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Two cheers for Jurgen Klinsmann!
by Paul Gardner, August 14th, 2012 7:34PM

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TAGS:  men's national team, mexico, youth boys

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By Paul Gardner

Klinsmann gets his first cheer for paying attention to what Mexico is doing. That really ought not to warrant praise, but given the way that Mexican soccer has been so shabbily treated by the USA in the past, it does mark a significant advance.

And he gets his second cheer for publicly admitting that there exists a gap, that the Mexicans are “a step ahead of us” right now. That admission also marks a first on the reality front and it has evidently been a difficult admission to make -- the way that Klinsmann defines the current situation, judging Mexico to be “a step ahead,” is a laughable understatement.

Since June 2011 the Mexicans have won the U-17 World Cup, the Concacaf Gold Cup, the Pan Am Games, the Toulon Espoirs tournament, the Northern Ireland Milk Tournament, and the Olympic Gold Medal (they also placed third in the U-20 World Cup). During that same period the USA won nothing and failed even to qualify for the U-20 World Cup and the Olympics. This is some step that Klinsmann is talking about.

But it is not Klinsmann’s attempt to minimize the task ahead that persuades me to withhold the third cheer. That decision is based on Klinsmann’s remarks about what Mexico has been doing over the past three or four years: “They’ve identified a way they want to play and everybody dedicates themselves to that style of play. … We often talk about that more technically, and soccer-specifically, that you’ve got to lead to a system. You have to work to a way where everybody is committed to a cause and for each other.”

Firstly, style of play. I would say that the Mexicans have had their style of play for at least 50 years now. I really don’t think there’s anything new there. I first saw Mexican boys’ teams play at the Dallas Cup in 1987 and was immediately impressed by the neat ball control ... and the reliance on a short-passing game. It was a style that was recognizably present in all the young Mexican teams that I was to see over the next 14 years. At that point, the Mexicans had not only a smooth style, they were now winning. In 2001 all six of the Dallas Cup age groups, from U-12 to U-19, were won by Mexican teams -- from six different clubs.

At the time I wrote in this column that “The chances are high to the point of certainty that the Mexican sweep will not even be noticed by the top level of American soccer. ... As far as Mexican soccer is concerned, this country is, has been for decades, in denial.”

Klinsmann, at least, is not in denial. But his reference to the Mexicans having, recently, “identified” a style seems to me quite wrong. The style has been there for a very long time. Other things have been happening, clearly -- organizational things -- and my feeling is that those things will be the ones that get studied.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati recently spoke approvingly of a Mexican requirement that young players should get a certain amount of playing time with the first team. In my own talks with Mexican coaches I have been told that the keys to success include much greater involvement of pro clubs in youth development programs, and the requirement that all pro games be preceded by a youth game.

But to copy just those initiatives will do nothing to close the gap. What puts us at a disadvantage with the Mexicans goes deeper, and starts earlier, than organizational matters. The Mexicans evidently start with superior raw material. Their kids, so to speak, come ready primed to play skillful soccer.

From what I’ve seen, it goes against the nature of even the youngest Mexican boy to simply hoof the ball off into the distance. What he wants to do is to play it on the ground, either to dribble it or to short-pass it. That mentality, I’m suggesting, is there very early. I doubt, strongly, that it is coached. It is absorbed as the boy grows up and watches older boys play, it is unconsciously adopted because that is the style that will allow him to play with those other boys. And because it is clearly enjoyable.

That is what I mean by style. I’m not at all sure that Klinsmann has that in mind, because he quickly goes on to speak of a system. At that point we have entered the world of coaching, we are talking tactics and formations and suchlike. All of that comes under the heading of teachable. Style is not so easily defined, it is a matter of inbred technique, a way of feeling the game acquired in the same way that young children learn, quite quickly, to speak their language, easily and fluently.

The basis of the Mexican soccer language is immaculate technique with the ball. We cannot claim to have, in any widespread form, such a starting point. Turning for help to a system will not get us there. Quite the opposite -- trying to replace basic, almost instinctive, skills with coaching systems diverts attention -- quite possibly with sporadic successes -- from where it should be.

In a number of ways, the Mexican success story mirrors what Spain has achieved. Their styles are basically similar. And both countries have had to endure decades of failure and near misses at the international level. What both countries displayed was a total faith in their style -- they kept playing soccer their way without giving way to the temptation to introduce expedient changes.

Klinsmann evidently believes that the Mexicans have plagiarized the Spanish game. He says that “a lot of elements were taken off the Spanish path during the last six years.” But I doubt that. I doubt it because I don’t see it as necessary. The basic Mexican game has always been good enough. It has lacked various elements -- in particular confidence and a will to win -- that have now been acquired, undoubtedly thanks to the organizational changes mentioned above.

But to imagine that those changes are the “secret” to Mexican success is to make a huge mistake. The basic ability of young -- probably very young -- Mexican players to speak their soccer language, their style, smoothly is what matters here.

To develop an American style, to produce whole generations of young players with a high-level of superior, inbred ball skills has to be the aim of the USA. Of course it’s a long-term operation (though it wouldn’t be quite so long-term had it been started back in, say, 2001) but it’s the only way.

Poor Klinsmann -- doomed to seek success with ill-trained young players. He has to know where the problem lies, though he talks of fitness and top-level experience and systems. What else can he do?

But he has at least noticed the Mexicans, and he has praised them -- “The way Mexico outplayed Brazil was wonderful to watch. They did many good things there. You’ve got to admire that and acknowledge that.” Now comes the difficult bit. Turning the American youth-development scene from a result-oriented coaching procedure into a soccer-oriented growth process.



41 comments
  1. Joseph Breault
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 8:21 p.m.
    Same ooooollllldddd story. The USA has the poorest system of all developed soccer countries of developing talent and thus recognizing talent. Too many chiefs and not enough indians. Mexico.....a futballing nation. American soccer is fourth on list of sports on a good day.

  1. Jeff Harrison
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.
    It goes back to role models. When MLS and US college keepers constantly distribute with 70 yard kicks hoping for a lucky bounce to NFL size forwards, what message does that send? Or when free kicks on the attacking half are always lofted into the forward line? Or when MLS referees allow the constant holding, shirt pulls, dangerous tackles that favor size and power over speed and skill? Until there is a change in tactic at the MLS level, there will be no change at the US college level and there will be no change at the US youth level.

  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 8:44 p.m.
    Paul is spot on in his analysis. The issue of style and technical expertise as a foundation is an issue of culture. I doubt I will live to see America saturated with soccer to the degree we see in basketball. Foreign countries play very good basketball and the USA is capable of very good soccer. But the USA basketball elite bring skills to the table that foreign countries can not ... and the USA soccer elite simply can not deliver likewise due to the lack of soccer culture ... much like the deficit of the basketball elite elsewhere. For sure there are some players who show world-class elite play, but not a national team's worth. I also never thought as a college player in the late '70's that I would see the USA play in the World Cup finals in my lifetime. I was wrong on that count and would love to be proved wrong on this one! As a holder of the NSCAA Advanced National Diploma ... as a holder of the USSF A License ... as a coach since age 14 (now 56) ... the difference in style (the gap) of which Paul speaks is not, never has been and never will be a matter of coaching, but only a matter of culture. All those of us who love soccer can do is share our love and passion for the game with as many others as possible.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 8:49 p.m.
    Goes deeper, I'm afraid. If you spend a little time following the development of modern neuroscience, you will find that a great deal is now known about the extreme plasticity (ability to learn)in a child's brain, a plasticity that diminishes with time, until sometime in adolescence it is pretty much gone. (Try to learn a language, with all the nuances, beyond the age of 20) Kids need to grow up with a ball on their foot, starting at a very early age, with models to follow that embody the movement and the feeling of the Beautiful Game. This cannot be organized, it cannot be legislated. It depends on a child's parents, siblings, and friends from a very early age. The love of the game that permeates Brazilian, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, etc culture cannot just be copied. And if it could, it would still take 1-2 generations. If US Soccer wants to help, distribute #3 balls to every kindergarten, see that every child in school has access to soccer balls, fields, and role models -- NOT coaches. More play, like in fun, from a very early age -- less coaching, organization, winning, etc. All it takes is a field, some balls, a lot of love of the game, and time.

  1. Gary Wien
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 9:11 p.m.
    Not only does America do a poor job of finding talent at an early age, but the basic nature of the game in the United States serves to hide potential talent. Kids in early leagues aren't taught to be creative; they're not encouraged to take people on one on one; and they're not supposed to be better than everyone else -- creative types like that are labeled "ball hogs" and disliked by the other parents. Until US soccer coaches at the lowest levels realize that they should be encouraging future stars to be creative rather than force them to play like everyone else, our national teams will suffer. Mexico is thriving due to creativity imo. Their players are highly skillful, creative, and exciting to watch. We are far more than a step behind them right now -- regardless of what the record in our last 10 matchups might be...

  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 9:35 p.m.
    I suggest you check out mike woitella article on pia sundhagen the women coach. That will make you start to think how to coach. I have seen to many youth coaches that winning is all that matters and setup their teams accordingly with big strong kids and foot skills secondary. And having fun is not a criteria that is even considered.no wonder that when the kids hit U15 the competition for a spot on a team is no longer there most of them have quit soccer.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 9:48 p.m.
    As always, PG is right on target with one. Just as he was when I read this article about 30 years ago. The sad part is that if you have been reading PG all these years chances are that you've heard this stuff before. US soccer and it's coaching brass write PG off as a crack pot. Based on the reader comments, more and more soccer lovers agree with PG. It would be amazing if US soccer changed everything and ran out every self-important youth coach, that's 100% sure they have it right, out of soccer. The Brits have to go as well. Soooo many Brit "experts" out there. Maybe if we get this right, they will be forced to make a living in Austrailia or South Africa. Anywhere but here. My apologies to the Brits that have got it right. They do exist. All 3 of you blokes can stay.

  1. Paul Ferguson
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.
    Paul Gardner has a keen insight into the game.W need to look at the Mexico/Brazil style.When you watch loacal kids in this country play at a higher level the most striking fact is the first touch passing ability and finishing are not up to standard.At the higher level it is to late for these players to change.We have the route one kuck and chase with the fans clamoring for a good result from a low percentage play.I am old enough to remember the old style Scottish game with the ball on the carpet and short quick players running ring arond hulking agricultural defenders.The change has to occur at the early ages with coaches caged on the sidelines.A pipedream.

  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: August 14, 2012 at 11:58 p.m.
    Great conversation! Seems to me it takes a lot to win the real deal. Look at Brasil and Spain. Great countries, great cultures, a lot of raw talent--but so what? They didn't bring home the gold. Mexico, this time around, found the right mix of culture, talent, and organization--and came up huge. The USA may have enough talent--heck, we may even have enough organization--but we're still not a true soccer nation. The sooner we start living and breathing soccer, the sooner we can put that into the mixer and start winning for real.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 2:23 a.m.
    Paul you have been a strong voice for many years and I hope you continue to for many years to come. Our system was not made to develop professional superstars. We need 30,000 futsal courts to be built ASAP throughout the inner cities of America. This is the first phase of our soccer revolution. You can not make chicken soup with chicken @@@@. You need a chicken!!!! Our system has good attentions towards developing team work, and to learn other life skills. But our system is totally useless in developing professional players. If we want passion and magical players we must create a sandlot/playground environment that is open for 5 years old everyday and free. Kids need to play everyday without adults/coaches interference and they need to be given a chance to play at least 3 too 4 hours a day. Later this project will have more phases so we can create a NEW SPARTA for US Soccer. If this is not done then we will continue to go down the path of fancy shoes, nice uniforms, more useless tournaments and just a lot more gimmicks to try to justify the money that is being wasted in thinking that this is how we are going develop creative and devilish players for the future. Good luck coach klinsmann. I wish you the best. But in the end you are not the solution. We are the solution. The problem is that the status quo does not have the vision nor a master plan to revolutionize soccer in America. 30,000 futsal courts is a good start. Just ask the President of the Spanish FA. He said it to 35 FIFA instructors. Futsal is one of the reasons why Spain won the world cup. Those are not my words. Those were his. We need a soccer revolution today.

  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 8:10 a.m.
    I quite often don't agree with PG but in this article he is hitting on all cylinders. The culture does have to change in this country. The pay to play at the competitive youth levels has to change or we can forget becoming a soccer powerhouse. MLS teams have got to become more involved in youth development. We have left out huge segments of our population at the competitive youth soccer levels (hispanics?). They are the ones who learn to play in their back yards in case no one has noticed.

  1. Chester Grant
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 8:40 a.m.
    Ridge Mahoney writes: "There are certainly gifted Americans ---Landon Donovan, Jose Torres, Joe Corona, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Dempsey -- but in the Mexico team confidence with the ball is nearly universal." So why is Feilhaber not being played by the Klins man?

  1. Bill Dumler
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 9:11 a.m.
    Another issue that needs to change is the emphasis at the younger ages ( < U14) by many clubs and coaches to build a team for winning. Too often, smaller kids with strong footskills are over looked. The bigger, faster kids are selected which results in winning because of physical differences (strong, taller and faster). This then promotes the "kick-ball" US Style. As players age the physical gap closes so skill leads. We have seen this with my sons team who loss many times to a top MLS academy team of larger boys, at U14 we hit our growth spurt and our skills won. The US must recognize that soccer requires years of skills development. I always shake my head when I hear a parent say, "Johnny didn't know what sport to play in school so I told him to go play soccer since all you have to do is kick the ball". I agree, Futsal, is important so start modifying basketball courts in parks so kids can play futsal as well as basketball. My son's team traveled this year to Brazil for training. Every park had at least 2 futsal/basketball courts plus a sand soccer court or fenced in small turf field with a netting roof - no ball ever left the field. During our Brazil trip, we played 5 games (2-1-1)against various Brazilian Academies (Santos was one). The best complement we received from each Brazilian coach was, "Your team doesn't play like Americans". Our coaches are from Morocco and Nigeria.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 9:31 a.m.
    We DO have a style--it's kick hard and run fast, taught and reinforced by any coach whose team plays in a tournament. How do we fix this? Get professional players to coach all U9/10/11 teams, and the 3 sub rule enforced at tournaments. Ultimately, until parents demand teams play out of the back and exhibit skill, they won't get it. If we're doing it right, why can't we find some well-rounded defenders from the tens of thousands of 18-25 year old defenders out there? What is Sunil doing to change this situation?

  1. Dennis Mueller
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:10 a.m.
    I have been involved in youth soccer for about 25 years. I can take only small credit for a very small group of players and geographical area in that time, be it for the better or not. What I've seen happen is over the years the young players (U-8s) are now much more likely to have parents who actually played soccer at some level. That is slowly translating into young players with parents (and coaches) who appreciate skill rather than just pure athleticism. That has had the effect of making US players more skillfull now than their predecessors were 20 years ago. That said, there is still a gap and when you see a mostly Latino team play a mix of USA players you can still see a difference, but it is not as large as it was. No national team coach, MLS coach, or Academy coach can reach down to teach the youngest players, there are just too many young players and only a tiny fraction will be able to achieve at the highest level. To increase the skill level of a single player, start at a young age, say 8 and by the time the players is 18, you might have an idea if it was fruitful. For a whole country, the parents, fans as well as the national level coaching staff must be involved and the time scale for that is generations. Poor Klinsmann, like Bradley, Arena, and Sampson before him, by and large he is stuck with players whose skill set on average is not at the level seen in the countries that have seen international success.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:12 a.m.
    All good comments. PG has for the most part been preaching this message for many years and I find there are more and more who agree. But the real question is, who at US Soccer is listening?

  1. Wesley Hunt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.
    How is basketball talent developed in this country. Does any one know about the Kobe Bryant’s academy? Did Michael Jordan play for an academy? The answer is no. They learned their craft on the play ground at a very young age. Their family and friends were into it as well. In Kobe’s case his father was a professional player. They learned basketball probably very much like learning language by being immersed in it. By they time they were 12-13 the basic moves were already wired into their nervous system. No conscience thought needed to string together their moves to make a dance of beauty in a drive to the basket. All that coaching can do at that point is refine the skill and work it into a team strategy. To think coaching or academies alone can develop this kind of creative player is like an 9th grade English teacher taking credit for a student being able to speak the language he grew up with. I am not saying that European academies like the La Masia cannot produce soccer stars but they are like great ships of learning riding in a sea of natural talent.

  1. Wesley Hunt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:58 a.m.
    Why does Cony keep preaching those 30,000 futsal courts. Because futsal is the best game there is for developing superiour footskills for soccer players. Kick and run does not win the game. Skill and quickness is rewarded without a coach doing anything. Courts and nets are small encouraging small sided pick up games just like basketball and because they are small they can be placed just about anywhere including the inner cities and last but not least they are cheap compared to a big grass field.

  1. Wesley Hunt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:59 a.m.
    his is how easy it could be for those 30,000 futsal courts. I have run a very small futsal league in Pennsylvania now for 6 years. Many of my players from my teams and league wanted me to do something for the summer. A league would be too much work so I approached the city about using a tennis court. I said that I or one of my partners would be there two nights a week to set up scrimmages. We supplied the nets that I made from pvc, balls, and pennies. We picked the captains and then the kids pick their own teams. No coaching is allowed by anyone. Cost to city: the time it took take down their nets. Benefit: they got to advertise it in their city summer rec program. Cost to me $250 for nets and balls and 6 hours of time/week. Benefits for me....a permanent outdoor futsal court and lots of uncoached playing time for my players and lots of new kids playing the game. Already I am seeing kids doing their own games on the nights that I am not there. This is what I really wanted to see.

  1. Nathan Robinson
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
    It seems to always be the implication that the problem is the proper training. While that is obviously part of it, a bigger part is the selection process. Through all the levels of USA soccer, brute physical attributes are highlighted while skills are secondary. The theory being that you can teach skill but you can't teach speed or size. The effects of the implementation of this theory shows up in the poor quality of play at the college level,pro levels, and the national teams.

  1. Wesley Hunt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.
    Again the answer is futsal. The same win at all costs club coach that would pick the big fast kid for his U10 team to win the state outdoor cup would pick the small skilled kid if he were playing in a futsal league instead. Why? Because the big fast physical kid will not help him win unless he has the foot skills to match his athleticism. Soccer is played 11v11 but the skills are best learned in 5v5 or less in my opinion. If USSF wanted to do something pretty easy and cheap to promote skills amoung all of the soccer playing kids of the United States they would do more to promote futsal. Where we live outdoor is not possible for 3-4months of the year. Perfect time for futsal!....but what does the state USSF affiliate promote during the off season? The state indoor cup. It is outdoor soccer played indoors in big expensive to heat domes or buildings. Win at all costs coaches picking their best teams are to be found in all youth sports that I have ever been involved with and I am pretty sure that we will never change that, but at least the USSF can do a little more to promote a game that will help develop the skills that they are so anxious for our soccer players to have.

  1. Alex G. Sicre
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.
    Finally, Pauls explanation of the true facts got through. Thank you very much Paul.

  1. Robert Looyen
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:34 p.m.
    As far as style in this country? We have one, it's pretty obvious that it's the speed and long ball style, and that comes from the top. Even the Brits have abandoned that style for a more ball control style, but it lives on here. Sorry Sunil, but you need to step up and do the right thing or go and let someone else do it. I suggest, and I have in this blog in the past, that we go hat in hand and convince either Tabb Ramos or Claudio Reyna to take over and make the changes absolutely required to push the game forward in this country.

  1. Robert Looyen
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.
    A lot of good ideas and comments from the previous writers in this blog. But many of the ideas are unworkable in a country this size. Waiting for the soccer culture to develop will take decades. The fact that more and more of the parents of these players are having played the game themselves is great and needed, but that and un-coached unsupervised scrimmaging will only go as far. The younger kids in soccer cultural countries emulate the skills and moves of the older players, without them, bad habits become the norm. So we can't do it like the great soccer countries of the world, we need to be innovators, which is what this country is best at. The problem starts at the top, the USSF needs an overhaul, but in a country where only the small soccer community cares, the USSF isn't held accountable. So we need the soccer press to be more critical of the work that's being done by the so called soccer authorities in this country. Then what needs to happen is all of the various soccer organizations need to start to work together. The USSF claim to be in charge of all soccer activities in this country, just one look at the structure chart that they put out would lead you to believe they are in charge, but nothing could be further from the truth. The USSF is only a collector of fees from the likes of AYSO, USYSA, and MLS, but have less than zero say in there activities and focus, that needs to change. For an example; we all know that the identification of the most talented players need to start at a very young age, and yet all we get out of the most successful youth organization in this country, AYSO, is protectionism and critical scare tactics about the mean bad ugly club soccer organizations to try and convince these players and their parents that they should stay with the softer everyone is the same culture of there organization, which is alright for 90% of the players out there. We need those better players to be identified and encouraged to go to a higher level of play and coaching, and be taught correctly from the start, because by the time I get them at 10-14, all I do is try to fix old bad habits instead of working on the more advanced concepts that they need to know at that age. But pride stops this from happening because the coaches in these recreational organizations want to win and those one or two good players will do that for them, very sad how petty it can get. Maybe a financial incentive for these recreational groups will get them to change that identification and encouragement process.

  1. Robert Looyen
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.
    We need to provide free of charge; clinics for coaches and players to encourage the change in style that needs to happen, and identify players that need our attention. At the same time, club/USSF coaches need to be sent out to the immigrant communities and seek out the players that already have the skills needed to play this new style, because trust me they are there, we just need to approach them and offer them our support which will have to include financial help as well in many cases. After over 35 years of coaching 50 years of playing this game, I firmly believe we can turn this ship around in less time than we all fear.

  1. John Hooper
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.
    Paul's explanation got through because it wasn't buried under his anti-british railing or his hatred of some kind of ill-defined "defensive" soccer. This is the kind of simple, obvious truth that we all acknowledge about American soccer. We are just not developing players with the necessary skills, and we all know the youth soccer system has a lot to do with that. I think this is a great article, but that's an exception for Paul, who most of the time is just whining from his high horse. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  1. Joseph Pratt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 12:42 p.m.
    Great article, spot on by PG, and a great discussion. I love this statement: "From what I’ve seen, it goes against the nature of even the youngest Mexican boy to simply hoof the ball off into the distance. What he wants to do is to play it on the ground, either to dribble it or to short-pass it." YES! American kids are over-coached, and at the early ages it is generally by dads who don't know the game. They are pressed into service as volunteers. They take their cues from football, where coaches rule. They think their job is to get their teams to win. This is true even in AYSO, where most kids start out. So they tell the kids "kick it" "boot it" "good kick Johnny!!" The parents, also soccer neophytes, yell the same things: "get rid of it!" "Clear it!!" They are deathly afraid that a kid will make a mistake and a goal will be conceded. But guess what, that is exactly how we all learn, by making mistakes. Coaches have to allow kids to play and learn and make mistakes. I coach a travel team that is drawn from AYSO players, so I see this coaching mentality first-hand. This change will be generational. Ideas like Allan Lindh's to distribute size 3 balls to kindergartens, and Cory's to introduce more futsal are great: let the kids play, and we will see what we see with US basketball: skilled players who grow up with a love of the game.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.
    Spot on by Paul Gardner, and Allan Lindh in the comments has a good point as well. Kids need the ball at their feet from an early age. It's the only way to get really good. Wynton Marsalis started playing the trumpet at age 6. That's what it takes. Unfortunately there is no outlet for kids to do this. Everything is hyper-organized. Teams are tooooooo biiiiiig. So you see 6-8 players *to a side* doing the swarm thing around the ball. Too many coaches and parents yelling at the kids to do the wrong things. For only 3-4 months a year. When I was growing up in Central and South America (my dad was State Dept.) I learned with the local kids. On the street, with no parents in sight, year-round. And rarely more than six of us, so we did lots of 2 on 2 and 3 on 3, and the better kids would try outrageous stuff that coaches here would yell at you for. (I was sadly 2-3 years behind them in experience; they tolerated me because I would bring a real ball.) But it was fun, as it was supposed to be. We need to replicate this somehow. Kids need more touches, fewer yelling parents and coaches. Rather than leagues and coaches we need to give kids a safe environment to play short-sided (3v3, 4v4) pick-up games. Let them pick their own teams and play their own way, and send the parents away!

  1. Joseph Pratt
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.
    Kevin Sims, great comment, I think you absolutely spot on. Thanks!!

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 6:27 p.m.
    As I am reading through your comments a Carlos Santana song comes to me-Let The Children Play. This is one of the most important components for child to have. A place to play and feel free to express themselves. As adults we want to try to fix everything with money and gimmicks. The kids don't need gimmicks. They just need a place to call their own. The US Soccer Federation must make a pledge to all of children of America. Their pledge is to build these fields of dreams for our kids. 30,000 futsal courts and each one of these courts will be a field of dreams. We need radical change. We need a soccer revolution in the USA. The time is now!!!

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 10:44 p.m.
    It seems that having a coach who knows what he is doing made an impact tonight. Congratulations to the USMNT and the Coaching Staff for producing the first ever victory at el Azteca over our biggest rivals. I know that much more needs to be done, but what a positive statement about the possibilities of US Soccer. Again, thanks Herr Klinsmann.

  1. cony konstin
    commented on: August 15, 2012 at 11:18 p.m.
    It had to take a German to show the Americans that Mexican-Americans can play just as good as Mexican players. Today we saw history in the making. A Mexican-American scoring the winning goal for the USA against Mexico in Mexico. Yes it was a friendly game but it wasn't a game. It was a statement that was made from years of historical racism towards Mexican Americans and Latinos in general who live and have died for the red white and blue. This is the beginning of the next American Revolution.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 6:24 a.m.
    Let's not get carried away with the next revolution. The team played reasonably well defensively, but couldn't put together anything coherent or dangerous offensively. It was a typical Bob Bradley bunker football. The Mexican-American players were really quite poor, as were most of the "Germans". Just got lucky in one game.

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
    The difference is not the defensive stance, which is logical for anyone playing on the road at el Azteca, but the ability to pass the ball out instead of whacking it out. The ability to control the ball in the attacking third, instead of just lumping it up is the difference between the past and the present. If you don't see it, your either not paying attention or in denial.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
    Sorry, I didn't see it yesterday and I didn't see it during the Italy game. I saw some attempts but they were largely unsuccessful. I am not sure if the US team ever put more than 3 or 4 passes together in the attacking third or even in the middle of the field, let alone controlling the ball.

  1. Rene Guerra
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.
    American soccer still stinks...as evidenced once more, this time during the game against Mexico; American soccer is horrible. Maybe what would help enormously, --from primary to high-school to college to USL to the MLS-- is to have coaches and players watch and study the cerebral and finesse soccer that Barcelona, the Spanish national team, and the creators of it, the Argentines --who, at last, seem to have abandoned the roadrunner-style European soccer, and are now returning to their vintage embroidery-style soccer: phenomenal possession based on devilish dribbling, cunning-protection of the ball, and a rosary of short, one-touch, daisy-cutter, crispy, precise passing until destabilizing the opponent to force him to creating openings to then dash at lightning speed to make a goal. And goalies must learn to distribute the ball with the hands, leaving the big-kicking only to extreme cases, when the risk of losing possession of the ball in such stupid manner is the only alternative left. The notion that the goalie's team-players must "win the ball" to gain possession of it is the most idiotic one, for the ball is already in the goalie's team: it is in his/her very hands. Duh?

  1. Rene Guerra
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 11:17 p.m.
    PART 1 Gardner contends: "In a number of ways, the Mexican success story mirrors what Spain has achieved. Their styles are basically similar. And both countries have had to endure decades of failure and near misses at the international level. What both countries displayed was a total faith in their style -- they kept playing soccer their way without giving way to the temptation to introduce expedient changes." He's wrong, it is NOT Spain or Mexico whom we must look up to; it is Argentina. And here it is why: Spain was playing a horrible kind of football, basically the same roadrunner European style, run with the ball on the sides almost to the corner flag to then make a cross to the penalty-zone which by this time the rest of the team had swarmed. Then, decades after their hiring Alfredo Di Stefano --who was not a representative of the Argentine embroidered football of individually-most-skillful Manuel Labruna, Omar Sívori, Jose Moreno, and later Diego Maradona, Osvaldo Ardiles, Mario Kempes, Gabriel Batistuta, and more recently, after a hiatus in Argentine football, Andrés D'Alessandro, Javier Saviola, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Aymar and now, probably the greatest of them all, Lionel Messi-- they started importing Argentine players in increasingly larger numbers and higher quality, and it was Lionel Messi who taught Barcelona (and Barcelona taught the national team) Argentine vintage embroidery-style soccer: phenomenal possession based on devilish dribbling, cunning-protection of the ball, and a rosary of short, one-touch, daisy-cutter, crispy, precise passing until destabilizing the opponent to force him to creating openings to then either dash at lightning speed or embroider their way to the adversary's a goal. As for Argentine herself, unfortunately, during the last 20 years or so, upon the fading of the generation of Maradona, Ardiles, Kempes, Buruchaga, Batistuta and other great ones, Argentines abandoned their beautiful weblike-patterned-lace game-style for the European roadrunner style. It was with the advent of devilish dribblers and phenomenal short-distance passers like Andrés D'Alessandro, Javier Saviola, Gabriel Ortega, and now, Lionel Messi that Argentine soccer started to return to its beautiful natural and traditional style, which have now fully re-embraced after seeing the Spanish reviving it to its full grandeur.

  1. Rene Guerra
    commented on: August 16, 2012 at 11:18 p.m.
    PART 2 See how Barcelona and the Spanish senior team sweep all those roadrunner European teams; just watch how Barcelona made Manchester United dance fandango with their devilish passing and overall ball-possession in last year's European Club Championship. See how Argentine deflated the roadrunner German team yesterday in Frankfurt. See how Brazil deflated the roadrunner Swedish team yesterday also... abandoning the European roadrunner-style and going back to its "jogo-bonito", which was patterned more than sixty-years ago after Argentine vintage football. (Notice how Honduras, playing the Argentine-style passing game and ball-possession, almost beat Brazil in the Olympic Games.) Traditional, vintage Argentine football not only frustrates the rival, who cannot steal the ball, but also deflates the continually bursting rushes of adrenaline that roadrunner-style football players get from their continued dashing at full speed. And, since they don't know any other style, they get bogged, in addition to getting frustrated. Contrary to what Garner contends, such style of football embroidery CAN be learned at any age. But he is right regarding individual skill and instinct; they MUST be learned since very early age. So, although our players are not that individually skillful --mainly because of the reasons Gardner adduces-- they can learn the passing of the Argentines, Spanish and Brazilians. At the same time they must study --and try to improve their own dribbling-- the phenomenal dribbling of the likes of Messi and a few other Argentines, and Spaniards Andrés Iniesta, and Xavi Hernández, David Villa, Sergio Ramos, Pedro Rodríguez, David Silva and others. Once our footballers have gone through such a metamorphosis --which our national team can accomplish it in less of one year of arduous work in that direction-- then Jürgen Klinsmann can start architecturing systems and strategies, which now would be based on solid football and that would conduce to success, or at least to a decent performance in the 2014 World Cup.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: August 17, 2012 at 5:28 a.m.
    Ok, Rene, we get it. While you prefer to pay attention to some meaningless friendlies, the rest of the world pays more attention to what happened to Argentina and Brazil in the last World Cup.

  1. Charles O'Cain
    commented on: August 17, 2012 at 9:24 a.m.
    Funny ... I seem to remember Roadrunner usually getting the best of Wile E Coyote ... or am I embroidering history here?

  1. Felipe Maqueda
    commented on: August 18, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
    Money, money, money. High club fees filter players, it means only players who can afford to pay the club fees are the ones exposed to be seen by a national team coaches. These players most of the time just want to play and travel. They don't have the dream to became a professional player because they have it all. 80% of the best players in the world came from soccers programs that most of the time are free. No wonder klinsmann wants to find the next Messi in the southern neighborhoods of LA.


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