As someone who greatly enjoys soccer and hopes that American players and coaches will continue to find opportunities in the world’s best leagues, I very much want Jesse Marsch to succeed as the manager of Leeds United. It is for that very same reason that I would also like Marsch to stop going out of his way to embarrass us.
Marsch got the Leeds job at the beginning of March, following the club’s dismissal of legendary Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa. If Leeds was looking for a change in personality, it certainly succeeded. Bielsa, a famously obsessive and brooding tactician who did more glowering than speaking, was suddenly replaced by an effusive American whose task seemed to be to inject some life and enthusiasm into the squad. When Marsch was first appointed, he acknowledged that his background and personality might bring with it a bit of a stigma, one he admitted would only be reinforced by the popularity of Ted Lasso, an indescribably mawkish television show about an effusive American soccer coach attempting to inject some life and enthusiasm into a down-on-its-luck English soccer team. Marsch wisely distanced himself from the character during one of his first press conferences, admitting that he has never seen the show, but then immediately leaned into the very stereotype the show has created.
“All I can say is the only way I know how to do things is just to go all in, to give everything I have, to believe in who I am, to believe in the people that I work with and to try to maximize what we are every day,” Marsch said. “And I find that if you can do that effectively you can be incredibly surprised with the human spirit and what you can achieve. So, that sounds like Ted Lasso I think, from what I’ve heard.”
That was the first time Marsch said or did something that made me groan out loud, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Just a few days later, after Marsch coached his first game and saw his team lose 1–0 to Leicester City, he gathered all of his players for an (easily filmable) postgame pep talk:
A few weeks later, after getting pasted 4–0 by Manchester City at home, Marsch made a big show of acknowledging and firing up the home fans:
When Marsch gave his postgame interview on that same day, he spoke like a man who had just won a game by four goals, rather than the other way around:
And now this week, as Leeds heads into a tough game against Chelsea, riding a three-game winless streak and sitting in the final relegation spot, Marsch has turned his Ted Lasso impersonation up to 11. From ESPN:
“I have hundreds of quotes I use at different moments,” Marsch told reporters, adding that the likes of NBA icon Michael Jordan, former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson and American football coaching great Vince Lombardi also inspire him.
“I try to think how they fit with who I am and how we play football. I love quotes, learning from people of the past. Sports figures, historical figures, whatever. The key is understanding what messages to use at the right time.”
“I love basketball culture in America,” Marsch added. “The way they combine inner-city kids with university graduates and incredible mentors is amazing.
“I use things that resonate with me… there are historical figures, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, presidents like John F. Kennedy.”ESPN
To all of this I must say: Enough!
Jesse Marsch, you are making us look bad. At best, you are coming off like exactly the sort of dopey, aw-shucks American that everyone in the English press was so eager to make fun of you for being. At worst, you are coming off like a performative dork who seems more concerned with polishing his own personal brand as a motivational maven than he is with actually winning soccer games—a task that, to be fair, Marsch’s Leeds has performed pretty solidly. This isn’t college basketball. You don’t make a career out of being a quirky personality who gives good quotes to the media. This is the Premier League, where even the most respected coaches in the world can be out of a job within eight months if the results aren’t there. There are consequences to this shit, and if you take Leeds down while simultaneously confirming every negative stereotype the world already held about American coaches, you’re gonna fuck it up for everyone else. Just be a surly jerk like every other coach in the league, and win some games.