The problem with US Soccer is not that we lack extremely talented players; we have them! There are loads of players with world class potential here. I see it every week at the youth level, and sometimes college.
The problem is we have ignorance and incompetence occupying the coaching and management positions at the higher levels.
The latest example is an 18 year-old player named Funes Mori who played with the U-18 FC Dallas academy team. Originally from Argentina, his family immigrated to the States when he was 10. In 2008, he won the “Sueno MLS” competition held in Dallas – a high profile MLS youth combine of sorts. Diaro Ole, a highly regarded publication in Argentina, reported the young player stating:
“MLS was supposed to make me a professional contract, but that never happened.”
So instead of landing back with the youth team, he packed up, jumped on a plane, and went to trial for River Plate in Argentina.
River, one of the greatest clubs in the world, debuted him on the first team this December! Last Wednesday, he started and played 83 minutes against Boca Juniors in what is one of the greatest “classicos” in world soccer. The stadium is always packed with hostile fans and the entire footballing globe tunes in to watch. What pressure for an inexperienced teenager who barely debuted several games ago …
He ended up scoring the game winner.
You see the difference? In Argentina they don’t mess around. First off, they know what talent is. Second, if you’ve got it, they throw you on the field. They don’t care if you’re a scrawny 18 year old that came from America or any other factors. No stupid bull shit or excuses! If you have it, you play; end of story!
How could US Soccer let a talent like this go? Simple. We are inundated with completely clueless morons who don’t know jack shit about the sport we love.
If Funes Mori is an exception, it’s only because he left the country instead of having his talent go to waste here. There are tons of Funes Mori’s in the US (many better), who go unrecognized as he did. They either stop playing competitively after club because there’s no option for them afterwards, or end up rotting in some college soccer program – again unrecognized.
But what makes this story most remarkable, is that Mori was not an unknown like these other players I describe. The “decision makers” – the guys who could make something happen and make him an MLS pro – knew about him and watched him play. There’s no excuse!
One thing is he is not a US citizen and hasn’t been confirmed to be so US national team coaches can’t pout too much. However MLS dropped the ball on this kid big time.
Gary Kleiban says
Very true Jason and thanks for the comment.
This is more a direct stab at MLS (although the NT does suffer from the same stupidity). The same mistake was close to happening with Danny Mwanga, whose intention was to go overseas for trials – surely he was going to get picked up.
Although MLS had an eye on him, he was projected to be a late 2nd round pick (totally wrong!). Props to Nowak for recognizing his quality and making things happen!
Damian P. says
Gentlemen at the end of the day what matters is money to the USA I have talked to many club trainers and they all say the same thing ….. In other countries you furgones a kid and you develop them and once you feel they are ready you can offer to clubs to buy but you will make a percentage of whatever that kid produces in the future …..in the ya there is no incentive to try and devlop and find talent because there is no compensation for the hard work you’ve done ……Pers be honest here you guys the MLS has procesadas but only as a hughe marketing scheme who pray on the veterans of other countries and buy them out to come here . This is why in Argentina we say that when you want to retire and make money just come to the US. LOL and you wonder why fuese players come here . It’s sad that we can’t get it together because all they look at is how can we entertain people . SOCCER IS A SPORT FOR EVERYONE AND NOT A SPORT THAT CAN BE MARKETED LIKE THEY DO IN THE US . Sorry un American Argentinean but when I go watch the Galaxy in the MLS I almost feel like your at the movies . It’s cheap and I enjoy for the moment. Sometimes you get what you paid for and I don’t expect it to be something I follow up with aún e watching the LA GALAXY is Lope watching a second division team play in Argentina. Sorry you guys if feelings get hurt but lets be honest we filt have people dedicated to the Sport and as long as we have these corporate gangsters in the industry we won’t be able to have a good national team or a good MLS leauge.
Jose L. Perez says
The MLS has dropped the ball on so many kids it’s sad. Out of the midwest I can name at least 10 young men who have gone to other countries to get signed by pro teams. The MLS dream is just a marketing tool not a real talent search. The MLS is afraid to look at talent because they know they cannot afford to sign them. !!!!! Unless the MLS changes their system they will continue to be a mickey mouse league!!!!!
When talking about the development of young players around the world as compared to the US, I like to point people to Inter’s academy website: http://giovanili.inter.it/aas/squadra?IDS=12&L=en (this is their youngest team: 8- and 9-year-olds). The main reason I do this is I know Inter has a nice website that lists all the kids and also goes into the structure of the academy program, but the reality is that almost every professional club in the world has something similar. What I’m trying to get people to understand is finding and developing young players in the rest of the world is a free enterprise that all clubs can participate in, not a hierarchical, structured, semi-governmental project like it is here. In Italy, the top youth players are trying to get noticed by Inter, Milan, Juve, etc., not ODP. Around the world, top quality 18-year-olds are making their debuts with first league teams, not waiting to make the roster of their college team.
If you’re an Italian, Argentine, Brazilian, Ghanaian, whatever, and you have serious talent, you’ll be brought into a professional environment from an extremely early age. At every step, you’ll be receiving coaching from professionals, physical training from professionals, and most importantly, you’ll be evaluated by professionals. If you’re not involved with a professional club at some level by the time you’re 16, then you know you’ll never be a pro and it’s time to consider other career options.
MLS clubs should be able to do the same. I’m a Sounders fan, and I’d love nothing better than one day see an equivalent web page on the Sounders site, showing all the rosters of their ten academy teams, and listing all of the staff that they have on hand to train and evaluate those kids. I don’t see how the US can keep up with the rest of the world until we have something similar here.
Gary Kleiban says
Wholeheartedly agree Carlos! This is something I at least believe US Soccer understands.
The introduction of the US Development Academy is their first crack at it – albeit exclusively at the U-16 & U-18 level for now. Most MLS teams are participating, and I’m sure Seattle will join the party soon. I applaud US Soccer for starting the process.
The biggest obstacle for success however, might be our current business model. This is a huge topic (think book length), so I’ll keep it simple. Essentially there is no incentive for youth coaches or clubs (MLS or otherwise) to develop players.
In other countries, the incentive is clear. Youth coaches are assessed in their capability of developing players for the 1st team or to the point where these players can be sold. It all translates into money for the club. If you have a bad pipeline, the club is going to be in trouble.
So, if a coach can’t produce, he’s fired. Hopefully we’ll approach it with this mentality, because as it stands now our youth coaches don’t have this accountability.
The problem w/ coaching young kids in USA, is that you cannot be professional w/ the kids. Professional means, conduct, passion for the sport (most of the time they play other sports) and the most important thing, is that sometimes you have to scream and get hard w the players! And this in soccer you cannot do or the parents will get pissed! They do it in football all the time, but for some reason in soccer it’s not allowed. Growing up, i remember coaches in Argentina, going nuts on the sidelines because you made a bad throw in. or u wasted a corner kick!!!
Watched USA under 20 in the concacaf finals, 0 5 pass sequences over 15 minutes, just makes me sick
How many did Mexico have? Just curious. And wow Jesus Corona on Mexico’s U-20’s is very special!! We simply do not produce players like that in this country.
Corona was dynamic. The announcers kept fawning all over Benji Joya for the US, but I was not impressed. It’s like we were being conditioned to accept him on the Senior team.
Great question, my U11 daughter was watching and I told her what I was doing, she then quickly realized that we could not count any, so she started to count Mexico’s I believe in a 12 minute time frame she counted 5, 5 pass sequences, absolutely impressive
Dr Loco says
Gus, I made a comment to a parent about his kid missing a practice and game over a cough. He almost bit my head off. Players and parents are so soft. Many are not willing to sacrifice and take a little pain for the team. It’s all about little Johnny’s feelings and whether he’s happy or not. This starts at infancy. If you’re not born with balls it’s difficult to grow them!
Taking a look at the Birth dates of the Inter youth team listed on the front, immediately reminded to Outliers, look at the birth months…. very interesting
John Pranjic says
I just so happened to sit down and turn on FSC last night to hear the announcer say FUNES MORI! It immediately grabbed my attention and I was glued to the TV for next the 70 minutes.
I know several players who have participated in the Sueno MLS here in California for Chivas USA. One was a teammate of mine and one of them I coached. Both made it to the final 10 and one of them made even made it to the final 4! My teammate ended up playing on a very unsuccessful junior college for two seasons and now only plays mens league here in town. He got little to no publicity for achievements and because he is of smaller stature he wasn’t even considered for any college teams.
The player who made it to the final 4 had a very successful club season directly following the sueno MLS tryouts. He then had a standout season playing for his high school (which most top level coaches don’t give a shit about). As a last gasp effort I was emailing coaches BEGGING them to come watch him play and most turned me down and said to just send video. I was telling them that this 6’0” 160 pound goal scoring machine is DYING to play for any college level team… and they couldn’t care less. When we had finally made it our divisional semi-finals down in LA a coach finally came to watch, liked what he saw, and picked him up for his team. We had to drive 3 1/2 hours to get a coach to watch him when we are smack dab in the middle of two college “powerhouses” UCSB and CP-SLO.
As soon as he got his eventual college destination… They abused his large size and began using him as……… you guessed it…. a defender. Who gives a shit that he was a leading scorer for his silver elite club team for about 5 years in a row and set school records for goals and assists. He’s big, he can kick far, and he’s tough. DEFENDER!
This is a summarized response to several of your recent posts. I just felt like going on a rant.
P.S. I have two players who will be looking to keep training after high school season is done. Any idea which direction I should point them? There are no U18 clubs around here.
Gary Kleiban says
Hi John, thanks for the great post!
I share your pain man. We’re having somewhat of a similar situation with 2 of our former players. Both 18 years old. One of them just finished his freshman season with UCI and even though he received some recognition (All – American Rookie 2nd team), that doesn’t do him justice. He should have been a 1st round MLS draft pick.
Our other guy had a 6 month stint at Brugge from Belgium when 16. Came back to finish high school and then played his freshman college season at Cal State Fullerton – improperly utilized and no recognition. He just left to Creighton and will play his second season there. Much better program, but we’ll see if his true genius shines.
Both these players take a shit on every single midfielder that was in this year’s draft. And yet they are not there! We’re currently making plans to fly them out on either Spanish or Argentinean trials. We’ll see …
There are no clubs in your area? Wow! What city are you in? If there are no club or PDL options, I don’t know where else your kids can go.
Martin Blanc says
I know how you guys feel. There are too many victims to the SHIT COACHES here in the US and in Michigan for me specifically… Im Argentinian, played on Argentinos Juniors’ youth team when I was twelve, the month after I made the team my family moved to the US and here I was told I was too small, too slow, and too weak. I went through the years playing for a shit club’s B team until a coach with river plate links saw me play and when I turned 15 I got the chance to train with River’s youth team for the summer. Came back and had to play JV high school…
How is it that I could play at Argentino’s Juniors and River and here I was nothing?!? Anyways, I’m a smart skilled center midfielder who just finished his college career with a shit coach… Never lived to my potential and now I’m hoping a 3rd or 4th division Spanish team will take me when I travel to Europe just so I can live the dream it’s what I live for…
Anyways, I love the posts and the blog, keep it up man. Hopefully enough minds like ese can turn things around in this country
Gary Kleiban says
Thanks for the support Martin and please keep us posted on what’s happening with you. Help us spread the word about 3four3.
I just read a story on Funes Mori in the respected Argentine newspaper Clarin. River Plate expects him to surpass Crespo who was a standout in the Argentine national team and for Inter and Chelsea.
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Marc. Yeah there’s quite a bit of praise going around in Argentina for the youngster. We’ll see if the potential gets realized.
The question is, of course, could he be better than Crespo if he’d stayed in MLS.
Gary Kleiban says
We’ll never know … but in my opinion, he would be left on the bench and hardly get playing time.
If he stayed in the MLS I don’t think that he would become better than Crespo. At least in River the level of coaching and competition would be a lot more intense. He has already scored two goals againmst Boca which automatically makes him a fan favorite. So as long as he keeps scoring he will continue to play against high level competition. I truly believe that the US should move towards the “sports club” template used in SA and EU, but I am sure that is only a fantasy.
Oscar Mayer says
I applaud Funes Mori for having the courage to go to Argentina, the intelligence to make such a wise choice, and for having confidence in himself. US Soccer will continue to lose great players to the rest of the world as long as we have these “morons” in charge, US Soccer. Let the flood gates open and allow the rest of the world to show us how it’s done. Maybe some of these players will come back to the US to coach and scout talent in the future. That’s if they are allowed to break the cycle of incompetence. Don’t hold your breath!
Gary Kleiban says
Thanks for the comment Oscar. I think you’re right, but I hope you’re wrong.
God im so sick of this racist bs. It has ntnhiog to do with them being hispanic and more a social class thing. You think poor white kids like Clint dempsey get the same chances as rich white kids do. NO. Dempsey and his family made it work though. If your poor you never get the same chances, that works for everything in the world. The rich hispanics have more of a chance to be successfull than the poor ones. People need to relax and give the country time to even out race and social class, right now white people are the wealthiest, but its evening our slowly.
Gabe Ferreira says
Everything you pointed out here is true. Kids in Brazil start trying out for academies of professional clubs when they are 9 or 10, and I am sure it is this way in every other country that cares about soccer. When I asked my high school coach my freshman year how to try out for an academy, he laughed, and said that first you have to go through college. The problem is, by the time you are done with college you are probably 23 years old and with zero professional experience, while players elsewhere who had the same level of talent as you, if not less, went pro and developed it much faster. Cool blog by the way
Gary Kleiban says
What’s up Gabe!
Well, you hit on another problem. That is, college soccer.
You’re right. The normal trajectory for players here is club to college to pro. And it’s in that 4 year college phase that players really fall behind the rest of the world.
It’s just that other sports in this country have the “college trajectory” and it’s worked out very well. Soccer is a different animal though …
River Plate will not even be on River Plate’s bench this upcoming game. The two goals he scored on Boca were in a summer friendlies. I watched him play all season and he has no business being out there. Defenders lick their lips as he does erratic stepover that no one bites for. River Plate has hired a new coach and I regret to inform you that Funes Mori will not even be on the bench this weekend. River gambled on a kid with little history because they had no money to bring in real players. Passarela was elected as their president before this season started and in traditional argentine manner, the previous president robbed the piggy bank. I’m not saying Funes Mori is a bad player, he just had no business being River Plate’s starting striker. Those comments comparing him to Crespo were made after he scored a handful of goals in a bs summer tournament. He will never be Crespo.y,
I meant that Funes Mori won’t be on River Plate’s bench….
Gary Kleiban says
You are spot on with everything you said. I agree he doesn’t have the quality to be a regular showing on a top level club. But on a middle or bottom half team … sure.
In the US however, I believe he wouldn’t stand a chance at succeeding. No recognition, no opportunity, and an incompatiple style.
In any case, you know what you’re talking about. Thanks for sharing man!
My question is this: what is the best way to go about changing the U.S. system/thought on soccer?
Gary Kleiban says
That is the million dollar question Ross.
A reader recently emailed us suggesting we start offering up “solutions”. I completely agree, and we’re going to start publishing them – there are tons of details.
But I will say this. The fundamental solution is one of education. As it exists today, we have the blind leading the blind. That vicious cycle needs to be broken. Otherwise, all efforts will fall flat.
Funes Mori actually scored 3 goals against Racing Club last saturday.
I don’t know what could happen with him, I guess time will tell.
He had some bad performances and I don’t think he can become the next Crespo, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has a good career after all.
Gary Kleiban says
I saw the recap Esteban. For the readers …
The kid just turned 19. Give him some time. He could be the next Crespo, but odds are against it. Crespo at 19 scored 13 goals in his first year with River. This kid won’t, but still, he’s 19 and playing striker for River Plate. Damn! Just give this kid some time. Don’t write him off just yet.
Gary Kleiban says
Good research Mario!
You’re right, time will tell. But filling Crespo’s shoes is a very tall order.
Young players performing well on the 1st team always attracts attention … remember Manso at 16 playing for Newell’s Old Boys?
I have been involved in Socal Club and HS scene with my son ( creative arg player) from 8-17 .
I strongly believe one of the biggest problems here is the constant subs allowed in and out in club and HS. I’ve seen a guy put in the field just to take a throw in to be taken out right after getting that done!!!
Creative players have to beat constantly fresh defenders , adversity can make you better……………but that combined with the lack of a passing game, bad refs that allow way to much contact and lack of opportunity ends up leaving the creative players with not much of a chance.
That’s why US soccer exports to the world are mostly goalies.
Gary Kleiban says
You have many valid points. The only thing I will add is that there are dozens of reasons why the game is a disaster here.
But the most fundamental one of them all is lack of understanding on the part of every single party involved. That is why Education is the key to everything.
We need the decision makers at the top to know what they’re doing and not only disseminate knowledge, but help implement programs that are properly aligned with excellence. Without educated people at the top, any initiatives they pursue will be flawed.
We also need those in the trenches (ie parents, players, youth and college coaches, the general fan-base, etc…) to know what quality actually looks like. If they are educated, then pressure can be applied upstream. Currently, these people don’t have a clue because nobody has taught them.
The blind are leading the blind in this country. That is the vicious cycle that must be broken.
Is your son playing Nationals?
I really appreciate and agree with your perspective, especially with college soccer. My boy just went through the recruiting process and was good enough scholastically and athletically to get offers from a lot of incredible D-3 schools he never would have had a chance of getting into without soccer.
However, he didn’t like the level of play in D-3 and, living in Southern California, we had the opportunity to see a lot of California D-1 schools play. With the exception of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo we were stunned at the lack of creativity and skills. Defenders kicking the ball willy-nilly down the field aimlessly when there wasn’t any pressure on them, etc.
My son got a very attractive offer from one of these schools but decided to accept an offer from a D-2 school that plays possession ball.
I notice you have been critical of many of the colleges, could you please cite some college coaches whose style of play you actually like?
Gary Kleiban says
Congratulations to your son Bill.
As far as D-1 coaches goes, I am yet to meet a single one who knows what they’re doing. Yeah Cal Poly apparently attempts to play some more structured soccer, but it could be far better. The rest of the Big West goes downhill from there.
In the Pac-10, I’ve only seen UCLA, Stanford, & Oregon and … no thank you. It’s all prototypical American ball – all at one speed with no pause.
The only school I’ve seen play well is Akron. But I still have my reservations since I only saw them twice and have never spoken with their coach.
Thanks for the comment, and I wish you guys all the best!
Hey Gary I just happened to find this page because my beloved team Benfica of Portugal is looking to aquire this player. I agree whole heartedly. First I think the scouting in this country is horrible because the people who call themselves pro coaches have no clue on how to spot talent. there is many kids out in the US with great talent. for instance I live in New Jersey in Union County, In the past 10 years I have seen some great talent put to waste. some kids with talent that could play in Europe where never given a chance cause they where considered short or not in shape but had more technical skill then most MLS players today. Some of these players did not even start in four years of college and are now playing overseas in Portugal, Spain, And a few in Italy. There is so much talent but no one to spot it or even recognize it. why is it that the US Soccer Program only wants tall and strong players? Look at the maradonas, messis, aimars, Saviolas, Robinhos, Roberto Carlos’s, Rossis,Vilhas of Futebol in europe. all those guys are great players and all are under 5ft 10. that is talent!!! why cant we see it here??? Ashame when we have such a large pool of talent similar to these players and could be the next big thing with some good coaching….
Gary Kleiban says
There are several reasons why US coaches have a bias towards the physical.
One of them is that it masks incompetence. You see, a more athletic player can:
* recover better if beat 1v1 (against a quality opponent the US is on its heels because they can’t retain possession)
* challenge in the air better (notice the US is highly dependent on set pieces to score because they are incapable of quality build-ups)
* they can fetch long balls better (again this is how US coaches play because they’re incapable of training a team for quality build-ups)
The list goes on …
Given just the above, let’s say Bob Bradley had Messi up top. You think Messi is going to perform in a system that feeds him 40 yards bricks? Or how about Xavi or Iniesta? For these guys to shine and execute, you need a system set up around possession with them as the focal point. Otherwise they will get abused defensively and with aerial play.
Just ask José Francisco Torres, Benny Feilhaber, and Herculez Gomez …
It’s good to have you here!
Joseph Santos says
Leading Portuguese newspaper A BOLA has an article on Funes Morri stating that he signed with Benfica today for 2 Million Euros for 5 years. As probably know Benfica is one of bigest team in Portugal with a fabulous history> They saw something in this young guy; now we have see how he develops in a professional setting and really competitive environment.
By the way, Benfica already has a number of other Argentian soccer player in its current roster, and that help young Rogelio Funes Mori make a successful move to European soccer in Lisbon.
Thanks, Nice to be here. Finally some one in the US who can look at the beautifull game of soccer and see it the way I do. I agree with you when you said that its just to mask incompetence. What I don’t understand is why doesn’t the US Soccer Federation see it the way many of us do? Why not change the way they have been looking at the game now for so many years?
I really thought that it was the turning point in the Mid 90’s when we had players like Harks, Ramos, Jones & Reina. Players who liked to play possession and had a good vision on the field. Players that loved taking on a player or changing direction on the field when needed. They used the wing and the midfield play, the team then actually looked for the buildup, didnt always work but they were headed in the right direction.
I just feel like something has to change & soon.. I would like nothing more than to be excited about turning on the TV to watch some great MLS soccer but till that day comes I thank god every day for European Futebol.
Gary Kleiban says
I think it’s really tough to change someone’s philosophy that’s so thoroughly engrained.
For instance, if Bob Bradley himself along with other US Soccer bigwigs sat down with me and explained why they are right and I’m wrong … I don’t think I’m going to budge. Even though I believe I’m open minded.
When I get an MLS team, I promise you will be thoroughly entertained. Hahaha …
Now he is going to Europe! Rive just sold him for 11 million Euros.. Dallas is dumb.. Also look at Michael Hoyos from Fauntain Valley California, he played for Pateadores, West Coast and Irvine Strikers growing up and then went to Estudiantes de la Plata at age 15 and now he is playing for Argentinas Natinal team.. and he just scored a goal against Uruguay for the SouthAmerican U20 Cup.. Imagen if the US was really serius about soccer…
Gary Kleiban says
I actually think Bob Bradley, MLS coaches, many college and club coaches are serious about soccer. I think they actually do try to ID talent and harness it.
But the vast majority of them fail because they just don’t have the education, the tools, the knowhow, the fundamentals, etc. In other words, the very foundation upon which their philosophy is built is flawed.
The worst part is they can’t change.
yeah you are right.. but the talent they look for is NFL talent not Soccer Talent.. The US still has the mentality that if they are fast, tall and strong they can beat every one.. so far they are wrong..
Funes is 5’9 or so and verry thin player.. Dallas had a chance, but I guess he wasnt big enough for them.. I think if Funes keeps playing the way he is he can be just as good as Di Maria, but this is JMO..
I believe that soccer talent is god given,even if you are not the tallest or strongest player,I tell you if you can come down to SA YOU WILL see a roster of highly talented soccer players but the problem they are not given a fair chance to prove themselves..I also suffered the same fate,talented i was I didnt reach my full pontential,im praying that this should not happen and we need to stop this cycle and give our young sters a chance.
Riley Schenck says
Absolutely incredible that FC Dallas let this talent get away from them. Could’ve been a huge moment for MLS if they had been able to hold on to him.
I am completely in agreement when it comes to overall soccer development in America; my highschool soccer coach was a 300 pound ex-everything but soccer player who tried to coach soccer like football with a lot of yelling and stupid repetitve drills where you spent more time standing in line than playing. I currently attend UCSB, a soccer “powerhouse” with incredible fan support (we sometimes get over 10,000 at our games), but they play the typical lifeless american soccer style with no posession or midfield play (I met one of our center mids at a party and he drunkenly told me how he was going to play for Barca; I had to try really hard to keep myself from laughing in his face).
However I think that there is reason to have hope. Now I don’t know about Sunil Gulati or the bigwigs at US Soccer, but I do have confidence in Don Garber; he’s resurrected the MLS from the brink of collapse in 1999 to a league that i’m actually excited about tuning in for in this upcoming 2011 season, and he has shown that he recognizes the need for youth academy development. He has stated publicly that MLS really dropped the ball on Funes Mori and since then MLS has lifted restrictions on signing home grown players and there has been a notable response with homegrown signings Andy Najar (2010 rookie of the year, and not in the typical MLS mold, a scrawny 5’7′ ), 18 year old Juan Agudel (youngest player ever to score for USMNT), and 15 year olds Diego Fagundez and Zach Pfeffer, just to name a few of the many who have signed in the last couple years.
I’m sure MLS will continue to expand the academies and eventually we’ll have residency programs like the USMNT one in Brendenton for every MLS team and youth teams down to the U-12, U-14 level like the rest of the world does. And THAT my friends, will be the day that soccer counqers the US. What 13 year old kid that’s a part of a pro soccer academy is going to say, “You know what, I think i’m going to throw it all away to play high school football.” Chad Johnson would not have picked football over soccer in highschool if he was on an academy team with a pro contract in his sights.
As far as Bob Bradley goes, I don’t think you can really fault him too much for the style the US plays considering the players we have. Nobody on the team is suited for Barcelona style play besides maybe Torres, Failhaber and Holden and the one start that Torres had in the World Cup is evidence of that; we went down 2-0 in the first half and then Edu replaced him at halftime and we had an amazing comeback (of course Failhaber coming in for the incredibly incompetent Findley had something to do with it too). I thought that the US games were some of the most exciting ones I saw in the World Cup, and I think BB deserves some credit for going out there and trying to play a relatively positive, attacking style for the US. Ironically it was our defense that was our weak point and we gave up too many soft goals at inopportunistic moments.
But I think the future of soccer in America looks better every year, even if it’s been at a slower pace than we would have liked.
just my two cents 😉
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Riley, it’s a pleasure to have you here!
There’s a lot to your post, so I’ll take things one at a time. First, your thought on FC Dallas missing this talent and the impact on MLS …
What should be incredible is my assertion that what happened here is not incredible – it’s commonplace. That is, this is exactly what I expect from US Soccer. I expect them to not know what talent is. I expect them to continue selecting players who are complete garbage.
Furthermore, even if Mori had been offered a contract with FC Dallas, he wouldn’t have played. He would still be riding the pine or maybe even loaned out to some USL team to “develop”. What a joke!
Hell, let’s even say he did start playing. Players of true quality have a hell of a time shining or being effective within a team that essentially lacks structure, style, identity. In other words, he would have had ZERO impact to the league.
Gary Kleiban says
On Don Garber…
Yes he admitted the Funes Mori mistake during an interview in Argentina. He affirmed that the lesson was learned, that the US has other Mori caliber players out there somewhere, that they will be found and brought into the league.
I think he’s well intentioned and meant what he said. The problem is this country does not:
A) Understand quality (so our selections will be off)
B) Even if we select the right guy, coaches don’t know how the hell to use him.
You offer a good example with Agudelo. Najar and the other two I haven’t seen play. But are these guys true international level quality? And even if they are, these MLS coaches are not capable of nurturing.
Interesting timing for this discussion too as I personally know of a Mori caliber talent being evaluated as we speak by an MLS franchise. And let me tell you that his quality takes a shit on over half the league. This is a potential world class player. And I know what’s going to happen…
Riley Schenck says
Thanks for commenting back Gary I appreciate it!
What’s the kid’s name? If this is true, that he is a potential world class player, I’d be surprised if even an incompetent MLS franchise completely misses on his talent. True, it’s harder for technicaly gifted, one touch type players to show their worth in MLS, but at the same time if they are really THAT good, they’re going to be able to make an impact; Holden is a great example. Another good one is Scholotto, who was even brought in by MLS brass, and whether or not they realized what type of player he was, he was an MLS MVP and led the Crew to the Cup.
It’s hard for me to believe that this kid would be completely passed over just because he plays a technical, possession oriented style. If the kid lacks speed it might be easier for him to get overlooked in MLS, but speed is really valuable in any team around the world; granted there are Xavis out there who get by without it, but for every Xavi there’s a Messi, Abidal, Pedro, Villa, Puyol, and Iniesta who have raw speed and quickness. For MLS right now there is an overemphasis on speed due to the direct style but as more players that have that combination of speed and skill and vision like Donovan, Najar, and Montero start filling up rosters, I think the Xavis of MLS will start becoming more relevant. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later.
Whiiiiich brings me to this interesting tidbit, that the new TFC coach ,Aaron Winters, is promising to bring a possession oriented style to Toronto for this season and has already made a slew of roster changes (and you can’t say he can’t recognize talent since he was the head of Ajax youth development), so it will be interesting to watch TFC this year and see if he’s able to make it work in MLS. You never know, it could be the start of a new era. 😉 *
*Disclaimer: even I realize that this is extremely over-optomistic haha
Let me know how the evaluation goes, wishing your guy the best! Maybe he should head up to Canada, see if he can impress Mr. Winters…
Gary Kleiban says
On the youth academies …
Wonderful idea and excellent step forward. The problem again is coaching.
Wrong coaches = wrong player selection & zero development.
Chris mc Dermott says
I agree with this article100%. I have seen so many talented players in the US slip through the cracks and never given a chance that it’s rediculous!
Years ago I invited Wilson Egidio (one of the best Youth Coaches in the US) to look at a an extremely talented young Guyanese player who I played with in Brooklyn. After 15 minutes of watching this player Wilson called me over and said, “Wow this kid has everything: great skill, great speed, both feet, great decision making- he uses his teammates, fights for the ball etc.” Then Wilson said, ” In Brazil this kid would be a Pro already!” However, over here this kid is just another story of wasted talent- as he no longer plays any more! A sad but true all too familiar story here in the US.
Great article! Keep up the good work!
Chris Mc Dermott
Gary Kleiban says
On Bob Bradley …
Unfortunately here I have to straight up say you’re wrong. He is 100% to blame. It is his fault he chooses the type of player with shit technique and shit for brains. And no, these are NOT the best in the country.
Yes Torres, Feilhaber, Holden, and I’ll add H. Gomez, Dempsey, and Donavan are the right type of player. Well select more players in this image. But not only that, you have to train the team to play that style. BB is simply not capable of this. He is the role model, the poster boy of everything that is wrong with the sport in this country.
Bob Bradley exemplifies the failure of USSF to show the slightest comprehension of what is needed to step up to the elite in the World. Hiring him in the first place and retaining him after the World Cup was a startling statement about our lack of ambition. He represents a safe comfortable choice for the status quo. He won’t rock the boat, and will keep everything safe for the current power structure. He represents the standard choices of American coaches all the way down to the youth ranks: stale tactics, and a preference for size and speed over technique and intelligence. His reign is nothing but wasted time for the future of soccer.
The MLS shows the same lack of ambition. Rather than carve out a unique niche, the MLS has decided to be a poor man’s version of the EPL. The referees are told to keep the game flowing allowing overly physical play to neutralize technically gifted players. This standard applies all the way down to the youth ranks. For this reason, the technically/intelligence-gifted player does not develop and may be a competitive liability in a game. This leads to the problems with developing these players at the level they should be at.
We are basically giving ourselves all the same problems that hold England back. We do not have all the cultural baggage of England, yet we shackle ourselves with their shortcomings. The USA cannot afford this approach, as we don’t have the resources available in England.
The USA needs to chart its own course. We need to be intelligent and innovative. We need to use the advantages of our unique sporting culture to enrich the game, and bring something different to the field of play. We need to find and develop uniquely American players who are World-class players. They are out there, but the current system loses by adhering to a system proven to be sub-standard.
Didn’t know this info about Funes Mori and yeah Dallas really screwed big time but it happens (wasn’t Cesc Fabregas part of Barca’s youth system). Blaming Bob Bradley is not the answer as Bill is right Bradley wasn’t supposed to replace Arena and he also wasn’t supposed to be resigned. Bradley wasn’t the safe choice he was the only choice left after Klinsmann and the USSF couldn’t agree to terms.
Hopefully now that the MLS has loosen up the rules on bring up academy players and brought back the reserve league there will be some progress. I think we will see real progress when we start getting more U-12 MLS academy teams though I will admit I don’t know how many clubs do not have one
Gary Kleiban says
Hi Gerald and welcome!
The US will NEVER make significant progress unless we have competent coaching. And that’s really the point.
I don’t think Bradley was the only choice. He was the only choice that didn’t mind the terms that USSF imposed. If the USSF was open to change, they would have a lot more and better options. This would require small-minded people to give up some of their power in order to think bigger and look toward a more ambitious future. Instead the USSF decided through their actions that the USA would be a mid-level soccer country.
The current power structure is the heart of the problem because it refuses to embrace change. Bradley is a safe choice for them and a disaster for everyone else.
Gary Kleiban says
Now I don’t have a seat at the table, but what you describe Bill is what I also believe. Except …
I think it’s only half the truth.
The other half being that those doing the hiring/firing also believe that Bradley actually knows soccer. Surely not to Mourinho levels, but definitely a quality coach. And that’s where they’re wrong.
It is belief on my (or our) part to be sure.
I think the extent to which a foreign coach would represent a threat to entrenched interests seems rather clear. This issue was the ultimate undoing of the Klinsmann although I don’t think he is exactly what we need. He seems to have a much better idea of what our developmental system needs. This is follow the German model of recent years to a large extent, which would be an improvement. I would have to generally agree that Bradley, to them, seems a competent coach and tactician despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The bottom line is that we need to institute a learning environment at the youth level and the coaching level. It is all about education and thinking. This is unfortunately counter-culture in the USA where sports is about pure athletic ability measured physically, the mental talent is an after thought. For coaching the thinking, tactical part of the game is chronically shortchanged. The mental part of playing is likewise under-valued even though soccer is quite unlike any other American sport in the demands it places on thinking, adaptation and concentration.
How often are mental errors our undoing at the highest level? When will the USA be the source on innovation in the game? Addressing these two items would do wonders for our competitiveness internationally, but USSF is incapable of seeing the light.
Oscar Cardozo says
First of im an American 18 year old born in New York, Queens, April 1993. My parents came from Argentina twenty years ago. Ive grown up to love soccer and admire all football players with special talent such as Lionel Messi one of my most favorite players next to Diego Maradona. My eyes are always in the argentine soccer league, because I like to see young players rise from a small club to becoming a succesful story in the country. Which this doesnt happene in the United states very often, of course many say that it isnt a very popular sport in the states compared to baseball or football, but why I ask my self?. There are so many young soccer talents all around the country and mostly from parents that migrated from other countrys to the states, and its very sad to know that they wont be recognized unless there parents have money to put them in a special soccer club or camp. Ive been playing in a small Argentine academy made by a random person to atleast keep my self of the streets, I know I wont be recognized at my age 18 but in response to the carlosT you cannot say this because you may be ruining teens dreams of becoming pro soccer players, just like when I read it I felt like there was no reason to play the sport of course knowing that I loved it I wont stop but it does get to me. My dream is to maybe one day becoming a pro soccer player no matter what age I am but its something everyone dreams of in soccer, and sometimes I wish soccer would be more then what it is in the United States like it is in other parts of the country such as Argentina, Brazil, etc. MLS should have a much stronger organization that is if they have one full of scouts all around the states to take some time and go find soccer players other then going to a type of school or college. They should go around parks, streets, etc. to find these young soccer talented players. For example all the world best soccer players weren’t found in school’s or camps they were found in small clubs that play for fun or in the poor streets of their country’s me myself see many talented players at my same age in the streets of New York City but with no future in soccer ahead, because theres nobody that looks into us. Im not a very qualified writer to be saying much but I feel like sometimes teens have to say something for the world to hear it. So forgive me if I have any errors in my writing. I hope people will read this and take this sport more seriously in the United States for the upcoming generations soccer players. Thank You
Martin was the only one that got it correctly. Im an Argentinian and dude let me tell you, you dont have a freaking idea of who Funes Mori is. He is no good, I would like you to come and go see a game and you will hear thousands of people saying and yelling the same thing; YOU SUCK!
the guy is only 20 playing in River Plate dude, dont know if you know about it but is pretty hard.. this happends not because Argentina knows best (you make me laugh!) is because soccer is a business for some powerfull people, they are trying to make money with this kid, but he is absolutly horrible, maybe because he learned to play with you guys… a fucking shame for River Plate, last week a recognized attacker that played for River in the past he said that Funes Mori shoots like a 8 years old kid. no dude you have absolutely no idea who Funes Mori is, you neves seen a game men… I think US will eventually have a respectable soccer team, leeting him go was definitely a wise choise.
Im fan of Racing and we just bought two colombians, TWO COLOMBIANS, TEOFILO GUTIERREZ and GIOVANNI MORENO, those two guys are now by far the greatest players in the tournament, GIO is injured actually but still.
So how the fuck are we going to have a respectable tournament if they take our best players to europe at the age of 17 18 19.. imposible men, two colombians are making the difference right now. Argentinian soccer has been in decline for a long time now, you think u have shitty management? pffffffffff…..
Gary Kleiban says
You know what Marcelo, I think you’re right.
After watching more of him, the kid “doesn’t have it”. There are thousands like him and better.
However, he is superior to most of the garbage we have playing here.
I know soccer is a business, and I know they want to make money off him, but you can’t make big money if the product is complete junk.
I also think you’re right that Argentine soccer has been on a decline.
But regardless, US Soccer is light years behind them in identification, selection, development, quality of play, and overall understanding.
PLUS, if you’ll notice, I agreed with Martin above.
sorry another thing: He ended up scoring the game winner?
Boca 2 River 0
Gary Kleiban says
Celo, this article was written last year.
you should follow Erik Lamela, plays in the same team, same age and he is going to europe pretty good, thats a good player… pff Funes Corky.. you make me laugh
Gary Kleiban says
I do follow Lamela.
Funes Corky … see my response to you above.
el ritter says
I’ve just bought funes muerti. His father asked for $A200 (ca.USD50); if you’re interested please call me. I’ve been trying to make him understand the offside rule. I think he’s made an outstanding progress.
I also have a dwarf for your kids birthday. The Kekou Villalba. Real funny when he hopelessly tries to reach the freezer.
Kekou Villalba…you just made my day xD
I wonder if the author of this article knows where Funes Mori is now???
Don’t hold your breath — MLS and USMNT/USSF will continue to overlook talent for years to come. Until the college system (which favors often lesser talented scholar athletes and has low level of talent/competition) is overcome by viable MLS Reserve league or PDL or USL, you can forget about any meaningful improvement to US soccer system. Until coaches are held accountable for failure to develop, nothing will change. And fools like Sunil Gulati (a pin-head college professor who probably has a soccer IQ of 5) need to go. Yes, US soccer has grown, but not necessarily improved. Fundamental change requires something catastrophic to happen. I fear we will continue on blindly for decades to come.
You can add Neven Subotic to this list as well. Why isn’t he playing CB for us instead of for Serbia? Answer, dip shit Rongen. He said about Subotic that he’s “not accelerating over there (Europe) to the point where we feel he belongs on the [U.S.] team”. We know the rest of the story…2 Bundesliga titles in a row later.
I’m from Argentina, fan of River Plate till I die!, played D1 soccer here in the U.S. and with all the respect, the system is all bullshit! I heard my friends in college telling me that to tryout for MLS teams or USL teams YOU have to pay! Now…where in the world you see that? why the fuck would you pay to show your talent to a club? this is the only country that does that… The system is all fucked up… On another note, I can’t be happy enough the U.S. gave me a chance to come here and provide me with an education
Well it’s been two years since this thread started. Today Funes Mori was instrumental after comming in to substitute Cavenaghi. He destabilized the opposing defense and had both assists in the River win and return to first division. Fot a young kid that a lot of you wrote off had done very well. He had two goals in the U-20 world cup for Argentina in 2011 in six appereances. He will continue to get better as his playing time will increase since Cavenaghi is leaving the team and returning to Europe.
Since then has won the league title, copa sudamericana (South America’s version of the europa league), recoupa (SA version of the uefa supercup) and then yesterday won the Copa Libertadores. He will join a top european team soon
Wrong. He hasn’t won anything. He was traded years back to eastern europe or the middle east and was rather disappointing. About a month or two ago he joined Monterrey and has been a slightly more effective goal scorer but has not won anything. His twin brother (which his article is not about) is actually an excellent defender and has won multiple titles at River Plate. He has also been capped for a friendly with Argentina’s national team. Two different players…
BTW – thank you for this site. As an Latino-American, I have had to endure the pains of soccer in the US since my childhood. I am 40yo now so you can imagine the torture. Things have been changing but not fast enough.
Now, I want to make the following comment about Funes Mori, although I feel it might be controversial.
I believe this situation involves much more than just faulty leadership and the inability to notice real talent. I believe Latinos and Latino-Americans are being segregated.
There are more talented Latino-American players or at least more Latino American players playing year round then any other ethnic groups. Here in NYC, there are a numerous amount of Latino leagues. Latino kids in NYC play all year round. Indoor during the summer and outdoors the rest of the year.
In NYC the leagues are divided. The best amateur soccer league in the country, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, only have 4 Latino clubs in their membership. The league has 102 teams. Most Latino clubs play in Latino only leagues. BTW – Latino leagues generate a big chunk of revenue for the state association.
Oscar Ernand says
Dear Gary, as always a pleasure to communicate with you. This particular subject touches me very closely as my son might be another USA born player to leave the system here and join a club in Argentina. My son was one of the 18 finalist in the Sueño MLS last year and he attended the same event this year and became one of the three finalist (Arturo Ernand), in my unbiased observation not as a father but as a coach, he was the best and more complete player of all three, yet he was not selected and did not received any invitations from any MLS youth club or academy team, yet he was invited to attend a one month residential program with Banfield in Argentina this summer, nothing arising from the Sueño MLS.
We are full of talented players, yet the system is not working to truly capture the very best because we continue to follow a format where athleticism is first then soccer IQ later. Also many of the high level coaches don’t know how to spot talent and force talented players to play simple, not to risk and at the end we have national players that are not creative; that are not risk takers; that just play simple and so we end with great athletes that could have become great soccer players but their imagination was eliminated.
Christian salazar says
I attended the Sueno MLS in Dallas with the Funes Mori twins. I have the privilege of playing 2 games with them and we dominated the teams we played against. I made the top 60 team with them and then got screwed over because several kids there had promoters and new coaches and what not. The Funes Mori brothers were by far the best players there and deserved to win it. I heard several coaches say that they were good, but to skinny. It blew my mind that there body size overshadowed their skills and abilities. And US soccer is full of coaches like that. A bunch of idiots that think size will win them games. I’ve gone to several pro tryouts and out played everyone, assists and goals, and the coaches would tell me that I was an amazing player, I was just short. I’m 5’7. That last time I checked, some of the greatest players in the world were my height. But that’s just how stupid US soccer is and why we will never be able to compete with some of these bigger nations and clubs.