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Jimmy Conrad: 'There's a lot of responsibility for my generation'
by Ridge Mahoney, August 25th, 2011 1:45AM

TAGS:  mls


[Q&A: JIMMY CONRAD] The former MLS and USA defender has moved into an assistant coaching role with Chivas USA since announcing his retirement last week because of post-concussion difficulties. In addition to pondering broadcast opportunities, Jimmy Conrad is anxious to aid the process of player development.

SOCCER AMERICA: The league has changed dramatically since you began your MLS career in 1999, but aside from adding teams and making rosters bigger, it has implemented player development programs and brought back the Reserve Division. There have been significant changes and new hirings made by U.S. Soccer. How do you see the future for that facet of the sport in this country?

JIMMY CONRAD: What you can sense happening, whether it’s inside looking out or outside looking in, it’s all about to change. You can feel this swell of support for the youth side. The country is so big, to get everybody on the same page is a monumental task. I applaud Claudio Reyna [U.S. Youth Soccer Technical Director] for taking it on. He’s going to need help. He’s already talked with Richie Williams and Chris Armas. I can’t think of better names to make that happen.

SA: You’re going to be a Chivas USA assistant coach and also work on the player development side. You started your own soccer camp this summer. What’s going to be the focus working with young players?

We want to make sure they have fun but also realize that if you really, really want to play soccer, these are the things you need to do. No matter what, that’s what I’ve wanted to do all along to stay locked into the community where I grew up, but also with the youth soccer community. I know I’ll be working a lot with the Chivas youth academy as we re-structure and kind of re-mold what was already in place and just make it better.

SA: Chivas USA started fielding a U-19 team shortly after it started up in MLS in 2005, and several of those players have made it onto the first team. What can the club do to make improvements in its programs?

We’re going to start younger, at under-9s. Our first emphasis is going to be about development and less about results. Like Claudio has been saying, it has to be about developing soccer players and less about trying to win at all costs.

SA: What advantages can, and should, MLS teams offer to elite players?

Eventually, I don’t know exactly when, we’re going to pay for everything. Most activities are pay-to-play and you’re not going to be able to attract the best kids if they have to pay. And in addition to the free option, they’ll have the opportunity to work with the best coaches around and with a legitimate opportunity to play for the first team. Being around the first-team players in a professional setting, I don’t think you can better prepare guys for the real thing.

SA: Are Chivas USA and other MLS teams just getting started doing what pro teams around the world have been doing for a decades, using their resources and ex-pros to work promising players through a development system?

We have a vision of greatness, to be honest, to be one of the models of how a youth academy should look around the country. It’s quite an undertaking but we have a lot of good people involved, Teddy Chronopolous and Dan Calichman as well as Greg Vanney, who’s kind of spearheading the whole thing. It’s fun to be around these guys, I’ve played against them for so long, and looked up to them. To be in the mix with them is a pretty neat experience.

We’re already talking about a couple of our U-16, U-18 players playing in a reserve game, maybe coming out to practice with the first team and get a taste of what it’s about, so they know what it looks like and feels like and tastes like. That’s kind of the drug to sell to them so they’ll do the work to become good soccer players.

It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight but we’ll try to make it happen as fast as we can.

SA: You’ve mentioned a half-dozen guys you played with and against during your club and national team careers. A lot of people see mainly the head coaches, like Robin Fraser, or the assistants, like you and Vanney. How important is it for guys with that experience to be involved?

There’s a lot of responsibility for guys in my generation, who have retired or will retire in the next few years, to stay involved in the game. We need to push the bar up a little bit to make MLS and our national team that much better. That’ll benefit everybody.

Read Part I of Ridge Mahoney's Jimmy Conrad interview, which appeared in Tuesday's SoccerAmericaDaily, HERE.

  1. Ernest Irelan
    commented on: August 25, 2011 at 10:59 a.m.
    I am really impressed with this concept of deveopement of youth in soccer, Chivas has obtained another fan!! an for sure, Jimmy Conrad. I know with the younger players, it is impossible to have a true academy with residential players like when they are of high school age...but, that would be the next step for a true developemental acadamy....I hope this, for sure, Chivas an Jimmy Conrad are dead on when they say that you can not always get the best possible players with high fees, just the wealthy parents children....GREAT FOR, let the other MLS teams follow suit, we will become a world soccer power much sooner...

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: August 25, 2011 at 12:38 p.m.
    The thing about Chivas is that they may have the best intentions regarding development and may be throwing lots of money at it. But it's a lost cause if they don't inject money at the MLS level. In LA you have to have stars on your team or you die. You can't act like the clippers and be the Lakers. In fact, you are the clippers if you stay in HDC. Chivas needs to spend 200 million on a new stadium, whether in LA or elsewhere, re-brand, and bring in three DPs. Do that and suddenly, everthing they do, including the development academy is taken a lot more seriously. Right now, Chivas is the team that most hard core MLS fans want to fold or move and rebrand. They literally have an ick factor to them. Not good.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: August 25, 2011 at 7:40 p.m.
    I Love Conrad's response to what MLS teams should do for elite players. Chivas knows they have to provide free services for the best players. They also know they don't have the cash to do so in a league that has a draft and won't let teams recoup transfer fees. But what makes Chivas unique is the Mexican club affiliation. If Chivas can develop American talent at their USA academy, can they simply move youngsters over to Chivas Mexico and grab any potential transfer fee?

  1. Tyler Dennis
    commented on: August 26, 2011 at 1:29 a.m.
    @ GAK... they can't because Chives de Guadalajara requires all players to be Mexican.

  1. issac aguirre
    commented on: August 26, 2011 at 3:54 a.m.
    We luv u jimmy!!

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: August 26, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.
    thanks Tyler.

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