What challenges await Jesse Marsch as USMNT man takes over Leeds?

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Leeds United is set to appoint American coach Jesse Marsch as its new manager, according to reports, as the former USMNT player throws himself into a Premier League relegation scrap.

Marsch, 48, would take the reins from the fired Marcelo Bielsa, who ended Leeds’ 16-year wait to return to the Premier League and found top-flight success with a ninth-place finish last season.

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Leeds has 23 points through 26 games and sits jut two points clear of the relegation zone. Everton is one point back in 17th and Burnley two shy in 18th. Both teams have played two fewer games than Leeds.

Marsch will like his chances of starting well, as Saturday hosts Leicester City will have played at midweek against Burnley at Turf Moor. He’ll have a bit of a soft landing opponent wise over the next month but not in terms of stakes; Leeds meets relegation rivals Norwich City and Watford in its next six matches.

What will Leeds get in Jesse Marsch?

As Robbie Earle and Tim Howard detail in the video above, Leeds is getting a well-regarded manager in Marsch who was not given much time to fix a substandard RB Leipzig defensive corps following the sales of Ibrahima Konate to Liverpool and Dayot Upamecano to Bayern Munich.

Marsch was fired by Leipzig on Dec. 5 of his first season but led Red Bull Salzburg to consecutive league and cup doubles in Austria following an RBNY tenure that saw Supporters’ Shield and MLS Coach of the Year honors in 2015.

The American deploys an attack-heavy side that helped launch the careers of Erling Haaland and Dominik Szoboszlai and his intensity is a different sort than that of Marcelo Bielsa, as Marsch will be a little bit more of a guiding hand and also give a little bit more freedom — and perhaps a rest —  to his players.

What awaits Jesse Marsch at Leeds United?

Leeds has been an abject mess in defense this season, although its last three matches were a murderers’ row of Tottenham, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

The club is winless in six with just a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa to show for it, as Leeds has been outscored 21-5 in that stretch. Marsch’s men are out of the FA Cup and simply looking to stay in the Premier League.

Leeds is 10th in the Premier League in expected goals with 34.20 but its expected goals against is the second-worst total in the division at a gross 51.97.

Marsch will have to solve two big issues in long-term injuries to Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, the absences arguably the biggest reasons for the club’s failure to meet its 2020-21 levels. Phillips may not return for a few more weeks while Bamford’s hope is a return prior to the end of the season.

Leeds was an equal-opportunity fighter in 2020-21, taking 409 shots and conceding 404 in open play while scoring 48 goals and conceding 31. Leeds has been mauled in that department this season, out-attempted 322-256 and out-scored 42-18 for an xG differential of minus-17.55.

Marsch will love the idea of Raphinha as well as all-action players like Jack Harrison and Daniel James, but he’ll be tasked with working his center forward magic with Rodrigo. The 30-year-old has scored just 10 goals in two seasons.

Leeds upcoming fixtures

Saturday at Leicester City, 7:30am ET

March 10 vs Aston Villa, 2:45pm ET

March 13 vs Norwich City, 10am ET

March 18 at Wolves, 4pm ET

April 2 vs Southampton, 10am ET

April 9 at Watford, 10am ET

History of Americans in the Premier League

Marsch won’t have to look far to see familiar faces in the Premier League, as he assisted current Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzig. Rangnick’s assistant, Chris Armas, worked under Marsch at New York Red Bulls after playing with the USMNT man at Chicago Fire.

Marsch also assisted the first American manager in PL history, Bob Bradley, when he began his coaching career with the United States men’s national team in 2010. Bradley led Swansea City for a painfully-short time in 2016, taking over a team that had one win through seven matches and winning twice in 13 outings.

David Wagner is the other ex-USMNT man to run a Premier League club. The 50-year-old German-born coach was capped eight times by the U.S. before taking over Borussia Dortmund II from Jurgen Klopp and leading Huddersfield Town’s surprising run to the Premier League. Wagner led the Terriers to a 15th-place season before being leaving the club the following season with Huddersfield eight points adrift in January, en route to the Championship.