When the Premier League resumes play on Boxing Day, first and foremost Jesse Marsch hopes to see a much improved Leeds United defense capable of closing out games and securing deserved points.
At least, that’s one of many things the Leeds boss told NBC Sports’ Tim Howard in an exclusive interview from sunny Spain, where the PL’s 15th-placed side is
enjoying undergoing a warm-weather training camp as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar winds down. USMNT stars Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson are not among them (yet) as they enjoy 10 days of downtime to recover and recharge, according to Jesse Marsch.
One a USMNT legend with 121 caps and the other a popular pick to one day manage the Yanks, Tim Howard and Jesse Marsch touched on more than a dozen major topics over their hour-long chat — broken up into two parts: part 1 discussing Leeds and the Premier League (above), and part 2 all about the USMNT’s run to the World Cup round of 16 (below).
A few select quotes from Jesse Marsch, about his time at Leeds thus far…
“I realized that when we play at home, it’s important that we represent what the fans want to see, which is passion and power and running and aggression and a commitment to play the match that was over 90-plus minutes. That becomes a hallmark of what we have to be here, because it’s what the fans demand.
“But it’s the beauty of me being here. It’s a big club and there’s major pressure, but I believe I fit the demeanor and the idea of what the club should be. I think that’s one of the reasons why the leaders at the club went after me to bring me here — because they believe that I fit the mentality of what we’re doing here.”
“We’ve played some good football. I think the biggest plus is that we’ve seen with the way we want to play and who we want to be, that we can compete with the best. We can compete with the best teams in the world.
“And then, there are other moments where we look really unstable defensively and we need to clean some things up. We’ve let too many points slip away from us. There was a stretch of games where I felt like we were really on top of the match and felt like we were the better team, and we walk away with no points.
“Part of it is we’re young — there’s a lot of players we have that are new to the Premier League and what the standard is of every game — and part of it is just continuing to commit to our process and feed belief. … It’s always hard — the defeats stick with you much more than the victories do, and finding a way in those deep moments to find solutions and remain positive often will determine how much we can accelerate our learning curve and how good a team we can be, and how quickly we can be a good team.”
“The biggest pro [of the World Cup break] is we have a time to, mentally and physically, reboot. You played in the Premier League many years — with the intensity of what the league is, thinking about playing the season all the way through Boxing Day and the fixture list at Christmas, it’s insane.
“When I was in Germany and Austria, we had a little pause in the winter where you can kind of gather yourself. So, I’m thankful, but we have to get ready because when we get back in, the games come fast and furious at us again.
“I think the cons for us, we were in a good way — obviously the win against Liverpool; the comeback win against Bournemouth; I think the performance against Tottenham, as much as it was a loss and it was really frustrating that we gave the game away in the end, we played really well in that match.
“I think we’re on an upswing, and the key for us is to pick up where we left off.”
“The big thing is, defensively, we just want to be more stable. We feel like it’s been too easy to create big chances against us and that we’ve given up too many goals. … We believe that part of it is that when we get the lead, we almost get into protection mode to protect the lead instead of staying on the front foot to continue to go after the game.
“I had one question after one game, where Gary Lineker from ‘Match of the Day’ asked me, ‘It seems like your team gets weaker and you become more open and your aggressiveness leads to giving up goals,’ and I said to him, ‘Actually, I feel in those moments we’re not aggressive enough,’ and I think he thought I was crazy.”