MONTREAL — Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch has been traveling a lot in the past month and is now looking forward to the expansion draft in two-weeks time. MLSsoccer.com caught up with the American to discuss his recent trip to South America, the upcoming expansion draft and his take on the current MLS Cup playoffs.
MLSsoccer.com: You spent a total of 10 days visiting Argentina, Chile and Ecuador after finishing the evaluation camp back in late September. Why did you decide to do this?
Marsch: We visited these countries to start to have a good understanding of what the leagues, the teams and players are like down there. We've seen a lot of games and there have a been a good amount of technically gifted players. We're now looking to see if and how this will fit our strategy.
MLSsoccer.com: What did you and sporting director Nick De Santis make of the different style of play in the countries you visited?
Marsch: There are a few players in the MLS coming from [the Argentinian] second division. The Argentinian league games showed a high level tactically, while the players we saw in Chile were more technical on the ball. I found that the Ecuador league games weren't as good tactically, but the players seemed to have a good physical sense of the game.
MLSsoccer.com: Was there a certain type of player you were searching for in South America?
Marsch: Our focus was to look at offensive-minded players and goal scorers. It's important to have a good foundation and we began doing that with Hassoun [Camara], Nelson [Rivas] and Evan [Bush], but it's also good to have that attacking flair. We were satisfied with what we saw in South America.
MLSsoccer.com: How important is your previous knowledge of the MLS going to be on Nov. 23 when the Expansion Draft happens?
Marsch: As a member of the US staff, my work was to watch all the MLS games. I have a good sense of the players and their qualities. Mike [Sorber, assistant coach]'s input will also be very important for us. If you look at the good expansion teams, you see that there is a good combination of veterans who have experience in the league, and younger, eager-to-play and hard-working players.
MLSsoccer.com: Are you confident you can find the type of players you want in Montreal from the Expansion Draft?
Marsch: We can safely predict up to 80 percent of the players that will be protected by their teams. Now, we have to figure out the players that are in between and start planning it out. There might be a few good deals to be made and I'm expecting a few surprises.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve had to make some tough decisions already after the evaluation camp. Why did you let Canadian international Ali Gerba leave?
Marsch: First and foremost, I want to say that I have a lot of respect for Ali and what he's done throughout his career. It's not easy and I want to honor and respect each individual in these decisions. I have a vision of how I want my team to look like. Unfortunately, Ali was not part of the plans, but I feel that we dealt with this situation like men. I wish him the best of luck.
MLSsoccer.com: After winning three MLS Cups yourself, what do you make of this year’s playoffs?
Marsch: What I love about the playoffs is that you see how the good teams are able to improve as they advance. I don't have a favorite team, I just enjoy teams that are able to take it to another level. The best example I can give is Real Salt Lake. They were able to ramp up physically and technically against Seattle. That being said, it's a little intimidating as a coach to see the games, especially when you see the quality that's out there. It's going to take us time to reach that level, but the key is to have a good roster to begin with.