HARRISON, N.J. — After Saturday’s 4-0 win by the New York Red Bulls over New York City FC, Jesse Marsch must be considered a front-runner for the (still) vacant head coach position with the United States national team.
Few in the pool have his resume. Few in the pool can compete with what he has done in MLS the past handful of seasons.
This past weekend’s win over an NYCFC side that was top of the league coming into the match showed the growth of Marsch in what is now his fourth year at Red Bull Arena. The one criticism against him during this time has been a stubborn adherence to his tactical plan. But it was his tactics that won the day against his crosstown rivals, ending a three-match winless streak by his Red Bulls against NYCFC.
Not only did the Red Bulls show up with more heart and fight in the game’s opening 45 minutes — a testament to Marsch — but their tactical plan worked to perfection.
The type of gameplan that was a showcase for what Marsch can potentially do with the United States national team.
Current list of #USMNT manager candidates. Ramos, Tata, Marsch, Berhalter, Friedel, Osorio, Vermes.
— Rob Stone (@RobStoneONFOX) May 5, 2018
Marsch’s side struck twice in the games first four minutes to silence the several hundred NYCFC fans in the supporters section in Red Bull Arena’s second tier. But it was more than a strong start from the Red Bulls that stood out. The home side pressed and harried NYCFC into turnovers and hapless long balls as their backline had little time to build out.
The midfield had to drop deep to the point that NYCFC’s creative midfielder, Maxi Moralez, was essentially playing as a No. 6 to get time on the ball. David Villa, arguably the best striker in MLS history, didn’t register a single shot and had just one chance created in the match.
It was a brilliant tactical plan by Marsch to take NYCFC out of their effective rhythm and flow. When they are on, New York’s blue team can play some truly beautiful soccer.
Saturday afternoon, they instead looked like Sonny Corleone pulling up to the toll booth. NYCFC got whacked.
Marsch has grown as a head coach, this much is clear. His Supporters Shield with the Red Bulls in 2015 seems distant but the team continues to do well. Even in a rebuilding season last year where one of the league’s youngest teams got even younger, he still managed a trip to the US Open Cup finals, a playoff appearance and a series with Toronto FC where his side pushed the eventual champions to the brink.
This year’s trip to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, where they beat Mexican side Tijuana along the way and nearly eliminated eventual champion Chivas points to Marsch’s understanding of how soccer is played in this region. It is a knowledge that can help get the United States back into the World Cup.
A former national team assistant under Bob Bradley at the 2010 World Cup, Marsch would be ready for this next step. He certainly understands the American player as both Bradley’s right-hand man as an assistant and also as someone who has forged a strong identity within MLS. There is also the mentorship of the likes of Gerard Houllier and Ralf Rangnick, a perk of working for a global organization like Red Bull.
He’s also done so on a budget, his team’s salary routinely among the lowest in MLS and dwarfed by the likes of Toronto, Atlanta and Seattle.
The rest of the coaching candidates, while strong, don’t necessarily have the depth of understanding of being a head coach while also finding international success as Marsch did in the Champions League this year and as an assistant coach. He checks off the boxes of being a former player in MLS, a head coach who has found domestic and now international success as well as being a motivator.
That’s some mucho trabajo right there.
Marsch also would come to the national team at the right time. There is a youth movement within the program, not unlike the one that he has undertaken here in New York. Look at the success of former Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga in Holland but on loan from Chelsea and Tyler Adams with the national team to see his clear-cut vision for developing young players.
Someone could potentially emerge from the World Cup as a candidate to coach the national team, some unthinkable name drawn by the potential for the United States in 2022 as well as the lifestyle of being the head coach in this country. But few if any have found the success that Marsch has these few years in MLS, both within the league and now internationally.
Saturday’s win, perhaps, might be his last Hudson River Derby as a call to his country might not be far away.