[Video] Setting The Standard for U13 Possession Soccer in America

We’ve shown you what the current standard for U11s looks like.

And we’ve demonstrated how this translated to the global stage with competitions against the best academies in the world.

We’ve also shown you what it looks like at U12.

Now we present what it can look like at U13. Enjoy and study the crap out of it!

A lot of things go into achieving this standard, and beyond.

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  1. Lalo says

    Been a long time since I’ve posted.

    May sound bad but don’t need to watch. Already know what I’ll see. We’ve beat that dead horse until it’s liquefied flesh. Even my son shakes his head and won’t watch in frustration of what he’s missing. Seeing these type of videos pissess me off because no matter how we try, coaches pretend to do tiki-taka at practice and then play different style in games. Same goes for player id. Sad state of affairs probably for 90% of us.

    • Tyler says

      I agree Lalo. So many talk a good game and run practices that have decent activities/sessions but just don’t translate to the game. Most times I’ve noticed that the coach changes personalities from practice session to games. They start yelling things like “clear it” and “kick it” and get verbally angry at the kids with small technical mistakes (passes not delivered firmly/shots too far away). They also have different standards for mistakes/favorite players. So one kid gets reamed, but another that makes similar mistake doesn’t get corrected. I think all of these things change the game day environment from the practice environment.

      I watched Brian’s practice on one glorious night. The intensity and focus at practice seemed to be the same if not higher than listening/watching the games they’ve posted. This has a lot to do with how the kids approach the games and the resulting play, in my opinion.

  2. M A says

    Hi Brian,
    Visited your site on numerous occasions and enjoy the philosophy, training ideas & videos. Team is looking good… players have excellent technique, knowledge of the game and I love the diagonal passing. Only one critical comment, and perhaps you cannot control it due to the rules governing soccer in the United States… U-13 should be small-sided. This video shows a game on an adult size field when the players are 1/2 to 3/4 size of an adult. All goals that were scored were high and above the goalkeeper… in a few years, those shots would be blocked and saved. Also, the time on the players have on the ball allow for a “semi-poor” touch to be recovered easily. A 3/4 size field (9 vs. 9 or 8 vs. 8) would punish poor touches and shots would have to be placed in the corners or built up through the wings and crossed in for tap-ins (video shows a couple of these plays but were very close offside calls). Smaller areas allow for quicker play and excellent touches to be learned at a younger age. Doesn’t take away from the quality of the players and I’m sure they will have excellent technique and team style in the years to come.
    One last question – what groups do you have coming up in the future? Are there younger players starting the “3four3″ process now? I am seriously hoping you are grooming the next generation of players and not just focusing on one team, but rather developing a complete youth system.

    • says


      Field size, XvsX at uX, and how the goals in this game happened…

      I really truly appreciate your thoughts … it’s just that the things you mentioned are precisely the types of things I’m fighting against. That is, the apparent tendency to think such things are main talking points.

      “One last question – what groups do you have coming up in the future? Are there younger players starting the “3four3″ process now?”

      These U13s are the youngest. Brian and I would love for the 3four3 process to be implemented throughout the club’s pipeline (U14, U16, U18).

      • says

        I’ve got another question about field size. I have my U10 boys playing in a 6v6 league and I have them playing in an 8v8 league. This was kind of an experiment season for me and the kids.
        I found a crazy difference between the flow of the game in 6v6 and 8v8 games. You won’t think it would be huge, but it’s massive. I have the same kids and when we play 6v6 we can’t build any kind of true possession rhythm and when we play 8v8 we can possess teams to death.

        The 8v8 we can really possess around the back and create 10-15 pass combinations. (about 75 by 50yd field)
        The 6v6 ends up being a lot of quick combination play and taking players on 1v1. (about 60 by 40yd field)

        Small field can develop more technical speed and accuracy, if you really focus on it.
        Bigger field can help a coach teach soccer IQ better, if you really focus on it.

        So the question…is it better to put kids in an environment where they can possess as young as possible or is it better to let them stay in an environment where they are forced to use individual skill and quick combination play?
        What is more beneficial?

      • jesran says

        My feeling is that smaller sided game is non-starter in US for awhile. Reason being that soccer coaching talent is already stretched enough with a 15-16 player team. Imagine needing even more parent coaches! UGH! Same thing goes with field availability/resources to maintain fields. Soccer is still a growing sport in US. Part of growing pains are vast amounts of clueless coaches, too few fields and many beat up fields.

  3. Lalo says

    W/o benefit of watching the video, I’m sure coach Kleiban’s team is choreographed, disciplined, proper spacing between lines, purposeful movement, 1 – 2 touch max majority of the time, good ball distribution, firm passing to appropriate foot / space, good basic receiving and passing, awareness of timing to press / attack / slow down / reset. The art of choreographed footballing brilliance. Players who can actually play how they are supposed to and don’t get seduced by kickball. They remain composed because it’s in their DNA, reinforced at practice, in games, in tournaments, and by who is in starting 11 and gets significant minutes off the bench. Playing a certain way is what’s expected.

    Each of us should send the video link to their DoC, share w/other parents, mentioned it to your coach. Ask why you don’t see something approaching this by U13. Why do practices look different than games? Why isn’t player selection based on who can play the style you practice? Start a grass roots revolution!

    • says

      “Each of us should send the video link to their DoC, share w/other parents, mentioned it to your coach. Ask why you don’t see something approaching this by U13. Why do practices look different than games? Why isn’t player selection based on who can play the style you practice? Start a grass roots revolution!”

      Yes Lalo!
      This is how disruption of status quo can happen.
      I’m hoping these videos will be used to bring forth more accountability to all in the soccer community.

  4. Turftalker says

    Surely a great display, as expected.

    What was unexpected is that PASTURE they’re playing on. (I’m spoiled by short cut Bermuda fields in the southeast). Better than artificial turf.. But it still made me cringe to see the ball slowed down so much due to the grass length. No wonder so many teams can’t put a pass on a teammate’s foot.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Glad to see the Kleiban “gold standard” influence on Chivas Academy.

    Gary: how many of these players have been with Brian since Barca USA?

    • Turftalker says

      To clarify my question: are these players who are relatively “short-timers” in their work with Brian, or have they spent years with him?

    • says

      You’re right!
      The grass was really thick.

      So in reality, the displays this team puts on with a proper surface are better to what you see here. We’ll be “upping the standard” again when we film on a good field. :)

      Your question about the roster …
      about half the team is the same as when they started at U10. Others have joined at some point in the window between U11-U13. Hmmm… now I kinda wanna do a calculation for the average length of time a player’s been on the roster. Ha.

    • says

      Are you kidding??? You are crazy spoiled. If saw the fields we play on in Kansas and what probably many other teams around the country have to play on, you would call that field the Camp Nou grounds.
      Playing on terrible fields is not an excuse for bad soccer, but it for sure does not help possession development.

      • Turftalker says

        Acknowledged. Bermuda cut like a golf course is not uncommon in the SE states. Of course much of it isn’t maintained well, but still.. The roll is great.

        My perspective on this comes from growing up in the Midwest, playing on “pastures” like the one in the video (or far worse).

        I still despise artificial surfaces.

  5. joeliejoel says

    I know what to expect when I watch the videos of their teams and I continue to do so with the intent of creating automatic responses in my brain to certain stimuli that I see on the field. For example, under what circumstances does #7 the left striker slink back for possession and why it occurs so much on the left side as opposed to the right.

    I very much try to watch the other team now more than I used to because it is their reactions and lack of reaction that I think I can learn the most from. What I noticed in this video was pretty good spacing and ball distribution by the other team but a glaring lack of technical proficiency. Too many corrective touches. Too many moments of receiving the ball incorrectly or poorly weighted passes. Too many of the other kids transfixed by the ball only and not paying attention to a Chivas player sliding in to position. Of note, I am surprised by the Chivas DM as he spends much time watching the ball. It is as if he is not challenged enough by the other team or the other teams’ midfielders and is therefore falling in to some poorer habits regarding reading the game. Against better competition he may not have as much time to be so relaxed in his play. It is as though he meanders on defense or when the other team has the ball is a step behind the development. One thing I also appreciate is seeing the speed and coordination or these young men as it helps me to properly judge or not have to high of coordination expectations for my younger kids.

    So muh to learn. So much can be learned watching these teams play. It is very much a blessing to have these opportunities.

    • joeliejoel says

      Re-watched x2 and stand corrected regarding my comments about DM #6. Believe maybe I’ve taken for granted how simple they make the build up look. I saw him talking and surveying quite a bit more than I saw the first time when paying more attention to the other team. I am still surprised SoCal did not assign someone to shadow him a bit more.

  6. John Pranjic says

    Why did #7 keep dropping off to receive the ball in open space? Because there was acres of open space. It’s pretty simple.

    His outside back wasn’t pushing forward very often and was playing a little narrow at times. It created tons of space for #7 to drift back casually, receive the ball under no pressure, then run wild at his defenders. He even got into some tiki-taka situations around the box that started with longer runs from closer towards midfield. Pretty cool to watch.

    Another thing to note is that Real So Cal played pretty narrow at times. So when Chivas switched the ball from right to left, the ball was getting to #7 quicker than the defenders could shift in some cases it seemed like. Hard to tell from some of the camera angles, but that’s my (educated) guess.

    In regards to the Chivas #6. You’re surprised how much time he spent watching the ball? Rewatch it, dude. And watch how much time he spends surveying the ENTIRE FIELD. He knows where his teammates are at all times. He knows where the defenders are at. He knows where his space is. He’s constantly gathering information. And he uses all of that information perfectly. He is rarely under pressure because he never goes into a space where he will be pressured. And if he is under pressure, like he is at 16:45, he recognizes it and he directs his teammates visually and verbally to the better option. How does he know there is a better option? Because he is always ‘watching’. Imagine that field being the landing strip at LAX. Planes flying in and out, all over the place. Charlie is like the air traffic controller. Without him, there would be fucking chaos.

    It might appear that he’s ‘taking it easy’ because he doesn’t sprint all over the place and he isn’t going box to box. He doesn’t need to do that though. He’s methodical about what space he moves in and out of. There were times his little walks and jogs reminded me of Pirlo. But Americans are taught from day one that we need to be ‘working hard’ and if we’re not ‘working hard’ that we’re doing something wrong. Thankfully, there are two great places for ‘hard workers’ to play soccer here in the US, MLS and NCAA. And thankfully, there are professional scouts operating by global standards that recognize what Charlie is doing, or by your evaluation- not doing.

    • joeliejoel says

      I appreciate your comments and will certainly watch multiple times- particularly the DM that I was critical of. I did not notice him surveying quite as much as you say but certainly appreciate that you do see that. I saw him not being particularly marked and for anyone playing against this team it would seem to me that a midfielder would mark #6 specifically because he is so important to the build up. As far as working so hard, what I love most about Pirlo is that he never seems to have to run is because his awareness is so good. Never miss a Juve game and always tell my son, ‘hey did you see Pirlo running there? Rare occurrence. I certainly appreciate preternatural awareness skills in that role. My level of sophistication with the game is a work in progress. I’ve come a long way and have yet a longer way to go. Thank you John.

    • Geoff says

      100% agreed, Number 6 was the brains behind the whole show. When ever a player was in trouble there he was as an outlet to relieve pressure, his ability to switch the play comfortably and accurately is something that most people over look the genius and ability of it. Only piece missing from his game was taking a marauding run at the goal from that deep lying spot, its not like he needed to do it but when the opposition’s team is worn down press the initiative a bit..lol

      He was the player of the Vid so far and I havent finished watching yet…lol

      • John says

        Another thing I noticed is that he backed off of the press several times. I think around the 11 minute mark he had an opportunity to press higher up, but backed off. Can’t remember what the result of it was, but it looked strange. I would think he needs to be a savage right there and smash the player with the ball.

  7. John Pranjic says

    Separate note- at 22:15 you can see the true mentality of this Real So Cal team. Under the slightest bit of pressure, they can’t relax and see the easy options to keep possession and start building from the back. For those of you involved in the 3four3 coaching course… know that building from the back should receive an extreme amount of attention, even after you think it’s been mastered.

    Misa’s a great player. Love watching that kid play, and now seeing him actually grow a little bit too! But there’s going to come a time where he’s running to pressure a keeper that actually has a brain between his ears and knows how to play to his outside back with a simple one/two touch pass right there and starts a counter because they’re stretched and defending high up and out of position. A simple check of his shoulder and Misa takes that option away and the keeper is forced to play long anyway. Simple shit like that needs to be executed perfectly when you’re playing a lesser team so that it’s natural reaction when you play the badasses.

    Too critical?

    • joeliejoel says

      Agreed. I was quite surprised by how often the obvious pass was overlooked for a two or three touch turn right into a closing defender by Chivas. A few times SoCal had 3v2 numbers to combine with and chose something differently. To me the team/coach was lauding the midfielders or backs for kicking the ball up field to a covered striker. I noticed quality individual ball skills by the SoCal team but a definite hole in how to build play as a unit. By contrast, fun to watch Chivas play from the back exactly like the walk through practice from the coaching course. Verbatim. Step for step.I also absolutely agree regarding drilling the drills over and over- at some point a team may show a level of mastery of the philosophy but then there is so much nuance to perfect. The weight of Chivas balls and the consideration for moving the pass to where the player next needs to take it. Very subtle things and beautiful to watch. Even on a very very slow field.

    • Noah Creagh says

      I agree with both statements John. Real So Cal had no answers to the press because they had no identity to begin with! No definitive playing style at all. Even sitting back and attempting hitting on the counter would have been acceptable (and is typically the response that outclassed teams have to give) But they didnt even seem to know how to do that! It was like watching a team stuck in limbo. Easiest options were usually bypassed in the build up phase. Correct me if I missed something..but I dont recall them ever reaching the final third of the field. Ill have to watch again

  8. Noah Creagh says

    Up until a a couple mins in both teams were finding there were a few give away passes from both teams No biggie, typical settling in and feeling out in the early stages of the game. Chivas pressed effectively, body positions were correct on the press and everyone was on the same page and they pressed in deep positions. Make the field big in possession tighten up out of it and press deep.so in that regard they had more control. Now one moment I will point out is at 2:30, the outside back controls the ball and rather than look for an immediate pass or fast dribble he touches it forward and takes his time getting up field. He walks with it and allows his teammates to settle in. In other words he is bringing pause to the game. Hes letting his teammates know “alright boys lets settle down and do what we know to do” No panic no rush brilliant simple and effective. From there we have a two five pass sequences beginning with a wide switch to the left side of the field and ending with the first dangerous opportunity of the game. Bringing pause to the game allowed his teammates to settle in, find their positioning, and begin playing the brand of ball they are so capable of playing. Everything about the corner kick in minute 3:38 was sick and subtle. Just little details in it beginning with the player who takes the kick..notice hes in no rush to go retrieve the ball, saves his energy and importantly lulls Real so cal to sleep on the set piece. Im sure real had a good idea the short corner was coming, but it was HOW the short corner was initially set up by the player taking it that was so vital. Follows up with excellent ball control in a tight space that draws two players towards him and allows for a pass that cuts back and sets up the second opportunity of the game. Excellent. Afterwards on the goal kick Chivas slowly jog back into a position in which they can press as a unit, again at 4:18 notice the nearest player to the ball applies pressure, the rest of his teammates on are facing the play and positioning themselves in the passing lanes of the opposing player. The opposing players nearest options are covered, which results in his pass being intercepted, The chivas players read the visual cues and notice the transition from defense to attack and quickly begin expanding the field. which sets up another five pass sequence. There were a few missed passes that followed, but it did not matter as Chivas were set up perfectly to press and read the cues for transitions from defense to attack. In other words they already had much of the game under control and were putting their stamp on it. They were already in Real So Cals heads at this point. Again at 5:24 the player was in good position to press and make the tackle, this is another very important moment in the match as it leads to the first goal. He won the ball relatively high up the pitch and this is dangerous for Real because of the initial compactness of chivas, the area the ball was won in, and I counted initially a couple options getting into solid positions for their teammate on the ball. Meanwhile on the opposite side of the field, It seems the left winger has started to position himself wide to make the field big and more easily receive the ball he has anticipated. Because of the excellent pressing of chivas the Real so cal player had the ball taken away in a deeper position, what this does is causes a panic among his teammates and naturally draws their focus towards that end of the field, this makes it easier for the winger on the other side to position himself in the appropriate way..While the ball is being switched over to his side he realizes he isn’t going to receive it so what he does with his movement is fantastic, he feigns an overlap (again knowing he isn’t gonna get the ball) which draws further attention from the opposing defender nearest to him, helping to open an already wide shooting gap for the player on the ball leading to our first golazo of the game. After the first goal we have another period in which we see the teams begin to resettle themselves..albeit much more brief as Chivas were very much in control by this point and that resettlement period is followed by a Chivas shot on goal. 8:20 Goal Kick again, excellent positioning on the press for chivas notice the positioning of the Striker and Wingers, good alignment high up, facing the play, results in a blocked pass. Quick transition and great recognition by the other players results in golazo 2. So far Real has not been allowed to get into any kind of rhythm. They have no answer for the high press and positioning of the Chivas players. The thing is, pressing takes an incredible amount of work rate and intelligence by the team, the coach must be effective at communicating how they want their team to press. However the best teams know how to expend less energy when pressing to keep everyone fresh and sharp. Great work by Brian getting the choreography and collective work rates of the team in full gear. At this point after the second goal, the readjustment period takes much less time for Chivas. In other words they had found their groove and Real was definetly screwed. At about 10:50 wide player on the right side of the field takes a dump on two Real defenders. Just brilliant close control and confidence on the ball! Right there, when you go out and read all these articles about what high technical qualities in a player look like: right there 10:50! The close control and comfortable strokes on the ball! Brilliant! I feel as I have probably written too much here haha. Anyhow the rest of the game follows much of the same pattern. Brian has effectively set up his team to press in high areas so that they can more easily transition to attack when the ball is won. Excellent. If the ball was won high up the field, and the break wasn’t on a simple recycling of the ball through the backline which was positioned high up the field was the answer. While the tactical play/choreography on the ball as well is operating at a high level, I feel it is still lacking some sharpness and cohesiveness by GLOBAL STANDARDS. By NO MEANS is it bad or even average I just feel its lacking a certain…something am I correct Gary? Obviously way further ahead then you guys were when Brian initially took over. In other words still some work to be done? Technically speaking, the tools are all there and then some for all those players, so that’s a non issue. Now further work when in possession of the ball..lots of repetition of choreography some tweaks and oiling up here and there… If I am correct, This machine is well on its way to excellence in terms of global standards..and that should be absolutely terrifying for future opposition. Gold Standard is correct. I will be further dissecting this video of course haha Much to be learned from this. Thanks again Gary! Keep it up man. Anyone feel free to correct me and help me out with my observations here, Im a young coach looking to reach the gold standard.

      • joeliejoel says

        By the way, regarding pause, I enjoyed the little 3 touch juggling sequence on the sideline with his back to the other team. Can’t remember off hand which player it was. Balls.

        • Noah Creagh says

          hahaha yes! The juggling moment! How could I forget that was brilliant! Not only because it brought pause to the game, but it was a moment of real swagger! It says “Hey we are dominating you guys and we know it! We can do this all day”! I loved it! In America, we call that cocky and unsportsmanlike -_-

  9. pg 19 says

    The main thing I noticed is when the ball was passed. Player waiting until the very last split second before playing the ball off. As a coach, that would make me nervous, WAY nervous. The players are obviously composed, confident and technically really good at their receiving and passing. My concern would be them being TOO casual with the pressure and potentially either misjudging the pressure coming their way or taking a bad touch on the pass to their teammate resulting in a costly turnover in dangerous territory during the build up phase. That’s my “concern” part of my brain.

    The other part of my brain centers around the tactical application of this type of play, what this did to the opponent. I can’t think of another means to mentally subdue an opponent more. Bait the opponent into thinking they are almost there and then Charlie Browning the ball off to a teammate as the opponent takes a swipe at the ball. The energy used by the opponent is costly. Equally to more so, the cost to their mental fortitude in ever getting to a ball so tantilizingly close to the Chivas goal, and not getting it. So when play wears on, effort to win that ball wanes significantly, more space is created and Chivas gets even more dominate in possession.

    I don’t think you can teach this part to the kids. You can tell them to draw the defenders in by holding that ball a little longer before passing. However, to do it, under pressure until the very last moment, that requires an understanding from the player to know precisely what to do, when to do it while having the ability to perform consistently in a highly demanding environment, in a tournament no less. I’m going to guess this type of play is the result of years of play together so the confidence isn’t in just one player, but the result of the confidence the players have in each other instilling more confidence.

    Not even sure where I’m going with my thinking on this. Its just another element to consider in developing a team.

  10. Lalo says

    @johnpranjic & Noah Creagh,
    Still haven’t watched the video, but your breakdown is exactly what a lot of folks on this website have been asking for. I record Barcelona videos all the time. Watch them back with my son to discuss tactics and why players do what they do. I find this works well in the vacum of video analysis. However, I don’t see this sort of detailed coaching in practice and certainly not in games. Many teams seem to forget tactics in a game. IMHO, video analysis is a missing part of the game. I find it amazing (almost deriliction of duty) for a club (USSDA especially) to not have video analysis for U14, U16, U18 Academy sides. The other missing thig is coaches getting pissed off when their team doesn’t play like coached in practice. It seems to me coaches also get caught in the moment and forget how they want their team to play.

    You sound like coaches, what’s your say on this?

    • John Pranjic says

      Video analysis is crucial. I spend hours and hours and hours watching each of our games. It helps me get the product I actually want… which looks like this:


      If you don’t record and watch your games and training sessions, you’re missing out on so much! And being able to share it on a platform such as the 3four3 coaching course forums is even more valuable. So two things:

      1) start recording your games
      2) start sharing with the world

      • Paul Gruber says


        Going to start recording our training sessions. Not sure why we hadn’t started yet. We already do this for our games. There’s even scaffolding left behind from the high school football team, so the infrusture is already there. Common sense would have said that video of training would be more important than games as it gives you the opportunity to correct what needs fixed before an opponent is played versus studying what happened after the game. Why am I missing something so obvious like this? Doesn’t matter, it starts now.

      • Lalo says

        Totally agree we aren’t breaking new ground, but for many in USA it is. The video analysis is great (hats off to @NoahCreagh and @JohnPranjic) and agree what a lot of folks are looking to this site for to supplement textbook knowledge or fill the void from lack of a visual interactive benchmark to shape how and what they coach. I would love to see more videos and accompanying analysis for good and bad games. Doesn’t have to be entire game, just 5-minute snipets as learning tools for particular situations. I love this site but I think 3Four3 should move away from us debating philosophical concepts and more towards exchaning tactical analysis on game footage based on possession soccer. I like the philosophical debates, but think we need to sprinkle in more video analysis to spread style of play to more coaches. Seeing is more powerful teacher than debating concepts.

        This is something clubs should be doing, but I dont know of any who are. My son is U16 USSDA and not once has a coach ever reviewed film. My vision is USSDA should make this as a requirement to keep USSDA status. Understanding that money is an issue, make some minimum standard like 3 times per year. Lots of parents have HD camcorders and I’m sure would do it for free or nominal fee if the club asked.

        Since this doesn’t happen, I make sure to do it w/my son.

  11. Noah Creagh says

    On further viewing, those moments where the ball is lost by either team and go out of play..Are taken very very seriously by the boys and Brian. Real takes their sweet time for the most part with goal kicks and throw ins and Chivas use this to their advantage. It gives them time to work out their spacing and communication. These are key moments that Real (and many many other American teams) take for granted. For example, Chivas play the ball out at around 6:30, watch how they are finding their defensive shape and communicating while the Real player retrieves the ball..now compare this with Real and how they are treating this brief break in the play.

  12. Lalo says

    This video is good teaching tool. I admit my thinking is a bit nerdish, but promise I’m a lifelong ‘baller who works in environment where I crunch numbers all day. I work in a production manufacturing (electronics) environment. Learning curve is part of life.

    Most of the things pointed out from the video are taught by many coaches from what I experience. Like manufacturing, the more touch labor, the more difficult something is to learn. Especially complex systems. Soccer is a complex system if you look at the thousands and thousands of variables, combinations, patterns, decisions a player has to process and make on continuous basis in a short amount of time under a lot of pressure. We take that for granted.

    Repetition is important, reinforced by how you play during a game and the tactical communication from a coach. This is where I see it fall apart at the youth level. Lack of set tactical plays, too much player freedom, the lack of a cohesive system of play repeated over and over until it’s mentally engrained.

    If we can do this with tiki-taka, possession, attacking soccer, we will surely move forward. But it rests at the feet of coaches and clubs.

    There needs to be synergy, an understanding so players can think within a system. When they get outside that box, things fall apart. Even for the best players. FC Barcelona is the only team I see in such an orchestrated manner. Maybe the Kleiban’s are the only coaches who can replicate this at youth level???

  13. Lalo says

    On the positive side, I’m seeing more and more teams play in a more controlled, tactically deliberate fashion. Wasn’t like this 5-10 years ago. Coaching is getting better. Sites like this expose poor coaching and just how immature we are from a footballing perspective.

    I smile a sheepish grin when I see the tactical breakdown of videos. That has been around for a long, long time. We’re not breaking new ground. But we are here in American youth soccer. This is why culture and experience are so important. We are learning what people in other countries take for granted. I think we’ve graduated from nursery school in the last 5-years. I’m looking forward to elementary school.

  14. says

    Ok, does anyone else see this…#10 for Chivas USA. Does he not play just like Riquelme, the Argentinean center mid. He never looks like he is going 100%, but makes great choices on the ball and sees the game really well.

  15. says

    Hey John, check out 14:43! 4—-1—-4—-1 =0

    One thing that jumped out at me (I’m maybe halfway through my first viewing) is Real SoCal’s 7-pass spell starting at 13:17. This is one thing discussed quite a bit by Brian on the blog: while these Real SoCal players may be *technically* capable of playing a possession style (about as technical as the opposition), it’s clear that *tactically*, these guys are way off. The whole 7 pass sequence was a case of individuals combining, not a team moving the ball within their set tactical work/choreography. It was lots of ‘receiving, looking up, find a pass’, rather than the rehearsed sequences we see on this site all the time, where the looking is done BEFORE the player has received the ball, and the whole TEAM has a pretty good idea of what’s next.

    The last pass and subsequent end of the sequence is just sad, and you can see the poor Real mid’s brain just moving too slowly to save himself.

    This sequence illustrates a point reiterated here all the time: a big problem in America is the tactical incompetence (and often complete negligence) of coaches, and the impact it has on our players that follows them wherever they go.

  16. says

    You know something. After watching this video a few times…these kids are not crazy good “athletes”. Some of them are pretty average with their speed and strength. I guess our typical coaching excuse that “my kids are not ‘athletic’ enough” isn’t a good excuse anymore. Dang!

    • Lalo says

      Finally watched. Noticed that Real SoCal often skipped the midfield. Long ball to a striker (1 v 3). Wasn’t going to work with disciplined Chivas backline. Chivas had lots of patient build-up through back line and mid-field. At minute 5:16, Chivas got the ball on left and could have closed down space, but chose to play to the center and build. Real SoCal would have went for 1 v 3 option.

      On second goal starting at 8:17, the Real keeper could be blamed. Goal kick straight to a man who had two Chivas players on him (one in front and one off his shoulder). The Chivas left back had awareness and exploded to get the resulting 50/50 ball. Real defense was completely out of position and Chivas right winger in space. They couldn’t close him down quickly enough and goalazo!

      Real doing a lot of unnecessary running. The sad thing is so many coaches prefer this type of play. Throw in some big boys and let ‘em loose.

      I stopped at minute 10 because it was clear Real was tactically woeful. From a learning perspective, I think players can learn more from breaking down all the things Real did wrong. Chivas is good, but Real made it easy for them.

      @Alec, in possession soccer, being super athletic provides no advantage if your speed of thought, tactical knowledge, patience/composure isn’t there. Athleticism by itself is no good. Smart tactical players with good touch but slow speed or average size can be superb players.

  17. Lalo says

    A lot of coaches focus way too much on results, which negatively impacts player id, long term development, and playing philosophy.

    Lots of coaches want to play possession, but fail to id the right players and / or are too often under the unconscious influence of short term results on the pitch in exchange for long term results in the player. Focus on the latter and the former will come.

    If coaches, parents, players, DoCs had to watch videos of their matches, maybe things would change. Change through embarrassment. Especially the so called professional coaches and DoCs. A pride thing for players and money not well spent for mom and dad.

    An educated constituency is dangerous to the incumbent coaching ranks, but good for future growth of the game. Keep up the good fight 3Four3 and fellow contributors!

  18. joeliejoel74 says


    I’ve watched this game over and over and over while my 4 young ones nap. It is my onion, tomato and sharp cheddar frittata and 3four3 treat. I am starting to get it. Like really starting to get it. Set tactical training is no longer an idea but a practice that I am seeing employed all the time in games I watch with the best teams in the world. What I have learned is to use the pause, rewind and replay button much much more. I used to just watch the whole game and come away with a gestalt but now the 36:00 video takes almost 60 or 90 minutes- because I will pause it and look at the players and see why something is about to work or why something doesn’t work or more importantly, why the SoCal team is so ineffective. As an example, how the defender overcommits before the gol is scored by Misa (Misa just using the information the other player is giving him) and his coach instructing him afterwards about it. When you stop the game it is easy to see lapses in defense from the other team or how right before the 2nd gol is scored SoCal basically have an 8v4 on the goal kick but have no idea how to effectively move the ball from their end of the field- then decide how it should be done based on the organization of the Chivas team and what would likely happen next. I have written down handfuls of these moments and sit with my 7 year old in the evening an show him. I am new and green to this thinking, but clean and have been succinctly aware for years something was happening in the football world beyond our US mentality to understand. The whole notion of 3four3 has even informed my own play on the weekend. I’m the guy organizing the team whereas in the past I just played and whatever happened happened. Again. Thanks.

  19. Logan says

    It’s definitely interesting to listen to the two coaches:
    Instruction vs cheerleading, Level-headed comments vs emotional outbursts, tactical teaching vs random pleading

  20. Noah Creagh says

    The thing I constantly ask myself is: Could I do this during a game? I dont have the luxury of having film on my opponents before game time..Once kick off starts..thats it and the adjustments that are made (if adjustments are necessary) must be made based off of areas we are getting screwed in or need improvement on..based on what my opponents are doing..Once game time starts there is no pause or rewind button and I have to be able to live in the future and think steps ahead while understanding whats happening in the present. If you listen to the video (dont watch) Just listen. You can hear one coach out maneuvering and out thinking the other. A chess match where one guy is having the entire board dominated and used against him. He cant figure out how to counter the free flowing game of Chivas. Remember, there are other ways of controlling the game.

  21. Lalo says

    “ . . . there are other ways of controlling the game”. Fully agree Noah!

    The ascent of Athletico Madrid is testament to that. Instead of passing, possession, movement – they rely on spacing, shape, effort, determination. The remaining UEFA CL semi-final teams all have different styles and excel at it.

    Many other successful teams (Madrid, Chelsea, Inter Milan, etc . . . ) have done well not playing tiki-taka possession soccer. Having the right coach, with a good philosophy backed by the right players is so important. Too many in USA belive tiki-taka possession is the silver bullet and the only way. I prefer tiki-take possession, attacking football but it’s a big world with lots of different ways to skin the cat. That’s the beauty of football. Dozens of styles. Each comes and goes.
    In youth soccer, this combination is often sub-optimized (coaching, philosophy, player id). Coaching is often suspect, playing philosophy is often lame attempt at tiki-taka or straight out kick and chase, or player id doesn’t fit coaching / playing philosophy (club just take who they get, tryout process is a farce . . . need more than 3-day tryout). Too many clubs don’t have a style of play and their coaches all over the place. We end up with inferior products (i.e., players at 18 and above and this is reflected in USMNT and MLS).

    I think this is why the Kleibans and teams like UFC, or Pateadores have done so well with certain coaches. They have a system and know what type of player they want. A handful of same coaches have continually produced top teams over the years. It’s no coincidence!

    Good coach + playing philosophy + player id aligned to coach / playing style are three important pillars of player development. When I look at academies from La Masia, Gremio, De Toekomst, Benfica, Porto, El Semillero, Clairefontaine, etc — these three elements are in perfect alignment and results year after year speak for itself.

  22. Ander says

    Things I don’t ever recall reading about on this blog is spacing and shape. The majority youth players at U14 and older still tend to compact within 10-15 yards of the ball (lack of space). It’s most apparent when the ball gets “stuck” on the flanks. I often see a lone winger or fullback and no one makes the switch. This can go on the entire match. This can be traced back to the coach who doesn’t enforce expectations, bad player id, or both.

    The lack of space is problematic because the majority of players lack close ball control. Which leads to sloppy play and bigger, stronger players bulldozing through.

    The focus on possession is wonderful. I’m a believer in possession = development. But so many lose the plot on spacing and shape. Passing and moving and retaining possession is great, but is there shape and space?

    I do notice from Gary’s videos that his brother’s Chivas / Barcelona teams have excellent spacing and shape. They’re disciplined. Is it player id or enforcing style of play through repetition and who starts / plays? Probably a bit of both.

    Poor shape and spacing is indicator of poor coaching. Watch a team with poor shape and spacing, and I’d bet 99.9% of the time they lack discipline and play up tempo at all times.

    • Kana says

      Thanks for the link CJ. Great read. It also links to a similiar article which is also good read.

      I haven’t been to this site in a while (been out of country), but things seem very slow.

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