Former Carmel FC GK Coach & Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr returns w/ league leading San Antonio Sat 7 pm
Despite being in the midst of a 12-game winless streak, Indy Eleven’s defense continues to keep it in games, with Indy allowing just one goal in 7 of its outings during its winless streak. Of the 10 losses in the streak, seven have come by a one-goal margin – with last week’s match serving as the fifth heartbreaking 0-1 scoreline during the stretch. Overall in 2022, the Eleven’s 38 goals allowed through 24 games ranks 14th in the USL Championship, placing it squarely in the middle of the 27-team pack.
Defense is where the Alamo City outfit shines, its 21 goals allowed ranking second in the league behind only Louisville (16). Former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr has stood tall when called upon his 10 clean sheets are just one behind a trio of league leaders in the category and he has won Goalkeeper Save of the Week multiple times this season helping San Antonio to the 2nd best record in the league. The 3-1-7 Special offer this weekend includes $3 drinks, $1 popcorn and $7 tickets if you buy them online before game time. Learn More
Games to Watch
A big weekend of Soccer action on TV starts tonight with MLS at 8 pm on ESPN as league leading LAFC travels to 2nd place Austin. Both teams coached by former USMNT players LAFC (Steve Cherundolo) and Austin (Josh Wolff) features 2 of the hottest teams in the MLS right now (Preview). At 10 pm also on ESPN is the Cascadian Cup Match of the biggest rivals in American Soccer Seattle and Portland. Both teams are struggling to make the playoffs this year – which makes this game as important as ever. Just flip over and catch a bit of these games to see what MLS soccer has become!
Saturday we move overseas as Brighton hosting Leeds United States of America at 10 am on USA Network takes center stage. The 12:30 NBC game also features American’s as Fulham (Tim Ream, Jedi Robinson) travel to league leading Arsenal and US GK Matt Turner. Other big games Sat have Juventus (Mckinney) hosting Roma in Italy on Paramount + at 12:30 pm along with the huge German match-up of Bayern Munich hosting Borussia Mgladbach and American outside back Joe Scally 12:30 Sat on ESPN+. American’s overseas viewing guide
EPL Wk 3 – Leeds United States of America Arrives – 2nd in EPL
That thud and huge roar you heard on Sunday morning last week was Chelsea falling to the ground and Leeds United States of America stepping on their faces !! Yes if you actually play your American’s Tuchel – good things might just happen. Leeds didn’t just beat Chelsea with American youngster Brendan Aaronson scoring his first EPL goal in dramatic fashion. They slaughtered the former European Champions 3-0 at Elland Road (from the stands)– with fellow American Tyler Adams being named Player of the Match for his midfield performance as the ultimate #6 – shutting down Chelsea’s attack before it could get off the ground. At least 3 times he cut off fast break opportunities and was seemingly all over the field. Even the insertion of American Christian Pulisic in the 65th minute did nothing for the blues who have basically disintegrated now that Chelsea manager Tuchel is inserting his “own” players. Tuchel has made even the best attackers looks like bums with the 3rd worse offense in the EPL.. My favorite of the weekend might have been American coach Jesse Marsch reaction after Aaronson scored the first goal (its spelled Soccer you English bums!). Yes this American coach who has this former formidable club Leeds United back near the top of the table, can coach. And these American’s he signed – Brendan Aaronson, Tyler Adams and even Jack Harrison really (he’s English but played his formative years in MLS) CAN PLAY SOCCER. There is room on this bandwagon American Soccer fans – join us as the next 2 week’s games are on USA Network at 10 am on Saturday’s– a sign that Leeds United States of America is here!! Cool Story on Leads and Jesse Marsch Nice piece on Brendan Aaronson
Other EPL news had Man United shocking Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford Monday –(as protesters burned American owners the Glaziers in effigy) while Liverpool is limping along at 0-2-1 on the season just 1 point above the relegation zone. The win for Man United moved them to 1-2 L on the season. Fulham America stands at 7th with a win and 2 draws and one of the stingiest d’s in the EPL with the left side of defense manned by American’s Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream. It leads some to believe Tim Reem might get a call up to the USMNT for their September set of 2 games 9/23 & 9/27.
Champions League draw has 10 Americans in the 22-23 Competition
Group A: Ajax, Liverpool FC, Napoli, Rangers FC (James Sands, Malik Tilman
Group B: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge (Owen Otasowie)
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (Chandler), Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille
Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea FC (Pulisic), Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic FC (Carter-Vickers)
Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen
Group H: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus (McKinney), Benfica, Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cowen GK)
Nice to see Benzema of Real Madrid win the FIFA Player of the Year award – lets hope this means a BallonD’Or for him in the future.
High School Local – CHS Girls host tourney Sat @ Murray
Check out the local team rankings for Girls and boys teams below in the Ole Ballcoach. The Carmel Girls are hosting the Carmel Invite with $6 Admission (Kindergarten and younger admitted free).
Murray Stadium is located directly behind Carmel High School.
9:00 am Murray Stadium Carmel (Guests) vs. Avon (Home)
10:45 am Murray Stadium Cathedral (Guests) vs. Fishers (Home)
5:00 pm Murray Stadium Avon (Guests) vs. Cathedral (Home)
6:45 pm Murray Stadium Fishers (Guests) vs. Carmel (Home)
Junior Varsity Schedule
Football Practice Fields are north of Murray Stadium behind the football stadium.
9:00 am FB Practice Fields Carmel JV Blue (Home) vs. Avon (Guests)
9:00 am FB Practice Fields Cathedral (Home) vs. Fishers (Guests)
3:00 pm FB Practice Fields Avon (Home) vs. Cathedral (Guests)
3:00 pm FB Practice Fields Fishers (Home) vs. Carmel JV Blue (Guests) (I will be reffing this one)
BIG GAMES ON TV
Fri, Aug 25
2:45 pm Para+ Lazio vs Inter Milan
7pm Para+ Orlando Pride vs Seattle OL Reign
8 pm ESPN Austin vs LAFC
10- pm ESPN Portland Timbers vs Seattle
Sat, Aug 27
7:30 am USA Southhampton vs Man United
9:30 am ESPN Dortmund (reyna) vs Hertha
10 amUSA Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) @ Brighton
10 am Peacock Chelsea vs Leicster
12:30 pm NBC Arsenal vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)
12:30 pm Para+ Juventus (Mckinney) vs Roma
12:30 pm ESPN+ Bayern Munich vs MGladbach (Scally)
12:30 ESPN+ Union Berlin vs RBLeipzig
3:30 pm Univision Minn United vs Houston
7 pm Ch 8 INDY 11 vs San Antonio (GK Jordan Farr)
7 pm ESPN+ Charoltte vs Toronto
7:30 pm ESPN+ Cincy vs Columbus
7:30 pm Para+ Racing Louisville NWSL
10 pm Para+ San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Houston Dash NWSL
10 pm ESPN+ LA FC vs San Jose
10:30 pm Para+ Portland vs San Diego Wave (Morgan)
Sun, Aug 28
9 am USA Aston Villa vs West Ham
11:30 am USA Nottingham Forest vs Tottenham
1:30 pm ESPN +, D Barcelona vs Real Valladolid
2:45 pm Para+ Forentina vs Napoli
2:45 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Monaco
4 pm ESPN+ Real Sociedad vs Barcelona (Dest)
4 pm Univision Atlanta United vs DC United
5 pm Para+ NY Gothem FC vs Angel City NWSL
7 pm Para+ KC Current vs NC Courage NWSL
7:30- pm FS1 Orlando City vs NYCFC
Mon, Aug 29
4 pm ESpN+ Valencia vs Atletico Madrid
Tues, Aug 30
12:30 pm Para+ Sassuolo vs Milan
2:45 pm Peacock Fulham (Reem, Jedi) vs Brighton
3 pm USA Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) vs Everton
Wed, Aug 31
2:30 pm Peacock Arsenal vs Aston Villa
3 pm USA Liveerpool vs NewCastle United
7 pm FS1 Philly Union vs Inter Miami
9 pm ESPN+ Austin vs Portland
Thur, Sept 1
3 pm USA Leicister City vs Man United
Fri, Sept 2
3 pm ESPN+ Dortmund (reyna) vs Hoffenheim
Sat, Sept 3
7:30 am USA Everton vs Liverpool
9:30 am ESPN Dortmund (reyna) vs Hertha
9:30 am ESPN+ Union Berlin (PefoK vs Bayern Munich
9 am Para+ Forentina vs Juventus (Mckinney)
10 am USA Leads United (Adams, Aaronson) @ Brentford
10 am Peacock Fulham (Reem, Jedi) @ Tottenham
12 noon para+ AC Milan vs Inter
12:30 pm NBC Aston Villa vs Man City
3 pm ESPN+ Sevilla vs Barcelona
3 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Nantes
7:30 pm ESPN+ Detroit vs Indy 11
Sun, Sept 4
11:30 am USA Man United vs Arsenal
5 pm Para+ NY Gothem FC vs NC Courage NWSL
Fri, Sept 23
8:25 am ESPN USMNT vs Japan in Germany
Tues, Sept 27
2 pm ESPN USMNT vs Saudi Arabia in Spain
Fri, Oct 7
3 pm ESPN US Women vs England in London
====================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ======================
Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ
Save 20% on your order
(mention the ole ballcoach)
Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more. Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next meal. https://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290 M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday. Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!
=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================
Indiana high school girls soccer: Hamilton Southeastern takes top spot in Fab 15 rankings
Brian Haenchen Indianapolis Star
There’s a new No. 1 in the Central Indiana girls soccer Fab 15 with Hamilton Southeastern opening the season with wins over Class 3A finalists Carmel and Homestead. The Royals will have a chance to solidify their grip on the top spot this weekend, with their game against Noblesville one of many powerhouse clashes scheduled for this week. In the meantime, here’s where the area’s best rank after the first eight days of the season.
1. Hamilton Southeastern (5-0)
The Royals opened the season with a 4-1 win over Carmel, against whom they were 0-6-1 with a mere four goals scored since 2010. Seniors Caroline Kelley (nine goals, two assists) and Tatum Coleman (eight assists) have been top-notch on the attack, while goalkeeper Hailey Wade has allowed just one goal on 11 shots, including a shutout vs. Homestead (W, 2-0). HSE will try to defeat Noblesville for the first time since 2014 on Saturday.
IHSAA girls soccer:2022 IndyStar preseason Super Team upperclassmen standouts lead team
2. Noblesville (2-0)
Last week: 1
Smooth start to the year for the Millers, whose first two wins came by a combined score of 7-0. Four different players (Sydney Elliott, Meskerem James, Meredith Tippner and Ava Bramblett) scored against Cathedral; Lily Ault joined Bramblett and James in the goals column against West Lafayette. Noblesville hosts Avon on Wednesday before HSE comes to town for a rematch of last year’s sectional thriller.
3. Carmel (3-1)
The Greyhounds bounced back from a lopsided loss to Hamilton Southeastern with wins over Plainfield, No. 5 South Bend St. Joseph and Class 2A No. 3 Guerin Catholic (shortened by storms). Clare Simmonds netted the winner vs. SBSJ (assisted by Annika Nelson); Olivia Cebalo scored the lone goal against Guerin (assisted by Sophie Shepherd). Carmel hosts Avon and Fishers on Saturday.
4. Center Grove (2-0-1)
The Trojans started the season with three ranked opponents. They beat East Central and Columbus North, then tied Bloomington South. Five different players had scored for CG entering the Bloomington South game (Taylor Wert, Brooklyn Brown, Ella Dewitt, Addie Crowe and Madi Kramer).
5. Brebeuf Jesuit (1-1-1)
Brebeuf suffered its first loss of the season — a 1-0 decision at Avon — on Saturday, despite outshooting the Orioles 8-2. It let a second-half lead get away vs. Zionsville in the opener (tied, 2-2), but bounced back with a win over Brownsburg. Three quality tests for Brebeuf, which has three conference games upcoming: Bishop Chatard (Tuesday), Covenant Christian (Thursday) and Guerin Catholic (Saturday).
6. North Central (1-0-2)
It was a busy, but good week for the Panthers, who tied with Zionsville and Cathedral (shortened by storms) and knocked off Lawrence Central. Five different players have scored goals for NC, led by senior Samantha King with four, plus two assists. Maryn Weiger has allowed only two goals on 10 shots through three games.
7. Bishop Chatard (3-0-1)
Chatard started the season with a couple 3A wins (Brownsburg and Mt. Vernon), and a triumph over Class A champion Heritage Christian. Note from the 5-3 win over Heritage Christian: senior Bri Buels scored a hat trick; Cece Leffler registered three assists. Tough stretch upcoming with Brebeuf on Tuesday, followed by Roncalli and Guerin next week.
8. Cathedral (1-1-1)
It would have been nice to see if the Fighting Irish could have broken through against North Central, but Mother Nature had other plans with inclement weather ending the game in the 60th minute. Couple more of those measuring-stick games upcoming with Roncalli on Wednesday, then Fishers and Avon on Saturday.
9. Zionsville (0-0-3)
Three draws against three quality opponents for the Eagles, whose week one dance card featured North Central, Brebeuf and Guerin. Reese Nehlsen scored both goals against Brebeuf (scored the game-tying goal in the second half), fellow senior Katie Chadwick scored against Guerin. Nehlsen and Bryn Maxwell accounted for the two goals against North Central.
10. Heritage Christian (1-2)
The Eagles wasted no time putting themselves to the test with games against Roncalli and Chatard. They have just one game this week (Danville), with a visit from Brebeuf scheduled for next week.
11. Guerin Catholic (1-1-1)
Alex Soucie scored a second-half goal to secure a tie vs. Zionsville, then the Golden Eagles limited 3A foe Carmel to just one goal in a weather-shortened clash on Saturday. Soucie and Sutton Worman are tied for the team lead with two goals apiece.
12. Roncalli (3-0-1)
Summer Fishel has the Royals rolling early on. The sophomore has six goals and three assists through four games, highlighted by a season-opening hat trick vs. Heritage Christian. Roncalli travels to Cathedral on Wednesday.
13. Fishers (4-0)
After winning their first two games by a combined score of 12-0, the Tigers had to grind against Westfield and Franklin Central, coming away with matching 2-1 victories. It’s worth noting Fishers’ scoring has come from a variety of players in its past two games. Elise May and McKinley Boland scored against the Shamrocks; Addie Allgeier and Emmy Streeter accounted for the goals against Franklin Central. Fishers has five players with multiple goals.
14. Park Tudor (2-0-1)
Goalkeeper Lucy Furqueron has allowed just one goal for the Panthers, who beat Avon and Brownsburg, and tied with Chatard. They’re off until Saturday when they travel to Columbus East. Park Tudor’s schedule does not include a Class A opponent until September when it faces Fort Wayne Canterbury (Sept. 2) and Heritage Christian (Sept. 6).
15. Tri-West (1-1)
The Bruins will try to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Cathedral on Monday against Brownsburg. Clare Donald and Paige Halford scored goals against Greencastle last Tuesday, with Danica James securing the shutout.
Follow IndyStar high school sports Insider Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @brian_haenchen.
IHSAA boys soccer: Northside continues to rule Fab 15 after opening week
Brian Haenchen Indianapolis Star
With a week’s worth of games to work with, there was a healthy amount of shuffling beyond the top two teams in our first boys soccer Fab 15 of the regular season.
1. Fishers (2-0-1)
The Tigers surrendered the game-tying goal in the second half of a 1-1 draw with Westfield, but sandwiched that result between blowout wins over Franklin Central and Harrison. Junior Kyle Clayton, who scored Fishers’ goal against Westfield, has six on the season, while seniors Noah Reinhart and Santi Morales have combined for seven goals. Miles Hardy and Gavin Clayton have split goalkeeper duties through the first three games.
2. Hamilton Southeastern (2-0-1)
Brady Strawmyer made four saves, and Logan Puls and Rex Randy provided the offense (with assists from Grady Garrand and Rodrigo Silvestre Muniz) to lift the Royals to a come-from-behind win over Carmel on Saturday. That’s big for HSE, which could (maybe even should) be unbeaten entering the month of September, which starts with matches against Brebeuf Jesuit and Fishers — and doesn’t let up from there.
3. Zionsville (1-0-1)
The Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak vs. Carmel with a scoreless draw in the season opener. They followed that with a rout of McCutcheon on Thursday, a nice tune-up for what’s to come: Fishers on Tuesday, then Westfield a week later.
4. Noblesville (2-0)
AJ Tippner and the Millers found a way to win against both Perry Meridian and Carmel, with Cole Thompson and Noel Peña posting matching shutouts in net. They have another series of tests upcoming with Tuesday’s trip to Avon followed by Brebeuf, Fishers and Westfield over the next three games.
5. Carmel (0-2-2)
A late second-half goal burnt the Greyhounds against Noblesville on Thursday, then they failed to close out HSE on Saturday, allowing two goals in the second half of a 2-1 loss. This obviously isn’t the start coach Shane Schmidt and his squad were looking for, but they started slow last season, too, and wound up reaching the state finals. In summation: Don’t read too far into Carmel’s early results. It’s a young-ish team that’s been thrown directly into the deep end.
6. Brebeuf Jesuit (2-0)
Following wins over Avon and Cardinal Ritter, Brebeuf has one more tune-up (Roncalli) before entering the meat of its schedule with Thursday’s match vs. Noblesville followed by Carmel, Westfield, HSE and Cathedral. Senior Stefan Boes leads the team with four goals; six players have registered assists, led by Alex Kirberger with two. Aidan Wade has yet to allow a goal in 120 minutes played.
7. Westfield (0-0-2)
The Shamrocks came away with 1-1 draws against two of the better teams in the state (Fishers and Pike). Goalkeeper Liam Lloyd, who had an assist vs. the Red Devils, has made 19 saves (12 vs. Fishers). Cooper Ardiaolo and Oliver Smith have accounted for the scoring, though Aiden Yonkus, Yahir Lopez and Marlon Gomez lead the team in shots (4).
8. Pike (0-0-2)
The Red Devils played Carmel and Westfield to 1-1 draws to start the season.
9. Heritage Christian (2-1)
HC found different ways to collect its wins last week. Goalkeeper Landon Hight and the defense shined in a 1-0 win over University in the season opener; three first-half goals carried the Eagles to a wild 4-3 win over Bishop Chatard on Saturday. HC will face another former sectional opponent, Park Tudor, on Saturday.
10. Perry Meridian (3-1)
The Falcons’ lone loss came to Noblesville, a 1-0 decision on Tuesday. Senior Vicktor Thang had three goals and three assists entering Thursday’s conference clash vs. Decatur Central, and goalkeeper Cung Hmung had made 14 saves (two goals against).
11. Center Grove (2-1-1)
The Trojans bounced back from a one-goal loss to Bloomington South with a 1-0-1 showing at the Trojan Classic on Saturday. The win came over Columbus East, while the tie came against Castle, which is ranked No. 7 in Class 3A by the coaches. Ely Detty, who scored four goals in a 5-1 win over Roncalli, registered a goal and an assist vs. Castle.
10 Americans to compete in 2022-23 UEFA Champions League
USMNT fans will have plenty of Champions League rooting interests.
The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place today in Istanbul, and 32 teams were drawn into 8 groups of 4 for Europe’s most prestigious club tournament. For fans of the United States Men’s National Team, there are several rooting interests located within those 8 groups, as 10 American players will once again compete in the hopes of lifting the Champions League trophy next June 10th.
The 10 Americans that will compete in the Champions League:
Eintracht Frankfurt (Timmy Chandler)
Chelsea FC (Christian Pulisic)
FC Barcelona (Sergiño Dest*)
Juventus (Weston McKennie)
Borussia Dortmund (Gio Reyna)
Rangers FC (James Sands, Malik Tillman)
Club Brugge (Owen Otasowie)
Celtic FC (Cameron Carter-Vickers)
Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen)
*Assuming Dest remains with Barcelona after the close of the summer transfer window At this point, USMNT fans should be used to this number of Americans playing in the Champions League, with 10 players being in the competition the past 2 seasons. Still, it’s a wonderful sight to see so many USMNT players getting that kind of experience and playing for one of the world’s most heralded trophies.
Here’s how the draw concluded:
Group A: Ajax, Liverpool FC, Napoli, Rangers FC
Group B: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille
Group E: AC Milan, Chelsea FC, Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb
Group F: Real Madrid, RB Leipzig, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic FC
Group G: Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen
Group H: Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Benfica, Maccabi Haifa
Vlatko Andonovski announces September USWNT roster
The team will meet up next week ahead of two friendlies against Nigeria.
CHICAGO (Aug. 22, 2022) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named a 23-player roster for two September friendly matches against Nigeria, the first on Sept. 3 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas (Kickoff at 12:30 p.m. CT / 1:30 p.m. ET with coverage beginning at Noon CT / 1 p.m. ET on FOX) and the second on Sept. 6 at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., presented by Allstate (6 p.m. ET on ESPN2). All 23 players will suit up for both matches. All 23 players were on the roster for the USWNT as they won the Concacaf W Championship in July. After going undefeated without allowing a goal in capturing its 9th Concacaf title, the team’s focus turns to preparation for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which begins next July in Australia and New Zealand. The team will learn who it will play in the group stage when the draw is held on October 22nd. Until then, they appear to be challenging themselves with quality competition with the matches against Nigeria and a friendly against England at Wembley Stadium on October 7th.“All the players on the roster performed well in Mexico at qualifying and have carried that form for their clubs, so we’ll continue the process of growing as a team with this group in what will be two challenging games against Nigeria,” said Andonovski. “Preparing for the World Cup is a long process, and I’ve been very happy with how our team understands that process, is willing to do the work and is making positive strides every camp to get us to where we want to be next summer.”The only player from the Concacaf W Championship that is absent from this roster is Emily Sonnett, who is recovering from injury. Crystal Dunn, who has been on maternity leave, will return to USWNT camp to train with the team, but will not be included on the roster.
The 23-player roster:
DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC); Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
Grant Whal 3 Thoughts on Leeds United-Chelsea – Grant Wahl
Leeds wallops Chelsea 3-0 in a huge win with Americans Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Jesse Marsch playing central roles
|Grant Wahl Aug 21|
In a stunning result, Leeds United beat Chelsea 3-0 in the most convincing of ways on Sunday, unleashing a barrage of energy against one of the Premier League’s top teams. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now. Free 7-day trials are available.
• Brenden Aaronson is designed for the Premier League. The 21-year-old American was a devastating mix of skill and energy again, providing constant threats with his passing and turns (see you later, Kalidou Koulibaly, enjoy that yellow card!) while injecting energy and defensive pressure whenever Leeds lost the ball. That resulted in the game’s opening goal, when Aaronson picked the pocket of Chelsea keeper Édouard Mendy in front of an adoring Elland Road crowd. When I interviewed Aaronson in Leeds for my recent magazine story on the Americans there, I asked him what position he would play. “Not the striker,” he said, “but the three under the striker. Any position there. Left mid, center attacking mid, or right mid.” On Sunday Aaronson was deployed in the number 10 role for the first time, and while not everything he tried came off, the sheer verticality of some of his menacing through-balls reminded me of Michael Laudrup. Aaronson’s is also crazy fit. He went 82 minutes at a breakneck pace and has been on the field for all but 13 minutes in Leeds’s first three games. Hats off to one of the Premier League’s top newcomers so far this season.
• This game was a distillation of MarschBall. The philosophy of Leeds’s American coach, Jesse Marsch, is all about constant energy, full-field pressure and striking quickly in transition once you win the ball, especially when it’s in the opponent’s end of the field. Marsch, who emphasizes data analysis, also invests lots of training time into an array of intricate set-piece routines. Look how Leeds scored its goals on Sunday: The first (by Aaronson) came as the direct result of pressure on Mendy. The second (by Rodrigo, his league-leading fourth of the season) came on a well-executed set-piece corner kick. The third (by Jack Harrison) came on a decisive counterattack with Daniel James delivering a terrific cross with zero Chelsea pressure from the left side. No Leeds player knows MarschBall better than Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old American who started playing for Marsch at age 15, and Adams was sneaky-phenomenal on Sunday, seemingly everywhere to win balls in the midfield and showing his smarts to know exactly when to insert himself to stop Chelsea counters. (A particular moment happened in the second half when Adams dispossessed Raheem Sterling on a post-set-piece counter without even drawing a foul.) MarschBall is heavy-metal football, a 90-minute rush, and it was especially fun to see Marsch celebrating that way on the sideline after Leeds goals. (And you know what’s crazy? Leeds really should have a perfect nine points in the league instead of seven after losing a 2-0 lead at Southampton last week.)
• What must Christian Pulisic be thinking right now? Chelsea’s American No. 10 once again didn’t start, even though the ineffective Ruben Loftus-Cheek did in a position where Pulisic could certainly play, and losing to the Premier League’s America’s Team (with Aaronson, Adams and Marsch playing central roles) has to have Pulisic wondering about greener pastures elsewhere. Pulisic didn’t have much impact once he came on in the second half, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have Thomas Tuchel’s trust. If he did, Chelsea wouldn’t be looking to acquire more players in his position. I would almost rather see Pulisic move on loan to Newcastle than to the dumpster fire of Manchester United, but he needs to make a move and get playing time ahead of the World Cup if he wants to have the biggest impact he could at the tournament. That’s the only bummer of an otherwise phenomenal day for fans of United States soccer.
Brenden Aaronson, the USMNT’s fastest-rising star, bosses Chelsea on a banner day for American soccer
Henry Bushnell Sun, August 21, 2022 at 10:52 A
Brenden Aaronson’s meteoric rise from Medford, New Jersey, toward the top of global soccer hit new heights on Sunday in a rip-roaring Leeds United win over Chelsea — and on a landmark day for Americans in the sport.It wasn’t just the goal, Aaronson’s first in the Premier League and Leeds’ first in a 3-0 victory.It wasn’t just the spin that put Kalidou oulibaly, one of the world’s most accomplished defenders, in a blender.It was that everything Aaronson and Leeds did epitomized what he and American men’s soccer have become.In the first 45 minutes alone, the 21-year-old buzzed around Elland Road from his central attacking midfield position. He snapped into tackles. He broke lines with clever flicks. He ran in behind Chelsea’s overwhelmed defense.He popped up on the right wing and the left wing, in the middle third and even the defensive third, and everywhere in between.He wasn’t, and isn’t, flawless on the ball. In fact, mere seconds before tapping it into an empty net, he gave it away with a sloppy pass.But Aaronson’s most coveted skill, despite the “attacker” label, is actually his front-foot defending. He’s one of the world’s premier pressers. He is relentless without the ball, “an annoying gnat, like a fly that you can’t get out of your face,” U.S. teammate Weston McKennie once said.His reaction to losing the ball in the 33rd minute was, and always is, to sprint toward it. He charged down one Chelsea player, then a second, and then, finally, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.Because he did, he had the freedom, and the audacity, to score his first EPL goal with a no-look finish.He also had a U.S. teammate, Tyler Adams, getting stuck in on Chelsea midfielders and supporting him all afternoon long.He has an American manager, Jesse Marsch, empowering him and the rest of Leeds United to swarm opponents, no matter how big or rich those opponents are.Marsch celebrated Aaronson’s goal with a sprint of his own down the touchline, a jump and a fist-pump. He celebrated the third goal — scored by English winger Jack Harrison, a product of an American high school and college and MLS — with a spike of his water bottle. He spent several minutes after the final whistle twirling his jacket and pounding his chest as Leeds supporters sang his name.Christian Pulisic entered the fray off Chelsea’s bench in the second half, and perhaps the most astounding aspect of this astounding day was that, of the five American soccer products to take part in a Premier League game, Christian Pulisic, the country’s most celebrated star, was the least-discussed of the five. After the match, as Marsch made the rounds, commending players and saluting fans, Aaronson, Adams and Pulisic chatted briefly on the field.Adams then wrapped himself in an American flag and paraded around the pitch.Aaronson told NBC Sports in a postgame interview: “It just goes to show people around the world that Americans can play football too.”
The scary part — or, rather, the scary good part — is that Aaronson has found it difficult to even crack the U.S. men’s national team starting 11. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has preferred Pulisic, 23, and Lille forward Tim Weah, 22, on the wings. He has preferred McKennie, a 23-year-old regular at Juventus, as the most advanced midfielder. There is no obvious place for Aaronson in the team.And yet he might, at the moment, be the best American player in the world.He is definitely a sign of the times, a representative of the most promising generation of men’s players that the U.S. has ever produced, and proof of concept for the academies producing them. Just five years ago, he was being trained and educated by the Philadelphia Union academy and the specialized prep school affiliated with it.He is now their postboy. But he’s certain that he won’t be the last.”I can say, there’s gonna be a lot more talents coming out of the Philadelphia Union academy,” he assured reporters earlier this year. “I think that it’s only starting now” — in Philadelphia and, he clarified, “in the whole country,” where “academies are getting better and better.”The next in the soon-to-be-long line might be his brother, Paxten, 18, who some in Philadelphia believe could be as good or better than Brenden.And Brenden is still just 21. Three years ago, he was a teenage MLS rookie. Just last year, he was moving to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Just a few months ago, he was in agony as he watched Leeds try to stay in the Premier League, his move contingent on them avoiding relegation.They did, and now he’s the second-most expensive U.S. player ever, and maybe the most exciting. He is sending Premier League stadiums into rapturous celebration. He is an ultra-modern player in an ultra-modern team that is flying all sorts of flags for Americans in the sport. And there is no telling how good he might become.
The transfer window is closing soon, and that would normally mean a pretty furious avalanche of rumors, requests, bids, and stories. Deadline day has become the sport’s free agency day in the NHL or NBA (or even election night), with masses of reporters spread out across the European continent breathlessly covering physicals and car types arriving and not arriving. Only on the one day in August and the one in January do you see a cavalcade of journalists standing in a parking lot in the rain hoping to see a car with tinted windows roll by. It’s a little more entertaining than TSN reporters standing in the baking sun outside of empty arenas and practice facilities on Canada Day, but probably only because of the accents.This August’s window is even more fraught, because not only clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United scrambling and clawing for anything they can find on the shelves, and the clubs they eventually buy from needing to find replacements and on down the line, but players are frantic in trying to secure bigger roles to solidify either their spot on a World Cup roster or be as sharp as possible when that tournament rolls around in November. Normally with a summer World Cup, players would be doing this in the January transfer window, and would have a much more solid handle on where they fit with their current team and manager with the season already half-over. Trying to do it in August means trying to do a lot of projection of where you might fit, and then having to guess if that will be enough before everyone decamps to Qatar.Which brings us to Christian Pulisic. Captain America, at least when Tyler Adams isn’t wearing the armband. Still the US’s most accomplished player, and likely still their most talented. When the chips are down in Qatar, and the US need a goal after the 80th minute, he’s still the one you’d count on to do some shit, unless Gio Reyna’s legs stop being made of graham crackers. Both Pulisic, Gregg Berhalter, and every USMNT fan would prefer that Pulisic is playing regularly, at the top of his game, and most importantly healthy come the World Cup.For once, the last part is in place, for now. It’s always “for now” with Pulisic, who has his own graham-cracker ligament tendencies as well. You can never be sure with Christian. And while very few US fans would admit this, the idea of Pulisic just being a super-sub and spot-starter for Chelsea the next two and a half months is a-ok, because the chance of something going TWANG! is that much lower. Maybe he won’t be as sharp as possible, but he’ll be on the field, and given Pulisic’s history, on the field is a relief. Of course, we can all easily imagine the mainstream media’s loudest gaping maws who just drop in for a World Cup belching their pollutant takes about him if he doesn’t rack up a hat trick against Wales. We’ll worry about that then.But Pulisic himself isn’t content to just be a bit-part for Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel. He’s never been able to lock down a spot in the first 11 (even though he played for Tuchel at Dortmund), either due to his spotty injury history or his spotty performances. Pulisic had just 13 starts last year in the league last season, another four in the Champions League. Mostly having his campaign known for this. Hasn’t started in either of Chelsea’s first two games so far this season. This is after Raheem Sterling was brought in to bolster the front three, though Romelu Lukaku was subtracted from it. So was Timo Werner. The numbers are still just about the same. But there are rumors that Chelsea are hot after Everton’s Anthony Gordon, apparently feeling they need to fill out an “awkward looking ginger who dives all the time” quota. Pulisic is feeling the crunch.It’s not that Pulisic would ever lose his place in the USMNT squad, and likely not even the starting lineup. But Pulisic has waited four years for this tournament, to play in it for the first time, and thanks to 2018’s full body dry heave from the entire set-up, he’s only got maybe one or two after this one left. He doesn’t want to go there and be off.And it’s that level of desperation that led to the rumor that not only have Manchester United calling about a loan, but that Pulisic didn’t laugh them out of the building. You know you’re down bad and maybe not thinking straight when you consider the offer of the biggest basketcase team in the league, on the continent, and quite possibly on the planet. Yeah, Pulisic might get to play a lot, and in that playing he may completely lose his desire for the sport or fall into a sinkhole on the Old Trafford pitch, such is the way they’re going.Would Pulisic play at United? That would depend if Marcus Rashford departs for PSG, which is another rumor. That would essentially leave Anthony Martial as just about the only competition on the left side of United’s attack. And though Martial is on his fourth or fifth consecutive year of “best shape of his life!” stories advertising a bounce back campaign to come, if it were going to happen it, would have happened. Pulisic can likely nail down a spot ahead of him. Even if Rashford doesn’t move, he’s been so woeful for so long he’s not a huge obstacle either.But playing in what? Erik Ten Hag is only two games into the season and can’t decide if he can play the way he wants with the players he has or has to rejigger everything to get results to stay high enough in the table to get the players he needs to play the way he wants. Christian Eriksen was trotted out as a defensive midfielder last time out, and he’s in his 30s with a heart defect. This is where they’re at. If Ronaldo stays, Pulisic can look forward to some combo of Ronaldo dropping into his space and then bitching at him when Pulisic doesn’t pass him the ball. Oh, and he’ll have to do Ronaldo’s running and pressing for him while Ronaldo scowls and huffs and makes sure the cameras pick up just how dissatisfied he is and how beneath him he thinks the rest of the team is. And given the pressure already on Ten Hag, one or two iffy performances could see Pulisic rotated out of the team anyway and something else hurled wall-ward.Here’s another thing: Chelsea have 21 games (at least) between now and the World Cup. Fourteen in the league, six in the Champions League, and a League Cup game. Starting at the end of the month, Chelsea will only have basically one week where there isn’t a game midweek until the World Cup. Twenty-one games in 83 days, with an international break thrown in. Pulisic will get starts. The five subs assure that he will likely get on the field a lot, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes at a time. He’s one injury away from starting regularly. And in a team that has a clear plan, a clear style, where his role will be strictly defined. And it’s not all that different from what he is assigned to do with the US. That sounds a lot better than turning out regularly for a team that each week looks more like a community theater production of Marat/Sade. Don’t do it, Christian. Patience, son. Just because the abyss might be staring back into you doesn’t mean you have to dive headfirst into it.
Report: Oh god no, please no. Anything but this.
Seth Vertelney PRosoccer Wire
August 17, 2022 3:40 pm ET
Do we have to talk about this? Really, do we have to?
Christian Pulisic is being linked with a move to…
*takes a drag off cigarette, lets out long, deep, forlorn sigh*
The Athletic, ESPN, and Sky Sports are all reporting it so it must have a small sliver of truth, although Manchester United has been linked with every functioning player with two legs and a pulse these days. So yeah, grain of salt.
But why, Christian? Why would you ever want this? Why would you even, as The Athletic says, prefer a move to Manchester United?
In a way, it makes sense. Pulisic hasn’t been an every-game starter at Chelsea for a while now. The World Cup is just three months away, and he wants to be in absolute tip-top form heading to Qatar.
But not Manchester United. No no no no.
United is a complete laughingstock, as you may have heard. The club’s current transfer strategy can best be described as “five-year-old unleashed in a candy store.”
Is there a plan at Old Trafford? No there is not.
There is no way to know if Pulisic would be in United’s long-term plans, because United does not have any long-term plans.
United’s transfers are currently being overseen by a man who has flown to Barcelona and Turin this summer to wrap up deals for two players, and has wrapped up zero deals.
Ralf Rangnick was brought on to temporarily coach the team last season before becoming a consultant for two years. After saying the club needed “open-heart surgery,” he decided after a few months that procedure was best left to someone else.
Would Pulisic play at Manchester United? Perhaps. He may be a fit for Erik ten Hag’s system but like at Chelsea, there are plenty of other options at winger.
But let’s say Pulisic earns Ten Hag’s trust. How long will Ten Hag last anyway? Two games into his tenure, there is already behind-the-scenes sniping.
Oh yeah, the locker room is absolute poison.
So let’s see: Pulisic could stay at a club where he’s still a valuable player, move somewhere stable, or join the club equivalent of the Fyre Festival.
Please, Christian. Just do what Elon Musk did and tell us this whole Man Utd link was really just a joke.
If you need any more advice, we’d recommend you simply call your old pal Jadon Sancho at your earliest convenience.
FROM LEEDS’ WINNING WAYS TO MAN U’S STUMBLES, AMERICANS IMPACT EPL SOCCER
BY LUKE CYPHERS
If it looked historic, that’s because it was: A jubilant English soccer crowd was literally singing the name of an American manager, Jesse Marsch, at the conclusion of a Premier League match.
An American player, Tyler Adams, paraded around the field draped in the Stars and Stripes, while another Yankee, Brenden Aaronson, was being interviewed about a wily first-half goal that propelled Marsch’s Leeds United squad to a 3-0 drubbing of powerhouse Chelsea.The victory was Leeds’ first over Chelsea in 20 years, and it marked yet another milestone for the growing U.S. presence in the world game. And not just on the field, where Aaronson became the first U.S. player to score for an American manager in the history of the English Premier League.
Off the pitch, Leeds is 44% owned by 49ers Enterprises, the parent company of the NFL’s San Francisco franchise; Paraag Marathe, president of 49ers Enterprises, is vice chairman at Leeds. Majority owner Andrea Radrizzani holds 56% of the club, but 49ers Enterprises reportedly has an option to buy the Italian businessman’s stake. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the team Leeds beat, Chelsea, is owned by a group led by LA Lakers and Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, who purchased the club in May for $3 billion.Making Sunday’s Leeds lovefest all the more interesting is that 50 miles to the southwest, U.S. ownership faces a very different situation. The Glazer family, who’ve been in control of iconic Manchester United since 2005, are taking the full brunt of fan criticism for the team’s 0-2 start and a woeful outlook on the season. The club’s $4.65 billion valuation hasn’t saved them from the bottom of the Premier League table and tensions remain high. Just three-and-a-half months after fan rioting sparked by the Glazers’ decision to join the failed breakaway European Super League postponed a match, protests were planned ahead of Monday’s game against Liverpool.So loathed are the Glazers right now that a noted Twitter prankster’s musings about buying the club spiked the team’s stock price—and set off a week of media speculation on the chances the team might get sold. (Verdict thus far: not bloody likely.)Man United traditionalist fans have long decried the team’s profit-seeking under the Glazers’ watch. Criticism intensified as the formerly formidable Red Devils have slipped out of the UEFA Champions League, and rose to a fever pitch when the team was humiliated by tiny Brentford, 4-0, last week.Great British griping over Yank ownership is nothing new, nor is respect for American investment, as evidenced by Liverpool fans’ general approval of Fenway Sports Group’s stewardship of the club—with the exception of the club’s own Super League flirtation. But the kind of adoration seen by Marsch and company is something novel.Part of it has to do with Marsch’s success (and good fortune) last spring, when he took over a struggling squad in February and guided it out of relegation peril on the final day of the season.
The excitement can also be attributed to Marsch’s coaching system, which applies relentless defensive pressure, traps opponents deep in their own end, frustrates their attacking plans and forces turnovers. The tactics were epitomized by Aaronson’s goal, in which he harassed Chelsea goalkeeper Benjamin Mendy at full speed, dispossessed the keeper in front of the net, and tapped the ball in for a 1-0 lead as if he were scraping something off his shoe while sprinting to catch a bus.Finally, the fan fervor is celebrating the club’s assembly of talent, which includes not only the signing of Aaronson, but of Adams, a tireless midfielder who seemed to stop every Chelsea threat on Sunday, and who played for Marsch at two of the manager’s previous stops: the New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Leipzig.“It just goes to show people around the world that Americans can play football, too,” Aaronson said after the game.Of course, three games in, all caveats about a long season apply. But on Sunday, in the eyes of the Brits, live at Leeds, the American kids were alright. So was their American manager, and even their American owners.For anyone uncomfortable with that, there’s always Monday’s Man United match.
Inside Jesse Marsch’s Leeds revolution: Work rate, relentless football and good people
- Aug 23, 2022 Tom HamiltonSenior Writer ESPN
LEEDS, England — Marc Roca lets out a shout of frustration as a move breaks down, and his group head back to halfway to try again. It’s early Wednesday morning at Leeds United‘s training ground Thorpe Arch and the team are preparing for the Sunday match against Chelsea.The whole passage of play restarts. The attack wins the ball off the defence in midfield, Jack Harrison emerges down the wing, zips past a defender and slips it to Roca, who squares it for Tyler Adams to thump it home. Roca turns to two people watching and roars approval, and amid some laughter they head back to start the drill again. All the while Jesse Marsch and his coaches watch, offering tweaks here and there.Once training has finished and the players have had lunch and showered, they head off in various directions, but Brenden Aaronson is left holding a soaked sponge; the USMNT star is covered in water and foam. He lost one of the games in training, and his forfeit was to clean Adams’ car.It’s all very relaxed. Four days later, Leeds hammered Chelsea 3-0 and moved up to second in the Premier League. You wouldn’t know that months earlier, the club were scrapping against relegation.When Marsch took over from Marcelo Bielsa at the start of March, Leeds were fighting for their Premier League life. The environment he encountered was tense, the strain of the situation getting to the players. “I could see the stress when I came in, and I knew the job I thought I had to do was maybe five times harder,” Marsch tells ESPN. But as they hit a midseason reset, they started clocking up the points and on the final day, the club avoided relegation thanks to their win at Brentford and Burnley dropping points elsewhere. Then the focus shifted to the next season in the Premier League under their new boss. The summer saw two star players leave in Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, with that money reinvested in seven new faces, giving Leeds an opportunity to evolve. The players brought in all slot into how Marsch wants his team to play: high-pressing, quick-tempo, relentless, claustrophobic football. The recruits were perfect for Marsch’s system and made an immediate impact. But though there’s a short-, medium- and long-term plan for the club, none of that detracts from the weekly necessity of racking up points and making sure they’re nowhere near another relegation scrap.
“I know the longevity of a person in these positions is not great,” Marsch says. “But every job I take, I treat it as I’m the custodian of the club. I try to operate in the best interests of the club and team, and I find if you do that effectively, you can create both short-term, and long-term success. Now, here at this level, it’s the biggest challenge of my life, right?”
When he was first approached by Leeds, Marsch wasn’t sure if he was ready for a return to the hot seat. The outgoing manager was seen as a footballing deity by Leeds fans, having led the club back into the Premier League for the first time in 16 years and into the ninth spot in their return to the top flight. But their form was troubling in the 2021-22 season and by the end of February, the club and Bielsa went their separate ways.When February ticked around into March, Marsch was enjoying time away from the daily rigours of management. His previous role at RB Leipzig hadn’t worked out, and he left in December after just four months in the post.He spent the intervening period travelling, visiting friends, spending time with his family and soaking up new experiences. Then the phone rang.
“Leeds came knocking before I thought I would get back to work, and my first thought was the timing wasn’t right,” Marsch says. He spoke to his wife, Kim, and to his three children. Hearing he was approached by a club is nothing new. Kim’s message to Jesse has always been to not tell the family of potential interest “until it gets serious because things get tossed around all the time,” he says.
Marsch was approached by the club after sporting director Victor Orta had identified him as the best man from 42 potential candidates to replace the outgoing Bielsa. “I would say Victor and his team do a really good job of scouring the world really looking for — and using data very heavily, data and analytics — the right types of players that can fit into the way that we think about football,” Marsch says. “This was how they found me as the coach.”
Marsch was originally keen to take over at the end of the season, rather than midway through the campaign, but as he thought more about the opportunity, he envisaged these jigsaw pieces clicking together.
“The more I looked at the potential of what I thought the club and the team could be, the more excited I got,” Marsch says. “I changed my mind overnight. I knew I was going to have to dig into everything on a higher level and faster than I wanted to, but that the reward and opportunity was bigger than the threat of failure. I came here because I felt like Leeds was the right place for me.”
On arrival, he knew the potential and ability of the group, but the key was to tap into it amid a period as stressful as the club had endured for some time. “At the start Andrea [Radrizzani, the majority shareholder at Leeds] asked me how quickly I could transform the team from the way Marcelo played into the way I wanted to play. I wasn’t totally sure, because I’d never taken over a team so deeply ingrained in a specific style to what I wanted. But I think we did well; it wasn’t just the style of play, but also the stress of the relegation situation. It meant we had to free the players to commit intellectually, physically and emotionally to what we needed to become.”
Marsch emptied the tank over those two-and-a-half months leading up to the final day. Rodrigo, the Spain striker, speaking back in March, said Marsch’s first on-field steps were to shift the team away from one-vs.-one marking to zonal, and it helped their transitional play from defense to attack. He also emphasised how Marsch “tried to understand everyone” to figure out how to get the best out of the squad. Some players needed picking up, other players needed reminding of their ability.
“As soon as he came in, he’s been brilliant,” Daniel James tells ESPN. “He’s good with everyone, giving information all the time. He’s someone you can approach with anything, anytime.”
After several heart-stopping moments and twists and turns, goals from Raphinha and Harrison gave Leeds a 2-1 win at Brentford, while Burnley losing to Newcastle United meant Marsch’s side had successfully retained their top-flight status. “It wasn’t easy to manage and I was trying to think of ways to help the group tactically and, to be fair, we have had good performances, it’s just trying to put it all together that hasn’t always looked perfect,” Marsch said at the time.
“The stress has been high for three months, I’ve tried to stay calm and focus on us and you see the quality of the mentality and character.”
How a tough conversation led to Tyler Adams’ Leeds move
Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams explain the conversation they had before the USMNT midfielder signed for Leeds.
As he reflects on the end of last season, Marsch smiles, but also exhales. He says it “required all of the experience and insight and expertise that I’ve gathered over my years to get this moving the way I wanted it to,” though his memories of that day aren’t around the goals but instead the fans and that connection they had with the team. After his first three months of working on psychology to get the team out of a relegation battle, the next stage was shifting attention to the football and the future.
Marsch headed back to the U.S. to refuel after the season. A couple of days in, he needed a new pair of jeans. He was in New York at the time, so he headed to the Levi’s shop in Times Square. It was the usual routine he’d done tens of times before: train to Penn Station, 15-minute walk to the store. But this time, he had football fans asking him for a photo.
“That for me was an eye-opening moment, because I’d never been treated like that,” he says. “You know, sometimes here around Leeds people know who I am. But back home, I never thought that that would be the case. So you know, there’s obviously a sense of responsibility in terms of what that means.”
His favourite on-field moment so far is Joe Gelhardt‘s goal against Norwich last term, but his most memorable off-field memories shift daily, from the fans he meets while out walking his dogs, to those waiting outside the training ground asking him to autograph a shirt while advising him which player to sign.
How did it go so wrong for Chelsea in Leeds humiliation?
Janusz Michallik feels Chelsea are severely lacking in attacking options and need to strengthen immediately in that area.
Leeds’ summer outlay to date is roughly the same as the outgoings, with Raphinha moving to Barcelona for a £55 million transfer fee and Phillips to Manchester City for £42m. Both were key players, but the money has been reinvested in new faces: Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen from FC Salzburg, Adams from Leipzig, Luis Sinisterra from Feyenoord, Joel Robles from Real Betis, Roca from Bayern Munich and Darko Gyabi from Manchester City.
From their opening three matches, we’ve seen Leeds operate in a 4-2-3-1, which shifts to a 4-2-2-2. The front three players — Harrison, Aaronson and James started there against Chelsea — are largely interchangeable behind Rodrigo leading the line, and it’s their mission to run like hell at the opposition. They hustle the opponents until they give up the ball and then attack at pace, in as quick and direct a manner as possible. Leeds are playing more vertically this season than before, but it’s anchored on fitness and sprinting. You can see how the summer recruits have slotted in: Adams and Roca causing mischief in the midfield but forcing turnovers, and then it’s up to Aaronson and Sinisterra to turn the opportunity of a counterattack into a goal-scoring chance.
STREAM ESPN FC DAILY O
Leeds also went for younger players, and it’s their policy to offer such talents long-term contracts. They have the sixth-youngest average age of their starting XI in the Premier League, and it’s all tuned into their policy in the transfer market.”It’s always an opportunity,” Marsch says of the summer’s business. “I don’t care. If you’re talking about failure, success, money, losing players, gaining players, it’s always about seeing the opportunity and then seizing it. And so it’s the reason I came here in the end was because I saw the opportunity even in a relegation fight of what Leeds United could become.”And we tried to, at every moment, see what’s happening within our team, within our transfer politics. Within every decision we make we see where the opportunities are and how to grow and how to get better.”Their vast database includes many matching capabilities, but it comes down to a human touch. “Once the metrics match their metrics, then it’s about really investing in who the person is to ensure the person we’re bringing in honours the environment that we really are establishing and trying to create every day,” Marsch explains. “And I think the balance of the two is what Victor does so well.”Some of the transfers were planned before Marsch’s arrival, such as Aaronson from Salzburg. Leeds went for him in the January transfer window, but he decided to see the season out in Austria. And just days after Leeds’ survival was confirmed, he was the first signing of the Marsch Aaronson remembers his first meeting with Leeds and the appeal of the club. “Just the plan that the club had, you know, and the people surrounding it,” Aaronson tells ESPN. “The club wanted me here and was so supportive and showed me how much they wanted me here and how they wanted me to be a part of that plan. We have high expectations of the club and the fans do, too. And that’s something I want to be a part of developing me as a player and as a person.”He was later joined by fellow USMNT starter Adams. While Aaronson finished the 2021-22 campaign on a high, Adams struggled in his last season at Leipzig while managing some niggling injuries, but his class endured. He was the player Leeds identified to form a double pivot with Roca in midfield, but they had to be sure about where his head was at first.”I had a tough conversation with Jesse before I came here about finding the old Tyler,” Adams said. “I felt like in my time at Leipzig I lost a little bit of confidence. I lost the way of, you know, who I was and what I wanted to become. And I got a little bit too much in my comfort zone.”So we had a tough conversation, we talked over it, not an argument in any way or sense but some difficult points came across.””I’ve known him for so long,” Marsch said. “I’m very proud of him and I’ve always believed in him. Always, but I’ve also known that he’s had challenges, you know, big challenges. And it’s not just about playing or not, it’s about how an environment works and how people interact.What’s behind Brenden Aaronson’s hot start in the Premier League?
Brenden Aaronson speaks about his start to life in the Premier League with Leeds United.
“When I brought him here, I said we just need you to get back to being the kind of player that you are and more freedom in the way that you express yourself as a person, as a player on the pitch. We have a really strong foundation of a team here and we have leaders in the team, but I wanted to make sure that he knew there was a responsibility to commit to the team fully in a selfless manner, because I know what the mentality of the group and the character of the group is here.””We took a week to reconnect,” Adams said, “and I reflected on my time at Leipzig, you know, [and] what I wanted to become as a player and person, and when we reconnected I was all-in and bought into the idea of coming here and finding the old Tyler.”Adams describes the old Tyler as an “absolute beast on the field,” someone who “doesn’t really overthink anything.” He fits the bill of what Marsch pictures as your archetypal Leeds player. Marsch says he wants his team to be known for their hard work, with his players “ready to fight and run and commit and do everything they can for every second of the match.”There may yet be further recruits this summer — Leeds are looking into bolstering their options up front — but only if the right player is there.”I know that those transfers are always a lightning rod in the public and they want to see us continue to invest,” Marsch says. “But we just want to make sure that every decision we make is the right one.”I think the additions we’ve made have been perfect. Perfect. Right, really, I think the seven additions we’ve made have been fabulous. And the key is to keep that 100% rate. And it’s almost impossible to do, but that’s our job.”
Leeds’ season began with Wolverhampton Wanderers coming to Elland Road. The new-look team edged past Bruno Lage’s side 2-1, thanks to goals from Rodrigo and (officially) an own-goal from Rayan Ait-Nouri, though Aaronson still claims he had the final touch. But there were no doubts over Aaronson’s first in Leeds’ win over Chelsea on Sunday, as he hustled Edouard Mendy to force the error that gave the team their opener. Their third was reminiscent of what they were practising in training Wednesday: winning the ball back, countering at pace and punishing the opponent.But Marsch would have loved one statistic above all in that match, exhibiting exactly what he wants from his team: after 80 minutes, Leeds had run 11 kilometres farther than Chelsea. When Aaronson is told that statistic postmatch, the young American smiles and says that’s what they want to be known for: work rate.When you talk to the new signings about their first impressions of the Premier League, Adams says he was “absolutely shattered.” But without prompting, they mention the Elland Road atmosphere. Aaronson says it was “electric,” while Adams adds: “It gave me goosebumps. This kind of support is what pushes you on in the 90th minute to make that extra sprint back to tackle harder.”For Marsch, there are many moments that have emphasised how big a job managing the team is: like when he saw his first Leeds United tattoo on a supporter’s leg on his first day, or when he heard the club’s anthem coming from the stands. “This is what I love. You know, I don’t like when they chant my name. I just don’t, and I know they’re doing it to be unified in what we’re doing. But I love it so much more when I hear ‘Marching on Together’ or Leeds or Yorkshire or whatever, you know, it’s not me I care about, it’s the club and this is why I love being here.”
Jesse Marsch reveals ‘eye-opening’ shopping experience in Times Square
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch recalls the moment he got recognised when shopping in New York.He quickens the pace as he talks more about why he feels so at home at the club. “It’s just a selflessness from every member of this entire sporting organization to help the team and to do whatever they need to do in their role for the on-the-field product to be what we all want it to become.”Marsch has also enjoyed interacting with the San Francisco 49ers, with 49ers Enterprises owning a 44% stake in Leeds. “I liked going to watch the 49ers train, seeing how they work, seeing how organized they are, and how they are structured,” Marsch says, referring to his visit to the 49ers minicamp in the offseason. “That’s been a bit of an eye-opener and very interesting to see. And I think it’s helped me even organize things. And I like to be organized. I like to be on top of things. I don’t like to be caught by surprises.”The focus shifts to what Marsch hopes Leeds achieve in the future. “We can’t feel too good about ourselves, we can’t feel too bad about ourselves. We just have to have a relentless commitment to keep moving forward.”The goal isn’t to have total harmony, but to create a common understanding as to what we are, our identity and to commit to that every day. I don’t have a problem of telling somebody if they’re not carrying their weight, or of telling them how disappointed or angry I am because I will protect the environment above everything. That’s the most important thing: it’s not harmony, it’s about identity, expectation and making sure that in every way we’re maximising the potential of each other and of the group every day.”Marsch and his family are settled in Yorkshire: the Wisconsinite who found a home in Leeds. “I think what I’ve learnt more than anything, it’s just that I belong here,” he says. But he’s just getting going. He’s aware of how managers are an endangered species, and his responsibility in keeping the ship steered in the right direction. “There’s still a lot of work to do and our goals are much bigger than just a couple of good performances,” Marsch says. “But I’m thankful to be here. It’s an important position, an important club and I know that fully.”So yeah, when you asked me how’s Leeds? Leeds is pretty damn good.”
Q&A: MLS MVP PICKS, EXPANSION, AND THE USMNT’S MIDFIELD
- We asked for your American soccer questions on Twitter earlier this week – and you delivered!
- Who should win this year’s MLS MVP award? And what’s up with the USMNT’s midfield shape? Let’s talk about all of that and more.
© Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
This article was originally sent out via email. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future mailbags delivered right to your inbox.
Hey everyone, Joe Lowery here. You know what day it is. You know what time it is. It’s Wednesday, which means we’re back with another midweek mailbag!I asked for your American soccer questions on Twitter – and you delivered. I’ll answer a number of them down below, but if there’s something you desperately want answered that didn’t make it into this mailbag, submit it here and we’ll do our best to answer it on the site.
Alright, let’s do this thing.
Should (or would) Berhalter adapt his USMNT midfield structure to be more similar to Leeds, given the success of Adams and Aaronson in that team? I’m thinking a Musah-Adams pivot with Aaronson centrally.
He already has!
Remember back in June when we saw Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah play as a double pivot in possession with Aaronson hanging out in the right halfspace? That’s exactly how Jesse Marsch uses both Adams and Aaronson. And if I squint just a bit, I can even pretend that Adams’ partner in the double pivot at Leeds, Marc Roca, is Yunus Musah.
Pushing Musah deeper and getting another attacker on the field makes a ton of sense for the USMNT. It likely won’t make sense for every game – there will be times when having three dedicated central midfielders covering ground is more valuable than squeezing an extra attacker on the field. But the fact that the United States can flip back and forth between midfield shapes is a good thing.
Now, I don’t think Gregg Berhalter is copying March’s homework here (especially given that Berhalter made this shift before Adams and Aaronson had played a game in the Premier League). But hey, maybe those two managers text each other little tactical tidbits.
Berhalter: Hey Jesse, was just thinking about using Adams and Musah in a double pivot against Morocco lol could be fun
Marsch: I like it GGG. Might as well toss BA in the halfspace while you’re at it tbh
Berhalter: *sends gif of one of his own behind the back bounces passes*
I’m just saying, I can see it.
Are y’all gonna do a “USMNT for Idiots” guide for us to send our not-really-soccer-fan friends, who will suddenly take an interest when the WC starts?
We’ve got all sorts of World Cup content in the works over the next few months, including some introductory guides to the USMNT. Is there a better time to get people interested in soccer than during the World Cup? I certainly don’t think so.
At Backheeled, we’re excited to bring new fans into the fold.
And don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of fun and interesting things for those of you who know your stuff. You deserve some sort of reward for living through and experiencing the Never To Be Spoken Of Again Dave Sarachan Era.
If Minnesota ends up ahead of Austin in the standings, would the Golden Boot be enough for Driussi to win MVP over Reynoso? Or is Minnesota over Austin a wrap for Reynoso?
Michele coming in with the MLS MVP hypotheticals. I’m here for it. Before I get to Emanuel Reynoso vs. Sebastian Driussi, I want to get my 2022 MLS MVP pick out there: Jose Cifuentes.
I know you’re rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out on this. Cifuentes has been the midfield glue for this year’s best team (who would not be this year’s best team without that midfield glue). He’s an active presser, he moves the ball forward, he crashes the box, he creates chances. and he scores goals. Cifuentes has been the best player on the best team in MLS this year and, unless something crazy happens between now and Decision Day, he’s my pick for MVP.
Now, setting my love for Cifuentes aside, I think Driussi has a stranglehold on this year’s MVP award. He leads the league in goals, he’s in the top 20 in MLS for assists, and he’s been the most impactful attacker on an Austin FC team that has defied all expectations in 2022. Even if Austin fall below Minnesota United in the Western Conference standings, that won’t change the fact that the voters love goals.
Assuming Driussi wins the Golden Boot (and that my #Cifuentes4MVP campaign doesn’t go viral), the MVP award is his to lose.
Are Minnesota United good, great, or elite?
They’re not great and they’re certainly not elite. But Minnesota United are a dangerous team right now. Adrian Heath and Co. have won seven of their last 10 games and are basically locks for the postseason at this point in the year.
The reason why I say that Minnesota United aren’t more than good is because they’re still not creating a crazy amount of chances and they’re still not denying a crazy amount of chances. Even looking back at just their last 10 games, Minnesota’s expected goal difference is barely positive (+0.03, according to American Soccer Analysis).
Don’t get me wrong: no one in the West is going to be excited about coming up against Minnesota United in the playoffs. With Reynoso as the No. 10 and some actually functional attacking pieces around him, this team can do some damage. But I need to see a little more from Minnesota before the end of the regular season if they’re going to get upgraded from good to great.
Hypothetically if Joe Lowery is in this USMNT pool, what position does he play and what club does he play for?
This is self-indulgent, but I love it.
In high school, I played as right back and as a center back. I could read the game from those two spots, organize things in the back, and direct traffic without needing to be on the ball too much. Believe me, me not being on the ball too much was a good thing for everyone.
I think we can connect those positions to today’s USMNT, don’t you? Berhalter’s center backs get on the ball a bit more than the central defensive contingent on my very average high school team did. But hey, I’m not about to apologize for the fact that we didn’t play free-flowing soccer on some random half dirt/half grass field out here in Phoenix in the middle of August.
I see myself in the ‘fullback in defense, auxiliary center back in possession’ role that Berhalter has used a number of times during his U.S. tenure. Daniel Lovitz/Tim Ream played it back in 2019 on the left and Reggie Cannon played it for the U.S. earlier this year. In that role, I’m not getting too far up into the attack, which is good, but I am coordinating things from deeper areas and pulling some of the team’s strings.
I think it works well. Whether Berhalter would agree with me is a different story…
As far as a club goes, I think I’m following Richy Ledezma’s path. Ledezma, who’s from Phoenix just like me, went from playing club soccer in Arizona to playing in the Real Salt Lake academy. From RSL, he moved over to the Netherlands.
Would the Dutch approve of my first touch? Not a chance. Would they appreciate my detailed knowledge of Frank de Boer’s time coaching Atlanta United? I sincerely hope so. Because that’s pretty much all I have to offer.
If MLS wanted you to plan for 30-32 teams, how would you go about it? MLS I and II with internal pro/rel? East and West have their own Supporters’ Shields and only meet in playoffs?
As much as I’d love to see internal promotion/relegation in MLS, I just can’t see it happening. Maybe I’m wrong and three decades from now it becomes a reality. But pro/rel in MLS seems so unlikely, even with limited consequences in a still-closed system.
If we set pro/rel aside, the best way I can think to create a schedule for a 30-32 team league would be to cut out inter-conference play, as the question proposes.
Why? Well, if you cut out inter-conference play, you have a chance of creating balanced schedules for teams within the same conference. The schedules for, say, the Colorado Rapids and the New York Red Bulls would be completely different. But balancing the schedules between conference opponents could help create a level regular season playing field.
Right now, we don’t get the clearest picture of who the best team in the league is because the schedules are wildly imbalanced. If you cut out cross-conference play, you still don’t know who the best team in the league really is, but you do know who the best team in each conference really is.
And maybe that’s an improvement? I think the whole idea behind dividing MLS into two somethings really starts to get interesting when you’re closer to 36 teams. Then you can split things right down the middle and put 18 teams in the East and 18 in the West and balance the 34-game schedules.
But do we really want 36 MLS teams?
Voices: DaMarcus Beasley
Could Brenden Aaronson be the most important US soccer player at the World Cup?
- By DaMarcus Beasley @DamarcusBeasley Tuesday, Aug 23, 2022, 02:36 PM
With the excitement of the Qatar 2022 World Cup getting closer for the US men’s national team, everyone from the fans to the media will be picking their own squad of 26 players who they think should be on the plane come November.With the three added spots approved by FIFA for this World Cup, it could become a bit easier to pick the USMNT squad, that is if Gregg Berhalter decides to use all 26 roster spots.Back in 2002, I was a surprise inclusion. Not many people would have thought I would make the roster, let alone start the first match of the World Cup against Portugal, so you never know who will prove to be a key player. Still, one player we all can agree on that will not be a surprise come November is Brenden Aaronson. Mr. Silky himself.The only question surrounding his role is whether he’d be better coming off the bench or getting the start with the USMNT in Group B play. In my opinion, the guy must start.
A unique type of talent
I remember watching Brenden play for the first time back in 2020 in the MLS bubble when he was with Philadelphia Union. His nonstop movement and attacking ability caught my eye straight away. Not every play went perfectly, but his desire to just keep going at you was impressive.Fast forward two years, and he is now enjoying a brilliant start to his Premier League campaign with Leeds United as arguably the most in-form USMNT player we have currently (Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok has to be in that conversation as well). Granted, the USMNT have a lot of injury concerns at the moment, but you cannot argue the fact that he will be a key player in Qatar. Could he be the most important? I’m not so sure, but more on that in a minute.The intensity that is required in a World Cup these days is far more demanding than it was in 2002 and Aaronson seems to make that part look easy. Mix that with the quickness and quality he has on the ball, and you cannot leave him out of the starting XI.He can play any position in the attacking front line, as well as the No. 10 role. The friendly match we saw against Morocco on June 1, a 3-0 win, solidified that. He was clean with his passing, linking up well with his front players.We already know about his work ethic and commitment he puts into every match, but I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about how he would do through the middle of the park. Any doubt I had was put to rest after that performance.
Taking the EPL by storm
Playing in the English Premier League is only going to further Aaronson’s development for the better. It is the best league in the world, in my opinion, and he is competing every day, not only with his teammates, but with the rest of the league to show why Leeds paid around $30 million for his services.
He is at a great club, one with a lot of history in English football, and one that suits his style to a T. He has a manager in Jesse Marsch who believes in him, trusts him, and will give him opportunities to succeed. Jesse has not wasted any time in playing him from the start in his first two matches at Leeds United, but why would he? Aaronson has gained a ton of experience playing in big games over the past couple years, from World Cup Qualifying to Champions League matches with RB Salzburg. He doesn’t shy away from a challenge and having that kind of mentality at a young age (21) is rare.
We all have heard the saying “he just needs time to adapt to the Premier League,” which is true in a lot of cases. With Aaronson, however, it seems the bigger the stakes, the better he plays.
Another big factor that plays a part in him settling in England so quickly is having American teammate and New York Red Bulls product Tyler Adams there as well. Going to a new club in another country during an important World Cup year can be tricky, but for a young player to have a teammate that you know well and can vibe with off the pitch is underrated.
Thinking back on my career, I had an American teammate in every club I played at outside of the US, including Lee Nguyen (PSV), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) and Michael Orozco (Puebla). Not every situation for me worked on the pitch, but off it, it helped tremendously.
Brenden Aaronson had 7g/9a in 51 games (48 starts) for the Philadelphia Union. (Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports)
So, will Aaronson be the key USMNT player in Qatar?
With how great Brenden has been playing as of late, to me it remains that the most important player in Qatar must be Christian Pulisic.
He will most likely wear the captain’s armband and we need to have an in-form and confident Christian in the World Cup. He is a fighter, and all the players look up to him. He is not getting the playing time at Chelsea for him to reach the levels that we have seen in the past, but he is a guy that on his day can win a game for you. Hopefully that changes.
We’ve had other great players with that killer instinct in the attacking third in World Cups; Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey come to mind. This time around? It has to be Pulisic.
From the interviews I have seen of Christian after qualifying for the World Cup, I can tell he is hungry and mad excited for Qatar. We need to score goals and Pulisic has shown he can score on the biggest of stages. Now comes an even bigger test: representing your country at the highest level possible in our sport. Can he do it at the World Cup? My answer is, undoubtedly, yes.
That big game vs. England
If you look at one specific game that is circled on everyone’s calendar that the USMNT will play in the group stage in Qatar, all the hype will be around the match against England on Nov. 25, their second in Group B.
I can imagine all the players, especially the ones that play in the Premier League, will be up for this one. Will it be an advantage to have six players that play in the EPL? Maybe. What I can say is that those players will be full of confidence going up against opponents they see every week. They will know their tendencies and individually how the English players like to play. Mentally, I wouldn’t expect any lack of concentration as they will want to do well and have some bragging rights when they go back to their respective clubs. It is a great matchup for the US. England have never beaten us in a World Cup match in two tries… hopefully that run continues.
There are only three short months left before the USMNT begin their World Cup journey. With the short amount of time that Berhalter will have with his full squad before the first match, form and consistency at club level are essential.
We all know that a lot of decision-making will depend on injuries heading into the final months, but when you look at this core group of players, I can’t help but be optimistic. Aaronson and Pulisic will take a lot of the headlines. The bottom line is that they both need to be on the pitch, and they both need to perform.
Jesse Marsch’s Major Leeds Soccer: Softer approach, set-piece sessions and Elland Road bond
Leeds United would not be so bold as to class this summer as entirely plain sailing. It took until this morning for their new home kit to hit the shops and eyes were rolling at Elland Road a few weeks ago when the club learned that a cargo ship carrying merchandise out of Vietnam had spilt several containers into the sea, threatening another delay. Only at Leeds, or so they like to say, but hold-ups in the production of shirts for this season have affected other teams besides them and, all in all, the business of reasserting themselves in the Premier League has come together almost as planned. Sunday’s demolition of Chelsea found Leeds in their element, a club happy in their own skin again. Jesse Marsch is theirs and, by the end of that game, fans in Elland Road were happy about it. Marsch has a phrase he likes to repeat, one he first used when he became head coach of New York Red Bulls in 2015 to the delight of no one in particular: “Some people will like me, some people will hate me and as every coach learns, that’s football.”
But in saying so on Sunday, he misread the groundswell of approval around him. The question now is not whether Marsch has it in him, but whether Chelsea was a fair and attainable benchmark and whether his team are genuinely as good as they looked in that game. Quality football causes no conflict of emotion. The murals of Marcelo Bielsa are proof of that. When Leeds offered Marsch the manager’s job in February they presented it as a two-part role, at least until he showed the longevity to take the club beyond those stages. The final 12 games of last season were a matter of survival — no more, or less — and all Leeds asked of him was leadership to hold the dressing room together and prevent relegation. Emerge safely from that, as he did, and this season would launch his tenure in earnest: a fresh start with a new squad and the open expanse of a full 38-game campaign.
Andrea Radrizzani, the club’s chairman, appreciated the way Marsch motivated the players and prevented the squad from splintering as the walls threatened to close in. Now the expectation was that Marsch would truly shine. Victor Orta, as he had with Bielsa, stuck his neck out by backing the 48-year-old for the job so heavily.
It was agreed in advance of survival that if Leeds fell short and went down, Marsch would stay on. Leeds were all-in on his style, his tactics and his suitability, even when their position in the Premier League looked hopeless.The journey from abject crisis to the sensation of the win over Chelsea has been multifaceted — a combination of transfer business matching Marsch’s requirements and the manager connecting with his squad tactically and mentally. Bielsa liked to keep the players at arm’s length and that arrangement worked for him. Marsch prefers to get close to them, being softer on the squad without being soft. His empathetic style is appreciated, not least because of the stress the club were under last season Leeds were one of several clubs who spent part of their pre-season in Australia. Manchester United were another. Manchester United’s players and staff were asked to stick to strict curfews in the evening but Marsch’s attitude was to tell his team that the line between fun and disrepute was blindingly obvious and he preferred to trust them to stay on the right side of it. He admonished one player who missed a public appearance at a supporters event in a way that quickly cleared the air. Leeds could feel his tactics taking hold
Over the past six months, Thorp Arch has become a world of conversations, one-on-one chats, small group discussions and broader meetings involving the whole dressing room. People who know Marsch well always describe him as a natural communicator and his expansion of Leeds’ leadership group — the collection of senior players who speak for the squad — created a stronger link between him and them
Rodrigo was targeted for specific attention. The forward, Leeds’ record signing, had experienced two mixed years in England and Marsch sensed that Rodrigo was at a crossroads, in need of some support.
Marsch was ridiculed in public when it emerged he was using quotes from historical figures, among them Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, as inspirational tools but his interaction with the squad went further than that. He would encourage them to read books or newspaper articles written about world-class athletes, to find out what made them tick or how they achieved marginal gains, particularly when it came to stamina and fitness.He tried to engage with those players who were not seen as natural leaders, to make sure they felt valued.
Many one-on-one meetings were handled by his assistant, Cameron Toshack, and the topics of conversation varied. Some focused on tactics and technical improvement. Some had an aspirational tone, asking players to think about where they wanted to be in five years. Some would challenge them to think about how much of a life they had outside football; to place importance on finding pleasure and fulfilment beyond the day job. The idea was to create stronger personal relationships and an environment that was not entirely fixated on business.Marsch and Leeds agreed in advance what would happen in the transfer market if they avoided relegation, setting themselves up to press the button as soon as survival was assured. Marsch said recently that he considered the club’s purchases to be “our signings” rather than his alone — deals done collectively — but the targets Leeds chased were identified with Marsch’s tactical model in mind, a strategy built around him.
Brenden Aaronson could press in short, sharp bursts, as he did to force the opening goal against Chelsea at the weekend. Tyler Adams would give the midfield industry — essential after the sale of Kalvin Phillips — and Marc Roca’s comfort on the ball would dovetail with Adams, complementing the American’s aggression.
Aaronson and Jack Harrison celebrating against Wolves (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)
Whatever the stereotypes of players from the USA, the rest of the squad at Leeds felt self-confidence oozing from Aaronson and Adams when they arrived.Marsch began adapting training to make those signings work. Bielsa’s strenuous sessions had created a squad with impressive stamina — on Sunday, Leeds were able to outrun Chelsea by more than 10km, having already recorded the highest distance covered of any Premier League side on the season’s first weekend — but Marsch switched attention from distance to intensity.Much of the running in pre-season was tailored to condition the players for his tactics, the hunting in packs that required rapid acceleration on repeat. Drills were designed to provoke high-intensity sprints, to help with pressing and counter-pressing.For all that Bielsa’s shadow loomed large, Marsch was not scared of talking about him. He would tell his side to take the character and personality they developed under Bielsa and apply it to his own model. Set pieces were practised daily and some sessions devoted to them entirely. Above all, Marsch would urge his squad to make sure their football matched the passion and fervour of Elland Road. That intensity was what forged the connection between Marsch and the crowd on Sunday, the mutual desire to intimidate Chelsea and steamroller them. Football like that was an easy sell.The problem for Marsch as last season got out of control was that Elland Road no longer caused fear — at least not to opponents. There was passion and fervour but so much of it was channelled negatively, the consequence of a frightening decline on the pitch. The rout of Chelsea told the league that the crowd had his back and he had theirs. His inauspicious start has been dramatically buried, the vicious tension of spring left behind.When The Athletic interviewed Marsch in March, not long after his appointment, communication and interaction were two of his watchwords, the weapons he planned to use to his advantage. “Through those channels, I felt I could refresh the air and let everyone move forward,” he said.
And five months on, he has.