Meet the Press: Red Bull’s coaching carousel spins yet again with appointment of Jesse Marsch

There are too many words and phrases to describe the tumultuous 24 hours Red Bulls fans experienced that started with the report that New York had fired the most successful coach in team history. The most obvious response, and one I have used several times in the past is, “That’s so Metro!” Upon closer inspection, it is a gauntlet thrown by the New York front office that change, real change, is coming. New York held a conference call Wednesday afternoon to announce the firing of Mike Petke and the hiring of Jesse Marsch as the Red Bull’s coaching carousel spins yet again.

The conference call was kicked off by Ali Curtis, New York’s brand new Sporting Director, by announcing the club had parted ways with Mike Petke. Petke had a 30-19-19 record as the Red Bull’s head coach, winning the 2013 Supporter’s Shield on the way. Regarded as something of a curse breaker, Petke also managed the first playoff victory over hated rivals DC United during last year’s Eastern Conference Runner-Up performance. The announcement echoed a report from late Tuesday night that set Twitter alight with anger and confusion from Red Bulls fans. Next, the Sporting Director introduced New York’s new coach, Jesse Marsch, last with the Montreal Impact during their inaugural season in 2012. Curtis then followed up with news that Robin Fraser had walked away from the New York for an opportunity with an unnamed team, rumored to be Toronto FC.

Ali Curtis then gave Jesse Marsch the floor. Marsch started by thanking the front office for the fantastic opportunity, stating that he felt fortunate to be head coach of the club. He also acknowledged that his appointment was not the most popular decision, but looked forward to engaging fans, ensuring that he was not here to make sweeping personnel changes. The big takeaway from Marsch, was the plan to implement a style and identity as a hardworking energetic team to match the product sold by the team’s owners. Marsch and Curtis both mentioned analytics as a cornerstone of the coming administration as well as youth development.

These were all the right words from the recent appointees. Had any other regime preceded them, these words would have been met positively by the fan base and media. Instead, the sting of the harsh discarding of a team legend, both on and off the field, left an entirely different feeling that could be heard in the questions Curtis and Marsch faced for the remainder of the call.

Curtis had stated earlier coaching change was not about removing Petke, as much as it was about installing Marsch. That statement was questioned, thanks to a report that had surfaced earlier in the day that the Red Bulls had reached out to several high profile candidates including Caleb Porter, Bruce Arena, and Gregg Berhalter. Curtis skirted the question, stating that he had not seen the report and could not comment on it. He insisted that the Red Bulls hired the best candidate for the job. Both Marsch and Curtis also remained vague about when the hire took place. They would only confirm that the sides had been in talks sometime within the past 10 days to 2 weeks.

One curiosity came as Marsch was name checking several players on the team when asked about areas of improvements. Of the players mentioned, Australian international Tim Cahill was not one of them. Marsch explained that he had simply forgotten to mention him, though one could certainly read into it deeper. Cahill has been non-committal when confronted about his planned whereabouts in the coming season, once remarking that if he wants to stay, he will. It was just another puzzle piece for the New York fan base to turn over.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of positives to take out of the coaching change, though lingering thoughts of betrayal and the history of abuse delivered at the hands of upper management cannot be denied. Marsch and Curtis have quite a long road to find redemption in their new jobs. Surely the change will be good for the Red Bulls. Last year’s team was largely possible thanks to the tactical acumen of Robin Fraser and a terrific final season from Captain Thierry Henry. With both men departing this winter, the direction of the team was no longer sustainable and had to be reset to some degree. There will surely be a learning curve, and the new regime will be forced to skate along the edge at breakneck speeds. New York fans can be particularly unforgiving, and with New York City FC taking the field this season, this could be a critical juncture for the team’s relevance and survival.

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