With only one season of MLS coaching experience under his belt, there are still many questions to be answered about Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. Since Marsch's one year of experience came as the Montreal Impact's coach during their inaugural MLS season, I caught up with John Richan, writer for Mount Royal Soccer and Last Word On Sports.
Once a Metro: It's no secret that Mike Petke wasn't the best X's and O's guy, with Robin Fraser being credited with many of the tactical changes that led to the Red Bulls' success on the pitch. How would you rate Marsch's tactical acumen?
John Richan: Marsch knew who he had and knew how to use them. Although limited by a poor team on paper, especially at the start of the season, he was able to get the most out of the team.
Much like his successor, Marco Schällibaum, the Impact struggled on the road under Marsch. The second half of the 2012 season was a vast improvement. It should also be noted the reserve team did very well that season finishing second with seven wins in ten matches.
Jesse liked to incorporate younger players when he had the chance. Jeb Brovsky (now with NYFC) received 28 appearances, Varek Valentin received 18, Collen Warner received 30, Felipe led the team in assists with 10 and added 4 goals, and Andrew Wenger scored 4 goals in 23 appearances. Marsch can be credited for putting these young players in positions to succeed, and I would say for the most part they did.
OaM: What formation could we expect to see him use?
JR: This will depend - but my recollection is that he preferred an attacking style (4-2-3-1) and will make the most out of the players he has. Under Marsch the midfield worked well with Bernier, Felipe and Davy Arnaud. No doubt it helped near the middle of the season when Marco Di Vaio joined the team.
OaM: How do Montreal fans feel about his stint with the Impact?
JR: I know the Impact support appreciated the job that Marsch did during his time. He even put the time in to learn French during his time in Quebec and gave a couple of interviews in French just before he left the club. Given the fact that the Impact were an expansion team during his only year in Montreal, supporters could see a tremendous improvement both with the younger players and the team in general from the start to end of the season. I think everyone was caught off guard when it was announced he would not be returning the following season.
OaM: How successful were Marsch's ties with the national team in luring USMNT players to the Impact?
JR: I can't speak to that directly, however Zarek Valentin and Jeb Brovsky and Andrew Wenger all ended up in Montreal and were three good young American players. As well Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp came to play here and added a lot of good things to the team.
OaM: What impact (no pun intended) did Marsch have on the squad?
JR: I believe that there was generally very positive vibe around the Impact during their first season in the MLS and I think Marsch can take at least some credit for this. I'm not sure this is the case anymore, two coaches later.
OaM: What were the circumstances leading up to Marsch's "amicable" split with Montreal?
JR: It is not publicly known what the circumstances leading up to the amicable split with Montreal were. There was a sense that some of the European players didn't subscribe to his "philosophy" and the change was made quite quickly after the season ended. As I mentioned before I think a lot of supporters were surprised by this move as Jesse was quite popular.
OaM: Do you have any predictions for how he'll do in New York? More importantly, is he the man to lead us into what's shaping up to be a rebuilding year?
JR: I do think Jesse Marsch will succeed with the Red Bulls. I think he has a great ability to understand his players and adapt his team based on what he has. With a Montreal team that was very poor on paper to start the 2012 season he almost got them into the playoffs in their first year. Who knows where Montreal would be now if they had kept him.
Well, there you have it! If Marsch can bring to New York the same resourcefulness that he did to Montreal, we might be in for a pleasant surprise. Trying to fill the shoes of Thierry Henry could prove a challenge for him, but if Marsch proves himself to be adaptable in terms of managing the squad, he might even be able to win some fans over. We could even see our draft picks get substantial playing time with Marsch's tendency to give younger players a shot. Will Marsch succeed? Does he have what it takes? What do you guys think?