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Nice soccer from the U-20s -- but don't mention the Latinos
by Paul Gardner, March 12th, 2013 12:44AM

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TAGS:  chivas usa, college men, men's national team, mls, under-20 world cup, youth boys

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By Paul Gardner

Tut, tut, Alexi Lalas, naughty, naughty. On a recent ESPN telecast Lalas had the bad taste, or the attention-seeking gall -- or was it simply the courage? -- to bring up what has evidently become a thorny subject these days: the place of Latino players in American soccer.

Lalas was referring to the policy of Chivas USA, and had this to say of Chivas USA’s recruiting: “It’s very clear that Chivas USA have targeted players that have Mexican and Hispanic parentage. Some people have called it racist, I don’t think it is -- but it is, though, exclusionary.”

Lalas went on to pose this question: “If you are a young boy playing soccer in Southern California right now, and you don’t have Mexican or Hispanic parentage, do you have an equal opportunity to play for both of your teams [i.e. Chivas USA and Galaxy] in Los Angeles? And I think the answer right now is ‘No.’”

Does he have a point? Yes, very definitely he does. And it’s a point that those of us who have been promoting the merits of Latino players need to acknowledge.

To get some irritating factors out of the way for a start. This discrimination against Anglo (i.e. non-Latino) players that Lalas is talking of needs to be seen in the context of years, decades, of the reverse bias -- that of a discrimination against Hispanic players.

American soccer -- and I’m very much including college soccer -- has a long and unenviable record of deprecating the Latin game and its players. The situation has been improving. The move by MLS to shift youth development away from the colleges into club academies is having an effect. Take a look at these percentage figures for Latino players on MLS club academies at the under-16 and under-18 levels:

Chicago 35%
Chivas USA 75%
Colorado 33%
Columbus 4%
Dallas 61%
D.C. United 25%
Houston 72%
Kansas City 19%
Los Angeles 62%
New England 24%
New York 29%
Portland 37%
Real Salt Lake 43%
San Jose 48%
Seattle 9%

For an overall average of 37%. A figure that is massively at odds with what we see from college soccer. It is a stat that ought to spell the death of college soccer as a pathway to pro soccer. A death from ineffectiveness, if you like, but shame should play its part as well.

Yes, Latino players have found it difficult in American soccer. So, maybe, the sort of bias alleged by Lalas can be overlooked as late justice? No, not really. The one prejudice does not excuse the other. But if we’re going to start making accusations of exclusionary practices, how about starting with an admission that most of the blame for this attitude lies with the Anglo side of the game?

I haven’t seen any evidence that Lalas has ever spoken out on behalf of Latino players, or against the difficulties they face in the American game -- so it’s hard to accept his criticism. But accepted it must be. Chivas USA should not position itself as being uninterested in Anglo players.

But as soon as we start talking about the qualities of players we are dealing with a specifically soccer issue. And this discussion starts with the fact that there is a specific Latin way of playing soccer, one that is recognized worldwide, and one that is seen as a style that features more ball-skills than any other style, and that includes elements of artistry and bravura that other styles lack or eschew. As its counterpoint, we have the no-frills, overtly physical game propounded by the northern Europeans, particularly the British, who claim greater action and excitement for their game, and like to see players “get stuck in.”

Those who do not, or refuse to, see these opposing forces do not belong in this debate. For they are the people who, lacking knowledge of the soccer nuances and subtleties involved, want to reduce this issue to a matter of racism, which it is not, and never has been.

The fact is that all soccer clubs in the world practice exclusion: Their coaches will have their preferences for the style of player that they like, and for the players that they don’t like -- and those likes and dislikes are intimately related to the style of soccer that they want their teams to play.

This type of discrimination is at work quite frequently in soccer, and it particularly involves attacking players. The departure of goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Barcelona in 2011 came about because Coach Pep Guardiola felt he did not fit the Barca style. The same reasoning applied when Andy Carroll found himself unwanted by Liverpool’s new coach Brendan Rodgers.

Both cases could be damned as bias against huge center forwards -- sizeism, I imagine it would be called. You can see it that way, but it is essentially a matter of a soccer preference. There are, after all, plenty of soccer coaches who very obviously have no faith in small players.

It comes down to this. Chivas USA wants to play a Latin-style, even a Mexican-style, of soccer. Who else would it recruit to accomplish that, other than Latin-style players? Well, it should also be looking to see if there are any Anglos who fit the bill. There won’t be many, but you never know. A Landon Donovan or a Clint Dempsey would do nicely. So the answer to the Lalas Lament about young Anglo players in Southern California is that the bias he complains of will exist -- but it is one of many biases to be taken into account when considering the value of a soccer player.

Above all, it is not -- and Lalas was quick to acknowledge this -- racism. It is exclusionary, maybe unnecessarily so (though Chivas did have four Anglos in its starting lineup this past weekend), but in principle no more exclusionary than any choice that a soccer coach will make in deciding to recruit or reject a player.

At least Lalas discussed the subject on television. That is not what happened during the FOX telecasts of the USA’s team during the Concacaf under-20 championship. The team did well, getting to the final, improving with every game. For the final against Mexico, Coach Tab Ramos fielded a team in which eight of the 10 outfield players were Latino.

Yet ... during that 2-hour telecast of the final, neither of the TV commentators, JP Dellacamera and Christopher Sullivan, could bring themselves to discuss, to even make a passing reference to, the overwhelmingly Latino character of this team.

I find that extraordinary and, frankly, inexplicable. Not least because this was an exceptionally good performance from the USA. Actually, one of the best performances I have ever seen from any U.S. national team, at any level (my experience of U.S. national teams started in 1964, when I watched the USA, with one Latino player, get beaten 10-0 by England. Things have gotten better).

Mexican youth soccer can lay claim to being the best in the world at the moment, so for the USA, playing in Mexico, to take the Mexicans to overtime is impressive. Doubly so, because it was not achieved by relying (as has invariably been the case in the past) on intimidating physical play and good goalkeeping.

But things went way beyond the mere reliance on defensive qualities. We saw an American team playing with style, passing the ball well, crisply, accurately -- and, yes, excitingly -- trying, always, to play themselves out of tricky situations. All of the U.S. players looked comfortable on the ball -- I have never seen that before. This was soccer con brio, with artistry as well as commitment, with skill and determination.

What Tab Ramos and his team gave us down in Puebla was the breakthrough that American soccer has been seeking. Oh, if only ... I’m almost tempted to say that it was the breakthrough that the U.S. has been avoiding, because this has taken far too long.

A point has been made: That we have, in this country, a lot of exceptional Latino talent. But will that point, at long last, be accepted? Is there still a reluctance to allow Latinos their place in U.S. soccer? That telecast -- how was it possible for two experienced American soccer commentators to avoid discussing, to not even mention, the pivotal importance of what was happening in front of them?

Could it be that the antipathy for Latino soccer is still around. You bet it could. I’m sure it is not part of either Dellacamera’s or Sullivan’s DNA, but in being coy about bringing the subject up they evidently sense an awkwardness about it. As though it is not quite the done thing to discuss in polite company.

Yes, the old attitudes do hang on, but they need to be extinguished. You can see the contradictions involved by looking at those Academy percentages above. The overall trend is clearly toward accommodating Latino players. But not everywhere -- and some of the lower figures come from surprising places.

I suppose the biggest question to be answered, the one of immediate urgency, is this: Where does Jurgen Klinsmann stand? He saw the game, he knows -- he must know -- that he saw plenty of players on the field who match up to his desire for players who are fit, who play with an intense desire to win, and who play the sort of soccer that he claims to want.

And he knows that most of them were Latino. Then why does he not acknowledge that? He is “excited about the qualification,” and thinks it “well deserved,” he’s “happy for Tab Ramos.” He says “we look at the individual talent, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they connect with each other. There are a lot of elements we talk about afterward with Tab Ramos because they’re the future a couple years down the road.”

So -- does Klinsmann see a Latino future? Maybe. Maybe not -- he talks, in tepid, Scrooge-like tones, of “a couple of individual talents coming through the ranks there,” with no indication of who they might be. Maybe it’s the decidedly anglo goalkeeper who caught his eye?

This is very disappointing. On this matter, as a result of what went on in the U-20 final, Klinsmann should be speaking out much more loudly, much more enthusiastically. Instead, we get the traditional omerta that envelops the Latino player and the Latino style. One has to wonder what sort of vision Klinsmann has for the future of American soccer if he cannot get truly excited about what Tab Ramos and his boys did in Mexico. ...

For Alexi Lalas, then, a sort of bouquet for bringing up what almost looks like a forbidden subject. But a sort of brickbat, too, for dubbing it “exclusionary” without pointing out that such measures are not unusual when it comes to assembling soccer teams.

For JP Dellacamera and Christopher Sullivan nothing but questions -- above all, what is it that makes a virtually all-Latino team something that cannot be talked about?

For Tab Ramos and his team, nothing but praise. For proving that those with unfailing faith in the Latino game have been right. That we have plenty of exceptional young talent among the Latino ranks, but we have so far failed to make use of it. I wish I could be confident that Tab’s message will be heard throughout American soccer. But it has not been heard before, and the entrenched ignorance of, and opposition to, Latin soccer runs mighty deep among the get-stuck-in crowd.



38 comments
  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.
    "Mexican youth soccer can lay claim to being the best in the world at the moment"...WHERE IN THE WORLD DO YOU GET THIS INFORMATION FROM? FROM THE RESULTS OF A VERY POOR CONCACAF? HAS ANYONE SEEN UEFA, CAF, OR CONEMBOL IN QUALIFICATION? ARE WE KIDDING? WHO EVER PROVIDED THE ABOVE SHOULD NOT BE REPORTING!!! PLEASE, STAY AWAY FROM THE GAME! WHEN THE FINALS TAKE PLACE IN TURKEY SOCCER EDUCATION WILL ONCE AGAIN BE ON THE CENTER STAGE REGARDING THE REST OF THE WORLD AND THEIR YOUTH PROGRAMS!!! UNREAL WHAT I'M READING! SOCCER IN AMERICA!!!

  1. Pablo Miralles
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 2:27 a.m.
    U-17 World Cups won by Mexico since 2005 - 2 U-20 World Cup 2011 3rd Place That is by far the "best in the world at the moment" Peter. I may not always agree with Mr. Gardner, but on this he is correct. Study up before you criticize.

  1. johnny caal
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 2:45 a.m.
    Well said Mr. Gardner. The transformation of the game we are seeing is no different than what our country saw with basketball and our African American players. Please look at the US Olympic basketball team. Yet no one said African Americans, just simply the USA team. And that's what I saw during the U20 game in Mexico. I saw a great American team, the future of soccer in America.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 2:57 a.m.
    To Paul Gardner, thank you. But to Peter, I know you know better, Peter, and yes we'll see how the games play out for our teams in Turkey. As for the college game, Mr. Gardner leaves out a very important part of the equation, and that is that most D1 teams recruit players with the necessary GPA and SAT scores, though many intercolelgiate programs, DI & II, not DIII, do have some "athletic" quotas, and so as far as potentialLatino collegiate players are concerned, the admission process as well beyond since many of the potential talent does not come from the areas where the so-called cream of the crop can be skimmed. there are other variables involved here, and maybe Mr. Gardner should've covered it as I know for a fact that he's covered the college game as far back as the early 70's and knows about which I talk. As for Lalas' comments, it is/was only a matter of time that the tall red head stuck his neck out, lord only knows he should know something as he was at one time the golden-red-haired boy of AEG and Lieweekly's Galaxy; and as far as the Chivas is concerned, if this enterprise futbol-soccer team is to succeed, it must be, not, it HAS to be inclusive. After all, isn't this what many of us have been talking about all these years, something that PG has "dared" to talk about. Lastly, I predict a slew of comments on this issue, some not so nice, still thanks again Paul Gardner!

  1. johnny caal
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 3:06 a.m.
    Funny note, two nights ago I was driving late in the evening through East Los Angeles and saw baseball parks trsnsformed into soccer fields and many young Latino players playing with so much love for the game of soccer just for fun. Reminded so much of the passion I saw in Harlem 28 years ago with young basketball players. So, who cares what raise or color is on the field. The only color we need to care about is Red, White, and Blue. Mr. Klinsman needs to chose our best home grown youth players to represent our count and we need to support them regardless of where their parents came from.

  1. Doug Kieffer
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 7:12 a.m.
    I'll grant that there is a pro-British bias in American soccer but I think it is unfair to lay that tag on Sullivan. My experience has been that his very receptive to the Latin style of play. His website is Purofutbol.com for crying out loud. As for JP, I've always found him to very professional and technically sound at the mike. Their job was not to promote a vision (or lack thereof) of US soccer but to comment on the game action. I would say tagging them with the "sin of omission" is misplaced. That said, I agree, this was one of the most entertaining games I've ever watched and I am encouraged if this team foreshadows what the senior team's potential portends.

  1. Kevin Reardon
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 7:56 a.m.
    The first of my two significant problems with the piece: Regarding this: " It is a stat that ought to spell the death of college soccer as a pathway to pro soccer. A death from ineffectiveness, if you like, but shame should play its part as well." Shame? Listen, Mr. Gardner there are undoubtedly "biases" in selecting players in the college ranks as you say. But to compare MLS Academies (completely free and without an Academic hurdle for entry) with NCAA as a whole obliterates your entry point into the "shame" of not having more latinos. Is it not fair to say that the majority of our soccer-playing latino population is not sending their kids to prep school in Connecticut to be ready for University entrance standards and ongoing scholastic requirements - all while playing near full-time soccer. And despite the promise of a "Full Ride" to some of the best (Academically eligible) players recruited into the college soccer programs around the country, even a "full ride" in many, if not most, instances is free tuition and comes with an annual "invoice" for $8 - $15 thousand for room and board. I would say that it is an equal "non-stretch" to say that the preponderance of Latino families are not waiting in line to deliver their $30k - $60k checks to the University for their son's 4-year college soccer career. You've been here long enough - this stuff should be obvious by now! That is unless obvious facts get in the way of your thematic narrative.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 8:11 a.m.
    Don't understand this fascination with Mexico's youth soccer. Yeah, they've won a couple of U-17 world cups, one playing at home -- so what? Among recent winners we can find the likes of Nigeria, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland -- none to be mistaken for world powers in the game. Should we try emulating Saudi or Swiss soccer now? Besides, there are many ways in which U17 victories can be achieved, not the least prominent being the one that caused Mexico to be banned from the 1990 World Cup. The bottom line is that the soccer-crazy Mexico has never achieved anything that the US hasn't achieved in the World Cup.

  1. Kevin Reardon
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 8:16 a.m.
    So a funny thing happened to me on my way to an MLS event in NYC last summer. The Yankees were playing - telecast on the TV and on CBS radio. The latter part of the game had an infield of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robbie Cano and Mark Teixeira. Raul Ibanez was in the outfield, Rafael Soriano had just finished pitching the 8th inning and Mariano Rivera was starting the 9th. I listened to the rest of the game on the radio having watched the earlier part on TV. Until just Now, just this moment - having read your column - I did not realize what a latino-averse bias existed in New York and USA baseball as not a single one of the announcers on TV or the Radio commented on the latin-flavor / cultural make-up of one of the great American Sports teams currently engaged in a significant professional contest. Snark aside, do you think there is even a small chance that Chris Sullivan and JP Dellacamera see those players and their latin surnames as just "Americans"? When you grow up with the game in this country and choose to play in the parks and in the schools and "around the block" you maybe - just maybe - become (partly / mostly / fully) de-sensitized to cultural differences and more focused on whether the guy with the funny latin / Irish / Italian / German / Portuguese / Greek name has a pretty good left foot or not? Maybe that is where Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Dellacamera (correctly) had their focus?

  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 8:46 a.m.
    I've always said that when we'll see youngsters (whatever their background is) playing more pick-up soccer on their own, as many youngsters play football, baseball, and basketball just for fun, is when our soccer here will improve; and we will finally get some players with creativity which in most cases is not encouraged enough in organized soccer. Also the players must watch as much soccer as possible so that they can emulate what they see and practice with out worries what an adult might think or say.

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:35 a.m.
    I've been following "Football" since I was pretty much "born," played football for a living, and at the moment have interest in many areas especially the "transfer market...!" That's another issue! Now, with regard to Mexico and its successes "most recently," by "laying claim to be the "best in the world????" here are the "statistics" from the U-17 and U-20 World Cups since their inception...I'm not going to provide dates because I need to set up my booth to "feed those in need...": U17's - Winners Mexico 2, Brazil 2, Ghana 2, Nigeria 2, Spain 1, Switzerland France 1, Saudi 1, Soviet Union 1,...Second Place: Nigeria 3, Germany 2, Brazil 2, Ghana 2, Spain 2 U-20's: Brazil 4, Argentina 5, Ghana, 1, Spain 1, Portugal 1, UAE 1, W. Germany 1, Yugoslavia 1, Soviet Union Second Place: Brazil 3, Argentina 1, Nigeria 2, Ghana 2, Spain 2, Japan 1, Uruguay 1, Soviet Union 1, Mexico 1. Enjoy but their might be a small margin of error...! Mexico laying claim to the best in the World?

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:55 a.m.
    Thank You Kevin Reardon. The point of the game is to win. The point of fielding a team is to provide yourself with the best chance of winning. I don't look at my players as "races", I look at them as keepers, wingers, mids, backs, attackers, defenders, linkers, etc... The fascination the author has with and against certain nation states is borderline pathological. Mr. Gardner, we all get your point, you've made it in 97% of your articles over the past 5 years. You are becoming the Jesse Jackson of the Mexicans must play movement, a constant voice for the solution to a problem that existed 25-30 years and has been solved already.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
    Bill and Kevin: PG is not trying to put an affirmative action plan in place. He too wants to see us win a world cup. So he and a lot of other open-minded people would like to see the best players on the field. Part of getting the best players is to look everywhere for them. It's clear that a large portion of outstanding American talent is not given a fair look. That's all.

  1. Tn Soccer Dad
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.
    PGs article, although aimed correctly, misses the mark. It is not a racism issue... It is a style issue. The same debate occurs in every american sport, but for some reason soccer people attribute it to its basest element:ethnicity. They believe there is only one way to play the game and that is what at its core is wrong about the debate. The debate is the difference between Big 10 basketball and ACC basketball, 85 Chicago bears v Brady Patriots; Scott Stevens Devils v Gretzky Oilers; Whitey Herzog Cardinals v Joe Torre Yankees. It is a matter of speed v strength; finesse v power. Americans generally prefer the power game in all their sports and that is how soccer developed here. That is what they like to watch on TV and in person. Those without understanding will say it was because there was less skill as our game developed, but having a good power game is as much skill as having a good finesse game. It is just a different set of skills. No better no worse. Right now the pendulum is swinging toward the finesse game because of the Barca success, but Bayern this year plays a more physical game and they are dominating. The finesse game is also the more selfish game... It is more dribbling, and taking players on one on one. Individualism v team. It has more, unfortunate but true "flopping" (regardless of ethnic background) . These are the players who "get noticed" now and advance in the ODP and MNT underage teams, but then have to be taught to play the power and team game when thrown together in camps because the team game wins, not the individual game. That was the difference in the first two under 20 games and the last one. the first two were about the individual players and the last was about the team. As i watched i thought they were all trying out for their pro contracts and not worried about how the team did. Ramos finally got them concerned with what they should have been focused on from the start and they played as a team: power and passing, not finesse and flopping. Klinsman is not from the finesse camp. He believes in the power game that is why he looks for bigger stronger players, but he knows he needs some finesse players too as he needs a well rounded team. To attribute this debate to a particular ethnic bias is demeaning to the game and the readers. In the other sports we have it is not called racism, and here it should be called that either.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 10:57 a.m.
    This conversation seems to be deviating from the real issues: (1) for the first time, a US soccer team has been dominated by Latin (Mexican) players and that team has not only won but has played exceptionally entertaining soccer. (2) Until now, this fact of majority Latin participation on the U20 has been notably ignored. The more monumental issue - (1) - should be the real news. We should be discussing why this happened NOW and HOW has this come about? Is this the result of Tab Ramos recruiting? If so, what has he done differently? Has Klinsmann had a hand in this? Sunil Gulati?? Is it all a timing fluke? Number (2), the lack of PR/discussion -- isn't that surprising. IT'S A CONTENTIOUS ISSUE!!!! It hits on all the hot button issues, racism, exclusion, reverse-racism, etc. My personal opinion, like some others, is that we are experiencing a "basketball" moment, where an ethnic group breaks through to begin to dominate a sport. There will be a natural push-back since there is an industry and heirarchy in US Soccer that depends on promoting the white suburban illusion of a free college ride for those willing to fund their child's "select" development. Hopefully the push-back will fail. ------ Some of my comments regarding previous posts: (1) "can lay claim to being the best in the world at the moment" -- it's rather foolish to make an issue of this innocuous comment. All that PG was saying was that a case CAN be made for Mexico's predominant position in youth international soccer. Ta...daaaaah!! (2) Sullivan and Della Camera's failure to comment on the ethnicity of the team -- c'mon guys! there are so many better reasons to critique these two announcers that this issue pales in comparison!! Chris Sullivan should be prevented under penalty of law from getting within 50 feet of a microphone!! He has never found a soccer fact that he doesn't feel warrants immediate dissemination to the universe. His comments are more appropriate to an A license seminar than to a broadcast booth!!!! He suffers from terminal logorrhea!!! Della Camera would be ok if he just learned WHEN to talk and when not. (3) regarding comparisons of the U20 event to the dominance of ethnic baseball players TODAY. Sorry, but that's "apples and oranges" . The predomiinance of Latin American and Caribbean players in MLB is very old news!! The U20's is NOW.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.
    "for the first time, a US soccer team has been dominated by Latin (Mexican) players and that team has not only won but has played exceptionally entertaining soccer." -- wait a second! Aren't we getting carried away here? First, the US team didn't win, Mexico did. Second, the US team accomplished what a number of previous US teams did in that tournament. Third, the team didn't play "exceptionally entertaining soccer". There were some good moments, but plenty of not so good ones. The team was poor against Haiti and Costa Rica, and at best average in other games. And that in the weakest (sans Oceania) confederation. Let's wait for Turkey this summer before proclaiming some huge success because we beat Haiti, Costa Rica, Canada, and Cuba.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 12:01 p.m.
    TN S D --- Totally agree that the issue is and should be style not ethnicity but it does get a bit more complicated when the style is tied so closely to ethnicity and when that ethnicity has in the past often been excluded due to financial environment of youth soccer. Moving on --- I'm afraid I must vehemently disagree with your statement that finesse soccer is inherently "selfish" ???? Is Barca a "selfish team" ? Wow! Also there is nothing selfish about dribbling in the right places on the pitch. People pay big moneyto atch that selfishMessi!!!! t

  1. BJ Genovese
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.
    Two wrongs do not make a right... Thats all I have to say about Mr Gardners stand on how Latinos were treated in the past with regards to soccer in the US. They need to get a hold of this now before our National teams from the u14 to our mens side becomes only German america/Latino players. Kids are not even going to try out for high level development programs pretty soon. Look who is in charge of the US developmental system. Ramos/Perez/Renya. I dont know guys. Soccer is just getting better all around in general in the us as they are having DA's and just more all around participation from kids. Now is not the time to be building only Latin sides. This game is not like Basketball. Basketball is a game where being 6'7" (size alone really helps). Soccer is for every shape and size and color. Thats why we have the chance to be the best.

  1. Christian Velez
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
    @Peter Skouras obviously doesn't understand what context means. Saudi Arabia won the U17 WC in 1989, when the format was different. Nigeria has won one of the last four editions but, unlike Mexico, doesn't have the domestic league to support its young players. That is the crucial part of all this. The fact that Mexico's league can not only aid in the development of these young kids but, more importantly, become the vehicle they need to progress. You're obviously not well versed at all with the issues Mexico faced with youth development. One last thing, it is true that Mexico won the U17 WC at home in 2011 but the funny thing is, it was the first time a host had won it. Nothing to scoff at, in my opinion but you did your best so I applaud your effort.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
    Gentlemen, overall your comments are well taken and all point out in the right direction, though I believe that what PG pointed out was the mere fact that there was no inclusion of Latino players in the US Soccer scene for far too many years/decades until now. The history of this can be debated over and over, but the main fact is that it is happening now and I applaud the process. Several comments pointed out only too well the matter concerning the college game and the necessary money driven attempts to get into a "marquee" D1 or D2 program, and so, if one were to venture into Southern California and visit the many community college soccer teams, the majority of the players are Latino, simply and because of California's virtual "open door policy" to gain admission to the comm-coll system, yet, only a handful of these players are actually recruited to D1 & 2 programs. As for Froelich's comments, I agree with him that perhaps Sullivan and Delacamera made a specific point NOT to point out/illustrate the team's make up, though I noticed it immediately prior to the game when the line ups were flashed on screen., for for those who did not see the vast difference in our team's style and enthusiasm, well pilgrims I don't know what you were watching. Bottom line is that I see a "change-a-comin'" and the player pool inclusively half-ful, and yes David Long's comment that inclusivity (my word) will give us "... the chance to be the best...(sic)"

  1. Tn Soccer Dad
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
    James, at the youth level finesse is selfish and it is rewarded as such. You cant use professional teams and athletes as examples to grade and evaluate youth development. It is an apples to oranges comparison when applied to youth and developing players. my comparison of finessee v power was an oversimplification to make a point, that you apparently missed. There is a different ethos involved in picking youth teams and hiring an adult to be paid to play a game. Just watch how the ODP and MNT team players are chosen and then watch the games those teams play. They are playing for contracts and not playing as a team. The national team process rewards the individual player who ignores the benefit of the team to "show" for him or herself. One of the few times the USA deviate from that system was the 1980 hockey team. The best team was picked, not the best "players". That is also why the DA system is beating out the ODP system as the DA system builds a team, and the ODP system focus on the individual. Soccer coaches seem to believe, unlike the other team sports, that throwing individual players together creates a team and then we don't understand how the "team" loses. Other sports pick a team and not always does the best individual make that team as the team is better without them, i.e. Seattle the year after Arod left. Messi is a phenomenal adult talent who is getting paid to do a job and can spend every waking hour on that job, just like you and I spend on ours. Messi, as described as a youth, was known for his passing and vision, and is more the anomaly than the rule, Barca is now successful because of the passing and movement, a hybrid of the two schools, not just the dribbling of old. They go hard into tackles and get stuck in when challenging for the ball, but they move the ball quickly. Inesta plays both ways. As for financial comment, look at basketball and now baseball. Neither of those two sports whine like soccer "purists" do about availability and inclusion. If the players are good, they will be found. It happens in all sports, but it is easier in other sports because you have the college system that finds them. Butler, Gonzaga other mid-majors work hard to find the forgotten players. If we had more college soccer programs or MLS programs looking beyond the DAs these other players would be found also. But MLS won't spend their capital combing the hinterlands and colleges have limited resources and have to use them wisely. No sport owes a particular player of any background stardom or success. It is up to the player to make his path. It is that way in hockey, basketball and baseball. Soccer is no different.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
    Good article PG, lots of good posts as well. Tn's perspective is a valid one and intellectualizes the issues, would like to see PG drill down more in this area of team/player style and player selection based on it. My 2 cents is that one should not be lumping all hispanics together. There is a resentment that all hispanics are presumed mexican when in truth many are not (though we don't get many PRs or cubans here on the west coast). The "Latino game" is not all barca, BTW. I find most primera matches of the unwatchable kick-and-run variety--what's so great about that? If Mexican soccer is increasingly influencing the US game, heaven help our future back line.

  1. Benje Orozco
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
    Lalas needs to do a little more homework before he blabs with his big mouth! Chivas USA at it's inception was an attempt to replicate what it's big brother down south has done by appealing to the Latino (Mexican) market in LA. Chivas in Mexico is a symbol of national pride. Traditionally, they only play with Mexican players and do not sign foreigners to their squad. So Mr. Lalas, before opening your big mouth with accusatory statements, do a little research. It's call marketing! Chivas USA wants to increase attendance and for bettor or worse, want to bring in the Latino (Mexican) consumer that might identify with the Chivas brand. The logical step is to use players with Mexican heritage. MLS has been on board with the concept in the hopes that they could tap in to the Latino (Mexican) market. It's all about the all mighty dollar Mr. Lalas! In regards to comments about Mexico being a youth world power...maybe not a world power, but with it's recent success at the Olympics, U-20 & U-17 World Cups, you can't deny that they are doing something right.

  1. Juan Arango
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.
    Paul, I congratulate you for this article. While many in the mainstream soccer media tend to push this away, the solution was right there yet they did not want to go for it. Long gone are the days when we were told "we don't want your kind rooting for the USMNT" and the like. we spoke about this on my podcast and it really opened many eyes. There are tons of Hispanic talent that for one reason or another can't play in a traveling team or elite youth side here in the States. The thing is that for years, several European and South American clubs placed youth academies here in the States. They knew that the talent was there, very far away from the myopic vision of youth soccer and big business here. Congrats, Paul.

  1. Mario Araujo
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.
    Great Article! I have until recently played soccer in the US particularly California for 55 years. I am happy to see that our country is finally recognizing what Mexico and other countries have noticed previously. We have American Latinos with lots of Soccer Talent. Our country is prisoner to an English Soccer Tradition which is even outdated in England and yes even some racism where a brown player cannot be seen as an American. The English value the big, fast stronger players but ignore the smaller sized talent. Spanish soccer has shown that size is not the only factor in Soccer. Moreover, we should be playing our own style instead of copying European countries. Latin Americans values the traditions of South American soccer especially Brazilian soccer. I applaud Claudio Reyna and Paul Gardner.

  1. Robert Robertson
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.
    I am glad for the article. I was smiling the whole time as I watched the u20 play. Style and creativity - nice to see. I have always favored that style of soccer and its seems the young men have broken through. Now someday on the womens side I would like to see it - money still rules so, at the highest levels its still a struggle for non white youth to advance. There is also the history of machismo and paternalism which slows the development as well. The top girls clubs have created more and more exclusive and pricey leagues de facto excluding the majority of working class girls whether white, black, or brown. The tokenist attempts (by the wealthy clubs) to offer scholarships will never even come close to evening the playing ground since you already have to have the ability to begin with. But thanks for taking up the subject and a big "well done" to Mr Ramos.

  1. johnny caal
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 4:32 p.m.
    Hey, lets focus on Baseball, the true AMERICAN sport! Facts: nearly 50% of MLB players are foreigners, and we can not win a World Baseball championship. Japan, Korea, Cuba, Venezuela continously win us. Therefore, if we love soccer, lets make it the true American sport by concentrating on player development and not on Latino or European style soccer. Mr. Klinsmann, it's easy, please put these two styles in a blender and create our own American style. After all, we are a Melting pot and that's why we are the best nation in the world! If Klinsmann can not do it, we need to find someone that can!

  1. Erik Perez
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.
    Funny that everyone downplays the two U-17 World Cup championships in 2005/2011 and the 3rd place U-20 WC finish in 2011, but forgets to mention last summer's Olympics. Mexico won GOLD with their U-23 team against what was a majority of Brazil's first team. Whether Mexico has the best youth system is arguable, but they have to be in the conversation (I'd like to see more of their young players with top European clubs before crowning them). Also worth mentioning that the USMNT's stars are on the wrong side of 30 (Howard, Bocanegra, Donovan, Cherundelo, Dempsey (getting there)), while Mexico's stars are under 26 (Dos Santos, Guardado, Chicharito, Moreno). I think time will tell that Mexico's youth success will be more fruitful than the Nigeria/Saudi Arabia clubs you all are comparing them to.

  1. Diego Maradona
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 8:52 p.m.
    "Latino Style" "Latino Players", What is this even supposed to mean??? Was our youth team full of kids with Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Colombian families? Did they play with characteristic flair associated with Venezuelan soccer? or demonstrate the amazing ball skills prevalent in the Bolivian game? The idea that there is some sort of latino soccer style/ability/philosophy is racist. Conflating the beautiful, fluid game of Argentina and Brazil with the slow, heavy footed soccer of Mexico and Central America is REDICULOUS. Pretending that there is some sort of unified soccer culture that spans Latin America is just as bad. Hell, Baseball is a bigger sport that Soccer in much of Latin America.

  1. Guadalupe Antimo
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.
    This article was very interesting, but the article did not take into account all the reasons why things are the way they are. I am an American. I was born in Mexico, raised in the US since the age of 8. Play, coach, and referee soccer for 30 years at all levels of soccer. From youth, high school, and collegiate level soccer. One of the reasons for Latino players not playing at collegiate level is due to money, low grade scores, at in some cases, the lack of interest in continuing education. Playing soccer in America has become such a business that the majority of Latino kids cannot afford to play at the level that they are capable of playing. Many of those Latinos are force to play at local Latino leagues and never get discovered. There is definitely a difference in style of soccer between Latino, Black, and Anglo players. After 30 years of refereeing soccer, I have come to the conclusion that a well balanced team full of different ethnicities are some of the best teams. I did notice the number of Latino players on the US team. What I found odd was why the US had not included more Latinos in the past. I am not sure that this team is better because many are of Latino dissent. I believe that coach Ramos selected players that play in the same similar style that he played. The previous coaches were exposé or played the European style of play, hence he selected players that match his style of play. Which style of play is better is up for debate, the great thing about America is that we have both styles. The day the US learns to combine the strong physical European style of play and the finessed, creative Latino style, that is the day that US soccer will become a super power. As a Latino, I don't want to be notice as a Latino selected to play in a USA select team, I want to be notice as an American. I don't care who is selected, all I care to see is the best possible American Soccer Team.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:53 p.m.
    Most of the posters here have no idea how they're being played. One minute you'll read an article inferring our Nat.s will be moving towards this style, or that influence, or etc. etc......Bottom line, Winning is done by the better assembled team of athletes, that have the grit and determination whether through passion or something else motivating them, to never accept losing. Style arguments are rediculous. If the US Mens programs were winning 80% of it's matches, people would still bitch that they need to switch to this style or that style. Stop acting like there isn't another team out on the pitch who wants to do everything they can to keep us from being successful every moment we are out there. It's funny how one person will insist, for instance, how exciting a brand of play the U-20s showed, and the next will point out how in the same game we gave the ball away too easily and didn't create enough chances, all while losing 1-3. Seems kind of ironic to me and proves my point. 2012 Senior US Mens team record 8 wins, 2 losses & 3 draws with a plus 12 goal differential, while never once having a full and healthy squad. Americans favor winning, losers accept style in its place.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.
    I think you bleed red, white and blue Guadalupe, just as I do!! God bless!

  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: March 13, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
    Chivas USA needs to move to San Diego. They will never make it in LA under the shadow of the Galaxy, Latino players or not. When are they going to come to their senses? They are beating a dead horse in LA. San Diego with the large hispanic population is the logical choice. And the rivelary would still be there, two So. Calif. teams. MLS needs to realize this and make the move. The sooner the better.

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: March 13, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.
    Jogo Bonito, are you saying I'm closed minded? I don't get it? I'm applauding the fact that our U-20 team qualified and that the roster was full of Mexican-Americans. My point is that they were on the roster because they are the best players we could find, not because of their heritage, but because of their merit. Paul Gardner is fighting a battle in a war that has already been won. Kinda like Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans. We are all in this together, and I would guess the change in makeup of the team is due in LARGE PART to having a new boss at the head of the National Team. Jurgen Klinsmann gave Tab Ramos the green light to put on the team who he needed, and those guys turned out to be pretty darned good.

  1. Paul Stierle
    commented on: March 14, 2013 at 12:26 a.m.
    I must I enjoy Paul Gardner's article and many others, though long winded, he gets us to think. I also like Alexi as he is not afraid to speak out and he has experience. Though I am German, and german soccer is some of the best in the world right now. I feel with our neighbors and our in flux of latin flavor in our country, our style is closer to that but it still needs alittle Dempsey, red, white, black and blue in it. Fullham would of rather have him back than Berbatov. Well there I go on my ramblings. I personally hope Klinsman gets it with the Likes of Gomez. We go down to Honduras and play with European based players in the winter and think they can play in 90 degree weather. This was no vacation. This was a real game with players on the bench that are used to the heat. I embrace the mexican culture and it is part of America. Let the Chivas USA try their way and Salt Lake theirs. Some teams like more local and some like more international. Rangers and Celtics used to be a religious war. Well now oops that is another story. Ric, I love all your insights too. It is fun to wrestle here than on facebook.

  1. Joy Hottington
    commented on: March 14, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.
    It's pretty great how accurately Paul knows exactly what Klinsmann is thinking based on a couple of soundbites. Does Paul also realize how few U-20 players make it on to the national teams of their respective countries, much less make an impact? The fact that Klinsmann is downplaying things is what he should be saying.

  1. Corner Kick
    commented on: March 21, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.
    As long as youth soccer continues to be a priviledged sport in America, we will have a tough time competing on the World Level. If you continue to have fees upwards in the range of $2,000 it will be tough to get EVERY talented kid up through the ranks. I've seen many times where kids that have ability, just aren't in the right situations to be seen. The local Boys and Girls Rec Club cost anywhere between $25 and $100 bucks, where the Premier Club that gets seen at various Nike, Adidas, Under Armour sponsored tournaments or Showcases can run upwards of $2000 or more. Not to mention ODP which another $1500, or the Non-MLS Academies which can run $3,000 and up. There has to be a way to lower cost, get the most talented kid and not the kid with the fat wallet.

  1. Aresenal Fan
    commented on: March 21, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.
    I believe ethnicity should not be a factor of who represents our country, it should be about who deserves to be in it based on the football skills. David Long, you sound like most hispanics have felt for a very long time about the anglo last name coaches, that they descriminate players based on last name. For years the amount of latin last name players on our national and youth teams have been non-existint. I have been around youth soccer for a very long time, and in california latino players have always been some of the more skilled players on the pitch. That has never translated to our national teams before, are you saying that it was because we had anglo last name coaches who discrimanted based on last name? We need to move away from racial lines. My 10 year old soccer player can easily recognize a good soccer player when he sees one, irrelevant of race, and so can everyone else.


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