HARRISON, N.J.—New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was absent from his team’s training last week and on Saturday afternoon, it was his team that in-turn was missing in a 2-0 derby loss to New York City FC.
With mere minutes left in last week’s 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union, Marsch ran off the field before the final whistle to make his way to the airport. He was on a tight schedule, en route to a flight to Poland to take the next round of classes for his UEFA license. The timing not ideal, he conceded, ahead of his team’s preparations for arguably their biggest opponent.
In light of his side’s disappointing performance – they registered a single shot on goal – Marsch’s week-long absence came under immediate postgame scrutiny.
“Me being gone, honestly, had nothing to do with it," Marsch said. "Nothing to do with it. So would I do it again? Yes. And do I have a high level of respect and confidence in our entire club? This is not about me, okay. This is not about me. This is about all of us and our ability to be the best version of ourselves.
“I understand I'm the leader and I'm in charge, and on the day, I'll take blame. That's the way it works when you're the head coach. When things go well, you can spread the congratulations around, and when things don't go well, you've got to look straight at yourself, straight in the mirror, you've got to stand in front of people and say, 'I've got to do better. I've got to find a way for us to be better.' That's what this is, nothing more than that.”
The Red Bulls had never lost a match at home in the Hudson Derby and this performance was arguably their weakest of what is now the seventh meeting all-time in league play.
Marsch made it clear that the scheduling of his abscence was not his doing but is mantained by UEFA to coincide with down times in the global calendar, often falling on international dates. Assistant coach Chris Armas, who ironically coached the Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup to a Fourth Round victory over NYCFC just 11 days prior, handled the training sessions drawn up by Marsch throughout the week. Marsch was suspended for that game stemming from an incident in last year’s tournament.
In the Red Bulls locker room, there was no mention of their coach’s absence.
Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips called the performance “rubbish,” a bit shocking considering the Red Bulls had won five of six in league play against NYCFC. He saw a renewed opposition, improved and feisty.
“They have to [be], they’re men, they’re men,” Wright-Phillips said. “Put football and everything out of it: if I beat you up seven times in a row or whatever it is, the next time you come you’re going to hit me with a brick, you know what I mean? It’s just how it goes. The next time we play them, we have to be ready.
“They definitely raised their game. If I’m being honest, we were terrible and they were decent.”