HANOVER, N.J. — As the final whistle blew on the New York Red Bulls 4-0 win over New York City FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup last Wednesday, Jesse Marsch walked across to the opposing bench at Red Bull Arena with a message for Patrick Vieira.
Marsch had heard the scuttlebutt that Vieira was set to become the next head coach of OGC Nice and figured this would be their last time matching wits in the Hudson River Derby.
“I just said if everything they say is true, I wish you nothing but the best,” Marsch said. “He didn’t acknowledge. He’s smart that way, smarter than I am.”
One day after Vieira’s appointment with the Ligue 1 side became official, Marsch reflected on the impact the former Arsenal and French legendary player made in his first foray into first-team management.
“It’s different than anything we’ve had as a league,” Marsch said. “We haven’t had a big-time player come in and basically ply his trade as a coach in our league. If every big player that wants to coach came with as much as Patrick came with, then we’d be a better league for it, for sure.”
Marsch lauded Vieira’s style, which was an attractive brand that started by building out of the back and forced the Red Bulls to play their best in the nine meetings between the two since Vieira took over in NYCFC’s second season.
NYCFC went from a team that missed the playoffs in its inaugural season to being one of the league’s elite squads in a short period of time.
“I have a lot of respect for his style, for his leadership and the way he helped that club become so much more than it was before he came,” Marsch said. “I think he’ll have great success when he goes to Nice and in his adventure in Europe.”
And while Marsch, himself the subject of a rumored European move of his own to Red Bull Leipzig, was able to beat Vieira’s squad five times, including that famous 7-0 win at Yankee Stadium in the first encounter between the managers, Marsch said the managerial chess match between the two was always difficult.
“For us, and for me, I think he made us better because we knew when we played his team and played against that style that we had to be very good at what we do in order to be successful because if the details were off a bit, if our pressing was off a little bit, they could punish us,” Marsch said. “There were a lot of fun games, obviously some very good results we had against them, but some big challenges. This league was better for him coming here and being part of it.”