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Vieira and Marsch rivalry brings added spice to Hudson River Derby

14:00 BST 03/05/2018
Patrick Vieira Jesse Marsch MLS 05022018
The New York coaches have butted heads repeatedly over the past three years, and will renew their rivalry on Saturday

Patrick Vieira and Jesse Marsch are very different, both as people and as coaches, but some of the characteristics they share may be what have led them to develop what is as close as there is to a coaching rivalry in Major League Soccer.

With a foundation laid in Vieira's first season in MLS with New York City FC, in 2016, a year that saw the two young coaches involved in heated exchanges as well as the occasional war of words in the media, the Vieira-Marsch 'feud' has grown tame in recent years, but there is no denying the two men aren't afraid to disagree with each other. They have done just that on topics ranging from VAR to the role of foreign coaches in American player development.

As they prepare for their next duel on Saturday in the year's first installment of the Hudson River Derby, Vieira and Marsch are both very familiar with the other's coaching style, but they remain relative strangers. While both have developed good relationships with other coaches in the league, they both acknowledge that they don't know each other on a personal level.

"If Patrick Vieira wants to go out and have a nice bottle or glass of French wine I’m open to it, but he’s got his world, I’ve got my world," New York Red Bulls coach Marsch told Goal. "I think that, yeah, we had some run-ins maybe early because the rivalry is so emotional and intense. But I think as time has gone on and we’ve both now been able to process what the rivalry means to us and to our clubs, I think we’ve both been able to focus more on the tactics and the ability for our players and our team to execute on the day than it has been about the emotion of anything between him and I.

"And then I think in that process we’ve been able to clearly look at the other team and go, ‘you know what, they’re good’," Marsch said. "'They’re good at what they do. There’s things to learn from what they do.' And you have to respect the fact that he knows that we have a way, and I know that they have a way. And when you look at coaches, and you’re trying to pick up on qualities that you can learn from, that’s the first thing I always look for. Do they have a style, do they have a way? How do they execute it? Do they look the same team day in and day out? And for sure, when you look at New York City for the past three years you can categorically say that that’s the case."

In 2016, the two coaches were involved in a heated exchange during a match that saw Vieira sent off. Vieira followed up the match by ripping into Marsch for making comments about officiating before the derby, while the Red Bulls boss countered by pointing out that his counterpart refused to shake his hand after that match.

In the years since, the two men have disagreed publicly on a variety of topics, but have both expressed a growing respect for each other's work.

"I look at him as, I believe, one of the best coaches in this league honestly," Vieira said on Wednesday. "You just have to look at how they performed in the [CONCACAF] Champions League. You look at how they played. It’s a team who have a clear identity. When you look at them play, you know what to expect and you know how they want to play the game, and that’s a credit to the manager.

"As for personally, I don’t really know Jesse," Vieira said. "We don’t really know each other that well. We just see each other on the bench, but more than that is difficult to say."

When asked if the past clashes between the two coaches could be down to them having similar temperaments going back to their playing days as combative defensive midfielders, Vieira didn't rule it out.

"I believe so. I think we are, maybe with the position that we used to play, two strong characters maybe. I don’t know," Vieira said. "I think we both have this kind of hot [temperament]."

Marsch had similarly high praise for Vieira, though he seemed to downplay any similarities between the two.

"We’re [from] very different backgrounds," Marsch told Goal. "Patrick comes from the best clubs in the world, and has been around some of the best managers and developed himself to be a great manager in his own right, and I think [he] has an incredible future in Europe and in big clubs.

"For me, I was a young American who grew up here and tried to figure out a way to take myself from being a player to being a good coach. And I’ve been lucky to have great mentors, and I landed at a great club here at New York Red Bulls and now I’ve been tasked with trying to figure out a way to make this style of play, and this club, and this philosophy the best that it can be for this setting in our league.

"Frankly it’s a big compliment to even be considered a coaching match-up with a guy like Patrick Vieira. I think that we’ve tried to, in our way, challenge the things that they’re good at every time we play them. That’s not necessarily that different than anyone we play against, but we know that New York City is really good at the things that they’re good at."

Though it may be a stretch to call Vieira and Marsch enemies, it is clear the two haven't been in a hurry to get to know each other, particularly not after the testy way their rivalry began. There has yet to be any sort of get-together like the kind managers sometimes have in Europe after matches, the post-game glasses of wine Manchester United managerial legend Sir Alex Ferguson made so famous with his most respected rivals.

Such a moment hasn't happened with the New York coaches yet, but Vieira sounded open to one.

"I think it hasn’t happened because it wasn’t the moment and there wasn’t the occasion for it," Vieira said. "We met in the combine, we see each other, we say hello and we talk, of course. I think you can have the rivalry but there’s an overall respect, at least on my side. It’s difficult to talk about the person because I don’t know him that well and I’ve been in the league for just a couple of years.

"I think it’s just like the players, you know you have more affinity with some players than other ones in the dressing room," Vieira said. "When I'm in the [MLS] Combine and I may speak with some of the other coaches more than Jesse, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me. I think it’s just we haven’t had the occasion."

Perhaps the two coaches will never be that close, but there's no denying the amount of respect they have developed for each other after two very spirited years of meetings. This year should be no different, and with both teams boasting what may be the best squad either has had since the rivalry was born, the 2018 chapter of the Hudson Rivery Derby, and the Vieira-Marsch rivalry, might be the best yet.

"It’s a rival, maybe it’s too complimentary right now because there still should be a lot of emotion," Marsch told Goal. "We’re going to be ready on Saturday to give our best. We’re going to be ready to go after the game. We’re going to be ready to throw a lot at it, and we’re going to be ready for them to throw a lot at us. It’ll be fun, but it’ll be hard and it’ll be real."

And maybe, just maybe, it will end with two of the top coaches in MLS sharing a glass of wine as they reflect on the latest installment of their growing rivalry.