Claudio Reyna is the right man for the job, but ...

By Paul Gardner

It is difficult to think of anyone involved in American soccer who is more fitted to a role in the game’s organization than Claudio Reyna. The top player of his generation, American born and trained, with full experience of the youth club, high school and college scenes, followed by a sparkling pro career in Germany, Scotland and England.

That record is enormously impressive, even more so than it first appears, because Reyna was a very special type of player, a creative ball artist with a soccer brain -- the sort of player we don’t produce very often, certainly not often enough.

Among the welter of physical midfielders and hard-nosed defenders who roll off the American production lines, Reyna was a rare jewel. Sadly, his MLS career was cut short by injury, so Americans saw little of him, and certainly never got to see him at his best.

So Reyna’s appointment as the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Youth Technical Director looks like the dream appointment. I would hail it as such were it not for some serious doubts -- not about Reyna, but about the nature of the job.

Youth development is a serious business these days -- and business is exactly the right word. There’s gold in them thar kids -- and just about everyone knows it. Because of that, we have a situation in the sport -- not just here, but worldwide -- in which the development of young soccer players cannot be left to chance or whim -- it must be carefully planned.

This is hardly the place to launch into a full-scale analysis of the mentality of planning; let me just say that I have lived through all of the post-war planning waves, and I have personally evolved -- though some might think of it as a regression, I suppose -- from a blind enthusiast to one who believes that planning is far from being the unalloyed benefit that I once considered it.

The best of planning unquestionably promotes efficiency along with a whole raft of other practical considerations, like saving time and money. But my feeling is that planning -- or more accurately, the planners -- need careful watching, and usually need to be reined in at some point.

Where planning invades human lives a close watch needs to be kept. Unless you’re absolutely certain that you know what you’re doing, it is sometimes better to let things run their course. And the problem with planners is precisely their damn cockiness in areas where they have no business being cocky at all. One of those areas, it seems to me, is the education of young soccer players. Possibly I’m talking about all areas of education, but I’ll stick with the narrow one that I know best.

To the key overall question -- which must be “Do we really know what we’re doing in the youth development area?” I must answer No, we do not. By “we” I mean the entire global soccer community, not just the USA.

I’m basing that opinion on decades of studying youth programs both here and overseas and on probably hundreds of interviews with youth coaches. Most of those coaches are committed people who deeply believe -- as they must do -- that they’ve got it right and that their methods are the correct ones. As no two methods are exactly alike, that raises some doubts.

Not necessarily about the various methods, but about the search for the “best” method. What if there is no best method? In anything that deals with young children, how likely is it that there is just one, best, method?

In short, I’m very suspicious of anything that poses as an “answer” to the player development problem. More -- I’m suspicious of the very idea that player development is a “problem.” It’s certainly linked to growing up, and we all know about problem ages and problem children, so the soccer pattern fits nicely into all those theories.

But those theories are part of a cloying network of adult control designed -- with the best of intentions -- to produce the “best” kids. In soccer we have managed, in short order, to create our own educational structure.

We have our coaching schools, we have our academies. I have watched these two areas grow and grow, looked on as they’ve quickly become substantial professional enterprises and now lucrative businesses.

While all that development has been going on, what has been happening to the development of the young players? Given the amount of time, money, and expertise now being poured into this area, the answer ought to be: a constant stream of much better players is now pouring out of the academies.

But that is not the case. The most elaborate and heavily financed academies belong to the top European clubs. The very clubs that are constantly buying African and South American (and occasionally U.S.) players -- for the simple reason that they are better than the European academy products. Even when an academy scores an occasional success with a Wayne Rooney or a Michael Owen, there is every reason to suspect that the academy had little to do with the formation of the player. I must make an exception -- a current exception -- of Barcelona here; but these success stories tend, in soccer, not to last. The triumphs of the Ajax youth program were loudly hailed in the 1970s, but those golden days are now a thing of the past.

What coaches who always feel they’re right, and academies whose job it is to produce certain types of players for their senior clubs, are quite likely to do is to distort the development of a player. I would say the “natural” development, but there can be no such thing in this day and age. But I believe that there is a development that is mercifully free of overbearing coaching influences -- that is the nearest we come to natural.

And I think a strong case can be made for insisting that a player so developed -- or allowed to develop - will be a rather different sort of product than an academy product.

For there is a clear danger that academy products will be stereotyped. And of all activities, soccer is surely one that needs variety. I think so, anyway. But I run into far too many coaches who clearly do not believe in that. They do not admit it, of course -- indeed are usually indignant at the very thought -- but their training methods and their drills and their exercises all tend, surreptitiously, subconsciously, stealthily, to bring about uniformity.

So when I hear Reyna and USSF President Sunil Gulati using the word “curriculum,” I do not feel encouraged. And I wonder what exactly Reyna will want to import from these far-from-successful European academies that will so improve things here.

After all, this is not a country where central dictation of ideas is exactly welcomed. Am I making a case for anarchy, then? No, I don’t think so. But what I am saying is that the alternative of careful planning has yet to prove itself. I cannot see that it has achieved much.

Of course, there is a widespread belief that planning ought to work. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s the wrong sort of planning. But a retreat from planning is rarely considered these days. I myself find it difficult to envision. But I do have a strong suspicion that, particularly in this vast turbulent mish-mash of a country, we need to exercise restraint in imposing coaching standards and methods.

And my reason for feeling pretty certain about this is the contradictory situation we have created for ourselves over the Hispanic player. We have, in this country, a huge and growing goldmine of Hispanic talent. It is, at the moment, pathetically under-utilized, and to some extent not even recognized. There is a reason for that, of course.

It can be traced back to the early days of the USSF’s coaching schools, which were organized in 1970 by Dettmar Cramer, a methodical German whose speciality was physical training. That emphasis on the physical side of the game went down well with the American soccer community of that era, which was largely of European origin, or heavily European-influenced.

The coaching manual issued by the USSF at that time, bearing Cramer’s name, contained four pages on youth coaching -- virtually all of the information concerned itself with the various stages of physical development in growing children. The word “technique” appears but three times, and is never elaborated.

No doubt we’ve moved on -- but that physical bias is still very much with us. But now, it is extremely damaging, because the Hispanic influence has arrived, and it is very different. We have not dealt with this confrontation at all well. Too many of our senior coaches, from Bob Bradley and the majority of the MLS coaches on down, are still devotees of the physical game.

Add in the army of British coaches who have arrived to show us how to do things the primitive Brit way and you have an absurd situation where we are encouraging the best of our physical players (and I do not at all deny that some of them are very good indeed) while denying opportunities to the Hispanic players.

That situation has arisen because of planning -- because of a curriculum laid out by the USSF coaching schools. I recall then national team coach Walt Chyzowych in 1981 issuing ominous warnings to instructors in the coaching schools who did not stick religiously to the curriculum.

Rigidity of that sort belongs to those who want to mold players, who want to play Frankenstein or Svengali. It should have no place in any system that wants to develop young players.

Reyna can play a crucial role in opening up the American soccer establishment. But I don’t see his influence coming from talking to foreign coaches. I would hope that, right here on home ground, he can come to grips with an out-dated mindset in the American game. He is the man to do that -- his game was skill-based, he can speak with great authority.

So it is disappointing to hear him talking about youth development in this country as though its main aim is to prepare players for Europe, and to go on to mention, as a first priority, the need for greater physical strength.

Maybe that is something that is lacking, but it is hardly something that is difficult to correct. Indeed, it’s not a specific soccer area. But skill very definitely is, and any soccer development program that relegates it into second place is not much of a program at all.

I applaud Gulati for bringing Reyna into a USSF position. But I’m unclear what that position is, and what sort of authority Reyna will have. That may be a difficult one for Gulati to answer at this moment for fear of upsetting others who might suspect that Reyna will soon be giving them orders.

But it is a question that will need to be answered soon. I would like it to be answered in this way: Yes, Reyna will have considerable authority to affect the direction and content of the USSF’s coaching school and staff -- and not just in the youth area. I think his personality and his background as a player should give him the authority to break up the triple-S mindset that still has far too much influence in the American game -- speed, size and stamina -- when it is another S, for skill, that should be dominant.

19 comments about "Claudio Reyna is the right man for the job, but ...".
  1. Richard Busic, April 9, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.

    After watching my son and his clubs team play and develope for the last eight years. And watching other clubs come and go and develope along with them, it becomes obvious that there are better coached teams and teams who rely mostly on the individual effort of the players . There is some very good trainers (coaches) out there and aome very good players too.
    Not all clubs and coaches have a greater plan.
    How are we going to bring an industry into line into America? I have yet to see this happen in my lifetime.
    I am glad of Claudio's appointment but I wonder how he can bring a booming industry along under any tutalage.
    We are still being trained by immigrants, that is probably the best thing and we have a lot of independant clubs doing the work of training, also a good thing. This situation will make it hard to bring about change.
    I feel we are behind in developing world class players given the number of athletes and leauges here in America and I know we should be doing better. I see two disconnects one is that when the foreign players are becomming profesional our players go to college. The other is that there is so little opportunity to make a living playing here that the habitat for further devalopment (past age 18) is small. There is more opportunity in coaching at the u18 and under level than for playing at higher levels. We may not see the industry change until we are willing to pay to see our players in profesional action.

  2. Tom Kondas, April 9, 2010 at 10:10 a.m.

    The american game is unique in that it is a physical game which has it's roots in the more popluar game of american football. As a result, the physicality begins in the youth leagues where still too many coaches have the mind set of strength and stamina, which is what they relate to all sports. Unfortunatly they cannot teach something with which they themseelves have no experience and that is skill with the ball and tactics for defense, midfield and attack. This carries on into high school and college where again the coaches are looking for the big strong player and not the finesse player. Reyna would be well advised to seek alliance with the south american teams, as well as our own hispanic players, to develop our youth. As long as we align ouselves with the Brits, in development of our youth, we will continue to be in a state of retardation rather than progession. It is the "Beautiful Game" when played with skill.

  3. John Munnell, April 9, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    Personally experienced Chyzowych and minions in the license schools of that era. They seemed stuck in the defensive shell that may have been necessary in American teams of the time, but unable to see or communicate a vision of higher level --- which should have been the goal of the coaching schools.

    The overall level of play in this country is certainly much better, so I'm not saying there hasn't been progress. But I agree that it has almost been in spite of the coaching profession. Unfortunately, I don't see us breaking free of these past shackles.

  4. beautiful game, April 9, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.

    Reyna will have to revamp the system of youth development. The primary agendas should be technical skills, patience on and off the ball, positioning in a team comcept and simplicity of play. Todays players in the majority have no patience, no comfort on the ball, no confidence/ability to relieve pressure and field positioning is a mystery. These attributes are missing from the ground to the pro level.

  5. cony konstin, April 9, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.

    Interesting and Claudio is a very good selection. But still where is all this development going to take place? I hope not in the suburbs because that would be a waste of money,time an energy. Claudio needs to go to the HOOD!!! That is where the future stars are. Suburbia is poisoned by non soccer people making soccer decisions, a great deal of DOC's and paid trainers whose main focus is to make a buck, and then comes the parents who want little Johnny or little Suzy to be well rounded so these poor kids play soccer, lacrosse, ping pong, boce ball and learn to play the piano.

    Yes we need a soccer revolution in America but that revolution must happen in the inner cities of America. That environment is still pure and not poisoned yet. My recommendation to Claudio is not to spend a lot of time in creating coaching manuals but creating 7 day a week soccer playgrounds in the inner cities, starting for kids at the age of 5 and is free of cost. Some day if the US wants a Messi, Best, Pele, or Mardona this is what needs to happen first. Leave the suburbs alone. Maybe one day suburbia soccer will change but change will not occur in suburbia until most of the national team is made up of players from our inner cities of America. Then suburbians will ask the big question. Why is my kid not making the national team? Why? Because you can't be special in anything unless you have the right environment and you're focus on one specific craft day in day out.

  6. j m, April 9, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.

    wait a minute. let's be frank for a moment. when we are talking about hispanic, what we are really saying is mexican. true, we have a smattering of other hispanics from central and south america, but the vast majority of what we are calling hispanics are mexican.

    and what exactly are we supposed to learn from the mexicans? our third rate mls teams compete with their first division teams and win. our national team beat their national team in the only measuring stick that matters, the world cup. what exactly are we supposed to learn from mexican soccer?

    the fact is there is more to soccer than touching the ball fifteen times to do what can be done with two or three touches. soccer can be played directly and entertainingly without passing one hundred times to move forward five yards. has anyone watched a EPL match lately?

    I am not saying that we cannot learn from the hispanic style of soccer. but this either or mentality is useless. why can't we find the best of the euro style of fast and physical play with the artistry and technicality of the hispanic game?

    we are doomed if we do not discover what is truly unique about american soccer - e pluribus unum, out of many, one. soccer is the perfect forum to showcase this incredible american quality.

  7. Dayton Owens, April 9, 2010 at 2:07 p.m.

    You are very corect about the USSF has a problem and it is the mentality of the coaching system. When you get your coaching license from "A" on down it is taught as this is the system, everyone runs this system and you must show it at the time of your course. You are not allowed to vary, improvise or be creative to any of the drills. It is the USSF way or the highway and they will fail you at the course. You can ask hundreds of coaches who have gone thru this and hated it. The USSF wants to create coaching clones - the problem is that the system they run doesn't create champions or creative players, it takes creativity out of the process, out of the coaches and out of the players. The NSCAA on the other hand incourages creativitty, it gives a guideline at it's coaching courses and then lets the coach be creative. This freedom is starting to allow a more creative talent pool of coaches and players to develop. The USSF and NSCAA have 2 totally different styles and approaches. More and more coaches are going to the NSCAA because of how they are treated and disrespected by the USSF. The USSF is a good old boy network and a creative blocking nightmare. How many World Cups Champions has this system produced? None Now the USSF is creating Super Clubs and its own Championships for the $$$$. The only champions are the women and that is because they had two great coaches who did not follow the USSF Cloned guidelines. They are actually licensed in both the NSCAA and USSF. There is a coaching divide that is happening in this country in training and more coaches are realizing that the USSF is not what they want. Of course if you want to coach pro, or ODP or advance in certain areas you have to become a USSF clone and kiss the proper rings while kneeling or bending over. Hiring Reyna is nice but can he change a system all by himself? Once Bradley is fired after our next world cup disaster maybe we should look at hiring an International Coach - Klinnsman wasn't hired because he wanted to change the youth development system and for no other reason. If the US hires another american coach nothing will change and neither will our fortunes at World Cup. The USSF will be status quo and that is the way they want it. To bad for our youth and thank God for the NSCAA because there is a change happening in the country for the good of coaches and player development.

  8. j m, April 9, 2010 at 4:34 p.m.

    professor fonseca, is reading english should be essential to becoming a professor? did you even read my post? did you notice that i didn't capitalize almost any word?

    i never used the word "latino" but hispanic and i did mention central and south america under the heading of hispanic. but, most people in this country when speaking intelligently about "hispanic" and "soccer" mostly refer to mexican soccer players.

    i also mentioned the fact the the "either or" crowd such as yourself seem to polarize soccer in this nation into "latino" or "european" camps neither of which i think we should follow.

    but i digress, "we should find the best of the euro style of fast and physical play with the artistry and technicality of the hispanic game."

    get past your oppressed peoples mentality and read what is written not what you imagine is being said, professor.

  9. The Real Pico, April 9, 2010 at 5:09 p.m.

    Hi Paul,

    ESPN Deportes had a couple of interesting segments regarding the lack of Hispanic representation in American soccer, specially at the highest levels including the US national team. They mentioned the issue that the coaching ranks consist mostly of coaches of UK descent and the emphasis is primarily on the physical aspect of the game and how that criteria goes against the general makeup of the Hispanic player.

    As a result it is very easy to see two very different versions of players in this country: a) the product of the system that can cover tremendous amounts of space but lacks on soccer smarts, and b) the players that grow up playing the game outside the parameters of the system.

    And one can see the difference in the way the latter ones can read a game and how they can use their bodies to protect the ball and how they can create something out of their imagination. The US probably produces the most physical players in the region and that has allowed us to dominate, but that physical superiority can only takes us so far. But you see other countries adopting some aspects of the physical and direct style, and once that is taken out of the equation, we are going to wish we had spent more efforts in the skill and creativity aspect.

    @JM, I think the better example you should consider is Brazil. No other country has gone through a transformation to incorporate the aspects of faster and stronger European soccer to the artistry of its own game. Actually, the change might have affected the latter aspect. Never in its history has that country had such a physically imposing lineup.


  10. Clayton Berling, April 10, 2010 at 1:49 a.m.

    Let's keep it Simple, to add another S to the triple S. Yes, speed, size and stamina are fundamentals to attain superior status, but they are not what makes the game entertaining. Of course winning is important, but if skills are apparent even in a losing game, it can be quite entertaining....and entertainment is what sells the game. A skillful player turns those other three S's into fan dollars ($). Shocked because I bring up money? Don't sell it short. It is truly the name of every professional game, and the professional game is what builds the game at every other "lower" level. Admit it, soccer fan, doesn't the skillful player excite you, too.

  11. j m, April 10, 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

    would we be having this same discussion if u.s. soccer had hired klinsmann as our coach? it is not that we are hiring white guys of european descent, it is the fact that we continue to hire the WRONG white guys of european descent.

    klinsmann would have been a perfect fit for our national team and the national team program. but, sunil gulati is a suit who knows nothing about soccer and wanted to hire a coach he could control.

    i like bob bradley as a mls coach but what has the man done for the national team? so we win a few games in a tournament that every major soccer power cares nothing about. he lacks the international pedigree necessary to win at the highest levels.

    bradley set us all back a decade in our hope to become a soccer nation. let's just hope that when his tenure is over that we have the common sense to hire klinsmann or someone of his stature to overhaul our national team. i don't think klinsmann, despite his european background, would leave great players regardless of race or ethnicity out of the team.

  12. j m, April 10, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.

    i completely agree with you, the real pico. you are right but this transition happened many years ago in the '94 world cup. that brazilian team played more directly than any of their brazilian predecessors. if i had romario and bebeto playing up front for me, i would have done the same. the brazilian press hated that team until they won because they didn't play the "brazilian" way. more and more national teams are playing much more similarly due to the fact that the best players are not playing in this hemisphere but in europe much to professor fonseca's disdain. and this style is more direct and more physical rather than more technical. i say this knowing that the french, the dutch, the germans, the russians, etc. all have very, very technical players. we need to capitalize on the strength, courage and physical qualities of the american player but also find those amazingly gifted and technical players regardless of race or ethnicity.

  13. Robert Kiernan, April 11, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.

    Well much of this is really pointless... so long as our model of player development is based on training our best young players to go the Collegiate route, we will continue to overlook anyone not fitting into the Joe College stereotype. I have coached both College and Club, and I can see the deleterious effects that the pay to play system has wrought.
    Also Hispanic players are starting to be found in areas of this country that didn't have any just twenty years ago, but it's far more than just Mexicans involved...there has been an influx of Central Americans, Salvadoran's, Costa Rican's, Honduran's... and much like calling a Ukrainian a Russian... DO NOT call them Mexicans! But what also has changed is the number of Asians now found here as well...Laotians, Vietnamese, Cambodians ...and likewsise they AREN'T all Chinese. It seems strange to me that outside of Brian Ching or some years back, Mark Chung...there have been VERY few Asian kids showing up in our ODP driven soccer world. I have been living in a rural part of western NY now for well over 20 years now and there is another group being ignored...poor rural kids...then there are the non suburban city types...all of these kids are underrepresented in every level of our player development programs...and just bringing in Claudio as a figurehead won't likely change ANY of this. In fact, I can remember exactly how few College coaches would even bother to show up to watch matches in NYC (I'm originally from Brooklyn) because those teams didn't play as part of the State tournament...besides they were mostly "ethnics" so why would you spend time trying to recruit ...them!?? This mind set hasn't changed all that long as the USSF Staff guys and most of the people in charge of ODP continue to stick mainly with what they are most familiar with, we will be missing out on so very many potential players and that just is stupid and very wrong!

  14. Robert Kiernan, April 11, 2010 at 12:54 a.m.

    As far as the coaching schools go... I clearly remember when our grand doyens some years back, College trained all to a man, decided to fail Teofilo Cubillas when he was going for his National "B" License... even though he was the only one there who had played in World Cups or on a National team, was the only one to have scored multiple times in the World Cup and in fact at the time was helping train a few of our then current National Team players...but he didn't do things the "correct way" for these great soccer scholars... this just served to reinforce my skepticism that the USSF really was a good ol' boy system... and less interested in teaching than in dogma and doctrine. Little has changed... but I can tell you that given a chance to ask someone about tactics and to be given advice on how to beat a player one on one... I'd really MUCH rather talk with and listen to Nene, than the "A" licensed apparatchiks that are in charge of much of our coaching schools.
    To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson about it taking a very small mind to only be able to spell a word correctly one way...the same can and should be said for how to coach and play this game the "right" way.

  15. Chad Mcnichol, April 12, 2010 at 2:22 a.m.

    I'm a frustrated guy with a passion for developing recreational soccer. In my short life thus far as a soccer coach in AZ (about 4 years with young kids U9 and younger) I've mostly felt disbelief....about the complete lack of "soccer common sense" that is ensuring a tremendously huge # of kids never even bother to continue in the sport past the age of 12.

    This to me is the key developmental problem - the kids that never continue in the sport that otherwise would have increased the talent pool.

    Am I one of the few to have the sneaking suspicion that the USA's primary development problem starts at the recreational level?

    The discussions about the history of coaching curriculum developed by the USSF are interesting. Paul's comments about soccer development are also interesting. But the 1,000-pound elephant in the room, in my very biased opinion, is the fact that the top-quality soccer brains in this country go right to clubs. This makes sense from a money perspective.

    This wouldn't be nearly the problem it is if grassroots soccer WERE NOT dominated by adults who not only have never played soccer, but impose biases from mainstream sports like the NFL on youth soccer. But we all know this IS what rec soccer looks like.

    We can shine a light on the nuances of coaching curriculum and how clubs develop players in detail - and these are great discussions. But rec soccer should be the engine that builds the foundation for these other things to build on - is it not intended to be that?

    You know what I'm talking about - 2 or 3 players typically stand just in front of their own goal "on defense" with the ball at the other end of the field, coaches spend all their time forcing tactics and rigid positions on 7-year-olds, coaches encourage their players to "boot it" upfield to fast kids - and these ridiculous, sterile charades pass for soccer, especially if they result in a "win".

    To me, discussions such as these represent the fine-tuning of a system with a very poor foundation. It's akin to arguing about hot rod modifications to cars (turbochargers, engine computer chips, high-performance sparkplugs) while ignoring the fact that the engine has two cylinders and the tires are flat.

    I am not criticizing the discussion. I suppose I'm dismayed that what I view is the key development problem for US Soccer is often overlooked. Our grassroots soccer is dominated by adults who are doing everything they can to keep soccer right where it's at - struggling to develop, and losing out to other traditional American sports after age 12.

    They don't enough know the acronym "USSF", and they exert more influence on more kids than all clubs in this country combined.

  16. j m, April 12, 2010 at 4:21 p.m.

    i am not a huge fan of the ussf or u.s. soccer, but the coaching schools do serve a valuable purpose. i have my "a" license and i also hold a premier diploma. i didn't get them for the prestige or to get a better coaching job, but for my own education. anyone who can go through any ussf or nscaa coaching school and say they didn't come out of it a better coach is either oblivious or arrogant or both. and while i have witnessed over the years situations similar to that of cubillas, they are few and far between and most of the time, the candidate had something to do with their own demise. i remember when bob gansler was in charge of the coaching schools. like him or not, he is a very bright, well-traveled guy who knew a lot about the game of soccer. in one of the coaching schools, there was this young brazilian guy who was knowledgable about soccer and he could really play the game. his problem? EVERY single session and lecture, he would start his comments by saying something like, "but in brazil, we...." and finish the sentence. on one of the last days, gansler finally told this guy, "well, if you want a license, you'll have to go back to brazil to get one." this guy deserved it. trust me, i have also seen much buffonery from the u.s. soccer national coaching staff. do you remember jay miller? he ran an absolutely horrific session on the offside trap so much so that we were all trying to make him look more stupid - he kept changing the sweeper/last defender but the way he was running the session, it would never have worked. he even stepped in as the last defender and then we really poured it on and we beat the trap every time with miller as the last defender. he finished the session by saying, "okay boys, bring it in. that was a session on the offside trap." it NEVER worked once. but, having said that, many of the instructors i have had were very knowledgable and humble and i learned something new, something more insightful about the game of soccer. the coaching schools are not the problem, the people at the very top are the problem. put a beckenbauer or a trappatoni or parreira or a rinus michels type of coach, and you've just changed the entire landscape of our soccer community. having someone in charge of every aspect of u.s. soccer who has played/coached at the highest levels will make the difference. if we continue to hire people like sunil gulati whose soccer experience is limited to kicking a ball around a corn field in nebraska, we will never reach our potential as a soccer nation. i don't have much faith that we will ever get there.

  17. Chad Mcnichol, April 13, 2010 at 1:44 a.m.

    In regards to the comments that Reyna should bring "free play" soccer to "da hood", that would certainly be productive and worthy of trying, but why not do the same in the suburbs? Why give up and a possible huge base that can develop a passion for the game? The problems I highlighted in rec soccer are all due, by and large, to a lack of free play. The sport, when bogged down with adult organization, becomes something much different than what it should be. I would really like to see US Soccer give more attention to developing free play in the recreational soccer ranks. A great start would be to really promote the need for small-sided games at practices and games, which represents the most free-play within an adult-structured environment. Up to now, I've seen some Powerpoints and manuals to promote this, but no one "out and about" in the trenches making sure this idea is adequately flowed down. The state organizations are way too small, insignificant and carry very little rapport to actually get this implemented.

  18. cony konstin, April 14, 2010 at 10:02 p.m.

    Chad Mcnichol The problem with suburbia is numerous. First you have parents who want there kids to be well rounded. So these kids play soccer, baseball, boce ball and the piano. There is no way that these kids can ever become magical players or even passionate about the game. Coaching is totally overrated. Players win championships not coaches. Thirdly there are to many merceneries out there just trying to make a buck off kiddy soccer. Finally how can paid for playing be justified when parents are paying an arm and a leg to participate. Answer the inner cities. They are still pure.

  19. cony konstin, April 15, 2010 at 10:28 a.m.

    We need a soccer revolution in the USA. This revolution must occur in the inner cities of America. It is our last haven where we can develop magical players. Don't waste your time in suburbia and college soccer. Let those two environments continue what they are good for and that is to give kids a place to toy with the game. We need create a NEW SPARTA and it's not going to come from suburbia or college soccer. The HOOD is our last frontier. Now we need to get in there and develop soccer play grounds that are free, safe and accessable 7 days a week.

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