It would have been appropriate if Neil Armstrong was still alive and available to break the news.
Jesse Marsch’s change of direction from Austrian champion Red Bull Salzburg to German contender RB Leipzig is, in many ways, a small step. You will work for the same bosses at the same company, with a nearly identical logo and similar playstyle. Marsch won’t even have to study a new language.
Yet in other potentially historic ways, Thursday’s announcement represents a huge leap forward for the American game. It has been yet another season of breakthroughs for American players in Europe, many of whom have begun to set new standards for Americans abroad. Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and their compatriots are redefining what is possible. They are showing the powers that be that Americans can play at the highest level.
However, convincing them that Americans know the game has been more difficult. American coaches remain largely sidelined by skepticism, inertia and the lack of an established path to major European leagues. Bob Bradley got his chance towards the end of 2016 at US-owned Swansea City, but he had to face a team in distress and overwhelmed by skeptics from the start. He used funny but intolerable phrases like “road game” and had American gestures, and when Swansea lost three straight Premier League games that December, he was gone. Bradley lasted 11 games. The benefit of the doubt had been less than zero.
David Wagner (formerly Huddersfield Town and Schalke 04) and Pellegrino Matarazzo (VfB Stuttgart) have coached in Europe’s “big five” leagues, but neither have developed as coaches in the United States. Wagner, whose father is American, was born in Frankfurt and has spent his entire life in Europe. Matarazzo, who is from New Jersey, has been in Germany for more than 20 years and became a coach after spending a decade playing in the country’s junior ranks. He rose through the German ranks.
Marsch was born and raised in the US, so like Bradley, he’s vying to be considered an exception to what feels like a pair of almost ironclad rules: Americans don’t understand football and they can’t. lead or inspire a European wardrobe. . It has taken years to forge the players’ path to Europe, and it is still somewhat fragile. Bringing a coach from the USA to a club like RB Leipzig, which was a semi-finalist in the Champions League in 2020, was always going to require something a little more novel, something that would remove skepticism and isolate a coach while he used to the European game. .
Enter Red Bull. Regret all you want for the New York Red Bulls’ status as the secondary appendage of a global soccer conglomerate, but without the MLS team’s ties to Austria and Germany, Marsch never sets foot on a path that leads to the top of the Bundesliga. Following his 2012 departure from the Montreal Impact (reportedly by mutual consent), Marsch was hired by New York in the wake of the sudden firing of fan favorite Mike Petke. It was a watershed moment for the club and its supporters and an opportunity for Marsch to prove himself in a skeptical environment. He flourished, dominating Red Bull’s system of play as he led the team to the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2015. Marsch also guided Adams from the club’s USL championship side to the first team, helping him become the first team. elite midfielder who would make his own way to Leipzig in 2019.
The Red Bull teams are tightly integrated and Marsch has earned the trust of his colleagues and passed all auditions. He relied on them in return, choosing to leave New York in the summer of 2018 to play an assistant role in Leipzig. It was a step back in ancient times that prepared him for a later leap forward. When Marco Rose departed Salzburg for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2019, Marsch stepped in as the perfect replacement.
“Pedigree is still very important to people in Europe,” Marsch said. The Guardian in 2019. “A year in the Bundesliga as an assistant and working under Ralf Rangnick gave me a little more money to put in my back pocket to move on to the next job. It has helped me to be better at my job, but it has also helped the perception of me here. “
Salzburg was already an Austrian giant, having won six consecutive league championships before Marsch’s arrival. But there was still much to prove. This was a head coach concert in Europe. The dressing room would be his. Expectations and standards were high, and the Champions League called.
“My goal was to assimilate, to be myself, but also to honor the culture in which I am working,” he said. The Guardian.
Marsch once again passed his exams, winning the domestic double with Salzburg, unleashing Erling Haaland in Europe and giving Liverpool and Napoli everything they could handle in the continent’s biggest competition.
“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg does here, the way they play football,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said after the second game between the clubs. “Massive respect for Jesse and what they did.”
That respect seems to have spread a bit across Europe. Marsch was linked to Borussia Dortmund during the winter, Celtic last month and Tottenham Hotspur this week. Regardless of whether those connections were legitimate or not, seeing the name of an American mentioned in those reports represents a big step. But Leipzig was always his most logical destination. Every Red Bull team is a feeder team and, like all German teams, RB Leipzig substitutes for Bayern Munich. When Julian Nagelsmann announced on Tuesday his intention to take over the German champions this summer, Marsch was immediately listed among the favorites to succeed him in Leipzig. The confirmation came quickly. Marsch’s two-year contract begins July 1.
It will be the most important and high-profile test an American coach has ever faced at the club level. And Marsch’s performance could have a lasting impact on the breadth of that transatlantic management pathway. He needed Red Bull to help lead the way, but now he will go up or down on his own merits. You will be at the top of the Red Bull pyramid, where results matter as much or more than development. It seems ready. He has proven himself at every stop and will have the best players and resources in the organization at his disposal, along with the pressure that comes with the expectations of the Champions League.
“I love football, training, tactics, all of that,” Marsch told the BBC last month. “But people and relationships are what really excite me. And ultimately, if you asked me why I came to Europe, it would be to see if my idea of relationships and leadership could work in the most competitive environment of our country. sport “.
His mastery of coaching, tactics and relationship building has taken him to the top at Red Bull, and further than any American coach before. Now he will really see if his ideas work at the highest level, while the rest of the world sees for the first time how an American does the same.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.