Jesse Marsch: Career history, coaching influences and playing style of new Leeds manager

Jamie Spencer
American coach Jesse Marsch has replaced Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds
American coach Jesse Marsch has replaced Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds / Boris Streubel/GettyImages

Leeds have acted quickly to appoint Jesse Marsch as their new head coach, replacing cult hero Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road after his dismissal on Sunday.

The choice of Marsch was no knee-jerk reaction. 90min revealed early last month that Leeds, while at that time still confident of agreeing a new contract with Bielsa for next season, had already identified the American on a list of potential successors.

Marsch himself had publicly stated in January that managing in England was of interest to him and 90min later confirmed that the Leeds job was an appealing prospect. In fact, he had already spoken to intermediaries about he possibility of taking over from Bielsa in the summer.

The nail in the coffin for the revered Argentine came amid mounting pressure from poor results. A meeting led by senior players encountered stubborn refusal to tweak his philosophy. That, combined with increasing concerns over the possibility of relegation, led to his exit.

Bielsa additionally frustrated Leeds by his ongoing refusal to commit to the club for more than one season at a time, with Marsch's deal until 2025 indicative of the longer-term stability and planning Elland Road officials have been seeking.

There is, however, one question on the lips of some Leeds supporters; who is Jesse Marsch?

Playing career

Marsch enjoyed a lengthy professional playing career as a midfielder in his native United States. He left Princeton University, with whom he played college soccer, in 1995 at the perfect time for the launch of Major League Soccer the following year.

Marsch was drafted by D.C. United, where he quickly reunited with former Princeton coach Bob Bradley, and won back-to-back MLS Cups in 1996 and 1997, albeit as a fringe player. But he then followed Bradley to Chicago Fire and won a third successive MLS Cup in 1998, this time as a regular starter.

Sparsely capped just twice by the United States national team in 2001 and 2007, Marsch stayed in Chicago until 2005, before spending the final four seasons of his career with Chivas USA and retiring in early 2010 aged 36.

Coaching history

Marsch immediately moved into coaching and once more linked up with Bradley as an assistant in the United States national team setup, going to the 2010 World Cup with the Stars and Stripes that summer - he was tasked with scouting England ahead of the 1-1 group stage meeting.

A first head coach opportunity came at MLS expansion club Montreal Impact in 2012, spending just one season in Canada. He eventually returned to a head coach gig in 2015 with New York Red Bulls, twice winning the MLS Supporters' Shield for topping the regular season table and also being named the league's 2015 Coach of the Year.

Marsch stayed within the Red Bull family to become assistant coach to Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzig in 2018 and was then handed control at Red Bull Salzburg in Austria the following season. His Salzburg team, featuring Erling Haaland and several other familiar faces, won two domestic doubles and also impressed in the 2019/20 Champions League group stage.

Still staying within the Red Bull stable, Marsch returned to Leipzig as head coach in the summer of 2021 to replace Julian Nagelsmann, but he was sacked only a few months later with the club out of the Champions League and mid-table in Germany.

To date, Marsch has won six trophies as a head coach.

Trained as a coach in Scotland

Marsch is no stranger to the British football scene. He studied for his UEFA coaching badges in Scotland, taking one of the famed Scottish FA coaching courses at the University of Stirling and Hampden Park.

He initially split his time between New York and Scotland, before completing the course upon moving to Europe to join Leipzig as an assistant in 2018.

Influenced by Ralf Rangnick

Ralf Rangnick first wanted to worked with Marsch at Leipzig in 2015, but he ended up joining Red Bull and staying in MLS to first coach in New York. As mentioned, they eventually linked up in Leipzig in 2018.

Rangnick, who is more widely credited with influencing a whole generation of German coaches - including Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel - was also in charge of Red Bull's entire global football development operation when Marsch was appointed head coach at Salzburg and later Leipzig.

"Getting to know [Rangnick] introduced me to a lot more detail in the game, and a deeper way of thinking about football," Marsch explained in a piece for The Coaches' Voice in 2020.

"It turned out we had very similar views about counter-pressing and transitions."

Bob Bradley has also been a major influence and mentor to Marsch, having worked together for around 15 years in total at college, club and international level.

Indeed, he is now just the third American after Bradley, who was briefly at Swansea in 2016, and ex-Huddersfield boss David Wagner to manage a Premier League club.

Style of play

In terms of playing style and philosophy, Marsch would not be a millions miles removed from Bielsa at Elland Road, which underlines Leeds' intent to build on a long-term strategy with their new appointment rather than tear things up and start again.

"Every goal we scored was from pressing, that was how we played," he recently told The Athletic when reflecting on a famous New York Red Bulls pre-season win over Jose Mourinho's Premier League champions Chelsea in the summer of 2015.

“I want to work with people who are like-minded and have the same process, the same style of leadership, philosophy," he continued.

By his own admission, 'formations aren't really important' to Marsch. He puts greater focus on how his teams press and play, over their shape.

"I try to keep common themes in how we play and press rather than be consistent in the shape we play," he told The Coaches' Voice.

"At the core of my philosophy is playing with tempo. It’s about playing the game at a faster speed than opponents can handle. I want the players to feel this isn’t just a style of play, it’s a way of life."

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