Jesse Marsch addresses 'coaching ability' doubts after Leeds United exit amid Lionel Messi Copa America plan

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The former Leeds United manager has a chance to lead Canada to the Copa America final tonight.

Jesse Marsch insists he ‘never doubted’ his own coaching ability during a year-long spell without work, following his Leeds United exit.

Leeds sacked Marsch in February 2023, having been unable to build on the previous season’s survival bid despite significant investment in the playing squad. The American left Elland Road with Leeds 17th in the Premier League table, above the relegation zone on goal difference, after a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest made it seven without a win - they burned through two more permanent managers and were eventually relegated.

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Marsch’s reputation was somewhat damaged in England and after being overlooked for the USA head coach job last year, he spent time away from the dugout. The 50-year-old took charge of Canada in May and has led them to the Copa America semi-finals, where they face world champions Argentina overnight. Despite winning just one game in regular time, Canada’s progression is seen as a success but Marsch insists there was never personal doubt over whether he could bounce back from leaving Leeds.

“I felt how strongly they wanted me here, and I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need all the other b******t,” Marsch said. “I never doubted my ability as a coach. What I’ve always doubted in this business is how do you find the right people to work with? And so the best thing about where I’m at right now is it feels home to me. It feels like I’m working with a group of players that I think value the things that I bring. I value the things that they’re about.

“The people in the country have been 100 per cent behind us in what we’re doing with this team and you could take out the victories and the successes that we’ve had at this tournament. From day one, I’ve felt that. It’s the reason I came. It’s because I felt how strongly they wanted me here. I want to do things I want to do. I want to get back to loving the game that I love, and this team has helped me find that, and I’m very thankful for that.”

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Tonight’s semi-final will see Canada come up against the team who beat them 2-0 in the first group stage game last month, with Lionel Messi orchestrating an excellent second-half performance in which both goals were scored. Marsch went on to demand punishment for Argentina after they delayed the second-half kick-off but admitted he was unable to keep the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner from turning the tide - something he is hoping to achieve this time round.

“We didn't do well enough with Messi last match, he was able to run free at our goalkeeper too much," Marsch admitted. "We won't man-mark, but we will certainly place an emphasis on how to defend him. How to keep track of him will be really important, and the things that make it difficult for him like limiting his space is our number one thing. 

“We don't want him to run free at our backline like last game. But we all know he's the greatest player to ever play the game, the respect we have for him and certainly the stadium will reflect that, but it's always a privilege to play against a player like him.”

Victory over Argentina would put Canada into the Copa America final and could set up a meeting with Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay, which would undoubtedly attract plenty of viewers from West Yorkshire. Uruguay have been in outstanding form and beat Brazil on penalties over the weekend. They face Colombia in the second semi-final in the early hours of Thursday morning UK time.