Marsch knows what it takes for a first-year team to make playoffs
Impact head coach Jesse Marsch knows what it’s like to be a first-year team and ride the momentum of a good stretch into the playoffs.
In 1998, an 11-game winning streak towards the final third of the season propelled the expansion Fire into the playoffs, finishing second in its division. Chicago would ride that wave all the way to the MLS Cup title, beating D.C. United 2-0 in the final.
Marsch, who scored an important goal in the semi-finals to help his team reach the title game in 1998, sees some similarities between the 1998 Chicago Fire and the 2012 Montreal Impact.
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“Things came together a little quicker then, but there are some similarities in the two teams in how they were built,” said Marsch. “There was a good mix of leaders and experience from abroad with a mix of some young eager American players hungry to play the game. The Fire had a group of Polish guys (Peter Nowak, Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki), and here we have some Italian guys. I use some of my experiences from that time here in terms of how we move things along.”
However, Marsch added that each team has its own challenges. One of the major ones the Impact is facing is a much different league than it was in 1998.
“Back then, the game was much more fragmented,” explained Marsch. “Guys were divided into defensive and offensive units. The number 10 was an extremely important position. Now the whole group is asked to move together as one, with or without the ball. The physicality has also increased a lot, so set pieces have become so important. The transition has become much faster and stronger. We’ve also tried to incorporate a lot of soccer players with the ability to pass and be mobile, then use their speed to move forward.”
The Impact may not have won 11 games in a row, but the team has won seven of its last 10 games. A good run over its last five matches could put the Impact into the playoffs and Marsch will look to draw from the experiences of everyone to reach that goal.
“Each team you’re a part of, you try to take the successful ingredients and implement them here. But each team is its own challenge.”
“I’m the leader of the group, but we have so many guys with different experiences that we draw from. Whether it’s my assistant coaches, Alessandro’s (Nesta) World Cup experience, or Davy’s (Arnaud) 10 years in Kansas City, we bring all of that experience into helping build this team. So in the end, this team has its own identity.”
There is one similarity that Marsch aspires to as the season comes to a close.
“Hopefully, the ending will be the same.”