Jesse Marsch departs Leeds United
Jesse Marsch was relieved of his duties at Leeds United this Monday. I look back on his tenure, cataloging my experience observing Marsch in person three times since August 6th.
My first thought on Monday morning (groggy, fresh out of the woods, somewhere in the 8 o’clock hour on America’s east coast) was of that chaotic throw Jesse Marsch launched from Forest’s sideline on Sunday afternoon. His attempt to get the ball back in play was flustered, forced, aggressive, even. It conveyed the dying embers of his Premier League time, punctuated by one last frantic rally, come on, let’s go.
Remembering it I’d laughed, then felt a clear foreboding. The death knell felt close at hand.
It wasn’t until I’d fully awoken, had a coffee, replayed the pass again, laughed, settled into my desk space, and then finally opened twitter that I found out.
It was an urgent pass, thrown poorly, in a collapsing half. Make the metaphors you will— they’re likely fitting. Leeds found a way to concede in the half they dominated. They found a way to regress coming out for the second. They left Nottingham with no points, sitting just shy of relegation.
There was a universe of angst behind that frantic throw— a universe momentarily hilarious, then difficult to watch. “Keep calm and carry on, Jesse”, the announcer said.
And carry on he will, relieved of his role at Leeds United.
A season in three acts
I had the opportunity to observe Marsch thrice over the span of his less-than-year career in England.
It was hot, still summer, early August the first time. Elland Road erupted in a hearty “Marching on Together” to launch the new year. All felt possible. Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams made Premier League debuts. Jesse Marsch took stock of a new slate.
The atmosphere was exceptional, unique. Tyler would later tell me: that’s the only place he’s ever played that walking out, he gets goosebumps. Drowned in that early, positive emotion, I could see why.
I wrote about the experience here: the debuting Americans, the returning American, the impressions they would leave. We had the glorious opportunity to debate an old theme anew: what do Americans know about this sport, anyway?
That returning American is gone now. That yank gaffer is relieved of his hope.
But for a few early moments, it felt his new slate could be a grand one. Early on, I’d believed it would be so.
Leeds United 2 - Wolves 1
Leeds overcame Wolves on Matchday 1, rallying from early deficit.
Jesse had words with Bruno Lage, also gone. Bruno came into the post match fuming. Apparently, Marsch said something that cannot be said, crossed a line that cannot be crossed. Americans (myself included), tend often to not know about these lines, or not care about these lines. And so we cross them, smiling. Marsch allegedly called the Wolves’ players cheats. They’d been diving. Jesse came in reflective, considered the confrontation with a lozenge in his mouth.
They drew Southampton away the next match, 2-2. Marsch waited too long to sub tired legs in a frantic system. They conceded twice, late. The first sub appeared at the 84th minute. By then, they’d given up two goals and two points.
It was early yet in the season, but some premonition of knives were out. Rightly, I suppose, “Marsch did this”, was the not so-infrequent reflection.
But then, oh, the next match was Chelsea, at home!
Brenden nicked the first goal off the keeper in the 33rd minute. The Medford-man pressured his way into the ball, then dribbled it in without looking, celebrating with arms wide and tongue out. Rodrigo made it 2-0 four minutes on. Jack Harrison sealed it 3-0, at minute 69.
In the halcyon haze of that mid-August match, I convinced myself Leeds would win the whole league.
I imagined celebratory floats with Jesse Marsch on top. I convinced myself they’d do it by the sheer volume of Tyler Adams’ tackles. They’d do it with the relentless pestering of Brenden Aaronson’s press. They’d do it with a guy from Wisconsin wearing skinny jeans, doing gronk spikes with his water bottle on the sideline. And he’d call it a sideline, no doubt.
I went back into the archive of posts and podcasts from those bright, early days. I tracked the halcyon haze of our friends in West Yorkshire, too. I wasn’t alone in my hopes.
Marsch was getting credit for things, in England! It’s not so bad, eh? Maybe we love this lack of width, they laughed. It’s exciting, it’s effective! We’re making goals out of nothing. This time next year then, Europa League, too small?
But then they lost to Brighton, drew Everton, lost to Brentford. Things started to shift around there.
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