Clubs go physical; unlucky 14

[MLS] A full weekend of MLS action involving all 18 teams provided many issues to ponder, including why many teams rely on a big, physical striker, and how Jurgen Klinsmann’s hiring will affect MLS.

IN MLS, PHYSICAL WORKS. That doesn’t entirely sum up the value of rugged, active forwards like Eric Hassli (Vancouver), Luke Rodgers (New York) and Ryan Johnson (Toronto FC), but there’s no question that a strong, direct player might have advantages to a more cerebral type in certain conditions.

Hassli scored twice Sunday to post a 4-2 defeat on Chicago, which netted an early equalizer through Dominic Oduro but then conceded three straight as Hassli ran wild. The Red Bulls are beset by myriad problems, but failed to score in a 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake in the absence of an injured Rodgers, as Thierry Henry probed and schemed to little reward. Johnson, traded away by San Jose, scored both goals in a 2-1 Toronto FC win over Real Esteli in the Concacaf Champions League and has sparked a revamped attack (see next item).

The absences of Steven Lenhart, who has again been excused by San Jose for personal reasons, prompted the Quakes to trade for Alan Gordon, who came on as a sub and scored on a header in a 1-1 tie with Portland. He apparently aggravated a hamstring problem and will be evaluated this week. The Quakes need a target man to get opponents away from Chris Wondolowski and broaden an otherwise predictable attack.

TORONTO POTENT, BUT STILL POROUS. With Johnson in the lineup along with the skillful Joao Plata and DPs Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, Toronto is getting at teams and scoring goals. Including the 2-1 second-leg win over Real Esteli, TFC has scored 11 goals in the past four games.

Koevermans has scored three goals in his four league games, and FC Dallas castoff Peri Marosevic has two goals in just 90 minutes of action. TFC traded away Gordon (four goals) and Maicon Santos (a team-high six) yet a more varied attack is giving opponents greater problems.

Defending continues to be a issue and Frings will be needed to shore things up. D.C. went down a man in the seventh minute when keeper Bill Hamid was sent off yet still TFC conceded three goals, including an 88th-minute equalizer two minutes after it had gone ahead, 3-2.

UNLUCKY 14. Sporting Kansas City squandered a great opportunity to establish its playoff credentials by blowing a 1-0 lead and losing its first league game at Livestrong Sporting Park, 2-1, to Seattle. The loss also snapped SKC’s unbeaten run at 14 games and denied it a chance to pass New York and move into third place among Eastern Conference teams.

The Galaxy rebounded from a 3-0 midweek loss at Portland that ended its unbeaten run at 14 games by rallying from a 1-0 deficit to beat FC Dallas, 3-1, in a matchup of the league’s top two teams. FCD failed to get the ball out of danger twice after it took the lead and both times the Galaxy punished that ineptitude to take a six-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race.

RAPIDS ON A RUN. One team that seems to contradict the premise about needing a burly striker is Colorado, which instead has turned to the speedy duo of Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi as its forward combo. They teamed up for the clinching goal in a 2-0 defeat of Columbus after a spectacular 30-yard blast into the top corner by Brian Mullan early in the second half broke up a goalless game.

The Rapids start CCL group play next week, and with Conor Casey (torn Achilles tendon) out and Caleb Folan (groin strain) hobbled, the recovery of Macoumba Kandji from a torn ACL is of great importance. He has yet to play in 2011.

Colorado recently thumped New York at home, 4-1, and won, 2-1, at Philadelphia in addition to beating the Crew. Now it needs wins against its Western Conference foes as well as results against CCL opponents Isidro Metapan, Santos Laguna, and Real Espana as its depth is severely tested.

KLINSMANN PERUSES MLS CANDIDATES. Jurgen Klinsmann, the new U.S. national team coach, was in Philadelphia during the weekend getting ready for the friendly against Mexico Wednesday, and he spoke frankly of a need to closely monitor and evaluate the talent available on MLS rosters.

For all the importance of U.S. Soccer and its youth programs in regards to player development, the professional teams must play an expanded role by aggressively scouting the most promising young players. The American soccer landscape is vastly different than it was five years ago, when Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati first discussed his possible hiring. Since then, MLS has not only added six teams, it has mandated academy development programs, expanded the rosters and revived the Reserve League.

Klinsmann’s evaluations will affect the U-20 and Olympic teams as well as the senior team, as younger Americans get more playing time to cope with an expanded league schedule as well as Open Cup and Concacaf competition.

19 comments about "Clubs go physical; unlucky 14".
  1. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.

    Ridge, the stronger forwards work in MLS only because there isn't many cerebral ones. There is not much to compare. This is because the talented cerebral players play in the better leagues that pay much more like La Liga Mexicana. Why do you always fail to bring these facts up? Incredible. And yes it is a little different now with academies but they don't work as they should for 3 manor reasons. 1. They cost a lot. 2. They look for those strong players you speak of over the cerebral players that end up getting better contracts in other countries. 3. Academies care only about winning and not developing. I know Klins knows these things. I really don't know how he will change this failed system that has the most kids playing organized soccer in the world but doesn't come close to producing the talent others do. We should all start looking at the U14 selection that happened this year. 80 kids are currently being looked at. I was told that the coaches picked kids in their local area. I know for a fact that they did not even consider tryouts in Illinois who's is undoubtedly the top soccer state in Region II!! There's a bunch of kids from the east coast though. I counted more than 20. How and why did this happen?? Are we all going to wait until they don't make the U17 W.C. or lose in its early rounds to ask how these kids are chosen or why we couldn't have better players? Ridge, this should be what you should be discussing to truly help the USA. I for a fact know a few 99's that are top in the nation here in Illinois that were not even considered.

  2. David Sirias, August 8, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.

    Hassli is a hothead but he is not bereft of soccer IQ . He plays a diect game very well. But he combines and can act as decoy. He might not dribble like David Villa but if he played with David villa he would not look like he did not belong on the same pitch ... You think Thierry Henri would not kill to have someone like hassli helping out

  3. Walt Pericciuoli, August 8, 2011 at 10:20 a.m.

    Luis your are right. As to the question as to why there are 20 players from the east,you only need to know where the U14 head coach is from. I believe still to this day, the National Team coaches and trainers tend to select players from the regions they themseleves are from. Mostly due to their familiarty with the players and the Super Clubs that the players came from and in many cases where the National Team coaches come from. We are a large country and it may be near impossible for the head man to see all the talent.I'm not sure we'll ever overcome that built in bias.It may be impossible to implement, but should there be a way for more coaches or trainers to be able to communicate directly with the National Team programs when thy feel there is a player to be looked at? Shoudn't we have a much larger scouting system for such a large country?

  4. Andrew Post, August 8, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.

    I agree with Luis and Walt. Of course the MLS will have mostly big, burley, physical FWDs. That is because those type of players are not sought in other leagues therfore find a home in the MLS. Untill the MLS gains enough popularity that it can pay big bucks for players other than DP's, then the finess FWD will not find a home in the MLS. ( not the elite ones anyway)
    But the biggest problem is talent. Why play in the MLS for a fraction of what you could make in other leagues. The MLS has made strides but has a long why to go.
    This is why having the world cup in the USA is such a big deal. The US and MLS need Americans to see what this game is all about and how much more exciting ESPN makes it out to be.

  5. Daniel Clifton, August 8, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.

    I agree with the posts here. One thing I don't see is the perception that the US is missing out on a tremendous amount of young talent because their parents can't afford competitive youth soccer. As Jurgen Klinsman puts it: "The pyramid is upside down in the US." I am talking about alot of young Hispanic children and children from the inner cities. The failure to identify and allow access for all of these Hispanic children in this country to competitive youth soccer is outrageous. This has to change.

  6. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.

    Yes, I am one of the few Hispanic Dads and coach that would be willing to pay for ODP and drive as far as possible for ID2 tryouts only because I have been around the USA enough to see what my 2 player's chances are nationally. I know they have a better than good chance to make it but somehow Illinois was ignored in Id2 selection. The ODP talent pool s extremely low. My son who's a 99 would easily start on the 98s. My 99 small club team could beat ODP 99 easily. If these coaches making national selections at the youth ages are given this much power to blatantly limit their player search to the ones close to them np wonder USA is where its at!! What everyone has to remember is that this is a business and I am sure these coaches are picking players close to home as a recruitment technique for the academies in wich they also coach. I have seen this done in a differeng

  7. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.

    I don't want to sound bitter because my son did not get considered for a spot on U14 nationals but to not get an opportunity as a top 99 in Illinois is just wrong. Had he received the opportunity and not made it then he knows what he has to do to make it next year. Motivation. How can you have such a corrupt system in the ever so great USA? How can these coaches not be accountable for their performances at the international level and then asked about how they selected these players? Its so easy for them to say " the talent isn't here or its not a way of life". Until the USA gets the scouting system right then they can blame other factors. USA can't make these assumptions without first making sure they do everything possible to get the best talent in all corners of the nation. Is it really that hard to icky 2-4 cities in each city and hold tryouts for these teams at np cost? Said can't afford this? Do you guys honestly think Academies and ODP care more about the USA teams winning than filling their pockets? If you do Wake Up!!!?

  8. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.

    2-4 cities in each state. Sorry

  9. R2 Dad, August 8, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.

    Luis, I believe there are two issues I wish could be corrected. 1) too many adults trying to make a living from coaching in this country (at the travel level), and 2) these coaches do not have enough experience (either as player or coach). It's not that there are too many rec teams, it's that any player with real potential in that 9-12 range must get the best training and competition ASAP and that doesn't happen. This isolates top players due to pay-to-play. I just saw a really good hispanic team (coaches, players) win a local tourney. No-name coach, no-name players, not associated with a high-profile league, not even ranked in top 500 nationally. Are they going to get an invite to the Surf Cup? Can they afford the $1200 fee plus room/board/travel for the team for 4 days?

  10. Rudy Espindola, August 8, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.

    Hi everybody, this is my situation: my son is leaving tomorrow for Mexico city to play the premier league for 1995's
    He won the state championship in New Mexico and he refuses to play High School soccer in the USA since he has big dreams and knows that HS soccer doesn't provide the tools he needs for top level play. please feel free to comment on this and if you know how good are his chances to a bright future in USA in terms of pro soccer since he will be playing away from home (he's a Californian) I already miss him.

  11. R2 Dad, August 8, 2011 at 3:15 p.m.

    That is also my assessment, Ric. East Coast bias. Not so many soccer-playing hispanics on East Coast. Great hispanic players coming out of California and Texas. Less representation of hispanics at the national level, although that has improved w U17s. JK won't have any problem filling a squad with half hispanics (and may give the west coast a boost), but with our national immigration process still unresolved I suspect there is a fear of spanish in the locker room. Would love to hear Claudio refute that publicly.

  12. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 3:59 p.m.

    Ric, the more and more I find things out about this USA soccer system the more my stomach turns. I thought Mexico was more corrupt. Hell no. You have given me invaluable info as I have always looked out for you're comments. Can you tell me who I can contact so I cab fight to get this right. I have been contemplating starting a political movement through a website by filling it with information Hispanics should know about the racist history of this nation, each countries great history so Hispanics can be proud of their rich culture and all of these great injustices we are now living and what we can do about it.

  13. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.

    I will take my son to Mexico for sure in the next year or 2 but will continue to fight against this system so the next players can benefit. We shouldn't depend on Klins even though I am hoping he will commence this change.

  14. Roger Sokol, August 8, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.

    I, too, was aghast that the U-14 pool did not include a single player from Illinois. Part of it, of course, is that there's been a long time bicoastal bias throughout the soccer media and coaching ranks. You'll almost constantly hear about the hotbeds of soccer in Southern California and the East Coast, but any acknowledgements of similar areas in Middle America is virtually non existent. Yet, in the Chicago area alone, there are a number of youth clubs that regularly compete and win national youth championships, such as Chicago Magic (boys) and Eclipse Select (girls). Chicago Fire Academy teams made it to the U-19 boys final and won the U-15 boys title a couple weeks ago. Those aren't just isolated instances. There's been a steady stream of Illinois players moving into the higher levels of soccer since the heyday of the NASL. Among current MLS or better players that quickly come to mind are Brad Guzan, Johnathan Spector, Nick Grabavoy, Mike Magee, Matt Pickens, Baggio Husedic, etc. So an U-14 pool without a single Illinois player is peculiar. But it's more emblematic of the larger problem of getting ALL the potential youth talent identified and given the chance to develop. Until we do, we won't be able to compete and win at the highest levels of international soccer.

  15. Luis Arreola, August 8, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.

    What is peculiar about this selection is that it does include Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa selections but not Illinois. Illinois is the top state in region 2 where these teams are from. Are these states being set up to fail to favor the east coast selection? Is this why no one from Illinois was even looked at so these east coast players players would avoid controversy?

  16. I w Nowozeniuk, August 9, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.

    Besides physical strength Hassli has a soccer brain, Rodgers and Johnson have an IQ2 soccer brain...quality is measured by efficacy which requires a soccer brain, unfortunately that is missing among the majority of MLS players which includes cement feet, panic under pressure and the inability to play it simply.

  17. David Huff, August 9, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.

    @ Luis and Ric, Cal South does not even allow tryouts for their ODP, their staff picks it on their own in a closed selection process that appears to favor the $ clubs and also seems to favor physical size over technically skilled players. ODP seems to be a failed program IMHO and something I would no longer have interest in my kids participating in since the value of further developing player skills seems quite low.

  18. renee jordan, August 10, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.

    I see a lot of interesting coments. Luis there has never been a great amount of players from the Midwest. The first 5 winners of the National Academy tournaments were from the Midwest.Illinois was not one of them. I not only think there are a lot of latin representation on the National teams. It does not appear to be a lot of African americans. The selection process is broken. The u-17 team represents the coach. Probably the so does the u-14. I agree the best players should be chosen regardless. However soccer is no different than other travel sports here in the US. But children will play pick-up basketball and baseball and football. How do you suggest soccer gets rid of the bias that is in bred? Gee How about changing all the National coaches and getting new blood.

  19. Luis Arreola, August 10, 2011 at 6:28 p.m.

    Well maybe it will take a class action lawsuit for racism. National Academy competitions should and does not reflect the top talent in each state. I can tell you that I have boycotted the Academies in Illinois for my son as I see no player development in them. I agree with you that there isn't enough minority representation. What is so outrageous is that anywhere in the states where minorities are present they dominate the soccer most of the time. The only way to change it is to have all top Hispanic and other nationalities to represent their parents' countries. The total number will eventually gve enough notice.

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