TUKWILA, Wash. – The New York Red Bulls’ Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign last season under head coach Jesse Marsch didn’t come as much of a surprise to Seattle Sounders forward Herculez Gomez.
Gomez played under Marsch as a member of the US national team during the 2010 World Cup, where Marsch was working as an assistant to then-US coach Bob Bradley. But he says he had an inkling of Marsch’s future career path even earlier than that, dating back to when they competed against each other as players.
“He was a great player,” Gomez told reporters following a recent training session at Starfire Soccer Complex. “But you always knew he was going to be a coach. He understands the game so well…I think the style, the press that they have, physically is draining. It makes it very difficult for their opponents.”
Gomez and the Sounders will take on the newly-extended Marsch and New York at Red Bull Arena in their return to MLS play on Sunday (7:30 pm ET; FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada), following a two-week break for the ongoing Copa America Centenario.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who will become the first manager in league history to coach 500 career regular season matches on Sunday, pointed to a different factor when asked about the challenges of taking on the Red Bulls.
“One thing that’s really helped their team is that they’ve stayed pretty injury-free with their front six over the last 18 months since he’s been their coach,” Schmid said. “I can’t really remember the last time they had to make a change in the midfield between [Dax] McCarty, [Sacha] Kljestan and Felipe. When you have that sort of continuity, it makes it easier to develop a rhythm of play.”
Schmid also says he’s noticed a more team-oriented approach and all-around balanced roster from the Red Bulls under Marsch, compared to previous years when the club leaned heavily on big names Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and, to a lesser extent, Rafa Marquez.
“I think they also did a good job bringing in players when he became coach,” Schmid said. “They were a team that was probably dominated by a huge presence in Henry and the superstar influences they’ve had in the past with Marquez and so forth.
“Now, they’ve really changed their mentality to ‘OK, we’re no longer going to be a club of superstars. We’re just going to roll our sleeves up and play good soccer.’”