U.S. Coach: No Experience Needed

By Paul Gardner

How interesting. Jesse Marsch is to go straight from being an MLS player to being an assistant coach on the national team.

Obviously, he has no coaching experience (though, for whatever it’s worth, he does have a USSF “A” license). And he has virtually no experience of the international game. His playing experience with the national team covered just two substitution appearances, totaling 20 minutes.

The only explanation we get from Banality Bob Bradley is this: "I believe the knowledge and experience he brings will be a great benefit to both the players and the coaching staff." I hope, for Bradley’s sake, that this drivel was written by his PR department. But I doubt it. It sounds like Bradley at his banalissimo worst.

Marsch’s playing career is remarkable for its long life. He’s played in every MLS season since the first one in 1996. We are told that he has “collected” three MLS Cup titles -- which is a nice way of hedging round the fact that the first two of those titles came in 1996 and 1997 with D.C.United -- two seasons during which Marsch started only one game. But Marsch did contribute significantly to the success of the Chicago Fire in 1998, and in the following seven seasons. He contributed very little to Chivas USA, which never got beyond the first round of the playoffs during the four years (2006-2009) that he was there.

From the start of his serious playing time (under Bradley at Chicago), Marsch was always noticeable on the field, if only because he quickly became the league’s most irritating presence, repeatedly engaged in squabbles and quibbles with referees. At one point, he remarked that he was so upset with the refereeing of Kevin Stott, that it might make him think about retiring from the game. I and a colleague joked about sending Stott a “Keep up the good work!” e-mail. Just joking, of course.

That Marsch would tangle with referees was natural enough, because he was always a serial fouler. His top fouling year came in 2002 when his 57 fouls placed him in fourth place in the league wide statistics. In 2007 came his most celebrated foul as he tried to make a name for himself by kicking David Beckham up at groin level, causing a fierce confrontation with the Galaxy superstar.

The following year Marsch informed the Daily Breeze that the way to start a game was to get out there and commit a few fouls: “It's important for me to set a tone early in the game and I do that a lot of times by fouling. I find that that gets me going, gets the competitive juices flowing.”

But the foul on Beckham was not typical. Marsch was not a particularly violent player. The majority of his physical fouls were, at most, yellow-card fouls. Even so, Marsch -- as is usually the case with players who take the field seeking physical contact -- had a bee in his bonnet about diving. Players who went down under his onslaughts were obviously all faking it. In a 2007 column, having established his he-man credentials -- “I grew up in Wisconsin ... We like brats, cheese, beer, and the Packers” -- he proclaimed a No Diving campaign. As targets, he singled out Carlos Ruiz, Brian Ching and “every Brazilian that comes to play in America.”

Very odd, that last bit. As it happens, pitifully few Brazilians have come to play in MLS, so Marsch’s experience of playing against Brazilians must be minimal. And does he really mean every Brazilian? I’ll take him at his word -- in which case, how does he account for the fact that Brazil is the world’s top soccer nation? Brazil has won five World Cups -- a lot more than Wisconsin, I do believe. Is that because of, or despite, the promiscuous diving?

Without questioning Bradley’s admiration of Marsch’s “knowledge and experience,” I am merely pointing out that there are some problems of attitude here that would surely need to be addressed in a player who has been catapulted into the rarified atmosphere of the national team’s ruling class.

To wit: an addiction to serial fouling, a compulsion to quarrel with referees, and a conviction that all Brazilians are cheats.

Bradley, for sure, must be well aware of all this. He has been Marsch’s benefactor since recruiting him at Princeton University and he has coached him professionally at D.C.United, Chicago, and Chivas USA. It is disturbing to ponder that Bradley might actually find the attitudes mentioned above to be positive additions to the national team coaching agenda.

More likely Bradley is simply willing to overlook them. A kindly touch from the master to the protégé who, not long ago, let it be known that he regards Bradley as “a genius.”

11 comments about "U.S. Coach: No Experience Needed".
  1. Bryan Holland, February 8, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.

    Now that you mention it, Marsch was quite a hack as a player. That's all we need to help prepare us for the World Cup, a guy whose idea of rallying the troops is a good "chop" on our opponent from behind. Take for example Mastroeni getting sent off against Italy in 06. Two minutes later Pope goes off. In the next match against Ghana we foul Appiah in the box for a penalty, to go down 2-1. Then in the Confederations Cup last summer, we see Ricardo Clark get sent off against Italy, Sacha Kljestan against Brazil, and Michael Bradley against Spain. Now I see why bringing Marsch on board makes sense to Coach Bradley. I imagine the US team will be playing with 9 or 10 men on the field again this summer at the World Cup. Actually, if you think about it the US team has done quite well competing in all these games shorthanded.

  2. Walt Pericciuoli, February 8, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.

    If the US Budget still allows for the hiring of another assistant coach, why in the world aren't we looking for someone with some international preferably World Cup experience to work with our squad? History proves, our players are not shy about commiting fouls.Thats about all I see Marsch bringing to the table.

  3. Mike Gaynes, February 8, 2010 at 4:07 p.m.

    How uninteresting. Major soccer stories breaking all over the world, and the most fascinating topic Gardner can summon for a column is... this?

    He remains, as always, the auteur extraordinare of the utterly pointless.

  4. Steve White, February 8, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.

    Again the arrogance of Bradley comes shining through and the idea that Ivy League and MLS means being at the top of the US game. We need a more blue-collar approach and that doesn’t mean chop them down at the ankles, it means hard working players and coaches making it happen for the love of the game.

  5. Kevin Leahy, February 8, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.

    It is typical of Bob Bradley to hire someone like Marsch. He doesn't believe in anyone with creativity anyway!

  6. Mike Gaynes, February 8, 2010 at 10:11 p.m.

    Sorry, Ric, but you're the one with the errant thumb... you mispelled "auteur" (and misused "(sic)") even with the benefit of my note for guidance, so your cut-and-paste finger must be disabled. You're clearly a refugee from recreational writing.

    As to my opinion of the column and the response, I stand by it. The collection of wailers here who really believe that the hiring of an unqualified assistant coach is anything more than a trivial sidelight is truly hilarious, but Ric, your reasoning takes the cake. Do you honestly believe that six weeks of the wicked teachings of Beelzebub J. Marsch are going to undo four years of European education, the last two in the Bundesliga, for Michael Bradley? Lordy, this Marsch must be evil incarnate.

    And as to the magnificently trivial Mr. Gardner, I stand by that viewpoint as well. His vast wealth of historical knowledge is generally unaccompanied by anything resembling insight, original thought or humor. His favorite topics, though worthy of exploration -- college soccer, coaching, Latino outreach and refereeing -- have long ago become predictable to the point of parody.

    Gardner's most applauded point here is that Marsch is a terrible coaching choice because he was an uncreative, foul-prone ref-baiter. And if that theory held water, Martin O'Neill, David Moyes, Alex McLeish, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce and perhaps even Sir Alex Ferguson himself would all be doing something else for a living, because they were all players whose orneriness vastly outweighed their stylistic gifts. (And two fellows named Gascoigne and Best should have been terrific managers. Of course.)

    Sorry, but the topic is trivial, and the main point is malarkey. Aside from that, this column is Churchillian.

  7. Garry Jean-Louis, February 9, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    If you think of Jurgen Klinnsmann who took over the Head Coach position for the German National Team WITHOUT prior coaching experience, then Bradley's hiring of an AC who doesn't have coaching experience doesn't appear all that shocking. We'd probably all agree that whomever he hired, there would be some voicing their disappointment. I can only imagine it is incredibly hard/tough/stressful/demanding/frustrating to be the HC of ANY national team. If Bradley believes that Marsh is his guy, then he has to right to add staff he feels comfortable with. It seems a bit early to be hinting failure when Marsh hasn't had a chance get to work. Though I am not necessarily a Bradley fan, the US DID play in the finals of the Confederations Cup, and they DID qualify for the WC. The current team is the strongest side the US has EVER had (my opinion of course)! These boys do not fear any other team, and I think they are poised to make some noise this summer. Bradley must have something to do with it. Had they not qualified, who would be blamed for that?

  8. James Froehlich, February 9, 2010 at 1:34 p.m.

    Mike, Mike, you need to practise much better time management. Spending all that time and effort to tell us that Paul Gardner's columns are worthless and redundant is a bit oxymoronic. BTW if you want high culture I don't think that looking for it in a soccer blog is particularly effective use of your time.
    Paul Gardner is one of the most perceptive columnists on the soccer scene whether you agree or not -- and often I don't. (He seems to have a real problem with Bradley and the Fire which I don't understand) However, I found the comments on Marsh to be intriguing. I've always kind of liked Marsh's feistinees but this article put it in a different perspective which will prompt a rethink on my part. I would agree that Bradley hasn't surrounded himself with a very creative staff. Mike Sorber was an intelligent player but never of the creative variety so it does seem that the selection of Marsh is a bit problematic.
    BTW Mike -- I have found the New York Review of Books to be quite stimulating as is the London Review of Books.

  9. Mike Gaynes, February 9, 2010 at 4:35 p.m.

    James, thank you, but I'm afraid my only concept of time management is watching two games at the same time while simultaneously surfing soccer blogs. But Gardner's no mere blogger -- he's been writing newspaper and magazine columns for decades. I guess that's why I find his shallowness -- and the reverence with which his observations are treated -- so irritating. I just think that with the wealth of sportswriting talent out there, Soccer America can do better. As to the New York and London Reviews, I appreciate the recommendation, but do they review soccer books?

  10. cony konstin, February 10, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

    Bradley is the head coach. He can pick who ever he wants. It doesn't matter who the head coach or assistant coach is. In the end players win championships not coaches. Coaching is totally overrated. And for you idiots who attack Paul. If you don't like what he says then don't read it. Paul has been the only voice in this country that had the juevos to tell it exactly how it needs to be told. Soccer in America is still a hobby because the powers brokers who are in charge of US Soccer have not listened to this man. If they had listen to him we would have not just have a few good players but some great players on our national team so we would have a better chance in winning the world cup. Meanwhile soccer in the US will continue to be a hobby and a couple of lines in local newspaper.

  11. Bryan Holland, February 11, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.

    Look, all I ever said was I think the USMNT has a problem of playing a man or two down in meaningful games. Go back and check the stats folks. The game against Honduras is another example.

    In my response to Marsch quoting, “It's important for me to set a tone early in the game and I do that a lot of times by fouling. I find that that gets me going, gets the competitive juices flowing.” Not sure if we need anymore of this type of mentality, especially this June. We have our work cut out for us as it is and it will not help playing England with 10 men on the field although we seem to do this all the time lately.

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