Irvine, CA– So the college season kicked off last Friday for most programs across the country and I received a clear reminder of where we stand as a soccer nation with the horrific display between UC Irvine and USD. Yes, the game was such a disappointment that it could be considered a waste of a Friday night even to me with my ‘soccer is life’ mentality. UC Irvine came out on top in a boring lackluster 1-0 match over the visiting Toreros. Below is a tactical breakdown of both teams and a little game recap.
UC Irvine 4-2-3-1
Gk: #1 Andrew Fontein
Def: #3 Marco Franco, #15 Everett Pitts, #2 Jonathan Rivas, #28 Victor Calderon
Holding Mids: #13 Tarek Morad, #6 Jimmy Turner
Attacking Tri: #10 Miguel Ibarra, #9 Christian Hernandez, #5 Syd Tom
Fw: #7 Christopher Santana
Gk: #27 Adam Campbell
Def: #13 Elijah Galbraith-Knapp, #4 Thomas Fiskerstrand, #24 Jorge Reza, #5 Callum Whittaker
Holding Mids: #19 Charles Blase, #6 James Cohn
Attacking Trio: #14 Stephen Posa, #8 Conor Mcfadden, #20 Christian Duke
Fw: #10 Patrick Wallen
UC Irvine breakdown:
The Anteaters are ranked in numerous preseason polls (as high as 17th). It leads me to believe that all that preseason hype and respect is solely based on their high standard over the past few seasons. The honeymoon with the polls will not last long. On paper they have a relatively soft preseason schedule. The losses will begin to accumulate by the time they make it home from the Florida trip later this month.
The senior GK Fontein has appeared to have regressed in his game instead of developed. His ball distribution is a nightmare!!! His shot stopping abilities were not put to test on the evening but he seems to be the same player as he was 3 years ago and that does not bode well when getting to the next level.
The back line seems very unorganized defensively. What makes up for this lack of organization is usually Pitts deceptive speed. He comes from behind to clean up a lot of sticky situations. The right back Franco offers a lot with the ball at his feet. He is very comfortable in possession the way defenders at the highest level should be. Both Pitts and Franco have a good level of play but neither has leadership skills to keep this boat afloat when playing against top notch opposition. The weak links in the back row are clearly Rivas and Calderon. Anyone who wants to navigate straight to UC Irvine’s goal should attack the left side of this defense. Both of these players are not at the level and are the reason the Anteaters will give up more goals than in previous seasons. I can’t wait to see Creighton’s Finley, Acoff, and Gomez carve this back row to pieces in October.
The two holding mids are no better than the weak links in the back. Jimmy Turner is a decent outside back at this level. Now when we talk about what a true world class defender should look like on 3four3 we communicate that worldwide they convert technically gifted attacking mids to play left/right back. Here, the opposite has been done. A “decent” outside back is now playing in the middle of the field. A HUGE PROBLEM! Next to Turner is another deficient midfield player in Morad. Neither can tackle consistently! Neither reads the game well! Neither can make the simple play because they do not have awareness of their surroundings. Winning the middle of the field is a necessity in the modern game and with this tandem UCI has no chance when playing good D1 opposition.
The attacking portion of UCI’s line up is not bad. They do not have a natural goal scoring presence that will guarantee them goals but do have some creative flare with Ibarra, Hernandez, and Santana. Enrique Cardenas coming off the bench was a spark. He is the type of player that can naturally take big robotic D1 tree trunk defenders on with ease and showed that in the 45 minutes he was on. The next puzzling thing is Syd Tom starting and playing nearly the entire game. How can this be? He offers absolutely nothing on both sides of the ball. So, like I said, the honeymoon in the national polls will soon be over for the Anteaters.
If UCI lacks a playing identity I have no clue what to say about USD. They have zero structure all the way across the board. No game plan! No tactics! NOTHING! It’s just a sad case of throwing 11 players on the field and having them play. Come on lads, work hard! Tackle!! Get stuck in!!! It’s pathetic! I did not see one 5 touch sequence the entire 90 minutes. Needless to say, the coaching department leaves a lot to be desired at USD. Unfortunately, there is no accountability when it comes to men’s soccer in most programs nationwide and nothing will be done.
The keeper didn’t have much work to do nor was he tested. The stats show UCI took 17 shots but only a couple of times did they even remotely come close to testing Campbell.
The back row is your typical D1 line up. A bunch of big physical specimens that cannot control nor kick – yes that’s right, do not know how to properly kick – a soccer ball. They cannot complete one pass; therefore my expectations of build up out of the back were not fulfilled. It results in your patented get the ball and launch it forward with no purpose except to get it out of danger and off your foot like a hot potato.
The midfield doesn’t exactly get much better. The two holding mids have no clue! They just attempt to destroy and clear the ball. The “creative” mid that sits behind the lone striker is Mcfadden. Yep, odd coincidence that he has same last name as the coach. Confirmed! It’s the coach’s son. But unlike the Bob and Michael Bradley duo, this kid does not belong on the field … much less playing in the creative role in a 4-2-3-1 formation under the lone striker. Midfield players … zero creativity. Yep, a recipe for disaster and a great way to realize my Friday night was a true waste sitting in the stands witnessing this chaotic display.
I will not even get into detail on the target forward since he didn’t exist on the field. Wallen had a couple of physical battles with Pitts and that was it. Maybe mixed martial arts could be his thing.
By now, you may have realized that I was not happy with the performance of either team. I promised some tactical breakdown but that is not possible when there is no structure or anything that resembles a team identity.
Both teams got the ball and launched is straight forward … kick ball if you may. Any goal kick or set piece in their own half was “booted” up with no intent to build out of the back. I was waiting for some good set piece play from both sides since they have very little build up during open play. Again, I was terribly disappointed.
UCI puts 5 men in the box on corner kick offense. Big man Pitts making far post run and is targeted. They leave 2 at the top of the box for any clearances to clean up and 2 men in the back.
Defensively, UCI has a man on near post and one in near post zone coverage on the 6 yard box. Everyone else is man to man with Ibarra staying high for counters.
USD does similar offensively with 5 guys in the box but nothing special in terms of runs or directions of where ball should be placed. They bring 2 players to the corner kick flag in attept to remove 2 players from defending teams box to open up space. Never played it short.
So there is some structure but nothing specific in terms of set piece offense on either side.
The games lone goal came in the 74th minute off a scramble in the box where the ball deflected off Syd Tom and fell to Christian Hernandez to bury it from 6 yards out.
UCI did make me smile on a couple of occasions in the 2nd half when they had several passing sequences holding possession. Oddly enough, when they did this they showed signs of true danger going to USD’s goal. Again, UCI can be dangerous when keeping the ball and giving Ibarra, Santana, Hernandez, and Cardenas a fighting chance at running at opposing defenses with the ball on the ground.
My plan was to provide player rating but none merited more than a 6 (scale of 1 to 10) so we shall save that for next game analysis. Ibarra was the lone bright spot showing glimpses of being a talented play-making midfielder. Too bad he was caged onto the right side of the field where he is limited instead of getting the free role just under the striker where he can do more damage.
Ironically, the only one who resembled a soccer player on USD’s roster came on as a sub on a couple of occasions. #16 Dan Delgado showed some glimpses of talent holding possession and connecting some passes going forward. Nice left foot on the kid. Too bad he has nobody to play with. I was shocked when learning that possibly one of the top players of his age group (1991) was no longer with the program in Sergio Carranza. But I quickly realized why, little to no playing time in that enviroment during his freshmen and sophmore seasons for a dynamite attacking player who can gallop at a defense and finish a la Messi. The kid probably wanted to commit suicide playing (or not) at USD.
Well, my rant is over! My stomach could not take much more of this. Luckily, Akron comes to town on Thursday and that is just what the doctor ordered! Stay tuned for Akron vs Cal State Fullerton game coverage this upcoming Thursday.
Thank you for that, Mr. Kleiban. I will adjust my Fall’11 viewing schedule accordingly. After all, life is short.
Sorry to be a detractor, but is this necessary? We all know soccer (even D1) is not quality. I can go to just about any college soccer match and see big, strong, fast but technically and tactically sub-par (when compared to rest of the world . . . which is where they need to be for USA to evolve).
On related issue, I watched Chivas USA play few days ago (forget who opponent was) and they looked awful. No skill. Just kicking the ball around w/o reason. Even made my U13 son cringe!
Gary Kleiban says
Brian is spearheading the college stuff.
I think we have some of the most sophisticated soccer readership – certainly commenters – in the country. So I expect our views and approach to be challenged. In fact, I encourage it! Please feel free to rip us a new one when you completely disagree!
In this case, let me explain some of the underlying motivation.
Yes, everybody knows in general that college soccer sucks. But do people really know why?
Do they understand that it doesn’t have to be this way? I don’t think they do. They mostly believe the game is terrible because the players aren’t properly developed at the youth level, or because the refs allow excessive physicality, or because the teams don’t train/play year round, or many of the other main stream ideas. And while there are truths in all these, it completely misses the biggest and most fundamental problem:
* Coaching incompetence.
One does not need international caliber players to have organized build-ups in play. One does not need to have what passes for the “top recruiting class in the nation” either. The only requirement is a coach who has a clue. That’s it! What is the excuse for not even having real set piece work? Does one need Barcelona’s roster for that?
We have an infestation of absolute ZERO’s at the college programs. But nobody seems to know it. And if they do, nobody talks about it. Nobody calls them out.
There is no accountability, and for obvious reasons. Unlike their football or basketball colleagues, soccer is not a money or prestige machine for the university. And so for the passionate soccer fan, we have this travesty at the collegiate level. We have coaches sitting in those positions for 5, 10, 15, 20 years who’s capacity is limited to thrusting eleven on the field and being a cheerleader.
These complete amateurs are entrusted with running what really is the 2nd tier of US Soccer.
Well, the least we can do is bring a touch of accountability. If anything, perhaps quality players who are considering a certain program have someone’s opinion to read before they decide to throw their soccer career away.
What do you think?
Well, Lalo’s response got me thinking– what if dozens and dozens and dozens of D1 hopefuls nationwide, including the “best”, suddenly started to overwhelm Caleb Porter and his staff with resumes and videos? Would any other college coaches take note? Would the smartest of them adjust their programs to attract some of that would-be talent?
In fact, Akron has already benefited from some quality transfers. Including the son of one of the USD assistant coaches.
Brian Kleiban says
If I were you I’d adjust your schedule to watch akron if possible. They are consistent and will at least give us a good performance.
Brian Kleiban says
Yes we all know that if we want a good show, college soccer is not the place we will see one. However, if the coaches had a clue on how to properly instill an identity in a team we can all have something beautiful to watch in our own backyard. Some of these players are capable…..as I stated when UCI had some nice sequences.
At the end of the day, I am looking to highlight what programs and players possess this true quality we speak of. I do not want them to go unnoticed to the masses and slip through the cracks. And hopefully, with some heart felt truth the truly mediocre programs will start to get back to work and stop going through the motions. Coaches, players, parents, students need to know there is something much better out there and not to settle to play for a USD type program.
I had free tickets but did not make it out to home depot for the chivas usa real salt lake game. Heard it was atrocious!
Is the they don’t need great quality to implement a different game style really true? I think that the better the athletes on the field the more skilled the players have to be play a good style. The D1 players are extremely good athletes, fast, and allowed to be physical. The speed of thought and play is going to have to be quite good to get beyond a kick and run game. Akron’s good because they recruit a whole set of guys who think fast. Does USD really have the players whose speed of thought can keep up with the athleticism of their opponents? I doubt it. Your point that they could recruit players who think faster is well taken, but the guys the have now?
What he’s getting at is that although these are not the best players, there play as a team is even worse. He means that with a good coach these exact players could play much better soccer. Some might even be better than they look, but they’re encouraged to play kick ball by their unintelligent coach.
Brian Kleiban says
Having quality players will always help your cause when trying to play soccer the way we all like to see it played. Connecting passes with build up play as opposed to launching it long “hail mary” style hoping some good comes of it. However, if the proper spacing is taught to the back row and holding mids and how to execute build up out of the back is worked on it can be done even with the robots USD has on the field.
And yes, they could have recruited a bit better if this was the soccer they wished to play. The coach is in his 33rd season, he didn’t just take over the program. But, as you can tell by the product on the field they just play the direct approach and with that 50-50 type of soccer there is NO CONSISTENCY. You can win some, you can lose some. It all depends on your player personnel and if you have match winning talent on the field.
short passes says
Great write-up and I totally agree with the concept supporting it — accountability !!
For as long as I’ve been reading Soccer America and the soccer blogs, soccer REPORTING and ANALYSIS has totally ignored how awful the general college level coach and player are, so, why would anyone want to change? Once the soccer media actually starts to publish the names of the offending coaches, teams and players, maybe, just maybe, there will be a new class of players and coaches who don’t want to suffer the constant insults for their lack of skill and will upgrade their skills. Just look at Soccer America — it’s been around forever, but how many times did you ever read a game analysis that actually criticized the level of coaching or level of play (other than Paul Gardner who is “persona non grata” to the soccer establishment) ??? Nothing ever gets better without good criticism—school grades, work performance, art. This new series is a great first step in holding soccer players and coaches to a high performance standard — will it catch on ??? I certainly hope so. BTW please let us know if you start getting shut out by the soccer coaching establishment.
Eric Cantona says
Cal Poly is a team you should follow. Coach Paul Holocher is teaching a possession game with an emphasis on technical skill versus athleticism. If you miss a live game, the UCSB vs. Poly rivalry game will be televised again on Fox Soccer Channel. I’d be interested to hear from your perspective if Paul’s coaching philosophy has translated to the pitch.
Thanks, Eric, that’s the kind of tip we are looking for. Paul Holocher. I’ll look him up.
Brian Kleiban says
I will definately get to see Cal Poly live at some point this season since they are in the Big West Conference. I know coach Paul personally and believes he has the right idea about how to play. Lots of coaches at every level can certainly talk about playing “possession” soccer. Can their teams execute it and show a consistent team identity on the field? That’s another question…….I will be sure to follow up on this one though King Cantona!
Thanks for the heads up!
I think these reviews are a breath of fresh air. It is amazing and frustrating to watch MLS and college game broadcasts and have the announcers sugar-coat what is, and most importantly, what is not happening on the field. The inability to have a first touch, find feet and finish is epidemic in U.S. soccer because, as you point out, very few coaches stress it or, more importantly, are even capable of teaching it. One thing that should be noted is that there are actually some kids who have these skills and are now trapped in college systems that stifle their abilities. I agree with the analysis of USD but one of their defenders grew up in youth soccer with my boy and is actually a terrific player who never gets a chance to showcase his skills because almost none of the other players on the team are capable of playing that style. And, when you have a coach’s son on the team, as USD does, that is a recipe for disaster.
“Coach’s son on the team..a recipe for disaster”: dude, don’t get me going!
I just saw second ranked ucla against sixth ranked new Mexico play it made me want to barph I cannot believe how bad it was
Gary Kleiban says
Hopefully we can do some more of these game recaps/evaluations this season too.
I saw in the archives you reviewed some ucla games do you respect their game? I was shocked and in disbelief at how both teams played. The center midfielders never demanded the ball from defenders and the defenders never swung the ball around the back. Just really basic stuff. This is stuff you will see executed much better in a pdl game. What do you think of pdl and pdl compared to d1 soccer? I could personally field at least one team if not two teams of people I play with who are tactically and technically better than these guys and also creative too. So sad how the system works and these robots get scholarships and go on to play pro