There are pros and cons to watching games on TV versus being at the field.
When it comes to assessing the details of a player’s technique, off the ball movement, and overall awareness, the television can not compete. I was at the Home Depot Center on Saturday to watch Chile vs the US and the extent of the ugliness was brought to bear.
But first, the good stuff …
Agudelo and Bunbury
My first evaluation of Bunbury was in college, and this was my only exposure to Agudelo. How they receive and stroke the ball is clearly different – their technique is in the image of the world’s best. It is not robotic and forced like their teammates, but fluid and natural. These are guys with potential who merit being in the National Team mix. Truthfully, their technical foundation is far superior to that of all current forwards in the pool (at the time of this writing, the only exceptions being Herculez Gomez and Dempsey).
All the other players who got action that night should no longer be in consideration. Done, finished, finito, toast! The only way they get their hands on the jersey is like the rest of us – buy one! They are average MLS players with a nightmarish first touch and an on-the-ball desperation of a crack whore. Why Bob, why? What is it that you saw in these new faces and what is it that you continue to see in some others.
Marvell Wynne? Brek Shea?
What the fuck?
What the fuck indeed!
I must admit that I didn’t watch much of it since ESPN forced me to view the game online, and watching this shit from my laptop was not fun. (I could go on about ESPN’s soccer coverage, but that’s for another day). It wouldn’t have been any fun on my TV either because the USA was horrid (I didn’t watch the second half, so I missed the high points). The skill level of the American players was absolutely stunning when compared to the Chileans, but not in a good way.
Granted the USA fielded a young team with guys trying to be noticed for future consideration, but so did Chile. US Soccer might do well to do a bit of soul-searching about the player pool. How can the National team be so bad? It is not just the lack of first touch, but also the lack of positional sense and basic game intelligence. Instead, the US players are great athletes with size and speed unmatched by their Latin American opponents. With their lack of basic skill and playing sense, the USA goes the negative route playing a compact defense relying on goal-keeping and counter-attacking rarely stringing more than a handful of passes together.
So, how did we get here? The core youth soccer system chooses players who make up the National team largely based on the athletic ability first, and skill/intelligence a distant second. Those with athletic ability are not given the necessary feedback to work on their skill, or intelligence to reach a higher level. Those with exceptional skill or intelligence (without the super athletic ability) simply don’t make the “grade” and move forward to the “elite” US Soccer ranks. The athletic ability is sufficient to be successful. A good bit of this comes down to how the game is played around this country, and how the rules of the game are deployed. The blame is on the coaching, the basic culture and inherent bias of the game here.
We can overcome these problems if the problems are recognized first, and a concerted effort is made to solve it. The coaches, parents and referees all need to join together to make the changes necessary for success. Without changes, we can expect to remain below the first tier of nations in international soccer.
so I’m pretty much a soccer novice, I went to the game and tried to watch McCarty a lot. I thought his first touch let him down a lot, and he was just thinking slow. It seemed like when the ball was passed to him there were often good opportunities/players making open runs. But it took him so long to get the ball under control and then make a pass that the opportunities disappeared. Was I seeing it right?
– his touch and dribbling did seem better to most of the U.S. players, but he was handling the distribution so often that his faults were magnified.
Gary Kleiban says
McCarty is a cute little player. An energizer bunny who only has one gear: “go, go, go”. There is no pause to his game.
This is not a quality you want in an international player, especially a center mid. It demonstrates a severe lack of sophistication.
Sub par technique, sub par intelligence, and he gets the #10? How can people not see this?
Paul Gardner has an interesting take on the recent National Team camp in his Wednesday column.
Can you believe we are talking “player movement off the ball” at the National Team camp??!! That stuff was supposed to be learned at the developmental stage, NOT at the competitive stage for the NT! We are so doomed!
Gary Kleiban says
I am, and am not, surprised at the same time.
This is what I’ve been saying for years. By and far, the players being selected are clueless!
Now, if we’re selecting players who lack such fundamentals, what does that say about those doing the selecting? Hmmm? It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots.
This is surprising only in that maybe, just maybe, Bradley’s eyes have been opened a bit. A shift in philosophy or ideas maybe?
Nah, not a chance. This guy just talks without knowing or doing. There’s too much evidence to the contrary:
1) One being what I mentioned above: his player selection does not reflect a “pass and move / possession” style.
2) During the game, I’m pretty sure that every throw-in in Chile’s final third was long one into the box. This is “hail mary cross my fingers and hope something good happens” soccer. This is not Barca, or any self respecting team’s philosophy.
For the readers who don’t know what article is being referenced, here’s the link:
I think we’ll have to wait till Bradley is gone to really know what he thinks. Until then we will have to divine his intent through his actions. Gardner’s article might provide an example where he isn’t doing anything inherently bad, but its necessity at the National team level is absolutely terrifying. He ought to be sanding a few rough edges, rather than shaping their basic playing style. Of course, the USA’s normal style of play has the defense clearing the ball out of the back, and at best simply bypassing the midfield to the forwards rather than giving possession back to the opponent.
Does Bradley care about the long term? He is sort of a de facto lame duck who is probably surviving only on the basis of results. If this is his main focus, we will simply spend the remainder of his tenure without progress. Bradley’s survival instinct would simply reinforce the very things that got us here in the first place!
If he does care about the future beyond his own tenure, his recent actions might spur an attempt to improve the training of those coming up. Youth soccer however is quite resistant to change. The player pool we have reflects some combination of the bias of ODP, college and MLS. It does not paint a pretty picture. Almost certainly we have had a host of talent that has simply escaped notice of the US Soccer, and drifted away into other sports, obscurity, and who knows what else.
We almost certainly have better talent than we see in the National team pool, but the system does not value this form of talent. Instead, we get a good view of what we do value in the National team pool. Size, speed and raw athletic ability are the route to a call-up. Skill, intelligence and creativity are not valued unless they are accompanied by the athletic traits; it’s a plain as the nose on your face. Too often, those with athletic talent simply do not develop skill or intelligence because of their success within the current system. After all, why should a guy who makes the Regional or National team work on his basic skills.
Oh yeah, the same comments apply to the women, as they start to lose their edge over the rest of the world. Their decline is testimony to all the same issues on the men’s side.