HANOVER, N.J. – He wasn’t the coach expected to lead the 2015 New York Red Bulls, but Jesse Marsch ended up being the perfect fit for a team in turmoil.
Now, in their 20th season, the Red Bulls (née MetroStars) have yet another first, as Marsch claimed MLS Coach of the Year honors, the first in club history to do so. While it is an individual award, Marsch was quick to heap praise on those around him.
“I’m honored to be selected among my peers as the Coach of the Year, but it’s a team award,” Marsch said after training on Tuesday. “It’s an acknowledgment of everything we’ve been able to accomplish in this organization. I think we really should credit the players for what they’ve put into this, how much they’ve believed in what’s being built here and how much they’ve contributed. It truly is a group honor.”
When Marsch was considering the job last offseason, the vacancy may have been far from attractive. Taking over for a beloved and abruptly dismissed Mike Petke would be tough for anybody. Embarking on what would assuredly be a new era for the Red Bulls, there was plenty of work to be done both on and off the field.
But it did not take long for the former Montreal Impact head coach to feel at home at his new club.
“When I came on board, it was obviously a crazy situation,” Marsch said. “But right away I realized that there are amazing people at this organization and amazing people to work with. It’s been a total pleasure from day one.”
Back in January, Marsch’s introduction was not exactly met with open arms. Newly appointed sporting director Ali Curtis made the move after parting ways with Petke, putting both Curtis and Marsch in the crosshairs at the club's now infamous town-hall meeting. Ten months later, right or not, it has unquestionably been a successful move for the club. Still, Curtis declined to use Marsch's award as any sort of vindication for his highly controversial decision.
“I want to keep this to being about Jesse,” Curtis said. “He’s had a great year. The team’s done really well, and he’s been not just a great coach, but he’s been a good friend, a good colleague and a good leader. I’m very happy for him.”
All season, Red Bulls players and staff have acknowledged some perceived slights and disrespect they felt from the outside, operating at times with a “chip on the shoulder.” It appears Curtis had a similar idea in mind when evaluating Marsch as New York’s next head coach, one that’s paid off in spades.
“One of the things you look at is a guy’s background,” Curtis continued. “Does he have something to prove? Does he have a chip on his shoulder so that when he comes in here, he can really hit the pavement running? That was Jesse. You look at his coaching background, and he had something to prove. He’s done that this year and really galvanized this group on the field, as well as off the field. We’ve had a great year, and Jesse’s been a big part of that.”