Jesse Marsch and his young family recently returned from the trip of a lifetime, traveling around the world for five months and visiting 29 countries.
As the former Princeton University soccer star, assistant coach with the U.S. men’s national soccer team, and head coach of the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer considered his next stop, he decided to go no further than his alma mater.
Earlier this month, Marsch joined the staff of the Tiger men’s soccer team as a volunteer assistant coach and took the pitch at Roberts Stadium last weekend as the squad started preseason training.
For Marsch, a 1996 Princeton alum who earned All-American honors during his college career, totaling 29 goals and 15 assists in four seasons, the chance to help guide the Tigers is one he relishes.
“Working with a college team, I can fully enjoy the game and work with guys who are playing for the right reasons,” said Marsch, who went into pro soccer after graduating from Princeton, enter Major League Soccer where he won three MLS Cup titles and four U.S. Open Cup medals during a 14-year career.
“I remember in college, the feeling of going all out for a team and coming together as a group.”
Marsch’s relationship with Princeton head coach, Jim Barlow, a former Tiger star himself, helped pave the way for the homecoming.
“I reached out to Jimmy,” said Marsch, noting that he already owns a home in town.
“When I was with the US, he coached the U-15 team and I was in some of his camps. I already knew him but I had a chance to work with him. We enjoyed the process of working together and talking about the game. I have great respect for Jimmy.”
As Marsch joins the staff, he is happy to assume a supporting role. “Jim and Steve [assistant coach Steve Totten] work well in running the program, they carry most of the weight,” said Marsch.
“I will fill in the holes, I will try to do some of the dirty work around the office to free some time up for them. I will fill in on the field, helping with things I see.”
After concluding his playing career in 2009, Marsch has seen a lot since getting into coaching.
“I felt really lucky to finish my playing career and to go into a situation where I was working with Bob [former Princeton and U.S. men’s head coach Bob Bradley] and his staff,” said Marsch, who was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2009-11, helping the squad win its group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time the team won its pool since 1930, before finishing in 12th place.
“It was incredibly rewarding. The number-one thing I learned is what it is like being on the coaching staff from the inside and how a staff comes together and can set a tone for what the team is doing.”
Marsch headed north in August 2011 when he was named the first head coach of MLS expansion team the Montreal Impact.
“It was a great opportunity to take my theories and apply them in a practical way,” said Marsch, who parted ways with the Impact in November 2012 after leading the Impact to a 12-16-6 record in its inaugural campaign.
“What I believed and what I still believe is the recipe for success and a systematic way of building a team.”
Marsch then decided to build some deeper bonds with wife Kim, daughter Emma, 11, sons Maddux, 9, and Lennon, 6, as they embarked on their journey.
“I was lucky enough to do a lot of traveling with World Cup, youth soccer, and in the pros,” said Marsch,
“I told my wife someday I am going to take you to some of those places and she said oh sure. I didn’t do a good job of balancing my personal and professional life when I was coaching in Montreal. I travelled a lot and when I was home I was thinking a lot about the team. We had this window of opportunity and we learned that more families are doing this.”
The Marsch family began the trip in Hong Kong and hit Singapore, many countries in Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Dubai, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Europe.
Along the way, they gained some new perspectives.
“Number-one was just spending time with us with no distractions other than surviving at times,” said Marsch.
“Some days were good, some days were bad. The kids learned how to deal with adversity and that everything is not just planned out and that you have to stick together. Number-two was that we had 10 friends scattered around the globe. Some of my friends were in new worlds. I had a college friend who is a vet in Hong Kong and knew another family living in Myanamar. One highlight was getting to see Bob [Bradley] in Cairo and seeing what his world is like and how he is perceived. The third was the overall culture.”
Now Marsch is primed to get back into the Princeton soccer culture. “I try to learn and get better everyday,” said Marsch.
“I will look at the way Jim and Steve do things on a daily basis and pick up on what I think works best. I will help in whatever way I can and pick up on what they are good at and what can help me at the next level.”
Marsch acknowledges that he would like to return to the MLS sideline someday.
“I will take things as they happen; I am committed to a season here,” said Marsch.
“I have been around the league a long time and have relationships and experience.”
Experience has taught Marsch, though, not to worry about the next stop.
“I concentrate now more on the work that gets put out everyday and how it makes me feel inside rather than what people on the outside think,” said Marsch.