Red Bull Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch has had a roller coaster first season at the helm of a European club managing to secure the double winning the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup. All of this comes with the knowledge and pressure of being an American coach, something that is uncommon in Europe.
Red Bull News Network was able to correspond exclusively with Marsch and discuss some of the lessons learned in New York and Salzburg as well as through his time under the learning tree with former Head of Sport and Development Ralf Rangnick.
RBNN: The 2019-20 season had many obstacles. Still, you managed to guide the team to the double winning the league and cup. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first season in charge of Red Bull Salzburg?
Jesse Marsch: "I think my biggest challenge in the 2019-20 with Red Bull Salzburg was being able to communicate effectively in another language. When I first came to Salzburg was the first time that I worked completely in German. Even when in Leipzig I would operate often in English and speak often in English. But from my first day here in Salzburg we did everything totally in German and so I had to get better and better. And learn how to communicate more and more.
"I also learned that communication is more than just what you say. It's sometimes how you make people feel. It's the body language you have, it's the positivity you can communicate through so many other things than just what you say. In the end, my German has gotten much better and it's been a big part of our success here."
RBNN: Salzburg has a history of grooming incredible talent that moves on to other teams around Europe. How did the year-over-year turnover of MLS teams prepare you for dealing with this in Salzburg?
Jesse Marsch: "Being in MLS certainly prepared me in a lot of different ways for how to be successful here in Europe. In the sports world and in the football world in general, there's always turnover in teams. I always look at that as an opportunity to give new players a big chance, to bring new personality into a team, to keep things fresh.
"In some, ways it's more challenging to keep a group motivated that is more the same than it is a new group to bring together and keep fresh, keep hungry. Every group has it's own challenges. Every group of people present challenges but the fun of it is making sure that everyone is willing to give to each other and is committed to the group project and enjoys the process of being successful and giving everything they have. That has been the hallmark, in many ways, of teams I've coached."
RBNN: The New York Red Bulls have always had trouble getting over the hump to lift a trophy in knockout competitions for many reasons. What did you learn from those experiences that helped you lead Salzburg to a cup in your first attempt?
Jesse Marsch: "Working with the New York Red Bulls, the biggest challenge was, that indeed, of trying to get the team over the hump to win its first trophy in either the playoffs or in the cup. We went to the Cup final (US Open Cup), we went to the playoffs every year, we had some great successes but we also always came up a little bit short.
"From that, I learned that in many ways to release a little bit to the players. Sometimes I always felt like trying to motivate them more was going to mean that they were going to achieve more or work harder to achieve. Sometimes, I think actually, releasing a little bit and allowing the environment to breathe can be as important as trying to push to motivate. So getting that balance right is always important.
"When you compare it to New York, here the team always wins. It's almost the exact opposite. How to remove the stress of trying to think that they have to win all the time and allow them to just go out and play and try to do everything they can to be successful on the day. Each environment presents its own new challenges but it's important to understand exactly what they are and honor them in whatever they they need to be addressed."
RBNN: Lastly, Ralf Rangnick recently stepped down from his position with Red Bull. You spent time with him at Leipzig. How important was he to your career and what was the biggest lesson you learned during your time as an assistant coach?
Jesse Marsch: "We're all very thankful to his contributions to our company and to our football. In terms of the lessons I learned from him at Leipzig, I think most of the lessons I learned from him was when I first joined New York Red Bulls. We started a relationship and he introduced me to his way of thinking about football and the details that he incorporates into what we do here with the way we play.
"When I went to work with him in Leipzig it was more about him and I working together as a team or all of us working together as a group to try to help that group of players in Leipzig at the time to be successful. Ralf has a relentlessness to the way that he works every day. He's never satisfied, he always wants to win, he always wants to achieve. I relate with that. I think, in many ways, that's why we worked so well together and got along well together. That's ultimately the goal we both have.
"In the end, we had a good year in Leipzig together and I really appreciated our time there."