seek in the next coach he gave a very complete answer. He seeks one that has the aspirations of the team getting to what is sought, stay with their football ID, help the style and roster, a developmental style given the age of the players. It was stated to him that of course results are #1, but also how to get them to understand and how to coach. It was explained that it is not that simple, it is about perfomance yes, they need to do better in their style of play and react to the depth of the league which was not there. When it was put to him abuut observations of set up and what the players need, he informed the following. That in MLS play & the team needs to be at top perfomnance is their ambition, that ambition had ben fullfilled by the team to be as good as it can be. They need help from the coaches and players and HC to get to the top of playing well to the ID of the team. Asked whether the locker room had been lost, it was assured that all were happy with the effort being put in by the coaches, that there was no sign of that whatsoever. But that the team was not playing to its ambition. A short answer followed when asked how those effected were let go and the team handled, that is to be kept in house was the reply. In the information we had gotten from the team, Kevin clearly stated it was his decision to make this move, yet as he spoke he stated I and we often, I was unsure on who made the call he assured it was his and the time he referred to the plural he meant those he informed, yet never stating if anyone else was consulted on this. The style of play the ID of the team was asked about, as it would relate to the new coach and what profile was sought. An honest answer of being unsure of the profile was given, but that he would have to fit the team. Finally the last one was how vital would an MLS past be for the new coach. It was not fully necessary, but to have one that knows the players and the league would help. The new coach is expected to take this team adapt to some changes staying true to the style and ambitions.

In the end my take was the team was not playing to its potential, that of course would be frustrating. That they were not playing their style was brought up often, well then maybe they are playing the wrong style for the roster that they have? The ambition of the team was bandied about a lot, the ambition should be like all other teams, to win, to compete, to do your best. The replies to the questions were fine but the style and ambition were never really defined, clearly they were not being met, so those in charge of that were replaced, but I left the call with no better understanding of what these things actually are. I would think the high presss which is more or less what the team was built around, not using it cost them a playoff game, and they are not as active on the ball defending as they have been in the past. As I am typing this, I was approved for the game on Sunday, cannot wait to see what changes await us all.