Jesse Marsch and Denis Hamlett Press Conference
Q: Jesse, this is the end of your third year, where does this season fit in your time here, and how would you describe it?
Marsch: Yeah, I think for me, this was probably the most challenging. We had less established players, more new guys and young players in the system. We had to get through a lot of different challenges in the year in terms of results, changing the formation, dealing with an Open Cup run. In all those ways I think actually helped us grow the most. I feel like, even when I look at the playoffs, we had six halves of playoff football this year, I feel like in five of them we performed great. The one, Toronto first half at home we were a little hesitant, but even then we walked out 1-1. One of the things that we’ve had struggles with in my time frame here has been in the playoffs really now playing the way we want to play in really a brave and courageous manner going after games.
I think that this year was markedly different, markedly different in terms of the understanding of what we want to become big games. You could go back to the Open Cup run and technically we’re 6-1 in elimination games, and a lot of those were on the road. So, when we had our backs against the wall, this team really responded. I think the toughest part about saying goodbye to this team is, in that sense, you feel like there was a lot more to give from everybody. The tanks were full, guys were ready to keep pushing. It’s not the kind of year where we’re left with frustration.
For me, that means that we’ve learned a lot, we’ve grown a lot, and we have a lot to build upon to move forward. From a points perspective and everything else it may not look as successful but for me, this is our most successful season.
Q: Is today a tough day because this team was playing its best at the end?
Marsch: For me it does make it tough. We all know the rules on away goals, but to go up against one of the best teams in league history and finish 2-2, win at their place and shut them out, limit them in almost every way, it’s tough. You felt like this group was really ready. But that’s the reality of what we do. Saying goodbye is never easy because around here I think we’ve been really lucky to have great young men on this team, great people within the organization that truly care about the rights and care about working together, which makes it so much fun. It gives us a real chance at not just being unique, but really doing something special. And I think that’s the disappointment, whether its losing in the Open Cup final or coming up a little bit short again in the playoffs, is everybody that’s around here senses that there’s really something special happening here, and the only way to really crown it is to put trophies on top of it. And so, everybody is working tirelessly to do that, and even as we sit here right now the discussions are how to build this thing to be even better for next year, how to use our resources, how to challenge guys in the offseason to make sure that they come back really ready for the Champions League challenges. The clock never stops, you never really get rest, but it’s a labor of love for everyone here.
On veteran players and if the team will look different in 2018:
Marsch: When I first came here I challenged all the veteran players to understand that we were going to be about developing young players with the idea that eventually if you do that they’re probably going to take your job at some point, which is such a harsh reality of how this business works, but the way that everybody has embraced being a part of this has just amazed me. Guys like Sacha Kljestan, Luis Robles, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Damien Perrinelle, the way that they’re committed to their leadership and to their selfishness, it’s a big part of what’s made us good and so I can’t thank those guys enough. We still value all of them in big ways and so we’re evaluating what that means for everybody moving forward. It’s certainly not just because you get old that it’s time for you to go away, they still have so much to contribute and we just have to now do a good job of evaluating what the options are moving forward and it’s the toughest part of doing this. I mean I can say I’ve truly become close with all of them. And so anytime that you say goodbye it’s like saying goodbye to a close friend or to a son so we don’t take any decisions that we make in the offseason lightly. We know how much they meant to their families, how much they mean to what we do here to the relationships, so there’s nothing to report right now and there’s nothing concrete. We’ll evaluate everything and certainly you have to know that we appreciate them.
Now, let’s talk about the young movement because I think that this has been unique to our league is what’s happening here. I think our investment in young players, the investment in Homegrowns this year were outrageous, the highest ever. And when you see the other teams that play Homegrowns they’re not as successful so not only do I think we have good homegrown players, but we develop them, we challenge them to be a big part of what we do, and they help us be successful. I think it’s really an incredible model for what this sport needs to be in this country and if we had more clubs that really – every club says they believe in young players, but not all of them truly invest in them the right ways, the way that we do. It’s our philosophy. It’s what we believe in, but it’s also with a broad perspective in mind and to see a guy like Tyler Adams develop so well this year and become such a big player, the pride that I think our club has that he’s in the national team camp. I told him that he was going to go into camp if we lost, so that means you’re not going into your first camp, but Tyler has grown so much, he’s so committed, he works his butt off every day. Not everybody knows this, but he’s taking classes through Southern New Hampshire University and so he’s continued to committing to educate himself and grow as a person as much as he has as a player and I can go through and tell you how Sean Davis does all the same things, Alex Muyl does all the same things, and I could go down all of our young players tell them they feel a responsibility and that they commit to this all the way so I think there’s a real sense of pride in terms of what we do here and how holistically we tell people how to get better, but we have a philosophy, we have an identity and everybody’s truly committed to it.
On when they begin to look at adding players:
Hamlett: It’s an ongoing process. I think now that we’ve had Ben, the head scout, on board, it’s something we’ve been evaluating since we’ve gotten here and so now we’ll get really ramped up in terms of how we can really get the right piece. A player that can play in MLS we feel that can come in and fit in our system. It’s an ongoing process. It’s something we want to make sure that we build out the right way so that we do have options that we can choose when we decide we need a player.
On strides Tyler Adams made for call up to U.S. Men’s National Team:
Marsch: It’s been a little bit of a crescendo. When I first came here, and Denis and I can refer back to this, but one of the first days we were on the job we were in preseason camp and we went down to Bradenton, Florida, to watch the U-17’s play and Tyler was the youngest player in that group, and right away we both lit up because we could see all of his qualities. Then when we started to talk to him and start him into our system and then we put him into the USL and then he became more established with the USL team, helped that team win a championship and then we made some moves for him to make room for him to develop more this year and to see him go from day one this year to then play the way he played in the playoffs and then play the way he did at the end of the year and ultimately lead to him get called into the national team. The biggest challenge with Tyler has been trying to figure out are we too cautious with his development. You could go back to the Chelsea game, he was one of the best players on the field in the Chelsea game and so after that I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘well I know he’s only 16, but he basically beat Chelsea. Do we want give him more?’ You’re always trying to create a development path for the team and for each individual players that’s going to allow them to flourish at the best of their ability. I think a big piece for him has been understanding what the work day is about, understanding what the mentality’s about, how we play, how to commit to himself, but also to everyone around him and he’s unique. It doesn’t take many reminders. You give him one little comment and he takes it and runs with it and processes it in all the right ways so I think all of us in this club will be looking towards this Portugal game. I’m not sure if he’ll start, I hope that he will and when he gets on the field, I’m excited for his next step.
Hamlett: The two things I would add to that when you look at him he just plays the game brave and is such a competitor and I think those are two things that we saw when he was 16 in the U-17 camp. That stood out for me and just seeing how on the field he has such a strong belief in who he is so I think that those are two qualities that are very important.
On the future of Tyler Adams:
Marsch: He is under contract. We don’t need to get into the details of how long, but he’s here and then it will be challenging to analyze exactly now how to manage what are the next steps for him. What an incredible challenge for him and for us, how fortunate we are to have him here to have him. On one level we fully understand that keeping him here is a good thing for him and for us and on another level I think we have to understand that we have to look at every opportunity that’s presented for both the club and for Tyler to think about what the future looks like. I think we can all agree that he’s not going to be here for his whole career and then it’ll just be a matter of trying to [get] together with Tyler and his family - and I’ll say this, his family is fantastic. He has a younger brother that’s in the academy, he has an older brother who’s a football player at Marist and they’ve committed to this club in such a big way in driving an hour and a half in each direction to come to the academy with both sons, so together with his family trying to figure out what are the next steps and what’s best with Tyler’s overall development. If you talk to Tyler I think he’d say all the right things, but he’s an ambitious kid and he should be. It won’t be an easy offseason to figure out what the next steps are, but we’ll do it in a way that we think honors Tyler, his family and our club.
On Toronto Discipline
Hamlett: There’s no need for us to engage in all the debate that’s going on. From the standpoint of that series, we felt we went out and we played. The four halves in that series, we had one bad half. We took the game to them. We were brave. We played our game and we were competitive. At the end of the day, we came up short. Away goals, they move on. Congrats to them on that end. The league is doing an investigation and we’ll leave it to them to decide.
On Tyler Adams best position
Marsch: I think in the end his best position is in the middle of the field. The way that it worked with our team this year, he was really effective out there. I literally could envision him playing in any of the 10 spots. Maybe not goalkeeper. I do think, in the end, his best position will be middle of the field.
On options at right back
Marsch: We have some right back options, like Murillo, Lade, Zizzo in the current roster. We will look to bolster our back line, for sure. That will be something, in general, we will be looking to add to. Focusing on Tyler, he’s effective in all those spots. But he’s best in the middle of the field.
On Aaron Long
Marsch: If it weren’t for Tyler, Aaron Long would be the big talking point of the team this year. Aaron went from a great year in USL last year, started out strong and only got stronger as the year went on. To watch him, in this last game, shut down Giovinco, was phenomenal. We challenged Aaron a lot to developed in terms of leadership, in terms of communication, in terms of presence, in terms of understanding, in all those ways he’s responded. He’s older than Tyler and his development path has taken a different course. But the future for Aaron is incredibly bright. He is, no doubt, the foundation of what we’re building for the future.
On the future of the USL team:
Hamlett: We are 100 percent committed to Red Bull II. We will be playing at Montclair State. The important part, for us, is we do use RB2 as a development plan for our players, to gain experience, to understand the system, and how we play. John [Wolyniec], Ibra [Sekagya] and Vadim [Kirilov] have done an amazing job of putting the players through the system so when they do come to the first team, it’s an easy transition for them. I think you’ve been able to see that with Tyler, Long, Derrick. This year, we brought up Vince. Some other guys have done well and hopefully we’ll be having discussions about bringing them to preseason. It’s an important part for us in terms what we’re creating because we do put a big emphasis on Red Bull II.
Marsch: Red Bull invests a lot in that team. That’s why you see teams departing from the USL structure, because it’s expensive. This club is so committed to youth development and trying to find the right avenues for players to be successful, they’re not giving up on that team. That’s a foundation for what we do. I hope the fans appreciate it. I know I do. I’m like the biggest fan of the USL team. I love watching them every week. John has done an amazing job this week. They’re with us every day and the way we work is to challenge the players to be the very best they could possibly be within our system is really unique, is really unique in our country, so I hope that there’s a true appreciation to our fans for what that truly means.
On Veterans Collin, Grella, Veron
Marsch: It was unfortunate for Mike and Aurelien this year, and to think that without those two guys, we were still bale to be so successful is a testament to our overall group. Mike actually had a baby boy today, his son Mateo. Congratulations to him and his wife Jessica. We’re seeing a positive recovery from his surgery, so we’re hopeful that we can get him back.
Aurelien’s story this year was very strange and took many twists and turns. He’s going over to france full time to go through the recovery and rehab there. We’re very hopefuly that he can get back to full health for preseason. For those guys, that’s the focus, is just getting them physically back. Getting them back on the field. Two quality players that we think can help us.
Gonzalo, this was his best year. He stayed healthy, he committed to his role within the team, he committed to trying to continue to adapt. Moving forward, we have to think about what the possibilities are. We’ve got to tilt everything to the individual and figure out their personal desires and the club desires and see how they meet and come together. From a playing perspective, this was Gonzalo’s best year.
On if 2017 was a successful season:
Marsch: For me, this is a successful year, no question. A big piece of it is watching the growth from Day 1. I’m an incredibly competitive person and it eats at you when you don’t get what you want. It’s also really important to have a broad perspective. Truly, winning and losing isn’t the whole story. I know I’m judged by wins and loses and I always will be judged, but that’s not how I teach or coach or live. I’m a firm believe that we will get there. I know it’s painful for our fans, for all of us. I underestimated how difficult it would be to get this think to where we want to be. We are going to get there. I have no doubt. I’m more encouraged now than I have ever been. It’s a success, no question from me.
On learning about himself:
Marsch: This group has required more introspective thinking and more questioning and looking at things carefully, and that’s everything from a tactical perspective, to a teaching perspective, to mentoring and leadership perspective, communication, just trying to hone my vision of how to lead this team. If you would have told me that we would have played three in the back, I never would have thought we would try to employ that. The fact that we became creative and challenged ourselves to think more carefully, I think helped us find some answers and unlock certain things. That’s the key, in life, is not to – and in this business – is not to just define yourself in one way and to continue to think of how to grow and get better. I can say, for me, I’ve learned being here, it’s so much more than just me. Sometimes, after the New York City loss at home, I got too introspective, I got too on top of myself, and I had to release a little bit and invest in people around me, for us all to think about how we can get better. That gives you, not only room for growth, but also security that your vulnerability and not having the answer all the time is a good thing. The more that you can open your mind to how relationships work and how to unite people together, the better that all of us will be. That’s truly, what I think I have become, as a leader, is somebody that tries to really look carefully at what we do, how we do it and how to get better.