BERLIN — Americans are taking their coaching expertise to the Bundesliga.
New Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch became the second American in charge of a team in Germany’s top soccer division after Stuttgart’s Pellegrino Matarazzo.
“The best way to represent our football back home, and the pride I have of being an American and a big part of MLS — that being a big part of my story — is just to honor what I think needs to be done and to try to work as hard as I possibly can,” Marsch said in a video conference call with journalists this week.
The Wisconsin native is taking over from Julian Nagelsmann, who left for Bayern Munich after helping Leipzig arguably become Bayern’s biggest challenger. Leipzig finished runner-up to Bayern last season, and third the season before that. It has qualified for the Champions League the last three seasons.
Not bad for a club that was only founded by energy drinks company Red Bull in 2009.
Now Red Bull wants the 47-year-old Marsch to take Leipzig another step further in its development.
“One of the most exciting things about being here is how truly talented this team is,” Marsch said. “Then it’s just about trying to help them achieve potential. And if we do that, then we believe at the end of the season, like last year, we can be competing for some really big, big things.”
Marsch is no stranger to Leipzig having served as coach Ralf Rangnick’s assistant in 2018-19, when the team finished third and reached the German Cup final. Marsch previously coached Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls from 2015-18, earning coach of the year honors in 2015.
He left Leipzig to take over sister club Red Bull Salzburg as head coach in 2019. He led the Austrian team to successive league and cup doubles.
And now he’s back in Germany, keen to continue his own development.
“Having some success at some very high levels of football has built more into the way I think, in the way I treat people and the confidence in who I am as a coach and as a leader,” said Marsch, who inherits one of the strongest squads in the Bundesliga.
Leipzig can count on players like Spain’s Dani Olmo, Sweden’s Emil Forsberg, Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen and Hungary goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi. They all impressed at the European Championship, while Marsch is already familiar with U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams, who played for him in MLS.
The club also landed a transfer coup signing Portugal striker André Silva from league rival Eintracht Frankfurt. Silva scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga last season, a mark bettered only by Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski.
Leipzig lacked an out-and-out scorer last season.
“André is a perfect fit for us,” Marsch said. “We think he’ll be able to score a lot of goals for us.”
American youngster Caden Clark will join Leipzig after finishing his New York Red Bulls season, and Marsch already is looking forward to getting the best from the 18-year-old attacking midfielder.
“Caden, you can see, has energy, and he has confidence, and he has self-belief. And it’s borderline cockiness, but it’s also rooted in just confidence in who he is and what he’s about. So that for me is always the best starting point,” Marsch said. “I can even remember meeting Tyler Adams when he was 15 years old and being like, ‘OK, we have something here.’”
Marsch will face Matarazzo when Leipzig hosts Stuttgart on Aug. 20.
“I know that people back home aren’t as familiar with ‘Rino’ as they are with me, partly because Rino has been here for so long. His German is perfect. He has a German wife and a German family,” Marsch said.
The new Leipzig coach said he hopes their meeting is “a big deal back home. To have us two coaching against each other in a big league and representing two big clubs, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP