Jesse Marsch took the reins as Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls in January after the whole Mike Petke debacle and, besides the town hall meeting, has been relatively quiet in going about the business of the preparing the club for the season which began on Sunday. Marsch has a much different style and demeanor than his predecessor, he does not show much emotion on the sidelines which is a far cry from the demonstrative and fiery style of Petke.
His experience in coaching includes leading the Montreal Impact in their first year of existence, but the two sides parted ways after that initial season. He also has experience on the staff of the US Men's National Team as an assistant on Bob Bradley's staff. Marsch also played for Bradley during his career as a midfielder, so that time spent with Bradley is seen as a definitive influence on his coaching style. He will utilize a similar approach and style of play as Bradley espoused in his time both as coach of the National Team and in MLS.
It is slightly unusual for a coach to have a limited sample of previous experience but such is the case with Marsch who was head man in Montreal for one season back in 2012. It is particularly unorthodox when that coach is the replacement for the most successful coach in the history of the New York franchise (which just embarked on its 20th season) but in fair balance Mike Petke had limited experience when he was chosen for the same job a few years ago.
We may not know much about Jesse Marsch, but we do know that he handled the task of taking the Impact in their inaugural season and managed to make them into a competitive club compiling a 12-17-7 record. It should be noted that the other expansion team that season, the Portland Timbers finished with the same amount of points (42) as Montreal tallied. This record was forged with a roster of players who had never played together before and was assembled through the expansion draft which is largely a collection of "cast-offs" from other clubs around MLS.
The style of play that new Head Coach Marsch brings to the New York area is one of a fast paced, up tempo form using the high press technique which focuses on moving the ball forward. This type of style of play demands the players be in top physical conditioning in order to match the intensity with which this system is executed. The defensive players will play higher and farther up the field than in other more traditional styles of play, which will necessitate those players to be able to get back quickly and organized to deal with the counter attack of the opposition.
The system requires a vocal goalkeeper in order to keep the defense and the entire formation organized and it is an aggressive type of attacking style of play which could lend itself to turnovers in possession frequently throughout the course of a match. This high press style is a stark contrast from the style of play used when Mike Petke was at the helm here and that is why much of the roster has changed along with the coaching staff. The Red Bulls had to go out and obtain players who fit this system and could execute it efficiently.
In my observation, one thing we have learned about Head Coach Jesse Marsch is that he is a man of few words, he is far more reserved in dealing with the media than Coach Petke was during his tenure. A good case in point was the handling of the Tim Cahill situation this winter, he often deferred to Cahill's contract status with the club rather than directly answer any questions about whether or not the Australian star would return to the Big Apple.
Another example is the whole situation surrounding Peguy Luyindula and his requested leave of absence from the club. Marsch would not speculate nor answer any question he felt was speculative in nature regarding the playing future of the French playmaker, and he would not elaborate on what factors may have spurred this unusually timed decision by a player who is a fan favorite.
This type of demeanor and approach is going to take both the fans and the media some time to adjust to after the very candid and vocal tenure of Mike Petke.
Precise and Calculated
The coaching tenure of Jesse Marsch has already demonstrated signs of being one that will place logic, precise decisions, and calculated choices based on the constantly changing conditions as hallmarks of his management style. His decisions in Florida during the exhibition matches were good examples of these traits, where his game management on everything from the formation used to the substitutions made were all based upon the game situations as well as the personnel decisions that needed to be made at the time.
The roster is vastly different from the Thierry Henry era of the club's history, and for many fans including myself, it has been difficult to see the players that we loved from that period of time move on to other opportunities. It is strange to have so many new faces on a club that went to the Eastern Conference Finals just about 6 months ago.
In my view the changes are punctuated by the fact that the fans have been through this several times before with this club. Those who have been fans like I have since the beginning in 1995 have seen every new coach and Sporting Director bring with them yet another new approach, a new style of play, and wholesale player personnel changes. It can get difficult on a variety of levels to get accustomed to, while other clubs within MLS have had greater degrees of stability over that same period of time.
However, the fan base is pretty passionate and we seem to roll with the changes and support the players who wear the jersey, in the end that is what it is all about. The change from Petke to Marsch, while a shocking and difficult one for many fans to accept, will get better and more palatable as time moves ahead.
In my opinion, I think it would be unfair to Jesse Marsch to not give him a fair shake based on being the guy who replaced Petke, at the end of the day someone has to coach the team. He was given the opportunity and I am willing to see where he takes this team over the course of a full season before I even consider evaluating him as a coach. That process began on Sunday with a draw in Kansas City and it continues in a couple of weeks with a match against the DC United in what will be a season of change for the fans, the front office, and the coach at the steering wheel of the Red Bulls.
What type of coach is Jesse Marsch? He is a soft spoken, reserved, and calculated man with a vision for the club which goes beyond just 2015. How will he fare in New York? We are about to find out the answer.