Friday January 13th, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Before The New York Red Bulls kicked off their 2017 season with Friday’s MLS draft, coach Jesse Marsch confirmed that he and the rest of the club’s technical staff will be the ones guiding the team this year. Rumors and reports that Marsch was set to become manager at Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg and/or that New York sporting director Ali Curtis may be yielding some of his duties dominated the conversation leading into the draft, and Marsch’s absence from this week’s college combine and Curtis’s early return to New York fueled speculation.

Marsch sought to end that speculation Friday, insisting that he never was offered the job by Salzburg and that he missed the combine because he was in Portugal working with Red Bull’s European sides (the company also owns German Bundesliga contender RB Leipzig).

“I’m the New York Red Bulls’ coach,” he said repeatedly.

Marsch, 43, replaced former Red Bulls manager Mike Petke before the 2015 season and, along with Curtis, has presided over a club that has changed its spending habits while maintaining a place atop the standings. It won the Supporters' Shield in ’15, when Marsch was the league’s Coach of the Year, and finished first again in the Eastern Conference last season.

“I’ll take it as a compliment that people will even think that [Salzburg] is a potential avenue for me,” he said. “I’ve already said publicly that I’m an ambitious guy. I’m an ambitious coach. Certainly the opportunity to challenge myself in leagues that are at the highest level is something that interests me very much. But right now, all my focus is on the New York Red Bulls.”

Marsch arrived in L.A. late Thursday night. He said he watched the combine games online and that he had staff at StubHub Center doing additional scouting. He also said he was familiar with most of the players. Curtis was scheduled to speak Thursday at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention, which hosts the MLS draft each year. But he had to cancel the talk titled, ironically, “New York Red Bulls: How We Build a Club and How We Connect within our Global Framework” in order to return home due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to a club spokesman.

No additional details were available, but that spokesman added that Curtis remains sporting director and that his responsibilities are intact. Chris Armas and Denis Hamlett remain assistant coaches working under Marsch.

“There is no news on our sporting staff. Everything that has been reported is rumors,” the spokesman said.

“This whole thing that came out, I can’t figure out how to place it,” Marsch said. “But nothing’s ever changed other than facilitating our relationship with our clubs over [in Europe].”

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