As the current manager of Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga and former boss at the New York Red Bulls, it's no surprise Jesse Marsch has always managed in the Red Bull soccer family's favored high press style.
Don't be confused, though. It's also an aesthetic Marsch loves.
"It's the right way, baby," Marsch told the gang at Extratime when he picked up the phone for an extended interview on Monday. "When I worked with (former RBNY GM) Ali Curtis, when we first came to Red Bull together, he coined a phrase, 'If you want something in life, you don’t wait for it, you go out and get it.' And that was the way we described our style of play. I call it going down swinging."
Marsch's New York sides swung a lot more than they went down during his three-and-a-half years as RBNY boss, guiding the Red Bulls to the Supporters' Shield in 2015 and laying the groundwork for their 2018 triumph before he departed midseason to take a post as an assistant at German Bundesliga side RB Leipzig. In the process, Marsch believes he changed the outlook on the game of some major MLS names, like American midfielders Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan, and legendary former RBNY-turned-LAFC forward Bradley Wright-Phillips.
"It became infectious," Marsch said. "It was so fun over the years to sit with Dax, Sacha, BWP, Luis Robles, these guys who were older and played a certain style who basically we had transformed the way they thought about football. We would be watching a Champions League game and they would be going crazy because the other team would be sitting back and allowing Barcelona to have 5,000 passes and they would be going like 'press them, press them.'"
He moved on to assume the reigns at Red Bull Salzburg prior to the currently paused European season, where they sit second in the second stage of the Austrian top flight. They also made waves during this past fall's UEFA Champions League group stage, finishing third in a foursome that also included Liverpool and Napoli and earning a load of respect with a memorable 4-3 away loss at Anfield.
"I’d much rather go to Liverpool and lose that match 4-3 than sit back for 90 minutes and maybe try to catch them on the counter," Marsch said. "I just enjoy this way of living. And I also believe it breeds success. We went through this with New York. When I inherited the New York team it was a very passive team, they would sit a little bit deeper and then they would give the ball to Thierry Henry and they would catch you on the counter. I had to change the whole mentality of how we thought about things and how we played."
Marsch is the second American MLS household coaching name to aggressively pursue an international career, following the footsteps of his longtime mentor and colleague, LAFC coach Bob Bradley. Marsch first played for Bradley in college at Princeton and then again with the Chicago Fire for five years starting in 1998, and one more with Chivas USA in 2006. Bradley also gave Marsch his second and final US national team cap in a 2007 friendly.
After taking the US men's national team through the 2010 World Cup cycle and through 2011, Bradley went on to manage the Egyptian men's national team and later three European sides: Stabæk of Norway, Le Havre in France and finally a short, tumultuous tenure at Swansea City, then of the English Premier league.
Marsch concedes his personality is quite different from his mentor's, but also says he admires Bradley's evolution.
"I think Bob has actually gotten more relaxed, if you can believe that," Marsch said. "LAFC is a special project because he was able to, with (team GM) John Thorrington, build it from scratch. So they got to build a club under the vision of his football and find the players and pieces to fit in there correctly. But in the end, I’m sure from what he thought his team was going to be two or three years ago to what it is now has evolved, based on when you really get your hands dirty with players and understand what they’re good at and what their strengths are, and how to build them within a team. That’s one of the things that one of the things he does so well. ... He’s underestimated for his intelligence and his growth over the years."
And it was Bradley's signature MLS coaching moment from more than two decades ago that Marsch nominated as his favorite classic MLS match.
"Probably MLS Cup 1998," Marsch said, referring to when Bradley's expansion Chicago Fire defeated D.C. United. Marsch had previously played for D.C., where Bradley had been Bruce Arena's assistant.
"It was emotional for me because I was playing against my ex-team," Marsch said.