Welcome to a new series on DSS called "The One-Two". In soccer, this term refers to a quick, one-touch passing move performed by two teammates to create space on the field. Much like that maneuver, this series will feature two writers simply having a back and forth conversation about an interesting topic.
In today's piece, I put forth the idea that Atlanta United FC should learn from the hiring of Jesse Marsch by the New York Red Bulls:
Rob Usry: While watching the New York Red Bulls dominate the Portland Timbers in Portland this past weekend, I had an epiphany. The decision by the RBNY front office team to hire Jesse Marsch was a brilliant move that Atlanta United FC needs to learn from. You see, Mike Petke had just led the Red Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals. He was beloved by all. He was shockingly fired and replaced by Marsch leaving the fans flabbergasted and angry. Jesse Marsch wasn't a big name and not many knew much about what he brought to the Red Bulls. Eight months after that surprising managerial shake up, Marsch has instilled a consistent style and a true identity into the club's DNA. They aren't a team full of superstars like the other New York team, they are a team full of roles players who have adopted the high pressing, high tempo "gegenpressing" style and become one of the best clubs in the league. It's this type of mentality and consistency that Atlanta United need to look for in a manager not a popular name that will look good in press releases.
Aaron Bauer: Rob, I watch a lot of Red Bulls games. You know this. I think you are buying into a narrative that is counterproductive. Jesse Marsch is turning out to be a great hire, which is absolutely fantastic for that franchise, but it is not the whole picture. The Red Bulls are a team with a lot more talent than pundits give them credit for, and in the end without the baseline of talent the manager is not going to succeed. Atlanta United does not need an overarching philosophy, it needs to assemble the best players and coaches it can get at the given time when they are looking. If that manager is Sir Alex Ferguson then you get Sir Alex Ferguson. If its is an assistant coach at Georgia Tech no one has heard of, you get that coach. Everything must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and at the end of the day you hope the front office hires someone on the same page as them to execute with the resources provided. A lot of luck has helped Jesse Marsch take his team to the top of the table, in addition to his system. That is not a bad thing. I think Atlanta should do what is best when they feel they need to add a coach, rather than emulate another franchise. I also hope they work to bring together the best collection of talent their resources can achieve.
Rob: Obviously, if a big name manager with a proven track record is available they should attempt to bring that person in. My fear is that, they get sucked into the trap of hiring someone with name value like the United States Men's National Team did. For years they were infatuated with Jurgen Klinsmann because he's one of the best goalscorers of all-time. They didn't hire him on managing merit. They hired him because he's a name and one that would give the program supposed relevancy across the world. Perhaps his hiring helped a bit in that regard, but it's arguable that the team's on-field performances have regressed under Klinsmann from where they were with the previous manager who was a boring name. The USMNT is currently without any sort of style and it has shown in their recent results. International soccer and club soccer can't be compared, but the natural reaction is to hire someone recognizable in hopes it helps the brand. That desire will be multiplied tenfold for a club trying to make a name for itself from scratch. The club needs a focused manager that can implement a consistent style. I agree that it doesn't matter what his name is, but not many big names who are also great managers are just floating around willing to come to MLS.
Aaron: Obviously, the example I gave was a little far fetched, but I just really think the team should go after the best available to them. I think there were "better" managers out there than Marsch for the Red Bulls, but they took a gamble on a guy with a system they liked and it worked. I think Atlanta being so new in the league should take a more pragmatic approach. They really can't afford to be risky in my opinion, because they need to be relevant right out of the gate. I worry what happens if this team has a poor first season or two, even if in a long term vision it makes sense. I'm willing to sit through a few mediocre seasons for sustained greatness, but are the fans? I think the team needs to juggle both of these tasks when hiring a manager. It will be interesting to see which direction they go, for sure.
Rob: I agree that they should go with a good manager. I just hope the team has a consistent style and philosophy. As a diehard USMNT supporter it's been very tiresome watching so many different styles and formations. I want Atlanta to have a manager who is confident in his approach and not one who is throwing things against the wall hoping something sticks. I'm not even a Red Bulls fan, I just appreciate the way they've adapted to Marsch's plan and how it's worked like a charm. Give me a coach who can implement that type of structure over someone who is well-known any day of the week.
Aaron: I don't think we're in disagreement about what type of manager we want, I just don't want the team to constrain themselves to one style of play before picking a manager. The Red Bulls clearly had an idea on how they were going to operate, and Marsch was the best fit in that regard. I would prefer that the team explore all options, and not determining style of play until after, then make sure the squad has talent and everyone is in harmony. If that is someone who is well-known then hire away, if it is someone who is not well known, then hire away. Good talk.