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Posted on: July 8, 2010 3:14 pm
The folks that claim to be in the know when it comes to soccer will dissagree, but that's just because they have bought into the current system.  And by bought in, I mean they have paid outrageous amounts of money so that their kids can play for the elite soccer clubs.

Club soccer is the reason why the best we can produce is Landon Donovan.  By soccer standards, he's great, but not by USA professional athletic standards.  With club soccer, we are basically telling out best young athletes as they get into high school "look, you either play soccer year round and forget the more popular football, baseball and basketball, or you forget soccer and go play the sports that your school friends are playing."  Is that not a stupid ultimatum?  It's one thing that we have to decide based on seasons: Football vs. Swimming; Basketball vs. Wrestling and soccer; Baseball vs. Tennis and Track; but anytime you tell a kid that they have to devote themselves to one sport when their best prospects in this country of having a successful sporting carreer lie in other sports, the obvious outcome is that the best athletes will vear away from soccer.

Here is my suggested experiment.  We need an experimental team.  You take the best college basketball players and best skilled position football players that failed to get picked up by a professional team, and WHO PLAYED SOCCER AS A KID (so they have the basics) and you train them for an entire MLS off-season in soccer.  My money is that by the second season, you have a playoff team and by the third you have the MLS champion and a group of five athletes that would find their way into the next world cup.  I wish somebody had the money and desire to prove me right or wrong.

Since: Nov 21, 2010
Posted on: November 21, 2010 4:06 pm


Club soccer is a problem, but only in that it creates a financial burden. I disagree, ToastGuy, with your idea about pro athletes from other sports. It would take a minimum of five years to create what you interested in, and after five years, these guys would lose more often than not. You'd have to start out with at least 50 players to get a decent roster at the end of that period. More athleticism would be great, but from evidence of this year's MLS season, it's less of a problem than just a couple of years ago.

How do players become good at a sport? Is it through fundamentals (foot, hand, glove, stick skills, pick your sport), athleticism, or is it through experience? Probably a combination, but soccer is a sport that places a premium on the latter. It is not just a matter of a person experiencing match play. Experience allows one to anticipate and recognize opportunities on the field. It also allows us to anticipate the play of others.

My players ask me all the time, "What do you do when..." There is no answer I can give them that will be applicable every time unless it's a set play. When your sport is about decisionmaking and there are 21 others on the field influencing events, it's fair to say that we only see similar situations over again, not events we can predict. Recognizing these situations and reacting to them is a matter of experience.

This is particularly important in a sport where pretty much everyone has to be a quarterback on some level. Yes, I know, the purist out there are going to hate my other sport analogy, but when it flatters our players, who cares?

How do players overseas get to be so good? The knee-jerk reaction is the academy system. I happen to coach with a Brit with connections to a particular EPL academy. His opinion is that where most players become great is pick-up games. We have that phenomenon here, but not as much in soccer. I probably played a dozen pickup matches in high school, but I played countless pickup basketball games.

This is at the root of what Jurgen Klinsman wanted to do if made the U. S. coach. He wanted to implement a scouting system that got away from college, the olympic development program, and, as you appropriately mention, the expensive club system. He wanted scouts to visit pickup games in the cities and basically look at the next layer. What kind of talent is out there on the street that we're missing? Unfortunately, U. S. Soccer wouldn't cede control of player selection to the coach and I imagine at least some of that is down to the vested interests in the current systems.

Intriguing thoughts, ToastGuy. Thanks for posting on this important topic.

Since: May 2, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2010 2:54 am


Soccer skills are learned, and they are not that hard to learn.  Although, I think good defensive skills in soccer are the hardest to acquire.

LOL stick to american football toasters. Who are you to say soccer skills are not hard to learn??? Answer that for us. Dribbling a basketball with your hands is easier than dribbling a soccer ball with your feet??? So do you type with your hands or your feet? Do you drive to work with your hands or your feet?? Football players hold onto a ball and run it into an end zone. They use their hands to score. The easiest sport for me to play was football. I had never played football in my entire life until I got into high school and I became an all state wide receiver. That took one year. I played soccer my whole life and I played at the club level in 9th grade and did not score a single goal all season (I was a center forward) I was fast, but with a defender on you and a ball between your feet, it is very difficult to score a goal. It is truly a team sport (there is no ball hog like in basketball) Thats why they call it the beautiful game. Basketball is one of the toughest sports I have played, but baseball and soccer are up there with the toughest sports that I have played at least. I know everyone is different. BUT you honestly just sound like a typical american who refuses to enjoy another countries sport. It may not be our culture, but it is a great sport. Dont even talk about MLS, thats not soccer. Go watch an EPL game or a champions league game on FSC, thats soccer. I am not bagging on football or basketball, I love all sports, but for you to discredit soccer with your experimental team theory and ocho cinco theory is just ridiculous. Michael jordan was a great athlete and grew up playing baseball (it was his favorite sport) and he sucked at it.  

Since: May 2, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2010 2:35 am


TOAST. Did you write this blog??? 

Here is my suggested experiment.  We need an experimental team.  You take the best college basketball players and best skilled position football players that failed to get picked up by a professional team, and WHO PLAYED SOCCER AS A KID (so they have the basics) and you train them for an entire MLS off-season in soccer.

This is an insult man. Soccer is a tough sport to play. You are tellin me NFL and NBA castoffs in an off season of soccer can become professional soccer players??? Thats retarded. The problem with our soccer is the college programs here are not suited to compete with what Europe contributes towards soccer. Kids as young as 13 play for FC barcelona or Chelsea FC YOUTH soccer club programs that help develop great youth soccer talents. That would be like a 13 year old playing for the new england patriots youth football prgram and being developed at a young age to become a pro. AND landon donovan is a world class player by the way. Did you see him in the EPL last season?

The college programs here are not the best way to form a great soccer player. The american motto is for your kid to go to college and get a degree. The best programs for soccer are in the youth "clubs" overseas. The only way for americans to dominate soccer is for our young players to be developed at a young age overseas, in turn though, they would most likely become a citizen of whatever country their club team is from. Messi is a spanish citizen from his time with barcelona at the youth level. he could have played for spains national team if he wanted. 

You ever heard of giuseppe rossi??? He was born to italian immigrants, but was born in New Jersey or new york, somewhere like that. When he was like 15 he played for parmas youth team in italy and ended up playing for italy in the 2006 world cup when they won it. He was an american, but chose to play for italy instead of the U.S. 

Our soccer program is alright over here, it is ran like any other sport in america, just that its not popular compared to football and basketball. I think over time, it will be a huge sport, but right now, our U-17 national soccer team, only 2 players play over seas. Thats just not gonna cut it. People say that if we did not have football, that our soccer team would be the best, but overseas they have rugby AND cricket; those are the equivalent to football and baseball and their soccer programs are legit.  Argentina has a top ranked rugby team and they are top ranked in basketball and soccer. I think soccer is the greatest sport in the world. The problems is, with americans, is that we are a very prideful nation. Basketball and football are our sport and we are the best at it. I know basketball was invented by a canadian, but it was created in america. We refuse to take soccer to the next level here, which is a shame, seeing as its the most popular sport in america for children 13 and under.

Since: Aug 3, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2010 12:17 pm


Celtic, you make a reasonable argument.  But I think our disagreement stems from our different experience.  My AYSO team was invited to the California tornaments, while neither of our area's club teams were.  That might be an anomoly, but that's my experience.  I don't believe much of the natural born skills talk.  Of course there is a part of coordination that is inherited or genetic (I include that with athleticism), but soccer skills are learned, just like hitting a baseball is learned. 

Since: Aug 3, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2010 12:05 pm


Wow, still getting comments on this blog post.  I knew it would not be popular with those that have bought into the USA soccer system.  Look, my experience, as a former soccer player and a coach, is that we make due with medium level athleticism from over-privileged white kids whos parents can afford to pay for them to play soccer year round.

In other countries, where soccer is all you play from age 1 and up, of course they will have the advantage in ball control.  However, while I did not play club soccer after the 10th grade because it interfered with football and baseball, I often dominated as a striker when I played 12 years ago in Argentina (non-pro) with guys who had been playing their whole lives.  Why?  They were not very fast, on average.  Sure, they could do cute tricks with the ball and make pretty decent passes, but getting by someone who was taught to defend wide receivers 1 on 1 is not too easy.  The point is, give me the better athletes and I will teach them soccer skills.  I get it that it does not happen overnight, but it does not take nearly as long as you one-sport soccer players want everyone to believe.

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: November 8, 2010 10:49 am


Being a great athlete is only one attribute that makes a great player. Technique which is honed over many years is one of the most important things in football. It takes years of practice and good coaching to develop players who can control a ball in an instant and give the most intricate pass with the correct timing etc. The best players practise relentlessly and are 100% devoted to football. Maradonna for example was playing football from a very early age and played all day every day while growing up. He would practice keeping the ball up with a tennis ball then a golf ball just to improve his eye to foot coodination. This technique honed at an early age doesnt go away and it becomes a natural ability that a randomly plucked athlete would have no chance attaining in later years.  

Taking 6 months + off every year when you are developing these skills would set a child so far behind those that continued developing and practising. Basketball/Baseball etc are Hand to Eye coordination sports so they serve very little purpose for a Football(soccer) player unless you are a Goalkeeper. Throw a ball at a Basketball/baseball player he will catch with his hands. Throw a ball at a Football player and he will bring it down on his chest or knee. A Basketball player I would bet couldnt control a ball on his knee.

Since: Oct 30, 2010
Posted on: October 30, 2010 1:30 am


Do you not get that to play in the MLS you not only have to athletic but you have to have natural born talents for the game and special gifts that allows you to play at such a high level? Im a club soccer player myself and there is a incredible gap between the lowest level of club players and top ayso players. There is just no comparison.

Now i see were your coming from when high school athletes have to choose between soccer and other major sports but the reason why they do that is not because sports happen to be in season at the same time, its the fact that playing a sport like football or basketball gives you more integrity, popularity, and exposure. The thing is soccer may be growing all over the united states but it really hasnt improved at all at the high school level...all the academies, olympic development programs, and high level club teams take the best players from the high school teams which just degrades the quality of the if you were a highly athletic football player, lets say wide reciever, would you choose the chance to play in the spotlight of college football or the in the shadow of college soccer?

It may be seem like part of my argument is for yours but honestly i dont agree with a word you say. To your expriment it honestly makes no sense ...after a year of training top athletes like that a mid level club team would be able to just pass around them without even having to run that just fail to realize the quality of the MLS and how big of a difference there is between great athletes with some skill and highly skilled players that are slow but can keep a decent spped for 90 minutes.

Since: Apr 10, 2007
Posted on: October 8, 2010 3:00 pm


I didn't play college football either.  Or Basketball.  I possibly could have done track, but I don't know why I would have wanted to aside from the free shoes.  I didn't play college sports in college because I'm not extremely athletic.  I'm just athletic enough to be good against watered down competition when everybody is allowed to play.

So club soccer is the problem?  I suppose that AAU basketball is the reason the U.S. is no good at basketball.  Oh, wait...
It's not soccer people arguing with you, it's people with sense.  The argument just doesn't work.  Sorry.

The ACTUAL problem is that actual knowledge of soccer in the U.S. is rare.  Kids show up to baseball practice as a kid and have a coach who is somebody's dad that played baseball from the time they were 5 to the time they were 18.  My coaches in AYSO were dads who had possibly played AYSO as a child.  A few of them just volunteered because nobody else did.  In 6th grade my AYSO coach was a former High School coach, but quite frankly he didn't know anything either.

That is the problem with soccer... there isn't a generation of adults who can teach the younger generation in mass.  Sure, there are people out there who are knowledgeable, but not many.  That is slowly changing and building and in 20 years more High Schools will have soccer teams so people won't have to turn to clubs so much.

Also, it's not about being fast.  Ochocinco can run a 4.4 forty.  Fine.  Lionel Messi did a 4.3.  Close enough.  The important thing about soccer players in the 40 yard dash but how much of that is the first 10 meters.  There is a difference between running and running while dribbling a ball and the ability to not break stride while kicking a ball is an extremely hard skill to master.  Anybody can learn to be good at a sport.  Not anybody can learn to be great.  It's this simple this is a fact: low centers of gravity change direction more easily.  The best soccer player in the world is 5'5".  Ochocinco would not be great at anything save possibly defense or as a situational striker do to his obvious ability on headers.

The ONLY athletes that I would concede might be excellent soccer players are Corner Backs.  They are usually as fast as WR's but almost always quicker with direction change.  They are also the most astute with footwork.  Oh, and here's a hint... they are almost always shorter than WR's.  See a theme here?This tired argument should be over.

Since: Aug 3, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2010 5:45 pm


OchoCinco did play soccer.  He's acquired the skill set, mastering is a matter of time.  You can teach a guy with speed to dribble a soccer ball.  However, you cannot teach speed to a guy that can dribble a soccer ball.  Soccer skills are learned, and they are not that hard to learn.  Although, I think good defensive skills in soccer are the hardest to acquire.

Since: Aug 3, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2010 5:43 pm
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