ORLANDO, Fla. - The last coaching hire of the current MLS crop, Jesse Marsch admits his late entrance on the Red Bull scene has left no time for respite.
The short turn around does allow for some positives – mainly in the fact that the new manager hasn’t had time to be distracted with hard feelings around the dismissal of his predecessor Mike Petke.
“I like Mike, I wish him well. In my mind he’s always welcome around here,” Marsch told NewYorkRedBulls.com this week. “For me now it’s about doing the job well and there’s a lot to be done around here from an organizational standpoint, from a soccer standpoint, from a player pool standpoint. I haven’t had much time to stop and think about distractions or other factors out there. It’s about what do we do come day one to make sure this team is ready to compete.
Less than three weeks on from his hiring, Marsch hit the ground running this week in Orlando, beginning to put into place the new philosophy and expectations while getting to know his new side.
“I think the sessions so far have been great because there’s a lot of energy and you can see that everyone’s ready to get going,” he said. “The team spirit is built-in in a lot of ways and that’s great. It’s also about them getting to know me and my leadership style, the things I’m going to emphasize as a coach and how it’ll fit into what kind of team we’re going to become”.
Encouragement, work ethic and high tempo play – qualities that defined Marsch’s 14-year MLS career -- have shone through early on in training camp.
Active and vocal throughout, there is no down time in Marsch’s sessions. When a drill is finished, players quickly shuffle to the next part of training.
The response has been positive so far.
“Jesse’s come in and really let us know what he wants straight away,” said fourth-year Red Bull winger Lloyd Sam. “It’s clear to see the way people are responding to the things he wants. There’s clear direction from the new team in place and the senior players are buying in with what Jesse and [Sporting Director] Ali Curtis have been talking about.”
Long tenured midfielder Dax McCarty echoed Sam’s sentiments, giving appreciation towards Marsch and approach to raising the team’s fitness level early on.
“It’s been very, very intense so far,” he said. “There’s not been so much a focus on strictly running and fitness but an emphasis on high pressure and getting fitness while you work on different things in the process of playing. It’s nice, players always appreciate that so not only do we feel like we’re getting fitter, we definitely feel the soreness, but we feel like we’re accomplishing a lot of goals for the season in finding the way we want to play as a team.”
Who influenced him the most?
The answer to that is a mere formality, but confirmation is still nice.
“It’s Bob [Bradley],” Marsch says without hesitation.
More than a quarter of the 41-year-old manager’s life has been working directly with Bradley as a player at Princeton, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Chivas USA and even as a colleague for two years with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“Bob is the smartest soccer person I’ve ever been around,” Marsch said. “In a lot of ways we grew up in this business together. He shaped me a lot more than I shaped him. We have a shared value system because we came up together. Whether it was the days at the Fire [where the two found their greatest success] or with the national team, I’ve been able to learn a lot from him. Certainly the experiences we’ve shared have helped me understand who I am and how I think about applying success to my projects.”
As the Red Bulls begin about finding a new identity after Thierry Henry, one ideal Marsch learned from Bradley, that of building a collective identity, comes to the forefront.
“This club has been defined by Thierry for the last five years and rightfully so,” he said. “When you lose a big personality and a big player like that, there is a void. Coming out of it I think there needs to be a new phase that I think it’s now going to revolve a little bit more around what the mentality of the group is. The group will identify itself more by each other and not just the star player. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be better or worse but it’s different and we have to establish new things -- new ways of understanding who they can turn to, what the belief is, how they can win games and how they can handle tough moments.
“Our emphasis would be not to replace it with one player or two players but the collective unit.”
As Marsch continues building his team and guiding the overall club towards the season opener March 8 at Sporting KC, he lets his previous experience as head coach of the Montreal Impact back in 2012 guide him.
“My experience there taught me that you do the job the way you think it needs to be done, you honor what the club is, what the fans are and what the people that support this club do.
“You have to concern yourself with how to help the team get better and succeed. If you can do that well, all the rest will takes care of itself.”