Jesse Marsch is back at RB Leipzig and exclusively told bundsliga.com that he's aiming for the stars as the American prepares to embark on his first season as head coach at the Red Bull Arena.
bundesliga.com: You were assistant coach under Ralf Rangnick, and finished third that season. Then head coach at Salzburg, where you twice won the double. You are now back as a head coach - how are you feeling and why were you attracted to this job here at Leipzig?
Jesse Marsch: "Yeah, first I’m really excited to be back here in Leipzig. My first exposure to what has been happening here at RB Leipzig was in 2015 when I took the job with the New York Red Bulls. And that’s when I met Ralf Rangnick and met a lot of the people here at the club. I was introduced to this idea of football and what this club was all about, and I was just amazed at that time.
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"I’d always hoped that I would have the chance to be some part of this club. Obviously Salzburg was in the picture at that time too but, honestly, I never thought I could achieve the level of success so that I could be considered to be the head coach. So, to be here now and to have the experiences that I’ve had over the last few years, and certainly the trust of this organisation, to have me take on this role as the head coach, is a big moment for me and a proud moment. And something that I’m really excited about."
bundesliga.com: What is the special attraction for you around working as a head coach in the Bundesliga?
Marsch: "I think the league is fantastic.. the fan culture here in Germany I find the best, and what the club means to each particular town and fan base and city is really special. I think the feeling in every stadium and what it means to be a part of each club in the Bundesliga is very unique, and also clearly the level of play is outstanding. So really exciting for me, I remember I think in 1986 was the first time I watched a game in Stuttgart. It was the first game I saw in the Bundesliga - I was 14-years-old. And to think now that I’m a coach in this league is incredible."
bundesliga.com: In 2015, you were named coach of the season in Major League Soccer, and later became the first American manager in the Champions League. How do you view the amazing successes you've had throughout your career?
Marsch: "Yeah, I’ve been lucky to be part of this Red Bull constellation and the trust that I’ve received from everybody inside the organisation has empowered me to try to do the job as a coach that I think needs to be done for the teams to be successful. And what’s important is to understand in each different place that you work, what are the strengths and the challenges of the league, of the fan base, of the club, of the player pool and do everything you can as a leader of the organisation to put the team in a position to succeed. And to do everything they can to understand what success is. So that will be important here obviously.
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"I’ve learned lot from all these experiences. What it means to the history of being an American coach and all of that - that’s not so important to me. It’s more about just enjoying the process, committing myself in every way to trying to do the job successfully and giving the team a chance to go out on the pitch to compete and be successful. The more that we are able as a group to focus on that, the more we are able to have success."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your football philosophy?
Marsch: "I like to be aggressive in all the phases of the game. So obviously against the ball, that’s a big part of our philosophy here with Red Bull. But also with the ball, I like our teams to be dynamic, to be vertical, to have good combinations, to play good football, to play on the ground a lot, but to always think about how quickly we can get to goal and then anytime we lose the ball, to aggressively go back and win it again.
"Then with set pieces, I also like to be creative, I like to be dominant, even in throw-in situations. The goal is to try to control every phase of the game in every moment. And that’s almost impossible but that’s often the goal - to have a plan and to understand what the roles are and then to allow the players to go out and execute the plan. So yeah, this will be a big challenge here in the Bundesliga but something I’m looking forward to."
bundesliga.com: So you already know the city of Leipzig very well. What do you like about the city and about the people?
Marsch: "The city I find incredibly beautiful. It was my first experience of European lifestyle and as an American, we all dream about living in Europe. Certainly I have, as a football fan and as a football person. Our experience with the city and with the culture of Europe and European football was amazing. It's awesome. I know how important this team is to this community. Ten years ago they never dreamed of having a dominant, first division Bundesliga Mannschaft in Leipzig. And the fact that the people appreciate it, they love it, they have passion for the club - it’s important for me to represent that and that’s certainly what I try to do."
bundesliga.com: The duel against fellow American Pellegrino Matarazzo is just around the corner. How do you assess his work at Stuttgart and his football philosophy?
Marsch: "Yeah, so Rino and I have a little bit of history. We played against each other at university in the US. He’s pretty much German at this point even though his name is completely Italian. His German is really good, he’s done a very good job with Stuttgart. He’s worked his way up through academies and really earned it the hard way I believe. And as an American, I’m very proud of the success he has had. And I know it will be a competitive day on Matchday 2 when Leipzig meets Stuttgart and certainly we’ll be focussed on everything we can do to win that match. But I hope that back home in the US it will also be a special day where two quality coaches have the chance to play against each other on a first league level."
bundesliga.com: Before your first stint at RB, you coached in New York. What was the club’s relationship with the city of New York and what do you think about life back in the metropolis?
Marsch: "The New York Red Bulls when I took over was basically Thierry Henry, which was really cool. It was awesome for the organisation at the time to have such a great world player as part of the New York Red Bulls. But then when I took over, we talked a lot more about young players and the academy and about the team being more a representation of the community. And it certainly became that. In a lot of ways, Tyler Adams was a big part of that because he was a young player that came through the academy.
"But we had so many examples of it really being more about representing what the New York, New Jersey area is all about. I think they’ve continued that. I know my connection with the fans started out infamous. We had a town hall and the fans had the chance to berate me for about three hours, and all I said to them was ‘give the team a chance to play’. And the fans did that, and I think we grew to have a really great relationship where we appreciated each other a lot and had a lot of fun and success together. I still watch New York as much as I can and I’m really proud of what that club means to the community."
bundesliga.com: Who are the friends and colleagues who have had a big influence on your coaching career to date? To whom are you particularly grateful?
Marsch: "Yeah, I could go back to when I played at a young age in my town where football wasn’t a big sport. People that helped me along the way, teammates that helped me along the way. I played for guys like Bob Bradley, I was an assistant coach for him. I played with players like Hristo Stoichkov, Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik, Americans like Chris Armas, Ante Razov, Zach Thornton. I played with Mexican superstars. I’ve had so many great experiences and then I got the chance to work here with Ralf Rangnick.
"And then other players that I’ve coached like Erling Haaland and a lot of the players here at Leipzig, Emil Forsberg, Peter Gulacsi, Dominik Szoboszlai. We had a lot of fun in Salzburg. Again you just take all these experiences together and try to put something that is also very representative of who you are and make sure you go after it with that every day. I named a bunch of names there on purpose because they’ve all had an effect on me but there were countless more names that were also very important."
bundesliga.com: What are your expectations ahead of the new season?
Marsch: "My expectation for our team is to compete in every game and to be right there in every game regardless of who the opponent is. And make sure we play with power and passion and that we give ourselves a chance to win every game, every competition that we compete in. And I believe that we can do that."