Jesse Marsch - arms crossed

HANOVER, N.J. – Earlier this year, as a team the New York Red Bulls went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a trip designed to underscore the significance of the attacks on the World Trade Center to a team comprised of faces and names from all over the world. It was a moment that will ring poignant this Sunday when the Red Bulls host D.C. United (1 pm ET, ESPN) on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.


Jesse Marsch remembers the days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Now the head coach of the New York Red Bulls, Marsch was then a part of a successful Chicago Fire team that played the first MLS match following the terrorist attacks. He and his Fire teammates travelled to play at the Dallas Burn just nine days after two airplanes were flown into the Twin Towers.


A couple days later, they traveled to play Dallas on the road in the Cotton Bowl. It was a time of uncertainty and nerves for anyone who boarded an airplane.


“I remember that game,” Marsch told MLSSoccer.com.


“And I remember traveling, getting on the plane and getting down there, the anxiousness of that. The rest of the year we wore patches for 9/11 and there was a lot of energy behind what was happening in the country at the time. Then when the game started, it was time to play.”


Those confusing days following the attacks showed some of the best of MLS as the league rallied. MetroStars defender Mike Petke, who would go on to coach the Red Bulls to the 2013 Supporters' Shield, provided a poignant image just weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Petke, born and bred in Long Island, walked out onto the field at the next MetroStars home match wearing an ‘NYPD’ hat and carrying an American flag.


After practice, Petke along with teammates and friends volunteered to help load relief trucks for first responders who were sorting through the wreckage to search for survivors.


Marsch, who went to college at Princeton and played for D.C. United at the start of his MLS career, was touched by the national response in light of 9/11. It is part of the reason why he took his team to the site of the World Trade Centers earlier this season, to understand the devastating loss suffered but also the resolve mixed with love shown by the tri-state area in the days and weeks following the attack.


“I think we understand what it means to be a New Yorker and what it means to play for a club in this city, the responsibility we have to first responders, to the fire department, to the police department and what that means being here. It’ll be an important day and I think the fact that we have a home game against a big rival. D.C. also being another city that experienced 9/11. I think it’ll have a lot of energy. It’ll be an important day for our league,” Marsch said.


“When we went to the memorial, everybody kind of understood the experience, understood the weight of what that meant. I think this team enjoys being in New York and playing in New York, everything from the New York series to being part of this community. We’ll discuss it, we will.”