American soccer has faced a long and hard fight for credibility in Europe. Over time, the success of players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Christian Pulisic washed away lazy stereotypes and views, with the new generation which includes Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie giving scouts more reason to scour the United States.
It’s been an even longer and harder fight for American managers. Bob Bradley became the first of his nationality to be appointed at a Premier League club when he pitched up at Swansea City three years ago. Bradley’s failure in South Wales did nothing to eradicate the unjustified prejudice that still limits American coaches in England and Europe.
More recently, though, such perceptions may just have been smashed to pieces, not in England or Germany, but in Austria. Jesse Marsch took over at Red Bull Salzburg in the summer having worked as an assistant manager at RB Leipzig last season and the 45-year-old is already making an impression.
Earlier this month, Marsch became the first American manager to lead a team to a Champions League victory when Red Bull Salzburg started their group stage campaign with an emphatic 6-2 win over Genk. Next up in the Champions League, Marsch will take his side to Anfield to face the European champions. He will be in the spotlight.
Red Bull Salzburg are renowned as one of the smartest, shrewdest clubs in the European game right now. The Austrians made a run to the quarter finals of the Europa League last season and came within just one goal of knocking out Napoli and making the final four. They caught the eye of the continent.
And it doesn’t seem that the Champions League will be one level too high for them, at least going on the way they dismantled Genk in their first group game this season. In Erling Haaland, Marsch boasts one of the most exciting young talents in the sport, with the young Norwegian currently a staple of the transfer gossip column. Manchester United have been strongly linked.
But while Marsch took over at a club with a strong infrastructure already in place, he had some work to do over the summer to keep them following an upward trajectory. No fewer than five key players left Red Bull Salzburg at the end of last season, with the Austrians raking in around £60 million in the process. That left a number of gaping holes in Marsch’s team.
Around £20 million was spent on replacements, with Maximilian Wober their biggest addition, joining the club from Sevilla. Rasmus Kristensen was also signed from Ajax, but by and large Marsch is tasked with bringing through youngsters, either through shrewd lower-level transfers or through the club’s own academy.
Marsch is similar to Bradley, whom he worked under in the US Soccer set-up, in the way he has always sought new experiences. The former New York Red Bulls coach is now in charge of a club that has won six straight Austrian league titles. That is a good fit for his own personal ambition. Marsch might take Red Bull Salzburg to new heights. They haven’t yet reached their ceiling. A result, or even a strong performance against Liverpool, would illustrate this.