Model Clubs & Coaches
After this module we’ll spend some time looking at different aspects of a playing philosophy, like attacking, defending and set pieces. But before we do this, we’re going to focus on three great examples of how a well-defined playing philosophy can benefit a team or club.
In 2015 Jesse Marsch was hired by New York Red Bull in Major League Soccer. Known for their high pressing style of play which looks to force turnovers and take advantage of transition moments, Marsch’s Red Bull team won the league in his first year in charge as he was named MLS Coach of the Year.
After arguably the most successful period in club history, Marsch was hired by parent club Red Bull Leipzig as the Assistant Coach, joining former star player Tyler Adams who developed under Marsch in New York before being sold.
Marsch went on to become Head Coach of RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig before replacing Marcelo Bielsa as Head Coach of Leeds United in the Premier League.
During his time at New York, Marsch delivered a presentation on on the Red Bull style of play throughout he club. He explains how it benefited the academy and eventually the first team. When Marsch joined Leeds he immediately hired his Performance Analyst Ewan Sharp, who spoke with us during his time in New York.
Similar to the Red Bull Group who own multiple clubs around the world, Man City are the parent club of ‘City Football Group’. Among commercial and other financial benefits, the group looks to develop a near-identical style of play through their clubs and benefit from being able to move players between them.
Matt Pilkington was formerly the Head of Academy for New York City FC, before becoming Head Coach for their U23 development team. In the first video included here, he spoke with us about their playing philosophy. The second video offers an insight into the inner workings of the Analysis Department at Manchester City, as well as how it benefits their younger players.
In late 2015 the Philadelphia hired General Manager Earnie Stewart. His task was to restructure and improve the club which had traditionally struggled in Major League Soccer.
Rather than the ‘explosive’ immediate impact Jesse Marsch had on the Red Bulls, the Union project was more of a ‘slow burn’. They focused on implementing a long-term & club-wide style of play which is now beginning to come to fruition.
Stewart left the Union to become Sporting Director for the USA National Team, and was replaced by Ernst Tanner, who is a contributor to many of the APFA courses we offer. Since Tanner took charge, no team has won more points in MLS.
The Union won the league in 2020 and are now consistently in the top few places in the table. On top of this, their salary budget and transfer spend is among the lowest in the league, meaning they are the most cost-effective and efficiently run club in MLS.
They also develop a large number of homegrown academy products including Brenden Aaronson who ironically, was sold to Red Bull Salzburg before joining Jesse Marsch at Leeds.
Throughout this period, Head Coach Jim Curtain has remained in his role and is widely regarded as one of the best in Major League Soccer. Curtain also features heavily on our APFA courses and has won the MLS Coach Of The Year award twice.
The task for the two playing philosophy modules is to describe your personal playing philosophy. How would you like your team to play and why?
Some things to consider:
Are we one of a number of coaches in a club? If so, does our club have a defined playing style we’re supposed to be working towards?
Is there a certain style or philosophy that’s more suited to our league or competition?
What are our overall goals? Player development may require a different style of play compared to a results-based team.
What limitations may define our style? Player age, technical ability, tactical understanding etc.
Use the comments section below to interact with other coaches and share thoughts and add your playing philosophy to your coursework booklet.