CHESTER, Pa. — With a few minutes left in Sunday’s game at Talen Energy Stadium and players wearing down from the brutal heat, the quickest body on the field may have been New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch.
With his team up a man and having just taken a comfortable 2-0 lead, and the coach needing to catch a plane to Poland from JFK International Airport as part of his training to obtain a UEFA Pro License, Marsch bolted for the exit, handing the reins to assistant Chris Armas.
“I was thinking, ‘Don’t mess this up,’” Armas said with a laugh.
“Look, I think we have a good handle on the game there,” Armas said. “I didn’t really think too much about it. We knew beforehand that might be the case. There’s always dialogue about what the final minutes would look like and we had some good talk going into it how to manage the end of the game, whether we needed to push the game or close it out. It felt comfortable.”
Armas said he’ll feel similarly comfortable this week as the Red Bulls prepare to face rivals New York City FC on Saturday at Red Bull Arena (1:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes in US), with Marsch only scheduled to return a day before the game.
It may not be an ideal run-up to a derby showdown, but Armas said the fact that the two Big Apple rivals just met this past Wednesday in an Open Cup contest, with the Red Bulls prevailing 1-0, is a big help.
“We’ve talked in detail about what the week will look like,” Armas said. “We have the typical schedule we go do. The good thing is we’re playing an opponent next weekend we just played. So the preparation we know is almost to repeat what we just went through last week.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose late brace allowed Marsch to comfortably leave before the final whistle, agreed that not having their head coach around for a few days of training is not a big deal. In fact, it’s happened before, with Marsch reportedly missing a few days in the run-up to a game vs. Real Salt Lake in March during his 18-month UEFA course.
“We all have a system here, we have a way we do things,” Wright-Phillips told MLSsoccer.com. “I feel like the players could be left alone a few days a week and we’ll be alright. We all know what we do.”
Nevertheless, seeing the head coach run off the field was still unique – and probably necessary, since his flight was scheduled to depart New York only three hours after the game ended and he had to drive more than 120 miles through Sunday traffic to get there.
But according to ESPN announcer Taylor Twellman, Marsch got there in time.
“He’s not slow, Jesse,” Wright-Phillips said with a smile. “He’s not slow.”