The bottom line
1. We won 1 out of 4 games.
2. We were inferior in 3 out of 4. Yes, you heard right … IN·FE·RI·OR. Ghana, Germany, Belgium. Yes, we won the game vs Ghana, but we were inferior – that’s football. Don’t understand that? Sorry. The Portugal game? We were on par.
1. The only progress here is that we have a NT coach in Jurgen, that has been more outspoken on our f’d up system (not pertaining to youth) than any predecessor.
2. Unless US Soccer is willing to get a master like Bielsa, Klinsmann must continue.
3. Only a master can improve NT performance within this screwed up system we’re handicapped by (again, this is not about the youth).
4. The most a non-master can get out of this handicapped system is sustainment of NT performance.
5. Sustainment = being ‘competitive’ in WC group, or reaching round of 16, or getting lucky and making a quarterfinal. And not being a clear protagonist in matches.
6. Jurgen Klinsmann = sustainment + outspoken on the top level issues of the status quo. That second part, my friends is hugely important. Do not underestimate the influence that comes with being on the pulpit.
CONCACAF / MLS / Incumbents
1. After the first and second games of the group stage there was a campaign by high level incumbents – and their supporters – trying to use CONCACAF’s positive results to lift their “respect” level, and hence their relevance and reinforce their incumbency. After the US and Mexico got bounced (as usual, having accomplished absolutely nothing more than cycles past), silence.
2. After the first and second games of the group stage there was a campaign by the incumbents trying to give MLS credit for National Team results. After the US got bounced (as usual, having accomplished absolutely nothing more than cycles past), silence.
Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
1. On final match results, stop with the would’ve, could’ve, and should have. Every single team can say those. Just stop it, it makes you reek of novice.
2. For instance, speaking of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve … if Wondolowski had scored that sitter in the final moments of the game and beat Belgium, all of your opinions and indictments wouldn’t be what they are now. Being a flip-flop like that (instead of being capable of the bigger picture), my friends, makes you a hack.
3. If only Altidore didn’t get hurt … wtf is wrong with people? As if Altidore was Messi or something. Doesn’t matter! Yes, it’s possible the team might have functioned better according to plan, but stop with suggesting that would’ve significantly made up for the gap between us and opponents. And it certainly doesn’t matter in the grand scheme.
4. If only Beckerman had played, or Green played more, or Donovan, or blah blah blah … wtf is wrong with people? You don’t know what would’ve happened in matches. Things could have been worse! Doesn’t change the overarching principle that we’re not good enough.
5. On a positive front, at least I didn’t see any significant cries out for Diskerud. No hypothetical here, that would have made me insane.
One final note: For casual fans and spectators, I’m aware this “is just a game” for you guys – little more than a pastime. So it’s all good, knock yourselves out with all the BS. But I’d like to see American soccer media pros and perceived journalists, along with those aspiring to be such, held to another standard.
As usual, great post Gary. I don’t claim to know a ton about soccer, but I know my fair share and more than the average “lover of soccer every 4 years”. It’s funny to listen to some of the comments I heard from people during the US games. At least some of my old teammates get it when we were exchanging texts back and forth during the games. The graph pretty much says it all!
Gary Kleiban says
I think the current generation of players gets it a little more.
Doesn’t mean they totally get, or that they can teach it, but they certainly aren’t as lame as “the media” or “the casuals” seem to be.
Juan de Dios says
Having Lalas as the main voice for US on ESPN it’s the worst thing…The guy played with one of the worst NAtional teams ever and now he feels he was a phenomenal player, that guy couldn’t have played today…he was bad…but hey he “played” in italy….
Bam!!! Great post! Thanks for holding the system accountable and putting the statistics up to prove it.
Gary Kleiban says
Stats are a very dangerous thing though, and must be treated with care. 🙂
I got upset every time I heard about “effort” of USA. There were media pieces of the “fighting American spirit” and so on. That and a bag of beans wont’ get you far, just a lot of gas. We lucked our way into the Round of 16. Got there by a razor’s edge. If we performed like Costa Rica, it would be seventh heaven. But reality is USMNT is not dynamic. Very average squad pushed on by motivation and effort.
Gary Kleiban says
I’m glad more and more people are realizing this Armando.
Lots of good stuff here, especially the piece about Klinsmann on his pulpit AND hiring a MASTER. I mentioned to a few people that when Guardiola went on sabbatical, Gulati should have backed up a Brinks truck full of money to get him. Would he have taken it? Perhaps not, but you won’t win if you don’t strive to be (and get) the best.
Which brings me to the comments about the MLS and its supporters – Gary, you are spot on. MLS is nice league and all that, but the real innovation and progress is coming OUT OF EUROPE. Be that EPL, La Liga, or the Bundesliga (Serie A is lagging of late IMHO) – it’s all there. No need for proof, although the current friendlies should be setting off red flags and alarms everywhere (Man U, 7-0 over LA Galaxy…hello???!!!).
I am sick and tired of hearing how good it is for DeAndre Yedlin or Matt Besler to stay in the MLS – for what?? To learn at the hands of people that learned from people that DIDN’T GET IT? I love guys like Dempsey and Bradley, but if you aren’t honing your chops over in Europe, then you are getting left behind. I was all for Klinsmann’s use of German-American players, because they are playing in Europe, whether on a top team or mid-level, it doesn’t matter IMHO. Dempsey and Bradley leaving Europe was a white flag to me.
I have a vested interest in this – I coach at the youth level. I’ve stated it before, and I’ll say it again – I played the sport and I sucked. I was low level and trained by low level people that had a marginal understanding of the sport. And like an alcoholic at AA, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So I train – as a coach – to get better. I’ve trained with first team coaches from Valencia, Club Brugge, Uruguyan National Team players. I read everything and ANYTHING I can to stay on top of the changes in the sport. One notable example is the GTM often cited by Mourinho (I coach girls, injury prevention is high on my list) – most of the coaches around me are puzzled by it…which shows that the problem isn’t just up top…IT’S DOWN HERE.
And I’m WAY down, guys. I don’t coach academy. I don’t coach elite. I don’t coach premier…I coach mid-level kids (although some are quite good). If you apply the 80/20 rule, then 10% of the kids suck, 10% of the kids are elite, and the other 80% are MID LEVEL. I’m not a total loser of a coach – we’ve won titles and tournaments, and I’ve had kids leave for ELITE teams – so I know I can coach. For lack of any better terminology, I’ve tried to instill more “possession” oriented tactics, with a degree of success…but I could do better.
In fact, I feel passionately that we need a revolution…a grass roots revolution. Your coaches at the mid-level are largely “parent” coaches – some have played, some have not, but nearly ALL do NOT know the latest trends in the game vis-a-vis coaching, training, tactics, psychosocial, whatever. The Claudio Reyna document was like the little bit of whipped cream on top of a hot chocolate – not enough to warm you up…
If you want to change the mindset…the culture…then you need to do it down here. I’m all alone guys, and almost waving the white flag – i simply don’t have any resources at my disposal to effect positive change. No one to mentor, not enough funds to train with anyone, and hiring a training company usually gets me someone competent, but not entirely on board with my goals.
Gary – what you guys do with Chivas, etc. is great. I believe we would see much more accelerated advancements made if the coaches at my level were creating a more “Euro-centric” atmosphere. If the 80% are “gegenpressing”, then once they get to high school…they all will (ok, I’m simplifying quite a bit, but hopefully you understand).
Apologies for the rant…I think we’re all on board with this post. How we improve the status quo can be executed on various levels. I’m not in that rarified air to be able to change it up top…but I’m in the trenches, willing to do what it takes to make it happen down low…just need MORE (and more coaches willing to share, compare, mentor, work together, etc.).
Gary Kleiban says
Do we need a seismic shift at the grassroots level?
The problem is that the necessary change WILL NOT HAPPEN, unless the there is a seismic shift in policy at the professional soccer level.
Bear with me …
Government policy (the law), steers the incentives of a people, and hence drives the systems and organizations that are formed.
For instance, socialist policy will drive the formation of different ways of doing business than free market policy.
Know what I mean?
In soccer, we have a Federation whose current professional soccer policy is driving what we are all experiencing at the youth level.
This is why I applaud Klinsmann for his criticisms that are aimed at our pro soccer.
Oh yes, I do agree – I’m just worried the change up top doesn’t EVER happen. And while we aren’t Brazil, the recent re-appointment of Dunga is perplexing and probably a little unnerving for the football community there…if they can’t get it “right”, how can we?
Presumably, Klinsmann makes it to the next World Cup, and let’s say for argument’s sake, the results are the same (we get to the knockout rounds). Even if he gets to the quarters, I’d give him what – 5 more years?
Long time – maybe too long, I fear.
I agree with several of your observations regading US MNT.
I would add we knew the group. I think the results of being on par with just 1 of the 4 teams was expected. The results of getting through the group was not expected so thats where there was some perception of success.
Concacaf- Mexico and Costa Rica- I can appreciate some reasons for enthusiasm..not empty IMO. In the end for Mexico same old dissapointment.
I’d shine on a light on all of the America’s if you want to really be critical. Chile and Columbia indeed had bright moments and reasons for optimism but if we look at results disappointedin the edn.
Brazil..It was interesting how the Western media wanted to so badly to believe yet even when in group play they played so poorly. Once Germany smashed them some objectivity returned to the analysis .
I thought the Brazil Chile game was dispicable..a complete waste. No creativity, simply brutal and late challenges and very little mental fortitude on either side…distracted as one would see in a U-15 game
Even Argentina playing with the best player in the world..maybe he’s tired but really should it be much different than many of the other world class players. An embarassment of riches…Higuain, DiMaria ( indeed the injury was a shame), Lavezzi ..etc playing in one of teh weakest groups. In 7 games they score just 8 goals. Their best player through tournament may have been Mascherano…what’s that saying??
Playing on South American soil I would say the America’s especially South America as a whole were a major disappointment not only in results but style..yes some of this colored by expectations.
As for future..Klinsmann is probably the best we can get right now so I would stick with him
Maybe Bielsa would be an upgrade. You now switch cultures again going to a South American who as far as I know has worked primarly in that environment alone
But if the US would continue to look for international help I’d see if Guus Hiddink has any gas left in tank after 2016 with Dutch.
He has proven he can move across different cultures and get results..Russia, Korea, Australia..and also understands one of the best youth development programs in the world too.
I’m not sure Guus Hiddink or any other coach will make much than a marginal difference as Klinsi is doing. The core of the problem is the group of players now U15 – U22 that will make up the 2018 USMNT. Where are they playing, what style, are they getting time, are the quality footballers being noticed and developed or just the athletes, are the ones on youth soccer and college in the right environment to take the national team to next level? If not, Guus Hiddink is window dressing.
Juan de Dios says
The core problem comes at every soccer association at every state…who is in charge of that? How are they developing the kids? etc etc… Lots of U20 an below are now mexican-americans that are actually playing in mexico but i believe there is talent here but we need better coaching. focus on technique, correct and have patience…
Jorge T says
I think the graph demonstrates the risk of humiliation, or at least not advancing, with a lesser goalkeeper than Tim Howard. would clear, no-feel-good failure have ultimately been better for national team progress? Howard’s great performance papered over a lot of gaps in my view (of course he was not the only factor in the outcome of any game, but Belgium likely would have been a useful brutal shock to our program, if we had failed like brazil did against germany)
Coach S says
I agree with this analysis 100%, and have just a few, slightly off topic, points to add:
-Klinsmann had the balls to keep Donovan home.
-Bradley, who I usually think highly of, sucked A$$.
-The young guys, like Yelden and Green, are the future. I’d be surprised if Yelden doesn’t get called over the pond. Which would be good.
-One thing I would agree with American media is that our soccer culture IS changing. Are we still behind? Yes But are we headed in the right direction, albeit slower than we’d like? YES!
Yedlen and Green possibly could be the future. Four years is a long time. Injuries, no playing time, failure to develop, new blood coming in, possibly new coach, who retires and who stays, learning lessons from 2014 WC and making improvement (not just change).
The most important thing for USA and any national team is who is in the pipeline, coaching, opportunities for young players, and the system the younger generation are currently in. A lot of countries are machines in this respect. USA machine is inconsistent and often looks like sand in the gears making sausage but at times an old reliable steam machine.
There are small advances in “media” conversation but we have a long way to go.
I’m anxious for the time when the first question on mainstream sports regarding soccer isn’t “Should Americans care about socccer” or Arguments “Has soccer arrived in America”..etc
Rather..if we could have just have scores given and some tactics discussed… wouldn’t this be nice. Lets let our younger players hear some intelligent discussion about tactics .
Everytime a baseball score is given in sports center its not prefaced by an apology or rationalization about who cares and who doesn’t. ( Even though there may be fewer than 100 people who do who are < 30 yo)
I'd also like the media and Americans to understand that simply sending "our best athletes" into the game would not change everything? The Lebron's or Calvin Johnsons..etc playing soccer are not the anwser. This is not going to develop more creative #10's in the US. Yet thats all I hear post Belgium with Lukaku. Didn't Mirales kill us too?
Finally spend less time talking about "diving"..yeah i'd like to see less. I'd like to see less time wasting. I could do without the stretcher followed by the Lazurus ..but it is what it is. The same could be said about the conversation about the justice of penalty kicks.
These topics are raised because it includes the general public who have limited knowledge but at some point can't we move the conversation along to something more in depth and get off the cocktail party level conversation
Hockery reference…Do we really need to talk about "the role of fighting in hockey" every single time it happens..etc
Coach S says
I honestly don’t have a problem with commentators and analysts whom are discussing aspects of the game(s). Most have played at higher levels than I, and I am smart enough to know when one is off base and I can simply disagree.
Also remember, most viewers are sheeple and need to be told what to think. So maybe they need to be told how great soccer is and that it’s worth taking seriously.
Also, I’d argue that soccer is more popular in America now than ever before, and that is a great thing! Progress…(period)
Regarding dives, time wasting, and the like, it’s part of the game and will always be.
Bradley sucked because he was played out of position–not sure why JK insisted in playing him in a more advanced role when he can’t manage it any better than he could in 2010.
Coach S says
Bradley sucked because he sucked.
Technical ability and effort should not be dependent on where one is standing on the pitch.
Unfortunately, the USMNT is unable to play Total Football, so our players are not interchangeable pieces. I’m not a huge MB fan but he was certainly more effective without the burden of creativity and pressure closer to goal.
A positive among the mostly negative results is that the team actually plays better football than in years past. They can now connect more than 2-3 passes and don’t usually just kick it long.
I missed the Ghana game due to my son playing a game in regionals in NM at the same time as the game. At times during the Portugal match, I thought we may have turned a corner. Germany (clearly the best team) didn’t kill us nearly as badly as expected, so I still held out hope. Alas, the Belgium game was a very rude awakening.
Klinsi has done a pretty good job with the player pool he currently has. Many of these guys need to cycle out and be replaced with hopefully better, more dynamic young players. I think they are out there.
I hear you loud and clear but at the end of the day the World Cup was a relative form of success. Yes, we only won 1 out of 4 games but you could also say we W1 D1 L2 which doesn’t sound that bad, it depends whether you are a cup 1/2 full or 1/2 empty. Yes, we are far behind others in terms of talent and club soccer but we’ve come a long way. Yes, we still have a very long way to go but we’ve made progress as a country. Development-wise, profile-wise we’re better. Yeah, we’ve still got massive problems but those will be ironed out in time, just not as quickly as many single pyramid RIGHT NOW people would like.
Single pyramid right now person? what exactly is that? the team I watched played about the same as the team in 2010 about the same as the team in 2006 about the same as the team in 2002 about the same….. ZERO PLAN TO OUR PLAY!
The game is about retaining the ball whether you intend on being a counter strike or possession style team. We can be a counter striking, hustle type team all we want- but even teams that play that way are able to play keep away when they want- move pieces around the chess table. My God it was maddening watching us pass the ball 3 times and either lump it up the field or lose it altogether. If you watch the Spaniards and the Germans and the Italians play the game the are 8 meters apart from one another, everywhere on the field almost all the time- knight to king 4. bishop takes rook. This spacing is trained into the way they move from youth. pawn takes pawn.
When you watch Americans play we string a few passes together and tend to stand linearly on the field- hoping against hope a few players are of like mind and able to combine in a maddening push up the field. Please. We are absolutely light years behind. There was no relative success. If Tim Howard doesn’t play out of his mind we are total afterthoughts in that tournament.
We can pat ourselves on our back all we want for surviving the group of death and I will be the first to say I am glad we did and stood up screaming like a mad man when Dempsey scored against Ghana and Portugal but we are not even close. Now Costa Rica? They played with a plan. The Mexican’s? They were far for adept than us and displayed a far higher IQ than our players.
And then to boot some people are condemning Bruce Arena for speaking the truth about how his LA GALAXY got totally drubbed by United the other day? Please.
The revolution needs to be televised.
We’ve progressed. Yes, we still have problems but our system has improved, still behind the best BUT better. Come on lets not be negative for the sake of being negative. This team is better than 06 and 10
Hard to say for sure. My perception is that more international teams are pressing without the ball, and we are still unable to retain it much less break the pressure without a long ball. When we get decent centerbacks who can handle the ball and have a decent soccer IQ I’ll believe we’ll have something to build on. And until we develop an actual #10, how much change is it, really? No USMNT coach is going to want to play anyone at that spot until they can handle the job, but look at the comments re Surf Cup. Where is the team that has developed a #10 there?
Noland. I don’t do negative for the sake if negative. Until we can dictate the terms of a game against non CONCACAF competition nothing changes. The best is not my metric. Belgium is not the best. Ghana us not the best. They owned the WHOLE game. If Germany wanted to score 4 and needed to score 4- they would have. If you saw things to be overly hopeful about I am pleased for you- I saw the same thing as 4 years ago as 8 years ago. I heard the commentators talking about US heart and strength and speed and bleh bleh- not tactical acumen or skill- i heard them talk about all the things that are always talked about when we play on the world stage. I echo R2D Dad. Give me 2 top notch center backs and let’s go from there.
Rob A says
Is there any talent in the pipeline that can be held up as an example of what we want from a future American player? Or is it more of the technically limited and/or non-world-class soccer IQ type of fare?
@Tim and @Rob A — I think the two of you are getting to the most important point of the 2014 WC. The WC is done and over. The most important thing is what has the USMNT and levels below it started doing for the current U15 – U23 crop that will be the core of 2018?
Where are these players playing, who is coaching, style of play, are they getting opportunities on first team, are they going to Europe, are they operating someplace with gold level standards? “The kids are alright” as the song goes.
Countries like Germany (and several others) provide the right environment on auto-pilot. They are machines. I don’t think anyone can look honestly at the USA and say the kids are alright.
Guus Hiddinik can do his best, but he is as good as the on field talent. USSDA was a change as someone said, but not sure it’s done anything meaningful. Four years to 2018 is not that far and we don’t have a system and opportunities to take the next step. So again, we will do ok in group stage and be gone by Round of 16. It will take 2 or 3 WC cycles (assuming we can take care of the kids) to get to next level. And I have my doubts.
Agree @Kana. The USSDA club we are at does not look at technique or tactics to choose players for Academy. All you need to do is look and see they use a ruler and weight scale. I’ve also know most of the kids for years and know for certain that’s the case. This unfortunate scenario is repeated many times at different clubs. So the U15 -23 cycle for 2018 is already behind Germany and others because of our backward / myopic mentality at youth ranks and the other problems in our system.
Yes, true. The U15 – U23 age group is not being served properly by USSF down to the youth club and coach. And neither is U15 and below. At least Mexico is trying, have better opportunities, and id technical and tactical players — but their inability to get to quarters shows how difficult a task it is. It’s not debatable that USA is behind Mexico in terms of what it offers promising youth talent.
My logic is that if Mexico is having a hard time of it, we are literally several WC cycles away from doing anything. But that assumes the system from top to bottom starts to actually do something to get us there. I just can’t see it happening. Youth clubs care about winning, college is a joke, not enough opportunities outside college, not enough players going overseas, awful coaching, and so on.
A problem so large with so many stovepipes is almost worth starting from scratch.
The ray of light I see comes from Futsal. The players that put in enough time with a quality futsal coach are technically much better on the ball. I see a lot of small, quick creative players that benefit in this environment so there is hope that as our general soccer coaching evolves these Futsal players will rise to the top. I’d like to see young boys 11-14 play Futsal instead of 11v11 soccer because it eliminates exposure to a lot of bad tackles from poor players/teams that embrace the physical/kick-and-run game. There is so little benefit from most soccer coaches I don’t see the downside. But please don’t overestimate how Mexico is doing. The are inviting US-grown hispanics to Mexico because our health and development up here is superior to what they have down there. And Mexicans love direct play and the long ball, so unless you’re at an Liga MX academy team the coaching is just as likely to be as bad or worse thank it is up here.
I think Kana, your point is good an valid. More an more it seems US clubs are linking with clubs over seas. I know of some in the Philly area that are linking with clubs in NY which are linking with clubs in Holland allowing kids to train with Dutch Masters- Rembrandt’s and van Gogh’s. Hopefully more and more teachers will learn the ways and more and more kids will beginning playing at a tactically higher level and the effects will trickle across the generation(s) despite our attempts to be taught that the game is the greatest teacher.Funny how I used to think that then you watch little Dutch Kids play and you realize, “oh, wow, that’s really impressive.”
Hailing from Canada, doing occasional work for the Whitecaps, and attending tournaments in the US quite frequently, I can say with a degree of conviction that neither the US OR Canada has any success in the international game coming anytime soon. The tactics are archaic, primitive, and sad. There’s still so many teams playing kick & chase and achieving success that coaches like myself who eschew kick & chase and want their teams to play “good” football end up having disappointed players and parents who see awful football getting good results. It’s a LONG uphill battle we face and thinking the US did well at this World Cup will only delay that further. Ghana was vastly superior against the US but had no end product, but hey, the vaunted USMNT WON SO WHO CARES RIGHT?
Precisely my point and well said. My U14G team plays a very awkward possession game and we can beat teams flighted much higher than us, simply because they play “kick and chase”.
Now, I call the team’s possession “awkward” because I’m a coach that was taught the wrong way, so I learned the possession game by watching games and learning from other coaches. Sort of like a person that doesn’t speak English, learns by watching TV shows…it’s usually grammatically incorrect and sounds strange.
Too much kick and chase at the clibs, academies, ODP, ID2, and national teams. When that changes, there won’t be any choice but to change.
Seriously – SERIOUSLY – I am surprised some enterprising young Spanish coaches haven’t come to America to make a killing as a youth trainer. I last played more than 30 years ago and there are STILL British trainers everywhere.
I say hackneyed because it’s my interpretation – a coach that was taught wrong, and learned possession soccer by watching
Yes. Yes. Yes. You’ve spoken exactly to the heart of the matter. I put my 2cents into the conversation on the coaching structure sight. I reiterate the sense of responsibility I feel now that the veil moves from my eyes daily. We are light years away and while I sometimes miss the ignorance I once displayed I know I need to continue, ‘being a voice in the wilderness.’ So much to learn. So much to learn. Thank you Gary and Brian.
Curious on your thoughts re: Diskerud and insanity. Given the lack of a real #10, was there any chance he could have grown into that role during the tournament? The lack of a backup for Jozy as a replacement target man would seem to have encouraged another formation with perhaps an actual #10. We flailed when going with two up top. It seemed once Jozy went down JK was scrambling the rest of the tournament–not the sign of someone who was completely prepared for all contingencies.
I decided to paste my comment in here from the coaching site shortly after Tim Howard saved us from the humiliation we most likely needed. I am eagerly and patiently awaiting the next 3four3 blog article. I wonder if it will focus on the WC winner, a specific strategy employed by a manager or how a special player came to the fore to lead their team. Or maybe the article will discuss the misnomer that the US had a successful World Cup. A 1-1-2 record and being jostled around the field in 3 of the games does not engender me with any feeling that we have improved. The notion by some of how the US imposed our will at certain points in the games against Belgium or Germany is a fallacy. Those two teams were completely content to defend and what is even more disheartending to me is that after the Germany goal, when the Germans were likely completely content to sit on a 1 goal lead, we STILL could not find, keep and/or retain the ball. I am at a total loss for what I saw from the USMNT. Yes we played decent against the disembodied and dis-spirited Portuguese. I saw moments of individual brilliance (Dempsey goal against Ghana) and bravery ( Bradley running for miles and miles) and stellar play from individuals ( Howard and I have to say by J. Jones who I tend to think is emblematic for what is wrong with the game stateside) but generally I think the National team’s play was dreck by comparison to the Mexicans or Costa Ricans. We are still light years away.
I wholeheartedly concur with your assessment of JK, and was incensed to hear MLS fanboys (by far the most ignorant soccer “fans” on this planet) call for his head for simply leaving Donovan off the roster. But it’s beyond frustrating that Jurgen Klinsmann’s railing against the system seems to fall on deaf ears within his own locker room. He routinely preaches that his players MUST continuously challenge themselves by attempting to ply their trade in better leagues. So what happens? Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, upon confronting a modicum of adversity, hightail it back to MLS. Omar Gonzalez eschews potential Prem and Bundesliga suitors and signs a DP contract with the Galaxy. One of the, seemingly, few true benefits of this past WC was the supposition that personnel from European teams appeared impressed with some of our players. And what happens in the aftermath of learning that Matt Besler- who did have an impressive Cup and does have more ability than the typical MLSer- genuinely is an object of interest to a number of top flight Euro clubs? He, along with Graham Zusi, signs a DP contract to remain in our joke of a league. This “curiosity” of teams in Europe in the World Cup’s wake has an expiration date. It will be another four years before Euro leagues have any interest in MLS players again.
It is very refreshing to see so many of our most talented teens bypass MLS and college for Europe and Latin America at such a young age. I sincerely hope this recent and developing trend continues…a hundredfold.
Coach S says
What I believe to be at the heart of this issue:
-You cannot play a tactical game without technical ability. We are technically inferior to the creme dela creme.
-USMNT lacks depth.
IMHO, things would be markedly different if these two areas were remedied. Thus is our job here on Main Street.
How does this relate to the OP? Not sure really. Maybe I’m saying I disagree, and that change must happen at our (grassroots) level if we are to have change at National Team level.
I was also surprised by how many people I spoke too don’t realise that you can be inferior and win like vs Ghana.
I can’t believe people are talking about progress for me the US national team has pretty much stood still in terms of coming to a World Cup and dominating matches.
Also the younger generations are more savvy. I asked my players who they thought the most influential player was for either US or Belgium. Most players said Lukaku as he changed the game when he came on, parents that I spoke with said Tim Howard! Who had a good game obviously but not the most influential!
re: Praise for Howard. Is duly deserved but seriously it’s not a good thing that he had to put on his cape? Great individual performance but bad reflection on team defense. Embarrassing.
Arvel….The fact that Tim Howard had to save so many shots wasn’t so much that we had poor team defending…..it was more that we couldn’t keep possession of the ball for more than 5 seconds.
If you can’t keep the ball when you have it, your GK is going to be in for a LONG day, no matter how good your team defending is. Our midfield was so inept and keeping possession of the ball it was embarassing!
How far away are we from developing a James Rodriguez? Will the American academy system even or ever allow this kind of player to blossom? From my experience and what I see happening in the younger age groups, I say no. American coaches will not allow a 14 year old James Rodriguez to become a 17 year old James Rodriguez and then a 22 year old world class player. I unfortunately just don’t see it happening.
Back to the point of things needing to change at the professional side first. Is the MLS really relying on Dempsey and Bradley to inspire the current 10 year olds? Good grief, then we’re in real trouble!! I believe I read the MLS is the 49th ranked league in the world. Can this be true?
12th as these folks recon:
In 2010 they were ranked 24th. Of course, this is based on a bunch of assumptions and metrics you may not agree with.
US is 12th (I think) in FIFA as a national team but IFFHS has MLS 49th best league in the world.
Juan de Dios says
Great Post! You can write how I think! hahahah. Well This is my 3rd year living in the US. My wife is full American (well she has german and English in her family) but anyways one thing I can’t understand is this what does America stands for? What kind of Nation this is? I think that’s How you need to look at it and imprint that into your teams, a philosophy… America to me means, POWER, BRAVE, STRENGTH, GO GET IT, INNOVATION, CREATIVE, RESOURCES, BEAUTIFUL and more….So Why not have a playing philosophy with this definitions??? Why we settle with: MEDIOCRE, SCARED, basically How the National team played for the most part in the WC… People celebrating and posting “Proud of the US team after Brazil got defeated 7-0??!! Just because the US lost 1-0 but never anyone on tv educating the viewers and telling them that there were different circumstances (for example), Germany played at a much slower pace vs US and still DOMINATED the entire game, Germany didn’t need to win, coaches are good buddies, etc etc… I love the I believe chant, but it should be like this I BELIVE THAT WE WILL SHOW WE WANT TO WIN!!! there’s a HUGE difference between wanting to win and actually doing something to trey to win. Everyone wants to win!! But not everyone shows they want to win.
For anyone … from another post
” One notable example is the GTM often cited by Mourinho (I coach girls, injury prevention is high on my list) ”
What is GTM
I posted that.
Global Training Method – it’s a methodology that states a coach should integrate all four pillars (physical, tactical, technical, and psychological) of soccer into each exercise.
The context in which I use it manifests itself primarily in warm ups. No running without the ball, no sprints, no cone dashing, no plyometrics, etc.
All warmups are done WITH a ball, and done in the context of an actual game. By reducing the space and time in which the player(s) operates, forces them to execute actions faster, builds quickness and improves speed of play.
If you are coaching at the youth level, then you have very limited time to actually train. The typical youth coach in America has kids running constantly, and by the time the kids actually have the ball at their feet, you’ve wasted a good portion of the training session.
There is a great presentation from the FFA (Australia) on the web that analyzed the fitness levels of teams in the 2010 World Cup, and it pointed out that teams with the highest fitness levels were not necessarily the best. Australian teams tend to focus on conditioning, and its prevalent at the youth level (this is THEIR analysis, NOT MINE), yet there is very little success at the highest levels because their technical abilities lag. The conclusion was that implementing the GTM at the youth level would help to accelerate technical proficiency at a higher level.
Hard to say if it’s true – I do it to prevent injuries (the data is very strong in support of GTM). However, if most teams waste time running sprints and jogging (which I see all the time), then an opportunity to get more technical proficiency is lost.
Thanks RJ. Funny how I sort of already knew about this but not the name. I’m creating a small Development Academy and training younger kids. Having watched Club drills for two years now … and all the problems … it’s not hard to do better at the younger stages. Tragically parents have no clue why smaller is better.
We often have a small group training in a corner … while the HS teams spend time running all the time. Then they watch at times and get a kick as these much younger kids are doing things that some of them can’t do very well.
We do a bit of jogging to warm up … like the kereoke run WITH THE BALL, then do it sideways WITH THE BALL and other creative ways to move. ALWAYS WITH THE FUCKING BALL !!! And to see the HS coaches not realize what is actually going on kills me every time.
We do the 4v1 rondo ( the 3four3 way) and my kids are 10. And the coaches still don’t notice that they actually have more balanced feet and a better touch than 80% of their teens.
I don’t say anything but it’s everywhere.
SO WE ARE STILL 50 YEARS FROM TRULY BEING ABLE TO COMPETE A WC LEVEL!
Dino Zoff says
I read recently that Barca kids don’t start conditioning until U16 … all kids up until then always train with the ball …this is very important.
Many of our coaches have NO clue.
I was watching the Academy teams at Surf Cup this weekend.
Anyways, the thread is about the WC but that inevitably leads to the player pipeline. Watching the Academy teams, I didn’t see too much quality on track for pushing the bar. First touch was lacking, don’t settle ball quickly, majority of passes not crisp and on the ground, play was at a frenetic tempo and limited composure as a result, players not understanding movement into gaps or passes into space, lots of players with head down charging forward oblivious to passing, more physical matches versus a tactical matches, woeful fullback play from a few teams (whack the ball up-field, no building from the back), keepers routinely booting the ball rather than try to build from his back line, over dribbling from forwards and didn’t understand movement into pockets or behind defenders, one coach in particular (the host club) was prototypical joy stick coach . . . tried to control every play . . . . didn’t provide tactically meaningful advice . . . I think he made players lose confidence and second guess instead of letting the game teach them and he mentor them along. I was unimpressed by the Academy team play. I expected more. I admit I’m comparing to what I see in Europe or South American academy players, but have to remind myself “this is not those places”.
I saw no real difference in quality in what they call the “Gold” bracket, which was a level down from USSDA. No noticable in coaching either. The only real difference was player size. For example, the host club had very big players on Academy U16 and clearly smaller ones on the Gold bracket division. There were a few of the Gold bracket players who looked to me to have real quality. Movement, timing, understanding how to play the position and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, there were good teams (coached well) and individually good players, but as a whole, I don’t see where USSDA is a step above the rest. I definitely see a difference in player quality for MLS-aligned academies, but at club level, its inconsistent.
In summary: majority of players in USSDA don’t understand how to play their position, how it relates to the larger team game, and coaching has a long way to go even for USSDA clubs . . . they still don’t get it that technique and tactics and smarts are better long term characteristics than physicality.
Its things like above why I don’t see Academy making any real progress in pushing the bar. Either kids her lack quality (which I don’t believe) or it’s coaching and lack of proper player id (which I think is the issue). For these factors, system problems we’ve discussed, and what I saw this weekend (which I’m sure is microcosm of larger USSDA clubs) – I see nothing in 2018 other than some new names and faces but same inferior football on the horizon.
Uninvited Company says
I am almost certain that the teams you saw at Surf Cup were actually the second teams from the USDA clubs, as the USDA regulations require that clubs get special dispensation to play in anything other than the regular USDA season, USDA showcase (annually in December), and the USDA playoffs. In my admittedly rather limited experience, this is both rarely requested, and rarely granted. DC United’s USDA First Team U18s did play in an international tournament (in The Netherlands, perhaps?) a couple of years ago, but I think that was pretty unusual.
However, many USDA clubs have second teams for both their U18 and U16 sides, which often do participate in major tournaments, such as CASL, Disney Showcase, and Dallas Cup. From what I have seen, which is four different USDA sides, there is a pretty big gap between their first and second teams. The gap is even larger in terms of tactical awareness than it is on the technical side, typically.
The place to see some of the best USDA talent would have been at the USDA finals on July 17th and 19th in Carson, CA. I was not there, so I can’t judge as to the longer term potential of any of those specific players.
I do know that there are some players in the USDA system with excellent technical ability, but as Gary has pointed out frequently on this site, most are not on par with players in other countries of a similar age with respect to soccer IQ and tactical awareness/ability. And, as has also been discussed often here, that gap tends to widen rather than shrink once they head off to college.
I was at Surf Cup (live in SD). At least on the Surf side, it was in fact the U16 Academy team. Can’t speak to any of other teams.
I watched two USSDA games. There were some nice players but I think they were more athletes than having quality tactical understanding. I don’t know coaching tactics of the teams, so not fair for me to judge there. However, I saw quite a few players who clearly didn’t belong on Academy from technical perspective. For example, a left fullback regularly passing with his laces and resulted in poor passes bouncing around or to other team. I also saw over eagerness from a lot of players to go foward or keep the ball too long and bypass an easy pass to retain possession. One of the teams I saw seemed to have tactic to play long balls from the back and were overly defensive (e.g., fullbacks never pushed foward, back line stayed at top of 18-yard box (which created large gaps between midfield and opend them up to counter).
In line with my way of thinking – we’re not developing the kids at the lower levels the right way.
Truthfully, if US Soccer wants to fix it, get the youth level coaches up to snuff ASAP. You won’t get an army of enough people with experience to do it, you have to get the layman aligned to it.
Horst Wein will fix most of the problems between U10 and U6. Believe it or not the fundamental failure IMO is at this age group. SSG. SSG. SSG. Kids are not forced to problem solve well enough. The proper deployment of these games builds the proper skills and thought structure upon which tactical understanding can be built. Funino us the starting point. Many youth clubs throughout Europe have been employing his or variations if his concepts.
You are spot on Joiliejoel! I have tweeked a version of Wein’s game … its much better and it’s amazing what happens to kids that play this. Basically it incorporates everything that is needed … allows them to learn naturally which is in fact the only way to learn this part of the game.
Kids do drills and then full blown games which is totally idiotic. I’m talking U7 – U10. Because they never kick the ball around for fun or do small sided games on their own they must be made to experience this even if they don’t realize it. As well prioritizing the “keep away” aspect of this game over acquiring goals is paramount.
My favorite quotes … my own –
In the rush to play all these games … no one is actually learning how to play soccer.
Master keep-away first and you will have all the goals you want later !
The sad truth is that as I am teaching young kids this part of the game it’s obvious that at every level above them I see older kids that should be doing the same training. They never figured it out and it sure ain’t going to happen in 11 v 11.
During and after the WC, my nonsoccer friends started asking me questions as to what is holding the US back.
First came my disclaimer. Despite what we constantly hear from the idiot pundits is, “our best athletes don’t play soccer”. Which I tell them is complete BS.
The primary reason, I said, is that the youth structure in this country by and large, sucks. Decades behind the rest of the world. And that even our most talented young players are not getting the proper programming (coaching.)
We aren’t developing enough intelligent, technical players. And the ones that are good are largely falling through the cracks.
And let’s be honest, how many serious, committed ballers are there out there. Players that eat, sleep breathe and shit footy. That are willing to become true students of the game and willing to train 5-6 days a week consistently?
The older my son gets (16 now) the more disillusioned I become. Actually, disgusted is more appropriate. Nearly all of the college coaches I encounter grew up with kickball, coach kickball and recruit kickballers.
At times I think why not just go have him trial for some pdl, usl pro or NASL team and see what happens.
I’m all for higher education. (And he could still get his education anyway on the side.)
If he isn’t good enough (then again, I have little faith in talent id) then why bother with college soccer? Unless there’s some monetary benefit?
I’m sorry, but if a 16/17 yr old is taking 3 touches to settle a ball…how the hell can they be considered a quality player? Not to mention horrible decision making.
Send him abroad sir. Try a school football exchange. Germany Italy France Spain. Send him abroad. The faster your kid gets international experience the better. There are plenty of legit school exchange or football exchange programs. Gonna cost ya but feasible- half year or full year. I could care less about MLS- if one if my kids displayed genuine and I mean genuine love of the game I’m sending him over to Europe on exchange. Then you will know what kind of player you have. He will get some top experience be prepared for the day if he decides to try and live a dream.
Thanks. I’m familiar with Richmond International in England. (Leeds) I’m sure there are others. Genova International Soccer School in Italy. Although that’s an independent academy…not affiliated with any university.
Money is an issue. More importantly, from what I’ve heard though is that it is very tough for a non-EU player to get a work permit. Foreign player restrictions and some associations levy a huge tax on teams with foreign players. So in that sense the field is not level.
When I think of USA doing well in WC through player quality, not effort, we have a long way to go with major fixes to our system over decades.
Style of play and coaching quality / qualification is a major issue that will never be uniform in a country as big as USA. Realistically, doing that for USSDA and MLS academy clubs is doable but need US Soccer to be much more proactive and influential in pushing it. But MLS is not aligned to USSF and doesn’t see itself as chartered to improve the national pool and overall development across USA.
We complain about college soccer, but forget college is first and foremost about getting an education. That’s why it’s a less than optimal incubator for producing elite or world class players. And since soccer is an international sport, it compounds and magnifies how poorly our system is structured to produce elite or world class players. Stop blaming college. Their job is not to produce these sort of players. They don’t have the infrastructure, finances, coaching, scouting, incentive, network, level of competition.
College soccer is an unfair scapegoat for a seriously flawed system. But it’s all we got, so they get the blame. US Soccer and MLS need to redirect their energy to a better solution. E.g., USL, NASL, USSDA. College can be part of the solution, but not the main ingredient. That’s flawed thinking. They are not setup for the responsibility of turning the American soccer system into Spain, Netherlands, Germany or even a look-alike clone.
USSF also gets an “F” in terms of broadening their reach and expanding opportunities. Like golf, soccer is a middle-class sport funded by parents. So it naturally limits reach and opportunity. Why is there only one IMG? Why are cities like San Diego devoid of a professional club and its influence on development? Why isn’t USSF funding local centers and giving free or highly discounted access to coaches, fields, leagues? The NFL does this. Many European and South American countries do this.
We rightly complain on sites like this, but the culprit is the system. And USSF is masters of that system. They are #1 in the blame game. Then come youth soccer and coaching. MLS is also to blame, but they are a special case as they are not chartered for this. College has lesser blame. They didn’t develop a player from U5 – U18. They can’t help it if USA is devoid of higher caliber opportunities for 18-22 year olds. It’s not their job to produce a Xavi or Messi and push the USMNT into World Cup glory.
Don’t give up on College Soccer yet. Apparently some of them see the writing on the wall: more and more players who aspire to be professionals will sign out of high school or go overseas. Oliver Luck is a very smart guy who was a professional athlete, NFL Europe Executive and MLS Executive. This proposal is a good start and encouraging that they are thinking about changes.
I also can’t blame youth clubs either when I think that they are in business to make money, not develop world class players. They develop players ultimately to get into college. That is how it works and they are simply serving the system.
They also lack all the support mechanisms to turn us into a quadrennial world cup powerhouse. Sure they can do more, but I heard on the Locker Room (BeIn Sports) this past Monday that Germany spends “hundreds of millions” collectively as a nation on youth development. Investment from clubs and their national federation, not parents. Style of play and development philosophy is coordinated down to the smallest hamlet.
We lack that unity and vision and backing of resources to make this happen. The great variability in coaching across youth and college is an indicator of the state of our system. So too is the lack of opportunity from 18-22. But results in WC not 100% correlated. Spain flopped but has a great system. USA got to Round of 16 with effort. A better indicator of player development is how many are getting to Europe. WC is a result of this and why Klinsmann is so much for young talent to get to Europe.
I don’t think we can even call it a “system”. By definition, a system is a set of interdependent processes and inputs that lead to an outcome, a unified whole. We are none of that. Germany, Netherlands and Spain sure are. So too are the clubs in Europe and South America whose sole purpose is to develop professional footballers, and make money to do so and reinvest in next generation. A self-perpetuating system. We have none of that.
Disorder (confusion, inconsistency, irregularities) is an antonym for system. When we get used to disorder, we can be fooled into thinking its orderly. We’re still fighting that battle on style of play, player id, coaching. Being stuck in old paradigms is probably the biggest problem we have. It’s like we need a Protestant Revolution in soccer.
You’re dead on Armando. Countries like Spain, Germany, Argentina and many others have the resources and fairly standard style of play. They actually have systems with a purpose supported by resources. Their leagues, federations, clubs, academies are aligned to id, develop and provide for one common purpose: developing elite and world class players.
Our thingamajig (aka “system”) is about college. Yet as you point out, it’s unrealistic to place such a burden on them for all the reasons you addressed. Same true for youth soccer.
We like to compare to other countries and academies. Bottom line is they invest. We don’t invest. That burden falls on mom and dad. Mom and dad can only pay for Johnny to play. Mom and dad can’t create the backbone like Germany and Spain have done.
We are on a USSDA club. Their annual tournament is one of biggest and best and rakes in countless dollars. Yet, club fees go up year after year. We even have a commercial sponsor. Where is the reinvestment? We have no affiliation with a professional club, be it domestic or international. So we can’t tap into a professional clubs infrastructure, network, opportunities. We don’t’ have a system as you point out Armando. But the club has strong college connections. Nowhere to go. A wasteland. And so the circle of failure continues year after year, generation after generation.
We won’t be a technical team until the culture changes. Spent a month in Italy and my son played 8 hours a DAY on the beach playing soccer. I couldn’t buy 8 hours a WEEK for him playing with ‘friends’.
Sure we pay for our kids to have practice a couple of hours a week and a game or two on the weekend. In a game your kid is probably going to touch the ball around 20 times (in a 11v11 with typical British kickball) so the games are basically worthless for building technical and tactical awareness. Practices? Probably a lot of fitness mixed with overly large group drills with limited ball touches. Maybe a 100-500 touches per practice? It’s a joke.
People say your kid has to play by themselves! Sure, it doesn’t hurt but most kids want to play with their friends. I don’t think you will find a lot of European or South American kids just kicking the ball against the wall 6 hours a day. No, they are out with their buddies in the street, in the park, on the beach playing hours after hour without instruction. Tons of touches because it’s all small sided stuff.
The reality is the culture is just not there. It may never be there. We don’t even let our kids ride their bikes by themselves, what are the odds of letting your kids go to the park by themselves (if they can pull themselves away from the Xbox)? How many kids have a little 5v5 section setup within walking distance? I could walk a mile in a little town in Italy and there were 4 5v5 fields. Here? I could ride a bike to one, the other is more of a drive. The nearest one has plenty of fields, it’s at a school but they are all big large fields and always empty of free play.
We have a ton of kids that love and play this game, far more than any European country I believe. But the kids don’t play by themselves. That’s where it needs to change. That’s where we build technical players. That’s where we build creative #10 players. That’s where we build world class players.
Completely agree Will. A short vid of summer “Pick up” soccer in Spain-
That video pretty much nails what I’m talking about. I’m surprised there are so few younger kids though. Maybe you were going too late? Did you see any at the beaches? At the beach from say 10-1 or 2PM the kids would be playing. They’d break for lunch then return at 3-4PM and play till 6PM at which point the ‘young adults’ would sometimes show up and kick them off for a match (this was more common on the weekends). At 6PM my son and his friends would go play in a ‘tournament/league’ the kids organize with the other complexes. After they leave the young kids would jump back on again. This occurs every single day (at least in the summer).
The fathers are pretty much absent. Some of the younger adults will interject if things get out of hand, but rarely.
Since we’ve returned my son has been able to get a group together once in the past two weeks. The passion and culture is simply not present in our country and my son finds it frustrating to pursue his passion.
Congrats on your son’s endeavors!
The culture is surely one aspect. I’d like to touch on other aspects: consistency, knowing how the game is played, timidity, and being average.
Whether it be measurable variables such as passing accuracy, shots on frame, crosses on target, goals scored or more qualitative things such as communication, movement, awareness, thinking ahead – a lot of coaches I see don’t properly teach or take into account these aspects for player id.
Despite what mom and dad think, most players are average. The outliers aren’t bigger, stronger, faster. That has nothing to do with it. The outliers know how the game is played. It’s things like consistency in passing, moving, thinking, first touch, awareness, tactical understanding. They have the rare combination of touch, technique, smarts, game understanding, and composure to quickly analyze the game and play. Just from my micro view of the world, coaches don’t look for or develop any of this.
A lot of players are timid. I don’t mean shy or weak or scared. I’m talking about confidence in 1v1, communicating with authority, willingness to take a chance, not going in hard on challenges or 50/50 balls, not wanting to head the ball, afraid to be competitively aggressive. Or they lack technique and are timid as a result. Timid players don’t make an impact. They don’t create chances. Even if they are technically gifted (say a 14-year old Xavi), they are drowned out by jungle ball (defined as “constant loss of possession, tactically inferior or lacking, minimal technique, haphazard play designed to score and play full speed ahead 100% of the time). Doesn’t mean these kids are bad, they are just being coached incorrectly.
So combining the above observations, I can understand why coaches favor bigger, stronger, more aggressive players. When a majority is average and there are lots of timid players, size and strength are advantages. Even a player with average technique and tactical understanding can make an impact if he is big, strong and aggressive. As my son says “we try to play possession, but most of our team doesn’t know how and our opponents are same, so we play jungle ball.” But it is coach’s fault. Poor player id, lack of fundamental skills from U5-U12. So coaches cater to the lowest common denominator.
Even at our USSDA club, I see above dynamics. Sad part is the coaches seemingly can’t see it. They are so entrenched in their system that they fail to see it’s broken.
I agree with all of this, but passion and culture is the root of all of this. Pay to Play just makes it worse. If all the kids played soccer everyday in freeplay we wouldn’t have a bunch of ‘athletic kids with donkey touches’. We wouldn’t have kick ball at every level of US soccer. Coaches wouldn’t have to rely on the big strong kid to win games as they would have big strong kids that can actually play soccer.
The lack of street soccer has been talked about for a decade. Its a valid point but I think we need to look deeper and broader.
First, its not an issue just in the US who has never had this culture. The same things are now said in the recent years in developed countries like the Netherlands, Germany and France. Cruyff has built Cruyff cages to try to recreate some of these environments in Holland and elsewhere..http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/columnists/henrywinter/3254788/Johan-Cruyff-Dennis-Bergkamp-and-Robin-Van-Persie-discuss-the-art-of-football-Football.html
Another visionary guy is Ted Kroeten at Joy of the People in St Paul. http://www.soccerwire.com/news/youth-boys/soccerwire-qa-joy-of-the-people-founder-ted-kroeten/
He is trying to create a safe environment but one that fosters unstructured creative play that is led by the kids..futsal, soccer tennis, sand soccer ..etc. a sort of safe pick up soccer environment for kids in city
My thoughts based on my experiences ( isn’t this what develops most of are thinking) are as follows. I grew up playing soccer in an West African village . I did this until I was 8 yo and it instilled a love of the game but even if I stayed until I was 18 it would have never been enough…its not just a DNA deficiency on my part 🙂
My two boys have played at Kroeten’s JOTP. Its a cool environment. If there were a 1000 JOTP the soccer culture in US may be better but its not the sole answer. Kroeten has a love of the game but I think he’s driven by even a higher calling (and its not $) so I do not see these centers developing throughout US. Some players at JOTP were good but not a revelation.
” Futsal is the savior” imo again is not the sole answer. The USDA are trying to adapt it..some..at U-13-14. My boys played futsal since 7 yo..primarily with the Hispanic boys…its a tool especially at the younger ages.
The boys played in the Hispanic leagues..again essentially pick up play.
The quality of play in all these environments varied. There was the opportunity for creative play ..this I liked. But I think when you get to 13 yo and up the level varied so much. 3 touches when you should play 2, 2 touch when you should have played 1..it looked like the pick up game in Spain shown below. Again..not the answer
Why do we worry about the lack of street soccer when we never really had it here? It won’t be our answer. Europeans are losing it too.
Look at something we have done very well and led the world in..Basketball. Today articles are lamenting the loss of pick up basketball in the cities. A big article in Grantland about the loss of players from NYC because of this. The same is said in Detroit and Chicago. Youth basketball is now run through AAU for better and worse ( plenty of latter)
Street basketball isn’t coming back so I don’t think we are going to develop street soccer culture .
Thierry Henry recently said something that caught my attention..If he had a kid he would have him watch Thomas Muller…http://www.goal.com/en/news/15/germany/2014/08/05/5005507/forget-messi-and-ronaldo-kids-should-copy-muller-henry
Muller isn’t my favorite player but he is a product of a system..a national system. Armando outlined it above nicely. We need to continue to develop a national system for the 13 and up..this starts with improving our coaches education.
Its about reinvesting. IMO developed countries like the Netherlands ( 15 million people and the number of world class strikers and #10’s isn’t a fluke; Look at the coaching level and international influence- Cruyff, Hiddink. Van Gaal, Michels, Advocaat..etc ), Germany and France probably have the best models. I also think these cultures may mirror the US more closely..they each are trying to find productive ways to integrate the immigrant population into their systems, something the US desperately needs to do.
Long winded..I’m sorry
German pro football teams poured 681 million over 10 years into their system and the German national system put in 13million a year. We don’t have that and won’t for a long time.
Coaching is of course very important but many of the best players in the world didn’t play organized ‘travel/club’ soccer until 15 or older.
We will never develop a lot (or any?) of #10 type players if we do not have free play at those lower ages. You’re not going to get world class players by having kids coached for a couple of hours a week from ages 13-18. There just aren’t enough touches happening in meaningful creative ways.
I read that article about Cruyff et al. and they are pretty much echoing what I’m saying.
Keep in mind that you’re talking about countries that are already at the top of the world and in Germany’s case it was about getting over the hump. We’re not even in the same ball park really (we shouldn’t have even made it to the round of 16) and yet we have anywhere between 5-20 times the population of these European powerhouses.
Despite Brazil falling apart recently they’ve managed to dominate the sport over the years and I’m pretty certain they rely mostly on free play!
As for basketball, at least in my area they still play it on the street. Maybe it’s not like it was before but given other countries don’t even have street basketball (and many don’t even have youth basketball) I don’t think it’s fair to compare as we will always have more street ballers than other countries. For example, I didn’t see a single hoop in Italy. Zero, Zilch.
Lets look at countries that have a lot of street soccer.
In fact look at a couple of continents
– Africa- > 1 billion people, ~ 50 countries
– Central America and add Mexico
The world cup success is limited with very few top 8 or top 16 finishes.
There has been some extraordinary players but more recently the trend is that the talented Africans leave at younger ages to go to a country with a system
Its romantic to talk about street soccer and the Cruyff or Pele era.
Its still present in Brazil, its fleeting in places like Netherlands and Germany.
Its also romantic to talk about stick ball and baseball…in the 1930’s-70’s ..or maybe the more recent Dominican but I don’t think its coming back to the states.
‘Heaven is a playground’ is one of the great hoops books written about Baltimore city basketball with Albert and Bernard King..buts its fading to non-existent in our cities. Pick up hoops is a game played by the over 20 crowd in the cities but its not developing college/pro stars anymore. Its played at the YMCA lunch game.
I don’t think we can say that just because street soccer environment won a title 40+ years ago for Pele or 25 years ago for Maradona that that is the answer for the US today.
Sure unsupervised play can be an element for the younger kids, add in futsal, play wall ball all day but there has to be a system for these 1% talented 13, 15, 18 yo’s in the US that is systematically organized with a national system.
Its start with a better educated coaches
I’m not willing to simply say that the “game is the teacher”.
I’m also not willing to give my kid to Johhny or Jose Tracksuit at the travel club .
‘You’re not going to get world class players by having kids coached for a couple of hours a week from ages 13-18. There just aren’t enough touches happening in meaningful creative ways.’
I hope to heck they aren’t getting coached just a couple of hours a week…that would again be the example of a lack of a system.
So my point is that I’m not dismissing unstructured play . It has a role. Even the ajax coaches will say that the limited street play is important for their kids.
But if we say that its the answer it lets way to many people off the hook and the vision needs to be much more than this IMO.
I’m sure you’ve read it
Even Japan has somewhat of a national plan..
World class talent is beginning to leak through
‘The under 12’s is a golden age. It’s absolutely fundamental. But when you talk about developing future pro players, in my opinion, the ages when have a chance to tell a player may become a pro is between 12 and 16. I’ve rarely seen a player under 11 that I could predict is going to be a top pro. Maybe that’s just me, but I have worked in 17 national federations and over 50 professional clubs worldwide. In the 12-16 year-olds, you may spot a top player for the future but it’s really with 17-21 year-olds that those type of players start to really stand out.
I’m not disputing that we need better coaching or a better system. The point is that without kids actively doing free play they simply won’t become technical enough. Around here, clubs practice 2 times a week, sometimes a third for fitness. That’s it. I’ve heard some academies start doing 5x a week but that requires a 2 hour drive. In Europe you wouldn’t have to do that. Every city has an ‘academy’ within 30min drive.
In reality, you need both. Good coaching just means that 1% is good. Free play means that 1% goes from 10 kids to 1000 kids that are technically superb, creative and #10 type of players.
That last quote is really about the difficulty of identifying players. The reality is those top players had both a ton of free play and quality coaching. Something we just can’t provide either of to any meaningful number of children in the USA.
Uninvited Company says
Reference the discussion about talented young players in the USDA system, I do know of at least one—Mukwelle Akale. He played at least three years within the Minnesota Thunder Academy program, and I think may have played on their non-academy youth teams prior to that, although I do not know that for certain.
He has played well for the USMNT U18s, particularly at the Copa del Atlantico, where he was named player of the tournament, even though the US lost all three of its matches (see http://www.ussoccer.com/players/2014/03/15/05/10/mukwelle-akale) . The exposure he got there presumably led to his relatively recent signing of a “pre-contract” with the Spanish Villareal U18s (http://www.villarrealusa.com/2014/4/26/5654886/villarreal-reportedly-signed-us-young-player-mukwelle-akale ). Once he turns 18 early next year, he will sign a professional contract.
Late last year, I saw him play in a friendly against another USDA side, and he was clearly, at all of about 5’2” and 100 pounds, the best player on the pitch by a wide margin. He consistently made precise one or two touch passes, found space, and read the game very well. He did not linger on the ball, until he suddenly saw an opening, beat a couple of defenders, and put the ball in the back of the net.
So, while there is often a preference in the US for big, strong, physical players, that does not mean that no clubs anywhere give smaller technical players an opportunity.
Now, one data point is not a trend, and proves nothing by itself. I doubt that the Minnesota Thunder Academy system “created” him, but from what I have seen, they do emphasize possession, and obviously they are not afraid of selecting smaller players who are technical. Because they are USDA, they do get scouted periodically by USMNT personnel, exposure which no doubt helped lead to his selection to the USMNT 18s, a “matter of circumstance” that gave him a chance to perform in a place where he could be observed by Spanish clubs, and led to his opportunity to go to Europe.
More broadly, there are players here in the US who (1) have the technical base to play at a very high level, and (2) have the desire to bypass college and play professionally. The problem is that the opportunities for them to do so are extremely limited.
What I’m getting at is something I think Gary mentioned before. Identifying players based on physical characteristics is easy. Where it gets tricky and most coaching stops is the intangibles such as movement, awareness, thinking, tactical understanding. Identifying talent based on technique, tactical and mental becomes increasingly tricky.
In a system that doesn’t have large numbers of well-qualified coaches and where respect for possession, build-up, patience, tactics, awareness – then things like passing accuracy and time of possession are by default . . . unimportant. It affects player id, player development philosophy, and coaching selection. The multiplier effect.
This misalignment in youth soccer has a lot to do with why were are where we are and countries like Germany and Spain are where they are. While we have cultural ailments and our lack of experience in the international game contributes to this misalignment. Our system is immature and was established on the wrong principles. So change is painful and slow. We need a mass correction for playing philosophy / style of play.
Gotta have the vision before we can fix the coaching problem. The run dictates the pass . . . .
Club DoCs, Technical Directors, and the BoD at youth clubs are the gatekeeper incumbents who keep it status quo.
Aubree W. says
Hey, nice post! I have to say, I was pretty disappointed with the US’ performance, as well. That is, except for my man, Howard, and all those saves (cool bar graph, by the way)! I’m also pretty impressed with this blog you have going. Who knew you were such a funny, well-thought guy. 😉 Cool stuff.