So many entities around the net publish their yearly list of “top 100 freshman” to watch during the college season.
It’s really just a list of those players with impressive “pedigree”.
- Have you been in ODP or National player pools?
- Have you been on a high profile club or team that’s won big titles?
- Have you received big high-school honors?
There’s no in-depth analysis of any player by any kind of authority.
I don’t blame these media outlets for doing this. It makes sense. If you don’t know the details of each player’s qualities and deficiencies in depth, how else can you attempt to make a list of the best freshman in the country?
The assumptions used are simply:
- If a player has a certain kind of resume, they must be the elite of the bunch.
- The players have been selected for certain honors by people who can identify quality.
Both assumptions are wrong!
This country does a horrible job of identifying selecting elite players, or those with elite potential.
Don’t just take my word for it though, ask yourself “What elite players have ever come out of this country“?
It’s not that we don’t have them! There are tremendous players with “World Class” potential in our youth and college ranks! We just don’t have many people who can identify true quality – or develop it for that matter.
For the players coming out of California, we at 3 FOUR 3 do know this year’s freshman class in depth. There are many good players, but we focus on the absolute cream. They are both technically and tactically superior than their counterparts. But by far the biggest gap between them and the rest is a much higher Soccer IQ.
Jose Altamirano (San Diego State)
Midfielder – San Diego, CA – Southwest High School
Multi-year member of US National Teams
NSCAA Youth All American
CIF player of the year
Last Club: Del Mar Sharks (non-academy)
Carlos Alvarez (UCONN)
Forward – Los Angeles, CA – Bishop Mora Salesian
US National Team (August 2008)
Mexico National Team (March 2009)
First Team All-CIF
Last Club: LAFC (academy)
Amobi Okugo (UCLA)
Midfielder – Sacramento, California
Member of US U-18 & U-20 national teams
Three time NSCAA Youth All American
Last Club: San Juan Lightning (non-academy)
Jonathan Prieto* (UCI)
Midfielder – La Habra, California – La Habra High School
US National Team camp (December 2008)
First Team All-CIF, Back to back CIF champion.
Last Club: FC Barcelona (non-academy)
These guys all have class and are on another level (for the record, the “top 100” missed both Carlos Alvarez and Jonathan Prieto). They all have high Soccer IQs, superb Technical Quality, and as a result are not intimidated in the least by being freshman. On the contrary, they have personality and will be leaders on the team.
Now, will their college coaches identify them as such? Will their coaches know how to utilize them? These are questions that remain to be answered.
If you get a chance when their games are in town, go take a look for yourself. We’d love to hear your opinions.
*Disclosure: Jonathan Prieto was on our club team.
Huh, “This country does a horrible job of identifying elite players, or those with elite potential.” Then you roll off a list of players with National, Youth and High School accolades. How astute of you, where did you ever find them?
Brian Kleiban says
Michael, we found them by watching them play over thousands of minutes over a 5 year process. Their games have grown considerably over that time where most of their peers are the same players they were 4 years ago. ZERO GROWTH! Other published lists base their picks on resume or reference alone and DO NOT know what to look for nor have they even seen these players perform. There is no credibility! These four are truly special and are all starters and key figures on their college teams now as freshmen.
any yet you didn’t find anyone who had not already been found so I wonder why say, “This country does a horrible job of identifying elite players, or those with elite potential.”
Gary Kleiban says
Maybe I should have been more careful at selecting the correct words to use. Instead of using, “This country does a horrible job of IDENTIFYING …”, It would have been more accurate to say, “This country does a horrible job of SELECTING …”
Big difference. And that’s really the point I was trying to make. The country may do a decent job of identification, but from the identified pool the wrong selections are made.
You see, my contention is two-fold:
1) By excluding the other california players selected in the “top 100” list, I wanted to go on record that these 4 are the real thing. In addition, it’s crazy to think that the “top 100” completely missed 2 of these players. (50% failure from my perspective). Not only that, but of the remaining california players that made that list, most do not belong.
2) Just because these players have gone to a national team camp does not mean they are ultimately SELECTED to represent the country. Instead, we’ve seen mediocrity selected year after year. Again, in this specific case all four of these players should be permanent fixtures. Yet we have mediocrity being selected.
Finally, all we really have to ask ourselves is the following question. “What world class player has ever represented our country?” The answer is NONE. And it’s not that we don’t have players with world class potential. We do! They are not being selected.
Thanks for keeping me on my toes! I appreciate good feedback like yours.
Uninvited Company says
I am taking the time to re-read a lot of these older posts, and took a moment to check and see where these four players are now.
Two are in the MLS (Alvarez and Okugo), and the other two have spent time in the NPSL (Prieto) and USL Pro (Altamirano)
I have not seen Alvarez or Okugo play, because I don’t bother to watch MLS, so I am in no position to judge, but it does not appear that either has developed as much as might have been hoped, given Gary and Brian’s assessment of their level five years ago.
I wonder if the “good but not great” career paths of these four players supports the idea that the US soccerscape is a wasteland from a player development standpoint for the critical 18-23 age group, and can stunt the growth of even the best prospects, or if Gary and Brian’s take on their quality was inaccurate.
I strongly suspect that the blame lies with the MLS/NPSL/USL Pro system and coaches, but I am interested in Gary’s take on the matter.
This also brings up the key question of where should quality US players in the 18-23 age group go to develop. The answer from my perspective is Europe, but that leads to the issue of “matters of circumstance” that Gary has also discussed before—how can such players get there?
Gary Kleiban says
We have followed all of their trajectories closely since this article, and what you said is good:
Perhaps our soccer system doesn’t work, or our assessment was inaccurate.
A 3rd possibility:
Both are a factor.
So then the question becomes; which factor is greater in this case?
And of course I think it’s the system.
And in the general sense, a better system (such as the ones used in the rest of the world) does a better job of filtering the better opinions & ideas from the poor ones.
When we say the “system” I am referring to everyting from clubs / coaches starting at U5 through MLS and local federations (e.g., CalSouth) through USSF/USSDA. Agree?
it’s hard to place the blame as so many are culpabale. As it is in rest of world, the top of the pyramid is the engine / motivation that influences everything below it. MLS gets a “D” in this only because most if not all their teams have an Academy, but still so much they can do like style of play, cooperation with NASL/USL/colleges, influencing more centers of excellence, more grass roots involvement.
Why doesn’t MLS invest (say 1% of all ticket sales) to reinvest into youth development but have them drive the market by mandating a style of play and helping set coaching standards? I could go on with other ideas, but you get my point. It seems everyone I mentioend above does nothing meaningful, just marginal touch up here and there to make it seem like they are doing something. When will US Soccer wake up like Germany, Spain, Netherlands did and implement true change for the better?
Brazil did poorly in WC, but look how quickly they are coming out saying they need to reinvent themselves. Time will tell but we need that in USA. But unfortunately nothing dramatic is happening to force that change. So status quo.