Troy Lesesne: “I can’t walk into any room and everyone knows who I am.” (Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Troy Lesesne will be the first one to admit he is not a big name, at least in coaching circles.
“I can’t walk into any room and everyone knows who I am,” he said.
On a club that has employed the high-profile likes of Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Carlos Queiroz, Juan Carlos Osorio, Eddie Firmani, Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas and Mike Petke, Lesense could be considered as big a no-name coach the team has had it its 28-year history.
Yet, the 39-year-old Lesesne had at least one man in his corner, and an important one at that, Red Bulls head of sport Jochen Schneider, the man who fired head coach Gerhard Struber and hired him.
“He’s an inspiring coach and incredible person really works well with young players, can develop them,” Schneider said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “He’s a very good leader training every day. Fantastic energy into the building. These are the reasons why we are convinced that he’s the right one now for this job, and it’s not an easy one. But with all the support from the club and the fans, we will make the turnaround. I’m pretty sure about that.”
In fact, several questions were asked of Schneider about the coaching search and he emphatically said that Lesesne was his man. Lesesne was promoted through this season.
“Totally focused on Troy and giving him all the support him and his coaching team needs to be successful,” Schneider said. “I’m quite experienced a longtime enough in this in this business. Many coaching careers have started like this, so we’re totally focused on supporting him and the team and that’s it.”
When asked about he was looking for in a coach, Schneider replied, “Honestly, the candidate is sitting next to me. So, I don’t need to talk about a candidate. So, our full support and I mean, it’s clearly mentioned in our DNA, how we want to play, and this style of play led us in the last two years into two playoffs.”
Lesesne, the 2020 USL Championship coach of the year while coaching New Mexico United, won’t have much time to make a good first impression running the show because he will be facing not one, but two big matches after taking over the Red Bulls head coaching reins for the Struber, who was given the axe by the MLS club on Monday.
On Tuesday night, he will direct the Red Bulls against D.C. United in a Round of 32 game in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Montclair State University.
On Saturday night, he will guide the team against New York City FC in the latest edition of the Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena.
Man, talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire so quickly.
After Struber was given his marching orders by Red Bulls management, Lesesne talked to the team for the first time as head coach on Monday.
“The message was really simple,” he said. “We have to immediately get to work. We’re not where we want to be clearly in the league table and then we have a knockout match versus D.C. United tomorrow, the Open Cup, and so that the message was quite clear. I want to use this as a moment as a reset for individuals that have any topics or anything that maybe were leading to frustration coming in. So where we are in the season for the team itself, and anything that’s negative in any way, let’s use this moment right now as a reset, so that we can move forward again in a positive direction.”
Lesesne added that he wanted to see an evolution in the Red Bulls’ pressing defensive play.
“I think that that’s extremely important for this next step for us,” he said. “We have a solid play that’s uniquely different than any other club really an MLS. Couple [of] other clubs have similar philosophies. But I would say for what we want to now evolve to and what we want to start to add into the mix. We all know the reality of where we are in terms of scoring goals and creating chances. We create chances in certain parts of our style of play. But in other parts of our phases of play, we have to improve with the ball, we have to be a little bit more clear. We have to be a little bit more creative as well.”
That sounds like a big task for a “no-name” coach who would love to make a bigger name for himself.