The next u14 cycle for US Soccer has begun, and it seems like they’re on the right track in terms of identifying some players in the country.
The era of searching for the most athletic, biggest, strongest, fastest players seems to have changed. At this age at least, the federation is practicing what they preach in terms of selections since Claudio Reyna released the coaching curriculum in April of 2011.
In the past, the group of players currently selected would never have been considered due to lack of size or other physical tools.
The first question from scouts or coaches when asking about a players attributes were:
“Is he big?” “Is he fast?” “Can he jump?”
US Soccer was always concerned about those things because it had mostly been about winning 1st and 2nd balls … you know, the patented US Soccer jungle-ball.
Now, it’s the raw athletes who are struggling to get picked and not understanding why.
Jason scored 42 goals last season and is a beast. It’s like a man playing with boys.
-DOC’s with the traditional mentality of athleticism, above the technical & tactical.
The current brass seems to be looking for players who can fit into a possession oriented team. Players that are technically sound and have a tactical sense, are starting to be appreciated more than the man child.
During our famous post game – or training session – get togethers with the staff, we’d joke about the topic of Xavi or Iniesta. Had they been American born they would never have sniffed the field in MLS and had ZERO CHANCE of representing our national teams at the youth or senior level.
Now it seems we might just see a player of those characteristics emerge within the National Team setup.
Lets forward to how it applies to our players.
Seven from our group have been selected to the first 2001 US National team u14 camp this week in Carson.
7 out of 48 from the country … 7 out of 9 from LA … 7 out of 10 from so cal (nomads kid is 10th).
Name, (Training History), and position
(November 2010 – present), #2 (RB) or 4/5 (CB)
(December 2011 – present), #10 (Attacking mid)
(December 2011 – present), #11 (LW)
(November 2010 – September 2014), #2 or #3 (RB/LB)
(May 2011 – December 2013), #3 (LB)
(November 2012 – April 13, remained with our assistant Daniel Rogers April 2013 – September 2014, back training with us September 14 – present), #3 (LB) or #11 (LW)
(Scouted him Nov 2012, trained and played with us January 2013 – April 2013 for MIC, trained and played April 2013 – July 2013 for VW, trained and played March 2014 – April 2014 for Dallas Cup)
*Cannot claim development … Auggie Rodriguez from Empire FC has coached and trained him for years. #4/5 (LCB)
We have several other quality 2001s who are newer to the team and have national team potential. With time, if they keep working on the details, their number will be called as well.
This is without mentioning the 2000s on our team that are part of the older u14 NT cycle.
(November 2010 – present)
(November 2010 – present)
(March 2014 – present)
*cannot claim development, he was coached and trained by Billy Garton from Del Mar Sharks.
So all in all, there are 7 players who have been with us for years and comprise the original team whose video went viral, and 3 others that are newer additions.
Again, from the perspective of the identification process at this age, US Soccer is starting to follow world futbol. But of course picking the right players to fit a certain style of play is only part of the equation.
Now comes the most complex part: Can we piece it all together with the critical elements of training and implementing an identity?
Putting the right staff in place to execute this vision is the next chapter.
Not only that, but the key is that all players in the pool get proper training at their home clubs under the tutelage of someone with the proper expertise. That’s where the core development happens, not in the handful of weeks these players meet with the National Team. You can check out Hugo Perez comments on this matter on the Football Garden podcast.
At least for now, there is a good indication that the Player ID portion of the Gold Standard at this age group is in order.
Stl a-b says
Gary – this article speaks for itself on proper development.
Since joining Chivas, how has weekly training changed for Brian’s teams? Are all practices very similar sessions with the Rondos, Lose Man, SPattern, Pattern Play, etc? Or, example, 3 days/week are personal development (Rondos, SPattern,Lose Man) with 2 days/week Pattern Play Thru the 1/3s; Choreography (assuming U14s go 5 days/week)?
Gary Kleiban says
The methodology has not changed, only now we’re training 4 days/week. In many cases, however, one of those days is used for functional work and conditioning.
Also, now after 3-4 years, we are layering in more complex technical/tactical activities.
Gary – several questions:
1) Do you think the change in mentality is actually taking place in terms of scouting for skill/ability vs pure athleticism or is this 01 team selected just an abnormality?
2) If you think its a reality where they are doing things the right way, do you know what people are specifically responsible for this change at the higher levels?
3) Do you think this message of a focus on skill will actually bleed down to the local club levels and if so, how long do yo think it will take?
Gary Kleiban says
1) I think they’re trying. I also think it’s a function of having the right people with the right eye for it. Meaning, even if there were some sort of system wide mandate, you’re always limited by the competency of those actually doing the scouting/selecting. I feel they did well with this first 01 selection, but we’ll see if it continues …
2) I don’t know how it all got started. But it’s no secret that representatives of the Federation (Klinsmann, Reyna, Ramos, Perez, Lepore, et al) have consistently made public statements regarding emphasis on the proper player attributes. But of course talking & executing are two different matters.
3) Well the message at least, has certainly bled down to the academy level. And I think it has permeated much of the youth scene (mostly thanks to Barcelona & Spanish football, however). But again, execution is a whole other ball game.
Stl A-B says
…and how many former players in Europe? (Prob could have more except challenges of relocation)
Great that your work gets noticed on Nat’l level now. I was quite impressed when saw U15 Nat’l boys playing last Spring when I visited you, but since Peres is no longer a coach, what do you know about new coach?
And what about Charlie, your holding center mid (#6)? Or he has different name?
P.S. Did you see my U9 playing (I think Pete Stuart post it on his Tweeter)? I will get some video work on it and put it on soon.
Gary Kleiban says
* What do I know about new coach? Good selections so far.
* “Charlie” is Carlos Anguiano
* I try to watch every single video that people send me.
Eric D says
This is a super step in the correct direction. I do want to add a single warning- dont discount the “man child” that also has mad skills, great technique and heart. Does a Gareth Bale fit a US national team mold for the style were trying to build? I believe possession WITH quality soccer IQ and athleticism (quickness both on and off the ball is my favorite athletic asset) is what makes world champion teams.
Gary Kleiban says
Of course the “physical” attribute is part of the equation.
It’s one of the 4:
The problem, however, has been its grossly improper valuation with respect to the other 3.
i believe this is accomplished with only 2 days a week training correct, i think i have seen you reply before Gary about training time.
Gary Kleiban says
Since we’ve gone to a more serious organization, Chivas USA, we were able to train 4 days/week.
Congratulations Gary and Brian! Great to get an update on how all of your hard work is paying off.
Gary Kleiban says
I have no doubt we could build a truly world class academy … if an ambitious organization gave us free reign and allowed us to build it.
There’s a spring in my step today. A new 3four3. First before I get underway, in light of Landon’s final game this evening, I would like to say Thank You, Landon. It has been fun, mostly. You have represented the best of the game in this country during a protracted time of transition. I wonder about the timing of this article. Coincidence it appears on the cusp of a great American soccer player preparing to exit stage left? A happy ceremony for all to see. Maybe happenstance it arrives through my in box today as one of our great American players departs and decleats— and maybe, just maybe with this departure — a new harbinger of good tidings lay ahead for the game in our country, as this article subtly suggests. Leaves one wondering.
There is no replacement for American Ingenuity. We set our minds to touching the lunar surface before the rest of the world and in less than ten years that dream, that vision was met. American ingenuity.
We contemplated the nature of flight. Two brothers from Kitty hawk invented the airfoil and beat the world to the skies.
American Ingenuity. When a vision meets a goal meets a deadline meets an urgency – good things happen- visions are realized. When a vision is shared and the proper mechanisms are laid in place by the minds of the true people capable of being change agents, change occurs. Because those change agents then shift the paradigm for all others involved. Today’s article leaves me hopeful. Hopeful that my kids will see the full expression of American Ingenuity as played out on the soccer fields all over the country. We are heading in the right direction, slowly and painstakingly wit hthe energies, passion and guidance of places like 3four3. There’s a spring in my step today.
Gary Kleiban says
The “timing” of the article has to do with US Soccer releasing the list of invited 2001s to camp.
I feel what you’re saying with ‘American ingenuity’. The problem is that’s not allowed to flourish in Am soccer. “American ingenuity” is poisoned, suffocated, and trampled on with current US Soccer policy:
I wish it were true everywhere! At a well known USSDA club in San Diego it for sure isn’t happening on Academy. English coaches and DoC still want manchild. We tried but the old DoC came up agains entrenched incumbents. But happy to see it changing at top (national team level). I’ve seen some very skilled, tactical, smart players get passed and left in the wake of big, strong, aggressive at our USSDA club. Just this past year we lost out on a handful who were pushed out becasue they didnt’ fit the mold. Shameful really.
Congrats to Gary and Brian for being at the forefront of proper football.
Gary Kleiban says
If coaches don’t have the expertise to win by ‘playing the right way’, they have little choice but to play differently, and hence select differently.
I’m starting to fault them less & less though. They are doing what they know and think is best.
The real culprit is there is no natural (as opposed to dictatorial) market mechanism that weeds out poor coaching and elevates legit coaching.
Good point Gary. We have alot of dinosaur coaches (I happen to be at same club I think Paul is referring to). They remind me of the saying “if you don’t like change, you’ll like being irrelevant even less.”
We need better clubs to pop-up who are focused on developing proper footballers and moving away from the Engligh model of coaches who grew up in that environment in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. From DoC on down, it has to change.
But part of the problem are the BoDs. They are often clueless to football. A lot of volunteer parents or successfull businessmen who want to be on a BoD. So they leave footballing vision to the old guard . . . the dinosaurs from teh 1970s who grew up playing on a rainy muddy field in northern England by strappling lads with bent noses.
LIke is the case in Europe and South America, the BoD has to be made up of folks who understand football. There is a saying that leaders control the weather and the climate. They control the short term weateher by coaches they employ and the long term climate by the DoC and development policy they follow (or lack thereof).
That is great news for those players and your program Gary and Brian.
My son plays on a USSDA team in Orange County and I think they are getting it at least mostly right.
We try to mostly play out of the back but tend to get caught by the other team’s forward players as they have not learned to play fast enough yet.
We also maybe do not have all of the right players to accomplish this as tryouts were kind of slim pickings. We have definitely not gone the manchild over skilled players route though.
4 games into the season, our coach has allowed our keeper freedom to punt the ball occasionally to relieve pressure and not become too predictable, and that seems to help.
We had a very exciting game against Brian’s team last Saturday. Very fun to watch these 2 teams go at it.
Gary Kleiban says
Thank you Jeff.
And cool, hopefully they continue working on it, and by end of season it will be better.
Is there a such thing as players that are technically sound, have a tactical sense, and are manchilds in America? Obviously not now but shouldn’t this be the goal of scouts and coaches to find. Isn’t this the formula that works for the NBA? What if Iniesta and Xavi had the physical characteristics of a Lebron James?
Brendan A. says
Honestly can’t wait to see these boys in 5-10 years at the pro and international levels. You and Brian keep up the work, please!
Gary Kleiban says
Yep. Long way to go Brendan.
But the key is to keep the process going with the group. You know, like in the rest of the world … a cradle to grave approach.
Our country, however, has an insidious way of destroying excellence. We’ll see …
It’s great to hear that US Soccer is beginning to take the right steps in identifying these boys who have clearly been developed to play the right way. Kudos to the Kleibans! Closer to home, unfortunately, I am not seeing anything that gives me hope. My boy’s club still covets the man child. We have a few that are constantly being moved up age groups across most of the top teams. One kid is on my boy’s U12 team who was moved up to U13s this weekend. Kid is 11, is 6 ft. tall and wears adult XL. Cannot trap a ball to save his life, his touch is atrocious. Knocks it passed defenders and in a few long strides can beat any U12 player. Never know where the shot is going to go. Either way, the parents go nuts! Apparently so do the club coaches and DOC. Already talk of him playing all the way up on the U14 USSDA team. Progress. But no love for the average sized kid who is totally comfortable on the ball, plays with his head up, and looks to circulate the ball with patience.
@Chris. In the USSDA club in San Diego we are at, I saw same for years since my sonw as U11. The manchild you are describing played up and eventaully onto Academy. Yet they had average to poor technique, tactical ability, composure. The smaller more talented kids were bypassed. We also had some taller kids who were excellent footballers, but they weren’t physically aggressive. They were bypassed in favor of aggressive palyers who had limited footballing talent.
There is progress in isolated areas, but many USSDA clubs as a whole has a lot of growign up to do. I’m surprised the USSDA brass doesn’t see this. They are in their ivory tower clueless.
Well, best way to get that big kid to use more skill than brawn is by playing bigger, equally as strong players.
Andy Sherwood says
I understand your motivation is to promote skillful, intelligent soccer. However, I find it problematic to applaud the inclusion of tiny skillful kids as though that is the antidote to non-skillful players who rely only on athleticism. Surely, the best players are those who have BOTH great athleticism (and preferably size) and great skills and tactical awareness. This is not a game of either/or… the best players should have both.
I fully agree Andy, but don’t forget things like tactical smarts, balance, coordination, stamina, first touch, and on and on, Making footballers is a complex mixture, not just two ingredients (i.e., skill and size). And there is not one recipe. And the weighting of those ingredients can differ for each player and position based on numerous factors. That is why we need top class coaches who understand the nuiances of each ability and can shape it.
Part of the problem is too many coaches cannot do calculus, so they stick with 1 + 1 = 2 and then they are done.
I’m cautiously optimistic. There’s no doubt the Kleibans are doing great things. But there’s a world of difference between SoCal and the rest of the country. SoCal is a large market with a very deep talent pool.
Being able to select and then train a group of already talented players is quite different than doing that in smaller markets. There’s pressure to ‘win’ everywhere. (Granted with varying expectations of real “success”.)
Piss poor programming is still very much the norm in most of the country. Especially where I live.
The reality is that you just don’t see ynt players being “selected” from smaller clubs in smaller markets.
Matters of circumstance? cause and effect?
The system is very much exclusionary. Many (I’ll say most) players are selected based on who their coaches know/club affiliation than actual player quality.
I’m certainly not implying that these Kleiban trained players are not some of the best in the country. They are.
I’m just saying it isn’t happening across the board.
Player consistency is more important to me than one flash of brilliance.
Do you want a center back that only completes 50-60 percent of his passes? Just because he may have made one goal saving tackle?
Do you want a winger that loses the ball 7 out of 10 times? Even though once he may have beaten 5 and scored a goal in the process?
Actually I am Ok with a winger who once a game reliably beats 5 defenders and scores. In my world goals are hard to come by. If he loses it 7 times in the process I am still probably OK. Further, he can only do that with some decent ball control. Leverage the tools and add the heads up piece and he could be great. I will take him.
This is indeed good news. I do have a couple questions. Do these 7 players represent the best pure athletes on the team or was one of your better athletes overlooked for not being technical enough at this point?
And the reverse, was one of you best technicians overlooked for not being fast/strong/big enough?
And I’m going to disagree whole heartedly with your Xavi and Iniesta comment. You really don’t need to look any further than Tab Ramos in the 1980s. While not at a world elite level, he reached the pinnacle of soccer in this country at the time on his technical ability alone. He is the exact same size as both Xavi and Iniesta. There are other examples, the USMNT has not been stocked with the biggest and fastest year in and year out. Technical ability has always been valued. And if you don’t think both of those Spanish greats have world class quickness and athleticism then you are defining the terms incorrectly. They would have anchored the USMNT midfield from a very early age.
I agee very much that this country is playing catch up concerning how our youth players are trained and educated at the bottom of the pyramid. But catching up quickly indeed as the information age makes training best practices and theory available to everyone.
Athleticism and technical potential go hand in hand. We shouldn’t be bashing coaches for selecting on athletic traits, rather helping them develop the athletes they can recruit in the correct fashion. When I hear these complaints in our club it’s almost always from a whiny parent who has spent an ungodly amount of time kicking a soccer ball with their completely mediocre athlete child. Sure, they might be ahead of the technical curve now thanks to your efforts, but they have zero upside potential. An over drilled average child is still just a average child.
El Gato Negro says
First time posting,
This is my first year coaching at the high school level on the boys side. The teams we have faced are all the same, fast, big, and physical with little to no foot skills, THEY ARE NOT HELPING THOSE KIDS. I came in it to build the program and teach them how to play this game, even though we didn’t win a lot of games my plan is to have them play, learn, and grow the correct way. I have had comments from my players, parents, officials, and coaches on how we play, (possession from the back all the way to the forwards no jungle ball). I would rather have a short, technical, smart player then a big, athletic player that has a hard time with one touch passes.
This is fantastic! I am very encouraged. Congratulations to you and your kids. This is an impressive achievement to have 7 players from your program picked for the national camp in this age group. I wonder why they only picked one midfielder from your squad (in my mind, the quality of midfield is critical for possession-oriented game)? Is it because your best players are defenders and wingers? Or perhaps there were there other factors in play when selections were made (better midfield players elsewhere, can’t pick all players from Chivas program, etc)?
Let’s hope the national team will continue with proper player id. But with the demise of Chivas USA, the egg shells may not be able to be put back together. That’s a shame! Where will the Academy go Gary? If it disbands and players scattererd, it will set back youth develoopment as you were oen of the few who did it right.
What are the chances that this apparent change regarding player selection criteria will trickle down to the girls side? I watched the u20 WC this year and was appalled at the technical and tactical quality on display. I don’t believe that this was the best u20 side we could offer the world.
Brian Greenway says
It’s awesome to see what you Gary, and Brian, have accomplished. You both have always taken it to that extra level.