Here’s the number one lesson to take away from the U23 performance against Mexico:
Stop making excuses for not being able to play dominant possession-centered soccer.
You can’t play that way because this is college soccer.
You can’t play that way because it’s a physical league.
You can’t play that way because [insert some ignorant reasoning or excuse here].
Sound familiar? There’s a million more where those came from.
Whether one is talking about 10 year olds, U18s, bronze or academy level, college, boys or girls, MLS or International, the fundamentals of the game are the same!
Enough! The truth is that YOU [coach] don’t play that way because YOU [coach] don’t have the competence. 
Enough! The truth is that YOU [fan/blogger/pundit/observer/whatever] think it can’t be done because YOU [fan/blogger/pundit/observer/whatever] have never known what’s possible. You’ve been guessing. 
That is the big picture truth. Sorry.
Different Challenges Yes, but not Deal-Breakers
That’s not to say each level of play and situation doesn’t have its own set of unique – and many times subtle – challenges. Of course they do, and in great numbers.
Some are soccer related, and some are off the field (such as politics or finances). One thing is certain, there is no shortage of obstacles. And that’s precisely the reservoir from which excuses and rationalizations are derived.
Now, Caleb is in the International arena with its own set of issues separate from college. Here’s just a sample:
- Player availability.
- Time constraint – Olympic qualifying is almost on top of him.
- Far shorter period of time to work with the group.
- Political pressures of all flavors.
Can he bust right through these?
I’ll tell you this much; if you watched that Mexico game, you should be optimistic.
As long as you’re not thoroughly outclassed in terms of players and/or coaching, sophisticated dominant soccer is possible.
Meaning, I don’t expect to boss the soccer heavyweights (yet), but I think it will be the norm against others. And that my friends, is a quantum leap!
It flies in the face of the notion that “we don’t have the players”.
That game against Mexico …
… yeah, that was just the latest installment of Porter continuing to take a dump all over the monkeys that have gone unchecked at all levels of US Soccer – youth to pro.
 For those out there who are genuinely trying, open to learning, and don’t hang on and simply perpetuate these notions (in many cases excuses) as facts, I applaud you.
Gary…what teams that the media aren’t drooling all over are good examples who are playing this possession based, i want the ball, soccer?
I have been a Barcelona fan for a while, and they are the obvious example, but the sheer class they have and way they make it look so easy puts them in a whole other realm. Who are the teams w/o such a collection of class that you enjoy watching b/c they align with your fundamental belief in the way the game is best played?
I enjoyed watching bilbao yesterday, i thought everyone on that team was comfortable with the ball, their first intention was always to pass their way out of tight spots, and they flock to the ball in a way that clearly unsettled MU (very similar to how uncomfortable they looked in last years CL final). That was the most fun I had watching a first leg tournament game I have watched since barca/madrid CL last spring.
Gary Kleiban says
Every Marcelo Bielsa team is incredible! An absolute joy to peer into the mind of a soccer genius!
I would get giddy in anticipation of watching Chile during his tenure.
Do you know that Athletic Bilbao only allows players native to the Basque region? Player pool issues anyone?
As for other teams that demonstrate sophisticated play, its pretty much always a function of who the coach is. Half the teams in La Liga do. Even L’Hospitalet of the 3rd division is splendid.
Historically at the International level, Mexico, Costa Rica, and sometimes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala from CONCACAF play with some tactical sophistication. South America … pretty much all countries. Non-powerhouse countries overseas … Turkey comes to mind, Egypt (don’t know how BB has them playing now), and I’m sure I’m forgetting others.
Yea, the basque policy makes the team even more impressive….although they have recently stretched it a little, it is still wild to see a team impose that kind of embargo on themselves.
Thanks for that rundown, I try to watch as much la liga as I can.
I would love to see some more tactical breakdowns of the U-23s as caleb leaves his mark…
Facundo Bruno says
Good example also is athletic Bilbao!
Great coaching! Marcelo Bielsa is a genius!
They took a dump on Manchester at old trafford this week like Gary would say! And it’s no surprise they are in Copa del Rey final!
Gary Kleiban says
Nice to hear you’re still “in it” Bruno.
Got a proposition for you:
Wanna lead 3four3’s Facebook page? We really need to up our efforts over there in a HUGE way.
Swansea in the EPL as well, they are pretty outclassed in terms of players, but they are a mid-table team I enjoy watching.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m hearing good things Rivelino.
I haven’t watched a single EPL game this season. Not one! hehehe
Gary, could you try to get an interview with Caleb and dig into his philosophy and methods? I’m sure we would all love to see you and he go deep on some topics.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s a good suggestion matt. Maybe.
I assure you the philosophy coursing through every single post at this site is shared by Caleb.
Thank you everyone for the comments comparing Caleb Porter’s style of play to not only Sep Guardiola (!) but Los Leones from San Mames, el equipo de Euskal Herria (el pais Basque), Athletic Bilbao. This Akron Zip alum is very proud of not only his favorite club, but his alma mater. Some day, perhaps when Caleb Porter graduates from USSoccer, he can coach in La Liga.
Gary Kleiban says
A warm welcome Zipinparadise!
Let me say this: Regardless of Caleb’s Win/Loss record with the U23’s, the rest of the world is not stupid. He will get offers.
I’m certain he’s already raised eyebrows with Mexican owners.
NYC Bob says
Do you have any thoughts on the Akron Youth Soccer Camps? I am considering the one week summer program for my 10 and 12 year old boys. Looks like Caleb Porter is involved, but I’m not sure how involved. It would be a trek for us from NYC so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. We have plenty of programs closer to home but Akron is special.
Appreciate any feedback – thanks!
Gary Kleiban says
I don’t know anything about Akron camps.
I guess it depends on what you want to get out of it.
My opinion, particularly at this age, is just go local.
NYC Bob says
Good advice. Thanks.
Bill F. says
Go local, i live in the Cleveland area and last winter my u14 son at the time attended one of their weekend winter camps. Its pretty much run by the assistant coaches and some of the starting 11 players. Don’t get me wrong it was a great experience for my son ( got to train with Darren Mattocks) but its not worth an 8 hour car ride, etc. My son will definately be attending their HS camps when hes a sophmore/ junior, of course Porter will be gone by then!
NYC Bob says
Thanks. Red Bulls have a pretty rigorous RDS program over the summer here in the NYC area. We’ll stick with that.
My son attended the Akron Soccer camp this summer. It was a great experience. Coach Porter was involved with every age group. There were families from all over the country.
Brian Kleiban says
Caleb Porter slated to be named Portland Timbers head coach today
As an Akron area native, a who attended Zips soccer camps as a kid in the 1980’s, I am a bit sad (selfishly).. But happy for Caleb Porter. He gave seven strong years to UA and led a good program to become a great program. One of very few in NCAA soccer.
After the 2012 college cup, I am immediately a Timbers fan, because of this guy.
Jim Froehlich says
The world turned upside down — Swansea City 1, Man City 9; Athletic Bilbao 3, Man U 2. Skilled possession RULES !!!!!
Jim Froehlich says
but my typing still Man City ” 0″
Gary Kleiban says
The US is a giant just waiting to be awaken from its slumber.
We just need the right people in the right positions.
Gary, completely agree, but what is it going to take to get the right people in the right positions? Its great that the process has somewhat started with the hiring of guys like Porter, but what is really needed is a revolution at a more local level. The USSFDA is great but lets be honest its still the same guys running and coaching that have been running and coaching for the last 10-15 years that have gotten us in the mess we are in. We haven’t truly progressed as a nation all we have simply done is increase the player pool of above average players. I watch ussfda games all the time and the level of play is no better than when I played youth soccer 10 years ago. There are just more players in that pool now.
Meanwhile there are some fantastic young and up and coming coaches being held back in the political mess that is club soccer in this country. Young guys who truly care about development and the growtwh of soccer in this country rather than what is happening now with the same doc’s from 10 years ago trying to protect their salary while throwing out buzz words like “development” while doing the exact same things they have done for years.
I consider myself one of those young and up and coming coaches and I don’t mean to say that arrogantly. I just believe that I’m damn good at what I do and slowly and surely I will continue to move up the ladder. But it is very difficult not to become jaded and either give up and move on or sellout. I know plenty of great coaches that have said enough and moved on or worse sold out to make sure they kept food on the table for their family. The current club environment is far from ideal for nurturing and mentoring young coaches and until changes are made at local and state levels it will continue to impact the players Porter has at his disposal.
Now all is not lost and I hate to paint such a dire picture that looks like I’m simply complaining. There are some great little clubs doing the right things and some older coaches that have made significant changes and are truly developing players but by and large its mostly the same crap with someone terming it “development” to unknowing parents.
Gary Kleiban says
I hear you my brother!
In short, I think we need a market that can both identify and reward quality coaching. In other words, a market that is in line with player development.
And a huge driver of how efficient a market is depends on how educated the market is.
So we need to educate the soccer community at all levels. This is at the root.
If that doesn’t happen, then it’s a tough one.
Mind if I turn your excellent contribution into a post?
Feel free. I found your blog about a month ago and really enjoyed it and its motivated me to start my own blog to hopefully educate more people. I will let you know once I get it up and running. In the meantime feel free to post anything I post here
Went ahead and got my blog started. soccerpurist.wordpress.com. To yourself and all others, this is not a blog to compete or outdo 3four3 but simply in response to the motivation you’ve instilled in me through this blog to help educate and spread the revolution of true development in this country! hope you will take a look
Gary Kleiban says
Let me know if I can help jon.
Jim Froehlich says
Gary — I know you are a big fan of Bielsa and I have recently added Athletic Bilbao to my “must watch” list. However in the run-up to the Man U–Bilbao matches, an article was written comparing Ferguson to Bielsa and in that article I ran across the following comments about Bielsa: “He sees football as an “associative” game, where players must all work together and move together and he has a preference for unorthodox team formations. This requires lengthy and repetitive training routines where pre-planned phases of play are practised and practised.” My question is how do you reconcile the apparent creativity of Bielsa’s teams with that last reference to “preplanned phases of play are practised and practised”. I realize that fluid play depends at some level on repetition but the emphasis , as I perceived it, seems to be overdone.
Here’s the full article:
Gary Kleiban says
There is SO much to talk about within your comment!
This topic is at the very core of all our problems.
What you and the article touched on is called “tactica fija” (or what I’ve been saying in English, “Set Tactical Work”). Something coaches and everyone in this country haven’t the slightest clue about. It is why our teams play jungle ball and have no identity. It is why our players are brainless. And it is why I shake my head and sigh when people talk about “tactics”.
In any case, back to your question.
There really is no reconciliation needed between “creativity” and “set tactical work”.
Creativity is something developed on the streets, through informal play, and is greatly influenced by culture. Once you reach the pro level, you either have creativity in the blood or not. Having these players play within a choreographed team, where their general roles are well defined, doesn’t kill their creativity. They still have that quality, and it shows up in the execution of the teams style. The team is now creative.
Sometimes we get confused and think that someone like a Neymar is “creativity”. Meaning, a player who goes around doing whatever the hell they want and obviously “creating” something out of nothing. Well, what about Xavi? Is he creative? I would say so. But within the confines and context of the team. He has that capacity, but doesn’t attempt magic every single time he touches the ball. Only when “it’s on”.
More stuff for me to formalize…
I’ll just finish here by saying it is a HUGE myth that coaches in the US stifle creativity. It is a HUGE myth that rigorous set tactical work stifles creativity.
Gary great response. Bielsa is an obsessive and analyzes everything down to the smallest detail. And given that he is partial to unorthodox formations, its easy to see why. He has to define roles for each player on the field giving context through the phase and third of the field the team is in in a formation most players are probably unfamiliar with. This doesn’t happen overnight and so there is bound to be what may seem like endless repetition.
However, with that said there is always room for improvisation and creativity within the system as long as it remains within the philosophy and style of play that Bielsa has created. Set tactical work doesn’t stifle creativity, it merely gives context to it.
Gary Kleiban says
Oh and Jim, I’m likely publishing something on Monday with respect to Bielsa.
But I want you to know it had nothing to do with your comments here.
coach juggles says
US 6 – Cuba 0!
quoting 6-0 as a testament to caleb porter and what he’s trying to do is wildly misguided
Jim Froehlich says
Gary–great explanation regarding my personal conflict between “creativity” and “set tactical work”. I am anxiously awaiting your explanation of “set tactical work” and further analysis of Bielsa’s philosophy. BTW I’m also anxious to see your comments on the US — Cuba match. For me Corona was the man!! The performance of the rest of the team was definitely less than memorable in my humble opinion — bad movement off the ball, poor passing, and generally directionless. Of course, only IMHO !!!
And now Caleb Porter will have the dump taken on him…
I should add though…he probably doesnt deserve the crap he will get from fans
Gary Kleiban says
I’m very sad to say the least.
I have to say I am very disappointed in Caleb Porter. It’s bad enough that we failed to advance out of a group with Cuba, Canada, and El Salvador in it, it’s even worse that we DESERVED to not advance. I thought Porter was the one American coach who might buck the trends of valuing soccer players with sophistication, class, skill, and an understanding over athletes, and he didn’t do this at all!! I held him to a higher standard and came away extremely disappointed, he is just like all the other robot American coaches saying all the key words “we like to keep possession”, “we value technical players”, “we like to have the ball”, and we ended up seeing none of these things. I am used to being lied to by American coaches who say these things but I expected Porter to actually back what he was saying, but then he picks the same mediocre and inept players that we have been selecting all along and have gone through the system for years! To add to the criticism of Porter, I looked at Akron’s next recruiting class, and it is almost entirely guys from U-17 residency, that in my opinion just confirms that he is now one of the good ole boy club robots, following the USSF and kissing as much ass as possible to try to please them. Back to the Olympic team: no Lletget, no Silva, no Rowe, no E. Orozco, no Gil, so that we can play Jeffries, Shea, Bunbury, Agudelo, etc and an entire back line of athletes who are average at best soccer players? This is the same crap we have seen for years, the only difference is we are hearing different things and being lied to and then seeing the same shit product as always on the field. It is very frustrating. I am upset about the loss and the tie to inferior teams, but what really makes me angry is that we got outplayed by minnows! We did the same thing as always trying to scratch and claw our way back through physicality, crosses, set pieces, and long throws, and actually grabbed a lead. Then again, when I thought Porter would be different and kill the game off with class and possession we sit behind the ball and play kickball trying to survive, and yes it was a terrible howler on the keeper, but we undid ourselves by letting an inferior team put us against the ropes for the last ten minutes by sitting back on our heels and giving away possession left and right. P.S. Boyd is being horribly overrated, he scored two simple goals on a total of two touches and was anonymous the rest of the game against El Salvador’s U-23’s, let’s see what happens in other games before we tout him as the next big thing and then get disappointed when reality hits again like many other youth players who have come and gone. Again in my opinion this is another example of valuing the wrong things in a player and where we go wrong in this country, just look at a guy’s body makeup, or look at the box score for one game, or look at what club he plays for and assume they are the best players available. That is not how you judge quality. Quality and class are a pattern of decisions, abilities, and plays over a long period of time, that’s why they always say form is temporary, but class is permanent. All this talk about the importance of facilities, and not enough money in MLS, and how great the development academy is and this and that, well it’s all bullshit cecause guess what? We got outplayed tonight by a team from El Salvador, they don’t have anywhere near the money or resources that we do, or the population, none of their players as far as I know are in big clubs and they still have players that resemble the best in the world much more than we do. They are far from a great team and have plenty of issues themselves, but they were the better team tonight, they lack tactical sophistication but they at least they have players who are comfortable on the ball, and can create problems in the run of play, instead of hoping to get on the end of a set piece or a cross. They also have an identity of being scrappy and hardworking, defending deep in numbers, and then breaking quickly with skillful, crafty, and dynamic players. We on the other hand just bang bodies, run around, give the ball away, and hope for a mistake or to get on the end of a cross. Extremely frustrating and disappointing, between our U-17’s getting knocked out in the group stage, and now both our U-20’s, and U-23’s not qualifying, the future is looking pretty bad, and we know the likelihood of outsiders coming in to help is slim, once you’re in the good ole boys club, you’re in for good. We desperately need change and this is why the tone and harshness of this blog is entirely necessary.
Huge step backward for the USA. The core of the problem with the team was the technical ability and composure of the backline. They were not up to playing a possession approach to the game. Their panic was evident every time they booted it away, or hoofed a “pass”. They failed to embrace the possession approach in full and paid the price. Instead of holding the ball at the end of the game, they gave El Salvador chance after chance to build attacks. This is the core of the problem, this is why we failed. They weren’t good enough in other areas too, but basic ball skills were the foundation for failure.
It is clear that Porter needed to pick a different bunch of players if he was going to succeed. The defensive part of the team being the absolute core of the problem. Again, he fell prey to the USA’s predisposition to pick athletes over players, brawn/speed or brains/skill, its true from Keeper, through the midfield to the strikers… Until this is fixed we DESERVE to lose.
Gary Kleiban says
Sweet jesus Kevin!
As Bill said: Bravo!
You’ve really got the thesis correct!
I still support Porter, however. He is the ONLY nationally known coach that has a good philosophy. Not only theoretically, but executed in practice at the college level. The issue is that at the college level & MLS, you can get away with improper player selection because everyone is crap. Internationally, that kind of tolerance is no longer there. Player selection is critical. That’s where he needs help!
Porter did a good job, at the end of the day the players are the ones who took a minute off, 3 times in the game, the 2nd goal was a complete joke, a horrid shot that becomes a cross and the back line just says “oh well it looks wide” the 3rd goal where we have literally 13 seconds to go and we decide to get cute on te ball with tired legs, Had Brek dumped the ball to the corner flags allowed us to organize defensively like we had been doing for the last 5 minutes Salvador would have given us the ball back as they had done all night, Salvadors plan was run at the corners and overwhelm the right Back. The only fault Porter had was his team not being fit enough which is odd of an american team, and not being deep enough which is normal…lol
We all knew the second we saw the middy on the ball going to goal with 10 yards of space it was a goal.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s simple actually. If one wants to execute a possession-centered philosophy at the international level, you must select players with the right qualities.
Technique and Brains
Technique and Brains
Technique and Brains
It’s difficult to get away with guys like Opara and Villafana on the field. Those guys, like others, don’t belong. They shouldn’t even be pros for god’s sake!
And yes, we do have the players!!!!!
Where the fuck was Kelyn Rowe? Perhaps the highest quality age-appropriate player in the country!
I think the brutes have their place on the field but agreed I would prefer a technical kid I can count on to not give the ball away when needed, I am not as familiar with the U-23 pool as you seem to be, besides the players plying their trade thus making them unavailable who are the OutsideBack prospects to pay attention to?
would also add that we both seem to think the backline is the issue as it has always been in this country when going to a technically savvy team verse big strong and fast, am I mistaken?
Will Packwood…where was he? He could have anchored that backline better than what we had! If he is good enough to be in the 16 for Birmingham’s FA cup game vs Chelsea, then he could have done very well in this Olympic qualifying!
You are exactly right. Keep after it. Skill over early maturation. The system of wins at any cost, has a cost that we have just been a witness to. It starts with the way the refs call games, allowing so much physicality in the games. It hinders development of players.
U-23 Camp Impressions
I attended 4 of the sessions and both games versus Klinsmann’s senior team.
First and foremost, if our praise for Caleb Porter hasn’t been evident, let me repeat, Caleb Porter is legit.
Previously, we’ve been judging him solely from watching his Akron team (on TV and in person). Meaning we’ve never seen him run a session – although it should be clear that to produce a possession-centered, attacking, attractive, and winning product, there must be a lot of proper work being done.
In any case, now we’ve seen his training. He’s the man!
Gary Kleiban says
Oh Cyrus … [sigh]
Porter is the greatest ‘known’ American coach / trainer. Period.
As evident by my player selections here and elsewhere on the site:
he needs help in that department.
Keep learning grasshopper.
Mike V says
What do you make of the fact that Porter’s qualifying roster included quite a few players you rated as Tier 3 or 4 players, many of whom played significant minutes during the tournament? I realize Porter’s selection was likely hamstrung by European club committments and unforeseen injury. Were there issues with poor player evaluations as well (ie. Teal Bunbury) I’m curious to get your take on players like Opara, Agudelo and Boyd, who were not in the January camp but who played in the qualifying tournament.
Gary Kleiban says
I will write something up at some point.
* Opara is horrific. Should not even be a pro (not hyperbole).
* Villafana is horrific. Should not even be a pro (not hyperbole).
* Bunbury I thought had decent quality his senior year at Akron and even in his NT debut against Chile. He’s a total mess of a player now (a lazy bum). What MLS team does he play for???
* Agudelo I like and absolutely deserves to be representing our country. He has the type of qualities that make an International player. The Red Bull manager is a donkey though. Wonder if he’ll “lose it”. That boy needs to leave MLS stat!
* Boyd? Whatever. Kinda hard to tell from El Salvador game. But whatever, I saw nothing.
Bottom line: Porter needs help with player quality assessment.
It occurs to me that the road our failure in Olympic qualifying was paved by every “boot it” and “play it early” yelled at our young players back in their youth days. At their core too many of our top players are taught to follow those instincts, and under pressure they revert to these practices. It is what I hear constantly from both coaches and parents almost every game.
Too often our players have this mentality of only going forward, and smart possession oriented decision-making is viewed as being unproductive. One of the greatest sins of the U-23’s was to cheaply give their opponents the ball so that another attack could be constructed. This mentality is the root cause of the final goal. Yes there were breakdowns in 1v1 defending, team defending, positioning and goalkeeping, but they all had their origin in not keeping the ball, in panic under pressure.
I’ve never been in person to see Porter’s theories and training in action. Though I understand your praise for his philosophy and coaching brain, I would argue that’s only half of the job. The other half is execution and that includes the selection of players. By that account he had a really unfortunate showing in the Olympic qualifiers.
I hope to see him break the chains and form better squads for future tournaments. I also hope he and others realize that philosophy and training methods are only successful if you can translate them to the players in your squad effectively to produce results. The rest is irrelevant.
cony konstin says
So we lost. It is not the end of the world. In the words of General Macarthur, “I shall return”. And that is what the US will do again. Meanwhile we still need radical change in US soccer. Carlos Quiroz said it best. “In America soccer is in business of making money and not in the business of winning”. We need to create soccer playgrounds for 5 year olds that is free and open 7 days a week throughout the inner cities and suburbs of America. These playgrounds will become the holy grounds where legends will be created. If this is not done then we will never have magical players. US Soccer needs playing environments and coaching enviromnents. I have been preaching this for 37 years and I will continue to preach this until my last breath. We need a soccer Revolution in the US. We need soccer playgrounds and not coaches. Coaches come way later.
Ken Sweda says
I love it, Cony. I hope finding this site feels as good to you as it does to me. I’m a middle-aged guy who knows what soccer is supposed to look and feel like, but I’m only just now getting in to coaching. I’ve read some of your posts on SA (I believe?) and I’m glad there are guys like you and the Kleibans out there. Makes me feel like we can really do this. Cheers and best of luck!
Cony- I agree that we can create socccer playgrounds that would allow access to more kids to play. My sons coach has had them practicing futsal on tennis courts that have no nets anymore. He brings his own goals and cones it off. I have since noticed more unused tennis courts with beautiful surfaces and no nets around the Bay Area. The urban kids are not playing tennis, they could be using these tennis courts for pick up futsal games.
I agree with you all. We need a soccer REVOLUTION!!!!!!!
What is needed is less coaching and more playing and training in non-conventional ways. Structured playing environments with Refs and Professional coaches do not work.
Youth sports in the US is a big business but no body tells the parents and players. Just ask the board members! Sports clubs and organizations in all sports such as soccer, football, baseball, tennis, basketball, etc just LIE to everyone claiming they train and develop players. Pay them and watch your aweful kid play.
Nobody needs to pay so kids can play. Just watch them at any playground!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gary Kleiban says
Please be very careful with this.
There is a place (critically necessary) for informal play, and there is a place for structured competitive play.
You need both!
Street ball is absolutely critical to develop technique and “creativity”.
But coaching is abslolutely critical to not only help refine the player technically, but more importantly, tactically. You can never get that playing informally.
The biggest problem facing the US at the moment is coaching. Not the playground.
Yes you do need intelligent and educated coaches, essentially expert “teachers”. But…players and parents do not need to pay for it.
Why is everyone so afraid to be real and admit that youth sports is primarily a BIG business? We are creating players that are technically, tactically weak with poor life skills because parents pay big money to coaches instead of letting kids earn their way on the playground.
The revolution we need is to let the kids take back the game. Age appropriate coaches need to run the clubs, not a hierarchy of board members. Look at Messi, Lebron, Kobe, etc these players were “stars” before they were discovered by professional coaches. Professional coaches primarily refine, nurture players and guide them to compete on organized teams. Kids need coaches that teach.
Rob A says
Well, to be accurate Messi’s father was a professional player and coached the youth side for their local club. Kobe’s father was also a professional player in Italy. I don’t know Lebron’s story, but basically Messi and Kobe had an early advantage in that they had “professional level” training from the get-go.
Yes “professional level'” training is required at an early age…but not PAID professional coaching. You think Messi’s and Kobe’s dad charged their kid or paid a club coach? I don’t know about other areas but we typically get charged $1K – $2K per year just to get trained 2 times a week and play weekend games. The results are horrible and there is no accountability. Where is all this money going?
Rob A says
I don’t know if it’s required for the pro in general. Only if you want to be considered one of the best ever in your sport. ;). Soccer training isn’t cheap, one way or another someone has to foot the bill.
I know you’ll probably come back with street soccer. But it’s not a reality at the moment, as much as many of us would hope it would be. Even the Dutch have accepted, decades ago, that street soccer has virtually disappeared. The KNVB put together their philosophy for youth training around this reality. They essentially mimic the street game, but with proper coaching you can accelerate the learning that would have happened through exploration and trial and error.
Getting coaching education and doing the work to become a good coach isn’t cheap. Whether we’re talking actual money or time spent (opportunity cost).
The difference here is the pay to play system whereas in Europe the clubs foot the bill. I might be wrong but I am pretty sure no one is paying to play for Barca Juvenil A or Dortmund’s youth system.
Germany is the best modern example where the Federation worked with the Bundesliga and ensured that all clubs were aligned with development work.
The best way to ensure that the best talent gets found here is to support your local franchise and grow the voice of sites like this. Gary & Brian do great work but it with limited resources it is very hard to get the scale necessary to find the best players from this massive country. As MLS grows, they need to funnel money to development and ensure that the best players are being found and developed regardless of class status.
This is why Klinsmann is a +, he obviously has the ear of USSoccer and experience within the recent German transformation. If he (&USSF) can get the MLS on board, I think the right track is close. Porter losing is a setback but lets see what Tab Ramos can do moving into the 2013 U20s.
Promoting your local youth clubs and MLS team only promotes garbage and keeps money in their pockets season after season.
Listen all you so called soccer experts that want to play for free get off your ass and go support your local MLS/USL/PDL team, the soccer community is so full of soccer snobs…”OH the MLS sucks”, “I only watch EPL” or foreign league you think to be great, If you dont support the domestics there’s no reason for anyone to see to the development of it, only reason it happens in other countries is due to the money the teams generate at the highest level.
PLayground soccer is great for kids to organize on their own and test out their TECHNIQUE they learned IN ORGANISED PRACTICE, all one has to do to see the playground model is look at basketball. Playground hoops and streetball creates the AND1 mixtape guys who cant crack a nba D league roster, thats not what we want for soccer. We want players to develop technique and creativity. you only get technique from organized coaching but you can develop skills and potential through free play.
the culture of soccer that needs to change is this Soccer Snob, the development will happen and if your on this board you contributing to it now ( hopefully),
Ken Sweda says
Incorrect. 1966. That is all.
explain?? 1966 Pele?? world cup ????
Ken Sweda says
Think, my friend. This is a thinking blog, not a place for the same garbage and “Eurobashing” one can find on any MLS-loving website. You remember 1966, the last and only time England won the World Cup, right? They stopped progressing after that, and are languishing with the same lack of creativity and overly processed/coached players. The reason the Prem is the best league in the world (which, by the way, is quietly changing) is NOT because of English players. It’s because of foreigners who grew up playing on the streets. Foreigners who played for years as kids before they EVER saw a coach. In England, as in the US, kids are plucked up at 5 and put on a team, where their creativity is stifled. I’m happy you like MLS. You won’t find a similar love from the majority of the people on this site, so all you’re doing is rehashing the same old (incorrect) information we’ve already given up on, which is precisely why this place exists. The fact is MLS produces no more national team members than it did when it first started. The only one who hangs around is LD, and I’m pretty sure he’s paid a little something-something to hang around to keep the illusion going.
The MLS can be a positive for soccer in this country but the best players need to keep going to europe. To be the best, you need to play with the best, you need to experience the pressure, you need to have no guarantees on your match-day selection, you need to step onto the field on a tues/wed night in front of 80k people when the whole world is watching and go up against the best in the world.
Ken you are absolutely right about what makes the EPL the best. For anyone here who thinks that game is played incorrectly though, try to catch a replay of tottenham/swansea from last Sunday….that was excellent soccer.
Ken Sweda says
Agreed, Spurs have played wonderfully, and for the resources Swansea even better (which is why coaching approach is such a HUGE consideration). Brendan Rodgers has a national team job in his future, wouldn’t mind it being in England where they need a massive change in focus. Rodgers is such an enigma in the UK though. He’s doing what he does with largely English players, so it simply reinforces that it’s how the players are coached and what they are ALLOWED to do. Most English youth level coaches are still on the “lump it long, laddy” side (there are hundreds of coaches I follow on Twitter that will echo that and are fighting like hell to get it to change, often with insane abuse being thrown at them.) And let’s recall that most of the dynamic players in Harry’s side at Spurs are foreigners (aside from Bale, but he’s the classic exception that proves the rule on that team).
Agreed on MLS, they need to let players fly the coop, bring more transfer money in, put it back into the academies and finding more S. American players “on the verge”. And ALL the money needs to go to the teams, not to the league (this MUST change) so that teams have an incentive to really develop and be creative about their coaching. MLS is a reflection on our youth system, and it reinforces it at the same time (see my piece on this site for my real views..;)
When MLS teams can keep the money they make, and plunge it into their own DA’s to the point where pay-to-play is finally put to rest, I’ll be “all-in” with MLS. Until then, I really don’t see supporting it. I’ve tried several times, and have been disappointed. I’m a student of the game first, a “fan” second. I’d sooner obsess over the details of Barca than wonder which 24yo college draftee will be the “next big thing”. To each his own, though.
Point noted, and for the record I’m not a euro basher, but if the sport is to grow here we must support it, your points about England solid. Though even then where they technically and cratively brilliant? Or was it just the exception to the rule that they won, (seriously I’m not as versed with them in that era)
And the reason Im here is that I love the sport, not a certian style of play or development, the sport and all of it, while we all sit around and do more talking about how our system is flawed what are your actual sollutions?
Ken Sweda says
England won in 66 in a time that was somewhat between era’s, between styles of play. They were still relevant because even though they didn’t have the flair and skill aspect that Brazil had (winners in 58 and 70 and leaders of the new wave), the current English culture of over-organization at the youth levels hadn’t yet started so English players were, in their own way, also products of the street (although English streets were not exactly favelas). And they always had the English spirit/fight, whatever you want to call it. Once they won, personally I think the wrong message was taken from that. They didn’t see the talent their boys had, because on a clear talent-to-talent comparison it was no contest. So perhaps they said: we’re clearly not Brazil, so what do we have that put us over the top? The Bulldog work ethic. And thus a legend was born. Combined with the fact that they “invented” the game, these things produced a sort of hubris that took over the whole mentality and has kept England from noticing all the changes to the game that were starting to happen then, and have continued ever since.
What would I change in the US (if I’m reading the last part of your post correctly)? I touched on one major thing in my response above: MLS has to become a selling league, and all the money has to go do the teams, none to the league. Let LD leave (he’s proven he can hang in England, and he’s done his toiling in MLS long enough). Bring money in and make 19 more LD’s.
I’m a trainer and coach, so my immediate focus is on producing players that want to shoot for something higher than MLS, and studying and promoting the kind of play that MLS cannot and does not reach. If MLS doesn’t want to come play with the rest of the world, then players like the Barca So Cal boys will go overseas. If MLS gets the message that they’re missing out, then maybe enough changes will happen that MLS will be seen as a real option for these boys. But at salaries of $44k a year, that’s not going to happen. Do you think Ben Lederman is going to come back to MLS and make $44k a year? Or even $250k a year as a DP, if he can make $1M overseas? We need to stop accepting that “MLS is all we have, and we’d better support it.” Sometimes an organization needs to be forced to see what it’s missing out on, and right now that includes talent and my support. But again, to each his own.
Wasnt that the downfall of the NASL, thats before my time but didn’t teams stockpile money and the league suffered? I do agree that what they offer in wages is unaceptable, but without revenue generation how would the league stay afloat, I think the financial revolution will take place when someone figures out how to market soccer in this country
Ken Sweda says
Selling players brings in as much revenue internationally as gate receipts. For some clubs (Ajax) it’s the only way they survive. We need to change soccer in this country from both ends. The guys that run this site, and the Barca So Cal club, are doing it from the ground up. Now MLS needs to get on board with this kind of development and give these players a home. If they don’t offer the money, they’ll go elsewhere. Invest in real development, spend the money THERE and not on other things, sell a few of these players, and build the talent base and income generation machine that other countries use. It’s fine that MLS thinks it had to do things a certain way to begin it’s life, but I think the sooner we move beyond that the better. I’d pay much more than MLS charges to watch Ajax or Bilbao, but I’m done paying less for “my” Chicago Fire. I’m the market MLS doesn’t seem to acknowledge or care about. I’d pay much more for better.
I’ll tell you the solution to marketing soccer in America… The key is marketing soccer to PARENTS. Question: What do most parents want? Well, since they/we all are inherently selfish and often view their kids in a better light than reality, they want their kids to succeed at the highest levels of their sport (doesn’t matter if it’s soccer, basketball, football, tennis, whatever). The fact of the matter is this: most sports in America have very specific genetic requirements to play at the highest level (ex: basketball – must be over 6’4″, football – must be able to bench press a small car or be insanely fast, tennis – usually over 6′) There are some exceptions, but that’s just it…they are exceptions to the rule. So 99.9% of kids are ruled out of ever reaching elite status in basketball/football simply because of their genes.
But here’s the good news… elite soccer players come in all shapes and sizes (Yes, I’ll give you that they must be great athletes to reach elite status, but compare that to basketball/football where you have to be a great athlete AND a genetic freak).
So parents want their kids to have a chance to reach the highest levels of their sport. That’s not even possible for 99.9% of kids in basketball/football, but it’s possible for maybe 2-3% of kids in soccer. That’s a big difference. Just get parents to realize this and they will naturally push their kids towards soccer at a young age and away from basketball and football (probably the biggest competition for athletes in the US). More kids playing will lead to more $ in the system, more fans for local/professional teams, more $ for advertising/investment, etc.
In my opinion, this is the solution to marketing soccer in America.
Geoff sorry you are wrong according to Johann Cruyff, and Rinus Michels. Street soccer is the first education which gives you the foundation for organized soccer. Read this article in which Bergkamp, Cruyff, and van persie say average technique has died due to lack of street soccer.
Now with MLS just because i put millions of dollars into a team should ppl support it? Why because i have money and create a brand, what does that team do to identify with that community, what does that soccer club mean socially etc… MLS is built off of that model which means without stars or something to sell the support will never be the level of S. America and European clubs because of how it is constructed. Fair play to those who support it i don’t really because DC United means nothing to me, doesn’t define what soccer is in the DC Area and everything is built upon how much money they make and the club (the people who define the club) 2nd. In Europe the supporters built the club, the identity etc and are not just given a product to force down their throats without a say.
So call us Euro snobs, would rather that then an idiot who blindly follows a club because an owner threw money into a brand….
That was a great article, as I said before I see Playground as a great tool for kids to practice Technique and learn skill, (skill is the application of Technique). but its still just a tool as is a coach facilitated session.
Would you all expect me to believe RVP only made the big time because of his Cage matches?? Someone Saw or heard about him as they do millions of others and then decided I can teach this kid to play soccer the right way. But this all follows a different model and path than what we have in the states, and it ties back to the MLS, and USSoccer as a whole,
I could rant of hours on the cost structure and compare why we charge and pay what we do for soccer here, at the end of the day, outside of this country soccer generates revenues that make it affordable to play, here thats not the case and its because our top levels dont generate the revenues needed yet, but with the emergence of the academy systems here it is slightly changing,
You say the communities control the clubs outside of the states and thats why they get support?
its not the tradition they have? my father cheered for leeds, took me to games as a youth so I cheer for them now??
What I am saying to the EurO-Snob is that you are at the forefront of American soccer Tradition what you tell you kids of the league is what they will believe, DC United has some of the richest tradition in the MLS (first 2 titles??) I get that they are no Boca Juniors or even Club America, but it has to start somewhere. Those clubs were looked at the same way until someone decided I will cheer for them and go to a match, So yes YOU directly are at fault for not growing the sport, which is fine, but dont complain about the crap soccer. Think of the other side though, if you and every other person that felt the way you did, decided to give it a try and truly support a club you dont see how that would affect their community involvement? More fans is more exposure, which is more revenues which is more money for the supported infrastructure of the club,(youth development)
Without free or unorganized play players lack creativity, confidence, and GREAT ball skills. Yes the need coaching, technical cleaning, etc. but free play is esential.
Geoff, coaches cannot teach creativity and intelligence. They can only nurture it and help develop it. More often than not coaches and adults hinder player development technically, tactically, and psychologically. In the US you just see physical development. MLS is physical and the EPL is the most physical. Futbol is not football or rugby!
nobody said coaches teach creativity, and in truth the players that have, do so without anyone showing them, they have an unique ability to look at something and see what most dont…free play facilitates that, coaches encourage that, if you have a coach that hinders that, then you dont have a coach, I encourage my players to weigh the risks and rewards of where they are on the field in any situation and allow them to fail or succeed based on their own decisions, you will never hear me tell a player not to dribble regardless of the situation, (we are U-10) Futbol is a physical sport, but the beauty of it is that you dont have to be physical to play it, if you can mix skill and physicality you get a hell of a player, but you can still get a hell of a player with just technique, just knowledge, but not just physical. I will say that the sport is not a physical as some might believe, but to say it is not physical makes me question how much you played, everyone hear loves messi I would assume though Im a Ronaldo fan, but watch his physicality when in weaving between tacklers, hell look at that beckham fellow for the galaxy..lol (likely the most physical player in the league) mixed with solid technique, If you are saying that futbol is not all about physicality then yes I agree, but dont say its just technique, That 12 minutes vid shows players that are superior not on technically but physically, the way they close the ball down to win it back or the tackling in recovery??? something that they likely learned from a coach mind you…..
If your reading these blogs then you’re mostly likely on your way to becoming a “good” coach. I’m no expert but I’m sure seeing results.
Point is MLS and EPL are far too physical. More emphasis needs to be placed on creativity and intelligence but everywhere you go coaches select players based on physical qualities ie. big, strong, fast. Are we creating a futbol team or football team?
Yes, smart coaches are essential but not “paid” coaches that have 10+ years doing the same wrong things year after year.
I agree that the States places a premium on that 6-2 190 pound player who can run all day fly in to a tackle and kill someone, vs the 5’8 kid will the loco first touch, but even Claudio Renya is trying to implement the correct approach, if you look at the shift in US youth soccer, your seeing more touches and less lines, places like where I am, smaller numbers on teams means more touches for the players and hopefully better instruction, I grew up in Norcal and am a product of the typical american coach who didnt know how to teach an athlete to be a soccer, so I have seen what most of us are not wanting for our kids, I use that experience so that my kids learn the foundations to play at a higher level when the time comes,
Kevin K says
I had a couple of thoughts after watching our U-23’s play Mexico off the field in that friendly and then our demise in the Olympic Qualifying. 1) We certainly have the talent as displayed vs. Mexico and 2) we don’t yet have the experience to do it under real pressure…yet. To shift from a defensive/counterattacking country to a one that plays possession soccer is going to have lots of setbacks because there is risk in playing that way. Your teams will make mistakes or panic back into long ball if their comfort level drops until it is so embedded it is just how they play. That isn’t going to happen in 1-2 years and it is not going to be easy in the U.S. as we believe winning is EVERYTHING, even for U-10s.
I think the one thing that stood out to me vs. El Salvador was our total lack of shape, especially after regaining the lead. Immediately, Adu and Shea should have shifted to holding roles to maintain triangles and deny ES space on the wings (where they seemed to have acres all day long). At U-20 I might expect it to stay wide open but U-23 players should be a bit more sophisticated. What’s been Michael Bradley’s biggest improvement since moving to Chievo? A total transformation on his positional discipline and not running around like a chicken with his head cut off as he did for years with the U.S. Stuart Holden (one of our best soccer brains) is a master at using positional sense to defend rather than hustle and tackles (although he does plenty of that as well).
Anyway, this will take patience. The Barca kids have this drilled into them from 7 years old while our kids suffer through AYSO and a local club team for the most part through high school. I would also wholeheartedly agree that street soccer, or at least lots of individual futzing about with the ball, is crucial. How can a kid expect to be a top player if he isn’t practicing all of the time and not just at traning sessions. How many “good” club players can’t even juggle a ball 25 times?
I saw Zidane interviewed once and they asked him why he thought he was so skillful. Of course, he played non-stop as a kid in the stree and he told them that after training at Cannes he would stay out for an hour or two on his own practicing. He simply practiced more than his teammates and wanted it more than his teammates.
Rob A says
I think you touch on critical point. How long have these U-23s been playing in this style? How long has Barca’s senior team? Several months, MAYBE, versus over a decade for Barca. The style, the mentality, is ingrained. It’s automatic. Even Barca’s patterns seem automatic. The speed of play and speed of thought AS A WHOLE is just greater than the opponents’.
Gary Kleiban says
Careful. No one is implying a National Team can have FCBs level of execution.
But you can absolutely play possession-centered, attractive, attacking, and winning futbol. The players selected must have the proper soccer DNA. The U23s style fell apart because too many players on the field were the wrong players.
You can not have Opara, Villafana, Jeffrey, Brek Shea’s on the pitch at the International level. They’ll ruin everything. And they did.
There really is nothing more to it than that.
This is not an educated guess, and it’s not some form of deductive logic. This is me knowing. No different than than me telling someone 2+2=4.
Agreed Gary. Interesting the Shea actually looked MORE out of place on a U-23 team trying to play possession-based soccer than he does on the full MNT. Every time he got the ball I felt myself cringe and inside my head – “he’s going to lose it” – and he almost always did.
To Geoff – the only point I agree with you on is the need for people – especially educated fans – to support the MLS by buying tickets and going to games. Would be great if we were vocal about what we wanted to see on the field too. Imagine if teams started getting booed at home every time they needlessly booted the ball long or sent yet another aimless cross into the box. Imagine if crowds cheered heartily for a good piece of skill or intelligent play – even if it occurred 40 yds from goal. You don’t have to imagine it – just watch La Liga and listen to the fans reaction. It’s a big reason why Spanish teams play the way they do, as Xavi for one has pointed out on a number of occassions.
Streetsoccer, playground soccer, pickup soccer, family backyard soccer, … whatever you want to call it … is absolutely 100% essential in developing top quality field players. So is lots of good quality training (technical and mental). So is lots and lots of solo practice (esp. juggling). It all goes together and I challenge anyone to provide a single example of a world class (field) player who did not have the benefit of all 3, in great quantities, from an early age.
Some math for thought: 10,000 hours of practice b/n the ages of 5-17 = > 16 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. That’s 7 days/week, more than 2 hours per day. It has to be fun. And when you’re a kid, listening to grown ups tell you what to do all the time gets pretty old. Playing sports with your friends doesn’t.
10,000 hrs of soccer before the age of 17-18 is a skewed formula. I understand it works in other (more academic) fields.
Even the top academy ‘grads’ in Europe/SA aren’t putting in 10,000 hrs.
Most ‘academy curriculums’ run about 5,000 hrs from u7/8 through u19.
Granted, I’m sure most of them are putting extra time in. But the reality is training 9/10 yr olds in a structured setting for 16 hrs a week is untenable.
David Edders says
Great commentary. There are so many BS ideas that have become accepted notions here in the USA. The idea that we (the USA) don’t have the players is nonsense! As you know the majority of FC Barca Academy players are from Catalonia and only a very few are foreign. Many individual states and probably the population pool in the LA area alone are bigger than all Catalonia. They just teach their kids to think on the field. Also, the idea that rigorous tactical work stifles creativity is nonsense. I think it was Churchill who said something about his best creative quotes were practiced long before he ever said them. Seriously, what youth coach focuses on system of play and tactics?
Should we teach kids to think before they kick or before they run David?
How does a creative kick and run look like? Maybe Stoke City playing under a Mozart concerto??
A promising first move by Caleb Porter getting Will Johnson from RSL, one of the few players in the league that I like.
I’ll be curious to see if he goes looking for any of his former recruits to fill specific roles. Guys like Anthony Ampaipitakwong, who was drafted into MLS and played for SJ before falling out of favor [then signing with Buriram United in Thailand’s Premier Leauge – and evidently starting from day 1].