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Interview: Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch

(Photo: Courtesy of Montreal Impact)

Philly Soccer Page writer Adam Cann recently spoke with Montreal Impact coach Jesse Marsh. In their conversation, Marsch talked about the many variables to consider when deciding who to select in the Expansion Draft, as well as the club’s vision for the future and his role as a coach. Marsch was a US international with a long MLS career (including time as a teammate of Peter Nowak at Chicago Fire) before becoming an assistant coach with the US national team in 2010. Union assistant coach John Hackworth recently said of Marsch and Impact assistant coach Mike Sorber in an interview about the Expansion Draft on the Impact website, “Jesse and Mike are two very smart guys who will, I’m convinced, do some excellent work during the expansion draft. Could you please ask them to do me a little favour and to lose the Union’s unprotected list when it comes time to make their choices? Thanks a lot…”

Philly Soccer Page: Philly used their expansion draft to bring in guys who are still on the roster. It seems like Portland and Vancouver went in a different direction to bring in guys who were moveable so they could acquire more players later in the off season.  How do you see the Expansion Draft progressing for Montreal, what are you looking for? Are you looking for guys you can keep on the roster or guys you can use for pieces in the future?

Jesse Marsch:  We have a very open mind about what the Expansion Draft will mean for us. The thing that is different for us from Philly is that we have this year’s team to work off of. So we have certain piece that we have put in place, some that we have announced and some that we haven’t, from last year’s team. But I think that, when we say we have an open mind, we’ll look at it from the perspective that is necessary to find valuable MLS experience, whether it’s young players or veterans, to help use the expansion draft in that manner, to help add to our roster so that there’s an understanding of what the league’s about. But there’s also the ability to use it to acquire other things, whether it’s using certain value in the draft to get players who are protected or whether it’s to find other ways to use the player pool that’s available.

So, we’re not locked into to saying we’re only getting ten players that are going to start on our team in the first game and we’re not locked in to saying we’re going to get ten players and move them all. It’s gotta be about figuring, with our needs, and what’s all available, how it all fits.

PSP: About your needs, most coaches say they have a system they want to run or a certain tactical way they want to set up on the field. How does that influence what you’re going to look for? You’ve already signed Evan Bush and Nelson Rivas, so it seems like you’re going for a strong defensive foundation. Is that going to have a big impact on how you draft?

JM: Well, there are so many variables that enter in to it, including what we have, what we want to be, what’s out there and, certainly, what kind of football we want to play. There are just so many variables so it’s hard to pinpoint one specific idea or concept other than to say that it’s more just now about how to round out our club, our organization, our team.

PSP: Looking at it that way, do you have a style that you want to play in your first season? I guess it is difficult to say your goal is to make the playoffs in your first season, but do you have goals within that to say  “we want to be defensively organized” or “we want to be a team that can open up the game from the beginning”?

JM: Well, I would say, as a starting point, we are committed to the process, to making sure we don’t try and cut corners for immediate results and do it in ways that might cost us in the long run. If I give Peter [Nowak] and Philly credit, I think his vision now building this thing from the start with young players and building a foundation that can lead to years of success, I would say that Philly did that and figured out that balance pretty well. So, we have that in mind with also thinking about how to be competitive from the start. So, it’s not that, you know, we’re looking to start the season 5-0, it’s not that we want to make the playoffs in the first year, but it’s certainly not that we don’t want to make the playoffs in the first year [laughs].

It has to be a well rounded outlook in terms of what the whole process means and what the mix of players is so that you give yourself a chance to grow and be better every day.

PSP: In the past there’s been sometimes a tendency with the Expansion Draft unprotected lists to leave some of the veterans exposed. Is there sort of an assumption that maybe a guy nearing the end of his career, maybe he  doesn’t want to move. When you hear about that is there a thought that, “Maybe we don’t want to pick this guy, maybe he would rather retire than move.” Is there a concern about pushback?

JM: Well, you try to do your homework to understand which guys might be interested in a move, which guys wouldn’t. But you also know that certain veteran guys, because of who they are, would be committed to a new experience and helping establish  what a team would be like and end their career on a good note. Like I said, there are so many variables to each situation, to the Expansion Draft as a whole, so you have to have a good overall outlook of what everything is.

PSP:  When Philly brought in guys like Danny Califf in the first year, a selling point was that we’re building a new stadium, that we have a dedicated fanbase that worked hard to get the team here. It seems like Montreal has some similarities. Can you talk about what the selling points are for Montreal.? How were you sold on the experience and how are you going to sell it to the guys coming in?

JM: The reason why this was a good fit was because there was a commitment from this club and this organization to create the right training environment, to have a good stadium, there’s a good fanbase – it has the potential to be a unique situation in this league.

So, we’re trying hard to bring in good people, to do homework and to do groundwork in a lot of different ways to lay a good foundation for what real training is, how to challenge each other every day, how to have a real team full of guys that are committed to each other so that you give yourself  the best chance to be successful.  This is something that I think, whether it was teams I played on, whether it was the national team in the World Cup, and now whether with what we are building here, you want to build something that you are proud of, that everybody feels like they are a part of, and that , at the end of it all, we can look each other in the eye and say, “We gave it our all.”

PSP:  One of the things that Peter Nowak did when he came into to Philly was really work his connections with the US national team, drafting some new guys who were part of the program. Is there anything you are thinking about, being in Canada, about bringing in a Canadian contingent? Is there pressure on you or an idea in your head that you want to make sure you have Canadian representation on your roster?

JM: Well, as a starting point, we have to. But, still, whatever team you work for or are attached to, you want to make sure you understand what it means to be part of that.  So, certainly, how it applies to the [team owner] Saputo family, how that applies to the Montreal community, how it applies to the history of the Montreal Impact. You know, what we want to be, how we want to continue build and establish what we are going forward. Everything from the makeup of our team, to how we play, how we treat each other, to how we include the fans – these are all important elements. And, as an organization, we are committed to trying to do all those things the right way.

PSP:  What do you see as the most important elements that you have to bring to the process as a coach in the off season? What’s the most important thing you’ve had to do since you arrived?

JM: It’s really the experience and the leadership of being in the league and knowing what the games in the league look like, and what a real soccer environment is about.  Whether it’s what the training facility looks like, whether it’s what training looks like, how you talk to players, how you talk to the media, the fans – laying down groundwork so that, as an organization, we have a starting point, we have an idea of what we want things to look like. And then, finding players and putting players in place so that, as we’re training and moving along in the season and becoming a team, we have good pieces that understand, understand the expectations and understand what a real environment is all about.


  1. PSP: What does 2+2 equal?
    JM: It depends on the situation and how the answer would best suit the club.

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