HANOVER, N.J. — The American coach in Europe — it might be the final frontier for soccer in this country.
There’s been a number of players from the United States who have played, and continue to play, well in Europe. But the opportunities for American coaches have been extremely limited.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley is a pioneer in that sense. After being unceremoniously fired as the U.S. men’s national team coach, the native of Montclair, N.J., took over the Egyptian national team before finding success at Stabæk in Norway. He brought Le Havre AC within a tiebreaker of promotion to Ligue 1 in France before an 11-game stint with Swansea City in the English Premier League that didn’t end well.
Now it is a Bradley disciple, Jesse Marsch, who would like to pick up where Bradley left off.
This story comes with a disclaimer: Marsch is happy as the New York Red Bulls coach, where he’s already the longest-tenured coach in club history. He isn’t actively looking to go anywhere and he’s fully committed to his club.
But Marsch has ambition, just like his players — guys like Tyler Adams and Tim Parker and Matt Miazga before them. There’s a desire to test the waters in Europe, which is in part why Marsch has nearly completed the two-year process of obtaining a UEFA coaching license.
“It’s no secret that Red Bull has clubs over there and there’s a lot of potential opportunities in some of the smaller leagues,” Marsch told Pro Soccer USA. “Ambitiously I would enjoy the opportunity to test myself at a higher level. I’m not doing the UEFA course to simply coach in Europe, but obviously that is an ambition of mine.”
Marsch is taking the course through the Scottish FA, which has little concern about the MLS schedule. That’s why Marsch quickly raced into the post-match press conference Saturday before boarding a flight to Scotland for his two-day course load at the University of Stirling and Hampden Park in Glasgow, the home office of the Scottish national team. He then returned in time for the Red Bulls’ first day of training this week Tuesday afternoon.
“I think all of us as players, as people, as coaches, you’re trying to find ways as you move along to get better at what you do,” Marsch said.
A featured speaker during his trip was André Villas-Boas, who coached Porto, Chelsea, Tottenham and FC Zenit Saint Petersburg.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Marsch said. “He talked a lot about his tactical approaches, his expectations he creates within the team, the type of mentality he tries to create.”
Marsch said his next trip isn’t until September and then there’s “maybe three more trips,” including one to UEFA headquarters in Switzerland, where he’ll go through media training (insert joke here) and a final project.
“I feel like I’m back in college,” Marsch joked.
Whether its within the Red Bull family of clubs or outside, Marsch would — one day — like to coach in Europe. He said it’s important for the continued growth of the sport in the United States for a homegrown coach like himself to find success there.
The 44-year-old said he’s just part of a crop of enthusiastic, young American coaches who can follow in Bradley’s footsteps.
“I know enough of them to know they are very ambitious and it’s not just thoughts of the national team, but it’s beyond that. That can only help our sport back here,” Marsch said. “The more that we get exposed to, and the more our eyes are open, to high level football thinking and leadership and tactics, it can only lead to better things I think for football in our country.”