Jesse Marsch set the tone for the 2017 Media Day of the New York Red Bulls by drawing a line in the sand concerning the topics of outgoing player Dax McCarty and former sporting director Ali Curtis who could now be considered persona non-grata subjects.
The narrative set by the Red Bulls’ head coach is the present and the future are the point with the past to be left in the past. “In the near future there will be more clarity on the overall structure of the club,” Marsh explained, “There have been questions about decision-making and without Ali being here there has been a lot of shared decision making kind of like there always has been. In that sense not much has changed.”
That includes the fact that Marsch is still the coach of this team after that curious affair in the off-season that had him in FC Red Bull Salzburg. “I’ll take it as flattery but I think it’s people wanting to sensationalize certain things in the media,” Marsch said, “If you’re a true footballer and get the chance to go to Europe and see the game at the highest levels you can imagine, it’s a treat. I’m the biggest fan of Salzburg and Leipzig FC but that doesn’t mean I am qualified to be their next coach ”
But there is a new Red Bulls captain, Sacha Kljestan. The MLS assist leader last season now assumes the burden of team leader. It didn’t appear to faze him much as he discussed his new role. “I don’t think anything changes. I can just be a little more one-on-one with the younger guys, pick up on what they need,” Sacha said, “I think I have a good way of leading the group whether I am wearing the armband or not.” Marsch seconded this choice but pointed out that Sacha has support pieces such as Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips who will be the go-to guys on this edition of the Red Bulls.”We are encouraging him to evolve with the group. He has a quiet confidence and a ease about him. He makes people better.”
In total Marsch appears to feel that with a seasoned team that has been together for two years, now is the time to tinker or broaden their playing style to take that next step “I like our team right now. The energy in pre-season has been fantastic,” Marsch said, “There is a real sense of our identity and who we are and how we play. We are continuing to try to build into that so we become more sophisticated tactically, mentally and that part has been fine.”
The direction of team tactics was something Marsch touched on in detail. A two-striker system slightly different yet with flexibility is something they are working diligently on. “We are moving a little into a two-forward system and some tactical shifts. We’re trying to find ways to be a little bit more compact with our team tactically and see if we can control the kinds of chances and counter-attacks that we give up to opponents.”
The move of Sean Davis to McCarty’s old position will be a crucial aspect to team offensive flow as more young veterans who have proven themselves are inserted into more important positions. “Davis will emerge as a natural fit playing in there with Felipe. He’s had a great two years with us and a fantastic pre-season and he’s ready for big challenges.” Tyler Adams and Gonzalo Veron were also mentioned as being in the mix provided their respective injuries don’t stop them.
Marsch is very pleased with his development players on New York Red Bulls II who won the USL Championship. So much so that he shares the desire to get them playing him wherever possible starting with tomorrow’s CONCACAF Champions League opener against Vancouver. Ryan Meara, goaltender for NYRB II listened carefully when Marsch came down to talk to the squad. “His whole message is pretty consistent, the way from top to bottom how the club wants to play,” Miera said, “We play a high pressing system which is hard to play against.” It’s comforting and a great support to know that the top tier coach is watching and that time spent in developmental is better than sitting down un the MLS.
It’s something the younger players appreciate more than anything. Meara, who basically saw few minutes for the past two years because Luis Robles has been so good and healthy but has found opportunity with the B-team. “For me personally just to be able to get twenty-five games or so, to have a game week in and week out and get back into real game form was good,” Meara reflected, “Obviously it was a platform for myself and a bunch of the young guys to show what we can do. All in all it came out well.”
But any championship aspirations begin and end with the back four. Marsch spoke about being compact and hard to play against. The bedrock of that idea is symbolized with the re-signing of Aurelian Collin. Collin looks more comfortable now that he is able to start on even ground as opposed to coming in mid-year last season. “It’s very important knowing what you have do coming in off-season and preparing hard, correcting the little stuff compared to the middle of season and having to be ready and straight.”
Collin shared the expectations of shutting teams down this year. “Our main focus to respond to how teams play against us.” How well the Red Bulls do here will determine how realistic their championship goals are. “We focus on tactics, watch a lot of videos and adjust to the different strikers like David Villa who is fast to say Vancouver who has strong players. You have to adjust, but it makes it interesting.” So Red Bulls 2017 will be a case of building on the past sprinkled with youth and thinking out the box. If grasped the Bulls may finally break the curse of the Metro.