The Tab Ramos way must be the future for American soccer

By Paul Gardner

A few weeks back, in this column, Tab Ramos laid out his thoughts on coaching. What he had to say should be of vital interest to anyone involved in coaching, and in the development of the sport in this country. Yes, I am partisan on this issue, so let’s get that out of the way immediately. I stand by what I said when I introduced the Ramos columns at the beginning of this month: “The 2011 appointment of Tab Ramos as the coach of the US under-20 team seems to me the most important move that has ever been made [by] the U.S. Soccer Federation.”

Ramos is that important because he is different, a coach from a rather different world to that of the regular USSF coaching school product. And that marks an important breakthrough. A first step in breaking the stranglehold that unsuitable coaches have had for decades on the development and training processes for players -- of all ages -- in this country.

By unsuitable I mean, quite simply, coaches who have not been prepared for the reality of the rapidly changing American soccer scene, or who are unwilling to face up to that reality. The resulting roadblock is the chief culprit for the slow pace of American player development. Another way of expressing that sad state of affairs is to say that it explains why national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann feels compelled to bring in foreign-born and foreign-trained American players. That, after decades of highly organized and plentifully financed youth development programs.

Which is where Ramos enters the picture. With his selection of players for the Under-20 World Cup team, he broke the unspoken bias that has plagued American soccer for far too long -- the bias against the Latin style of play, and hence against Latino players.

His team -- including eight Latinos -- played magnificently in the Concacaf final against Mexico. It lost 3-1 in overtime, but it had played real, flowing, skillful, intelligent soccer. In the subsequent World Cup, against two of Europe’s top teams (Italy, and France the eventual winner) and African powerhouse Ghana, the results were not there -- but the attempt to play stylish soccer still shone through. As did the competitiveness of the players -- an important point.

That came about because Ramos went looking for players to whom ball control and artistry came easy. Using that as his main criterion, he came up with a primarily Hispanic team. He flatly denies that he was specifically looking for Hispanic players.

Of course I take his word for that, but I think it unfortunate that he does not emphasize that his search for skillful players ended up giving him a predominantly Hispanic team. In other words, among young American players, it is the Hispanics who have the edge in ball skills. At the moment -- I stress that, because this is a situation that will change -- provided the coaches and the coaching system in this country can turn their collective back on past failings and embrace a new skill-based future.

That, surely, is what the USSF’s Claudio Reyna-inspired curriculum is designed to do. That may work -- in the long term. But there is nothing as convincing as seeing a paper-theory turned into real-life action. Particularly in sports. For that to happen, Ramos needs to continue his work with the national U-20 team, to continue his reliance on skillful ball players. No, he won’t win the U-20 World Cup, not yet, but the Ramos approach is the one, the only one, that gives the USA a real chance of such a win. The USA simply cannot afford to allow the under-20s -- and its other youth teams -- to relapse back into their former bad habits.

There appears to be encouraging news there -- a look at the latest U.S. under-15 team reveals that 22 of the 30 players on the roster are Hispanics. Significantly, the coach of that team is Hugo Perez -- like Ramos, a Latin-born player who played for the USA as a creative midfielder.

I don’t know if 22 out of 30 is “too many” Hispanics. I don’t know if there is any such proportion as “too many” -- either of Hispanics or of non-Hispanics. I do know that if the USA wants to make an impact, even cut a swath, at the international level it must pay much more attention to producing skilled, creative players.

Ramos did when selecting this year’s under-20 team. Quite possibly he has opened the door for Perez to do the same, only more so. At this stage, it ought to be in order to say that there is no going back. I’m not so sure. The coaching structure, the coaching schools and their examinations, are inevitably built around the theory of the game, their notions and the expression of them have an essentially academic feel to them.

It’s not clear to me that such a system can produce the more free-thinking type of coach that Ramos represents. My own experience of coaching-school coaches is that they tend to the one-dimensional theoretical side of the game, with a standard, ready-formulated view the sport.

But there must be mavericks out there, there always are mavericks ... particularly in the USA. That is why I would like Ramos to speak more forcefully on the matter of Hispanic players, to let us know what it is they have that non-Hispanic players do not and why they have it, and how they acquired it. I want to see him as the man who -- at long last -- opened the doors -- maybe even floodgates, at least initially -- to the huge pool of Hispanic talent in this country. And the coach who gives encouragement to other coaches who share his vision.

That’s more than enough of me trying to plan out Ramos’ life for him. The hard fact is that no one makes a career out of being an under-20 coach. Ramos will move onward and upward. Maybe within the USSF. Maybe he will move to MLS, where young Americans with less experience in the game -- Caleb Porter, Jason Kreis, Jay Heaps, Mike Petke -- are flourishing. Should Ramos join that group, I can only hope -- maybe even pray -- that the path he has opened up will be continued by the USSF. It is the only way to ensure a fair deal for all American players, the only way to ensure that the USA does, at some future date, enter the small number of true world powers in soccer.
43 comments about "The Tab Ramos way must be the future for American soccer".
  1. R2 Dad, October 31, 2013 at 1:43 a.m.

    Nope, I don't see this happening. As soon as TR moves on from this cohort in a couple of years, back come the clipboard coaches/trolls who will shed the smaller/skilled players and backfill with more NCAA robots. The entrenched regime knows this, so when TR goes to another team it will be supposedly for his growth and development but will mostly be to undo any of the progress that has been made. I would prefer TR either stay with this team for 4 years before changing, and/or handpicking a successor. But seriously, it won't happen. Until we dislodge Gulati and Lepore, the system will revert to the mean. I'd rather we replace those two with Americans, but the most important thing is that they be replaced. Unfortunately, there is nowhere upstairs to kick them.

  2. Joseph Mello, October 31, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.

    I have seen under-10 coaches fired for stressing skill development over winning, and teams that stressed athletes over skill win at the youngest age groups only to be surpassed by their more skilled counterparts in their teens. Just last week I received an e-mail from a native German parent complaining that I replaced some of our regular U14 practices with futsal. Until we break away from our NFL culture and the belief that tight ends and linebackers make better soccer players than ballerinas and gymnasts, and begin to grasp the beutiful game instead of the physical game, we will remain an also-ran on the world soccer stage.

  3. Aaron Murray, October 31, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.

    Tab Ramos!!! We remember. Good to see such important knowledgeable players like Ramos and Perez and Reyna and Vermes involved. They have to continue until they are in the majority and begin to dominate the USSF scene. We could also use Ernie Stewart and John O'Brien, and hopefully soon Harkes, McBride, then next have Friedel, Donovan, Dempsey, Keller, etc., come into the coaching ranks to bring their courage, fire, ability, and real knowledge of the international competition. Friedel is definitely one to watch -- really the highest achieving American player ever. Good indeed to see more Hispanics in the national teams: stands to reason since the best players will be those who experience constant unorganized play at young ages, not only organized soccer. Youth soccer needs to go that direction, with the addition of more hours of unorganized play, as we have with basketball in this country. Can't get truly good without the ball constantly at the feet for many hours all week, not just during weekly practices and games -- as Klinsmann emphasized early in his tenure when describing the state of youth soccer in the US. But this will balance out eventually and we'll have Americans of all kinds involved. We need more inner-city kids to turn to soccer. Pay-to-play is dying but much too slowly. The soccer-industrial combine is still alive and profiting to the detriment of youth development. Can't win at the international level if pay-to-play and upper-middle-class suburbanites are dominating the scene! Need more Carney, NJ, type products like Ramos and Harkes, as well as home-grown players like Dempsey and McBride and Friedel to lead the way to future greatness. MLS has to improve considerably, and faster, and then it, not pay-to-play academies, has to become the tail that wags the USSF dog, and youth soccer development in the US.

  4. Kevin Leahy, October 31, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.

    I believe the complete coach knows how to make the complete team. Skill should be the prevailing requirement but, there are intangibles. Would Gerd Mueller make Tab Ramos's U-20's? Beckenbauer believes that his teams would not have one anything without him. Some players have qualities that are hard to define in this manner. Having an eye for talent should never be pigeon holed.

  5. andrew yaletsko, October 31, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.

    Although I think its great that the sport is opening up and taking on different ideas. I wonder if TR is focusing to much on the race rather then the talent. I gound myself, while reading the article, wondering if non-hispanic players have a chance to play for US national teams while he is in control. I totally agree with one of the comments (mello). This sport needs a change like getting into Futsal type control and quick decision making for young minds in the soccer game. I also agree that when TR leaves all bets are off. it will be back to usual. But ultimately I guess time will tell.

  6. dustin johnson, October 31, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.

    Every time you bang this drum I get frustrated at its ignorance of the actual situation. The problem - as Claudio Reyna's report states - is not one of bias but economics. American soccer has been open to Latinos since the very first World Cup. If you want to fix the problem you need to fix it at the U10 level period. By the time these player get to U18 the best talent that is poor has been pushed from the sport because of play-to-pay. Look at Ramos and Reyna themselves as the perfect example both of them were able to grow because their families were able to afford the cost of getting them noticed by Thistle FC. 99% of Latinos in the US don't get that chance and they are washed out by the time they turn 12. USSF can't do much to help them.

  7. Mike Fredsell, October 31, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.

    My son played for the Syracuse Blitz for several years till he was 18. His coach for most of that time was Bob Escobar. Bob taught the right way to play soccer and put dozens of players into college soccer only to have their creativity stifled by coaches that knew how to play one way-direct. Bob's own son played with mine at UB and I used to sit with him at home games. It was very painful to watch all the teams in the MAC conference play a 4-5-1 with no buildup whatsoever except for Akron and we all know the success that program has had and where their former head coach is now. Bob retired a couple of years ago but is missed by most of his former players and people that coached with him. I coach at a high school and we play a possession game. We don't have any Latin players but have players parents that come from foreign countries. We have been to 2 state finals and 4 sectional finals since 2004. There are non-Hispanic kids that can play the game the right way, the problem is there aren't any US scouts that would come to upstate NY to look at them.

  8. Jeff EAst, October 31, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.

    Wow, how more general can you get. It seems as though a spanish kid that can dribble is the answer to all our problems. I mean thats how they do it in germany right???? Wrong idiot, and the answer keeps eluding the brains of american soccer (im american). Its tactics mother f'ers. Tactics for offense, for defense, off throw ins, goal kicks, restarts. Its the coaching and your stupid schools that are killing soccer. its two touch, playing the way you are facing, shooting, and proper goal keeping! my god its so frustrating reading articles like this, we are so far behind because the thought of a free flowing game still provails.

  9. Paul Lorinczi, October 31, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.

    I am in favor and have always wanted to see more Hispanic players on the US Team. What I really want to see is a diverse team made up of all the different types of players. Too many of one limits our possibilities. The US can look more like Brazil than say Mexico. Diversity is our strength.

  10. Walt Pericciuoli, October 31, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.

    Paul, you are 100% right. But, unfortunately,so is D. Johnson. Until we get the pay to play system fixed, too many really talented players (be they Latino or not) will fall through the cracks.
    The Academy system as it exists now, is broken. It exists merely to help college coaches ID players. Only MLS clubs should have academy teams, and all should offer no pay for players. Every other competitive (travel teams)youth club should exist for one reason only, to feed players to the Academy teams.
    All other clubs should be considered recreational.

  11. Walt Pericciuoli, October 31, 2013 at 2:15 p.m.

    That is no pay to play for players.

  12. Kent James, October 31, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.

    I agree with Walt, Paul and D. Johnson made great points. I've always liked Tab Ramos, as a player and a coach, and certainly favor a skill-oriented approach to the game. The Latin culture values ball skills, and that is to be admired, and it is great that finally the USSF is finding a way to incorporate Hispanics into the national team. But I have two objections to Paul Gardner's line of reasoning. First, the stereotype that if a player is Hispanic, he must be skillful (belied by his citing the fact that 22 of 30 players on the U15 team being "encouraging news" for a skill oriented team). That's encouraging news that Hispanics are clearly no longer lost to the national team, but it doesn't automatically mean that they are the most skillful players. My second objection is that PG seems to believe that ball skills are the be all and the end all of the game. Yes, they are possibly the most important aspect of the game, but they're not everything. You need soccer intelligence (any player with much experience can probably name very skillful players who don't play up to their abilities because they make poor decisions), mental toughness (though Gardner does approve of the "will to win" exhibited by Ramos' team), and even athleticism can be useful. So yes, a focus on skill is great, and there are a lot of skillful Hispanic players out there (who should continue to be recruited), but the game is bigger than that. There's a place in the game for players of a variety of attributes and from a variety of backgrounds/cultures. Good coaches adapt their tactics to the mix of attributes their players bring to the table; there is no one way to play.

  13. Ivan Gavric, October 31, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.

    Paul Gardner has always had something against Europeans. He has always said that latin are better, but has no reasoning behind it. Where are the best leagues in the world... it is for obvious reasons. I would not rate MLS's crop of latins top class... MLS has aways gone after second and third class Latin players. Paul Gardner praises third class latin players

  14. David Mont, October 31, 2013 at 7:22 p.m.

    So, let me see... Tab Ramos is the future because he's Latino. The US U-20 "played magnificently" against Mexico (a very mediocre Mexico side, by the way, that lost three out of its four games a few months later at the U20 world cup) because, I have to assume, most of the players were Latino. I saw that game -- didn't see anyone play magnificently there. Then, the same US team lays a huge egg at the WC finals, playing without any passion, determination, grit, and with very little skill in the decider against Ghana -- but it's okay because most of the players were Latinos.

  15. R2 Dad, November 1, 2013 at 12:54 a.m.

    Joseph M., that U10 coach was fired only because the parents allowed that coach to be fired. Had those parents cared about skillful possession they would not have stood for it. Sadly parents, even US hispanic parents, don't care that much about the possession part, only the dribbling and scoring parts.
    Dustin J., pay-to-play is becoming less of an issue because some leagues don't allow paid coaches, or teams get sponsorships to defray costs. What I'm seeing more at U12 is that the hispanic kids are getting so out-of-shape they eat themselves out of teams. It's sad, but when they're eating their parent's diet it's no wonder.
    Paul L, definitely agree, the game supports all sorts of athletes of all shapes and sizes (as long as that shape is not round).
    Kent J., I wish we heard more about soccer IQ from our coaches--it's something that rarely discussed but is an important component at Ajax and other top youth development programs.
    The rest of you ranting about too many hispanics/too much emphasis on hispanics, I wouldn't worry. It's U20, all the white/euro guys are still going to college and if they're any good they'll find a spot in MLS where they can kick-and-run to their heart's content. These U20 hispanics are angling for bigger leagues/better contracts than MLS, and that should make our national teams stronger as a result.

  16. Miguel Vidal, November 1, 2013 at 9:45 a.m.

    We all know that tactics are important to the game but without the skills you cannot do tactics. Two touch passing, GK skills, shooting and others are NOT possible is the skills are not there.

    Most tactical efforts are not possible if your team does not have the ball and can possess under pressure.

    That is what I think that TR and Paul G are saying. Just watch college soccer; 99% is kick and run.

    I know of many american coaches that teach skills and want their players to be skill full. Most of them are are yell at by parents because their teams do not win at U-10s. Some even let go from clubs because they are "not winners".
    Skills are the basis of great players and then the tactical learning begins latter in their development. Rooney as well Cristiano, Messi and VanPersie have great skill sets. That is why they are such great players.

    Look at the best of every nation and you will see that their skills set is superior to most players. That is what Tab Ramos is saying and what Paul Gardner is confirming

  17. Basil Jach, November 1, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.

    What did these Spanish players accomplish with Tab Ramos? Nada...

  18. Joseph Pratt, November 1, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.

    Many commentators, Soccer America's Paul Gardner among them, have bemoaned the absence of Latino players at the senior level of the US MNT. The thinking was that the USSF and its alleged cabal of college coaches had some sort of bias that led to under-representation by Latinos on the US national teams. In addition, the "pay-to-play" nature of club youth soccer has been seen as a hindrance to opportunities for Latino players to explore their full potential in the American soccer scene. Given the depth of passion and love for the game among the Latino population (there's a reason why the US MNT feels like a game in LA or Chicago is an away game), up until recently one could easily be puzzled as to why players of Latino heritage were not showing up on the rosters of the US men's teams. I know I was: in my experience as a youth soccer coach I've found that the teams and players we encounter who are principally Latino are invariably high quality, skilled, committed teams. My U14 boys always know they're in for a tough game when we come up against one of the many Mexican clubs in the Chicago area.

    Well, those days appear to be decidedly over! The U15 roster is predominantly Latino, so clearly the grassroots efforts to identify talent wherever it may be found are bearing fruit. In fact the reality appears to be that non-Latinos are clearly the minority on this squad. I've often commented to friends that in ten years' time the US MNT will be made up mostly of Latino players, if my own on-field observations are any guide. Based on this roster, it may be less than ten.

    If this trend holds, the question might soon be: will non-Latino players looking at rosters like the U15 one think they have much of a shot at making US YNTs at various age levels? I predict that in a few years that might be the next "big subject."

  19. Jason Biswell, November 1, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

    Great article. My fear is that R2 Dad is right "Nope, I don't see this happening. As soon as TR moves on from this cohort in a couple of years, back come the clipboard coaches/trolls who will shed the smaller/skilled players and backfill with more NCAA robots. "
    We always have trends of favorite ethnicities that coaches prefer in our youth national teams. Like a couple cycles before the 94 group it was refugees from Africa. I hope that is not what this is. I think we need to look at why these Hispanic players have the qualities that are so desirable to us when their caucasian peers are lacking those qualities. I believe it comes from their parents/families/communities. Hispanic players grow up with futbol being the biggest and a lot of times only sport watched and played in there homes. Their parents/families/communities are educated fans and players of futbol and so these players grow up mimicking the players they watch on tv as well as their fathers/brothers/cousins/older kids in their community. They dream of one day playing in world cups and of glory en la cancha. On the flip side Caucasian parents are the opposite and typically have no knowledge of soccer and only the most diligent parents start to learn the game when their children start playing competitive soccer a lot of times not until the child is 10-14 years old. Parents are responsible for their players development! Coaches get them 3-4 hours a week before academy and that is only really enough to work a little on fitness and shape. Technical soccer is developed by repitition. So if parents no nothing about the game how r they gonna help their players work on their own? Pretty tough. I believe we will not ever win a World Cup until we see parents of all ethnicities in this country loving this game, learning this game and playing this game before their children are born. I do however believe with some of the players that represented us at the u20 World Cup and a few that were not called from the same age group as well as several from the younger ages we will be able to play attractive competitive soccer consistently in just a few short years. The other way will be if all the mls academies invest in coaches that have experience developing creative, technical players and expand their age group to at least u11-u12 and hold to the 3-4 times a week for their age group and the u15-u16 should practice at least 5 times per week. Also, mls needs to be in an academy league of their own.

  20. Soccer 2306, November 2, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

    Paul Gardner apparently is as ignorant as those who were biased against Hispanics playing that he rails against. It is not heritage that makes the player good or bad. When my sons team plays all Hispanic teams we know we are in good shape because they don't generally play possession they play dribble and one v one soccer. The teams we fear are the mixed teams because then you know the coach is picking the best players of the game. I can show you more players who juggle great, and dribble fantastic who are bad players of the game. They believe it is a one v one game and it is not. A true player is about game intelligence: knowing when to go long and when to not; when to switch, when to take on one v one.. My son is going to be playing in college and i have been watching more games and there are more teams playing possession as more teams getting successful that way as there are more players coming up now who play that way. As a country we are getting better and progressing, but as long as imbeciles like Paul Gardner spread his biased and ignorant dribble, soccer will not progress and grow. He is one of the old school who needs to move on and be quiet too just like the old coaches he speaks against.

  21. Rick Potts, November 3, 2013 at 11:33 p.m.

    I watched the U20's in the WC finals this past summer. They did play very times Yes, there was an abundance of individual skill on the field. Unfortunately it was undisciplined at times and bad decisions and careless mistakes usually got punished by goals from the opposition. What I really liked was the attitude. Many of the players on Ramos' U20 team were confident in going forward and actually taking on defenders and beating them 1v1. Don't see enough of that on the senior team. We have many technically sound players on the senior team but not enough that are confident enough and can take on and out dribble an opponent 1v1. I do disagree that only latino players are capable of doing this effectively in the US. I have never been a fan of coaching licenses and certifications. The USSF has done a great job of churning out these cookie cutter coaches in black adidas track suits with the long stadium coats, a clip board and a bs certification. It seems all you need today is an ego and certification and you can run an "elite" youth program. Glad to see Ramos shaking things up. Its about time somebody did!

  22. Amos Annan, November 4, 2013 at 9:06 a.m.

    You have no idea what you are talking about. It is about having better technically skilled players, no matter where they come from. The problem in US youth soccer, that is not emphasized enough. Winning by passing and physical advantage is the current model. Most "latino" players can't do that so they develop the technical skills needed.

  23. Greg Williams, November 4, 2013 at 9:37 a.m.

    What a crock! Political correctness is taking over everything!! This is just a form of reverse discrimination..those 'evil white folks' and their money! How HORRBLE! Aside from the obvious prejudice involved, the reality is that the author of this article watched a different game against Mexico than I did. The final against Mexico was an EMBARRASSING, frustrating display of what someone else already highlighted, the tendency of Hispanic players to play individualistically , trying to take on players one v one, when a pass would have been a better option, head down dribbling he calls 'creative skill', and poor decison making! What is ironic is that the one player who showed promise , from that game was Will Trap, who created some cohesion and possesion in intelligent distribution of passes that had been lacking!I coach a HS team made up predominantly of Hispanic players. The team was worse than the Bad News Bears, having won only one game on one goal for the entire season! It took a few seasons, but last year, we went from a 1-17 season, to within one game of qualifying for state! How did I turn it around? By showing these boys that the Hispanic style of play was actually harming their chances, and I taught possession, movement off the ball, unselfish play, containment defense, holding shape and disciplined MENTAL GAME!I did NOT discourage their individuality in the process. I don't see them as Hispanics, but as people, and much to Gardner's chagrin, we also had some very good 'white boys' who were blended into a good team...all without a single league to play in, and only one field in the entire county! Coincidentally, the only team that romped us last season was a team made up of those evil, unskilled, privileged 'white boys'.. I guess they didn't get the memo that they weren't supposed to be any good! In all seriousness, this kind of thinking is completely skewed! the direction we need to go in is selcting the BEST PLAYERS AVAILABLE, regradless of their ethnicity, financial status or heritage! I also noticed that Gardner made mention of Klinsman's propensity to recruit foreign based players..but did Gardner notice that they are of German connections and that Klinsman is German?? Compare that to Ramos who is Hispanic and maybe what you have is BIAS, not a 'maverick' or new approach! The moral of the story is that BIAS OF ANY FORM, including REVERSE DISCRIMINATION kills anything it is associated with! What is needed is the courage and INTELLIGENCE among the coaching staffs to train effectively, from the ground up, and to be OBJECTIVE, and fair in player selection. If the very best players that can be selected to represent the US are ALL Hispanic, GOOD! If they are NOT, then also GOOD! What we need is individuals who DON"T see color, or race or who are biased in any way, including against the obvious bias Gardner presented in this foolish diatribe he calls a solution!

  24. Benjamin Henry, November 4, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.

    wow...This is frustrating. Am I the only one that has seen the "brilliance" of Mexico's national team try and qualify for a World Cup? That is the answer...An 80% - 100% hispanic American National Team? Let me remind you that Mexico was beaten soundly by the Americans this year in qualifying as well. Last time I checked the ratio of hispanics on the current U.S. National team is far from 80%. So how did we beat them? We beat them with size, speed, and strength...Not to mention, our players can play together as a team. That's what we are. We should not be modeling the Mexican style of play...We should be modeling a German style of play. Believe it or not, we have players of every ethnicity in this country that can play soccer. I would take a 6'4" player with skill and pace, over a 5'4" player with the same. Look at Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona last year. DOMINATING!!!! And Barcelona is a team stock piled with ALL "creative" players.
    Bayern Munich does as well...Difference? They are bigger, stronger, and faster. Thats what America should be after...Whatever the ethnicity happens to be. Tab Ramos was a good player...His team in the World Cup got hammered. But there are still people that think this is the route? Even after their very, very poor performance at the World Cup? Hispanics are not the answer to Americas soccer problem...The system of soccer in America is the problem. We have these kids playing in 500 different leagues and not a true career ladder...Not one pure league where all of the best talent is playing all of the best talent every weekend. And, if you want your kid to excel at soccer, you are paying thousands of dollars a year to clubs, or academies, to try and get them there. Don't focus on ethnicity, focus on a cohesive and inexpensive youth program and a well defined path for these kids to be seen. Then and only then will there be a difference in American soccer.

  25. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.

    It amazes me to hear complaints about so many Latinos on USA teams and declare a bias in selection after only 2-3 teams for USA have been predominantly Hispanic. RED ALERT !! Anybody that is ignorantly complaining about this here, do so when for so many years USA teams were predominanlty non Hispanic?? What makes more sense given the demogrphics of USA Soccer ??? To have 1/2 or more Hispanioc players or 1-2 Hispanic players on USA teams?? Most people here complain of only one of these and it's the one that makes least sense!!!

  26. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.

    Kent, Paul Gardner didnt say that being Hispanic automatically makes you a better player. What he clarified on more than one occassion, without having to do so, is that it just so happens that at the moment the ones with most skill in USa happen to be Hispanic. Very few can argue with that notion so lets be fair to what the article actually saids. I agree with you that not only skill is needed but then again coaches and people with less skill will always try to make a case for "other attributes". Reality is that with skill and intelligence you get alot farther than with speed, strength, grit alone. The first 2 are indespensable for success and overshadow the other 2 big time. The ideal way to play soccer is displayed by the Brazilians. No one has proved more at every level than them and getting Brazilians to coach our Academy, National teams is not even a thought in USA. Why?? We all know why.

  27. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.

    Ivan, the best leagues in the world are the best because their best most expensive players are Argentinian and Brazilian. What are they ?? Are they not Latin/Hispanic?? MLS is not good and would be much worse if it wasnt for it's Hispanic player srecruited from central and South America. Meanwhile Honduras made it all the way to Quarterfinals in U17 W.C. and USA didnt even go.

  28. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:32 p.m.

    David, Mexico lost to heavy European favorite Spain 1-0 in 2nd round. 2 years ago Mexico took 3rd place in U20's. USA tied the eventual Champs of this tournament, France, who only lost to Spain throughout entire tournament. Those are good and respectable results. Thsoe are positives no matter what they did vs other teams. The U17's for USA did not even make the World Cup out of, by your standards, a very mediocre Concacaf region. Very few Hispanic there. Cabrera's U17 team in 2011 did make the World Cup. I think almost 1/2 were Hispanic on that team. Whats your logic there??

  29. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.

    Bill, They accomplished mas than richie Williams without Hispanic players. Actually making it to the W.C. should be seen as good enough for USA at the moment.

  30. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.

    Soccer, Paul didnt say dribbling was the key or reason why Hispanics were better. I think you are just profiling them like that yourself. The reason you feel you are in good shape when facing a Hispanic team that only dribbles is because your main focus ahs been team results. Passing, long balls, don't dribble in the back, play forward all the time, etc. That style wins you games buit hurts your development. Why?? No risks. You play to not lose. Why are bl;ack people the best Basketball players in USA, in general?? Because they develop skills playing one v one in the hood. They would rather lose looking good than win with no style. that goes a long why my friend. Very comparable to Brazilian soccer mentality. They are the undisputed best in team results, individual talent, most paid,. Just look at at the best teams in the world. Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc. What do they all have in common?? Brazilians, Argentinians. Wake Up!!

  31. Che Guevara, November 6, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

    The best players in the world are usually the best dribblers. The ones with most skills. They usually know when to use those skills and when to play simple but to learn those skills you must do them many times unnessecarliy during your development years. Thats where the unstructured pick up comes to play. Thats why the best mainly come from those environments. No parents yeeling at them or applauding "smart" tactful play from u8-U14's!! Are you p[laying s,mart at these ages?? Well then dont think past College play my friend.

  32. Ivan Gavric, November 9, 2013 at 7:45 p.m.

    Che Honduras is third rate soccer....
    You cannot put Honduras in any serious discussion...the vaat majority of MLS latin players aren't better than Americans. You have to have a better point than that

  33. Kent James, November 11, 2013 at 12:12 p.m.

    Che, while I agree with you that ball skills are crucial, and that they need to be developed in an environment that does not focus on team success (at least at the early ages), and that Hispanic players often have great ball skills, my point is that when PG equates "good ball skills" with "Hispanic player", it is a stereotype, and that players should be evaluated on their own merits, regardless of their backgrounds. I understand (and support) Gardner's efforts to promote the inclusion of Hispanic player, as well as his focus on tactics that focus on skills, but they are not the same and conflating them is not healthy. A stereotype is a stereotype; many people think good dribblers are selfish players, and many are, but that, too, is a stereotype (or skillful players are "soft", or physically large players can't be skillful, etc.). Stereotyping Hispanics as skillful feeds into the meme that your ethnicity defines you, and allows others justify their own (often more negative) stereotypes.

  34. Che Guevara, November 11, 2013 at 7:36 p.m.

    Ivan, let's see. the 25 best MLS players of all time. 23.Carlos Val;derrama, 22.Dwayne de Rosario, 21.Raul Diaz Arce, 20.Mauricio CienFuegos,19. Marco Etcheverry,15. Carlos Ruiz, and the very best Jaime Moreno. Many of these guys are central American. Do you still need a better point?

  35. Che Guevara, November 11, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.

    Kent, What exactly is wrong with that stereotype?? Isnt acceptable in this country to say that the best basketball players are usually black in USA?? It's true isnt it?? It doesnt mean that every player with great ball skills is Hispanic but in USA from what I see it's safe to say that Hispanics are the majority to posess that skill at the moment. Whats wrong with saying that?? The Chinese are usually some of the best students and great at math. Am I wrong?? It's just that at the moment it's not too popular to say anything good of Hispanics in USA. Thats why the backlash. Thats why the uproar. We can talk about many topics and stereotypes but none will cause this much debate. Good job Paul Gardner. It exposes an ugly truth in USA.

  36. Che Guevara, November 11, 2013 at 8 p.m.

    Kent, It is rare to bump into a black person that doesnt play basketball at least as a hobby. So we all assume that a black athletic person is good at it when we pick teams at the park without knowing them. That is a stereotype but has no evil intention or is demeaning to anyone else. When a white or Hispanic great basketball dribbler comes along it's a good surprise to everyone because it's unexpected but cool to see. Thats a stereotype. "White Man Can't Jump", a classic movie with stereotypes widely accepted in USA. Once upon a time in USA not so "accepted" in USA, now was it?? Black people earned that stereotype. The best Bball players are black. Havent Hispanics earned that stereotype as well. All I am saying that if this bothers you that much then you must always be pissed about something because is full of stereotypes. Why dont ypou follow in Larry Bird's footsteps? Ask him where he went for the best pickup games when he was coming up?? The HOOD!! He used a stereotype and used it in a very positive manner with a positive outcome. Or please explain how it is not healthy when comparing other stereotypes like these. Physically large players are usually not as skilled as their smaller counterparts. thats a fact. Whats wrong with saying that?? It's great to see an Ibrah, because it's rare. Some may call him the total package. Depends on your taste. Why would a positive stereotype allow for bad ones to be justified?? So if I Stereotype the best basketball players to be black it allows others to state negative stereotypes or jsutify them?? Why?? Do you see that much ?? I dont?? Only Hispanics are bringing this out in people at the moment. Now lets really look harder at why this is instead of trying to blame guys like Paul gardner. Lets take a harder look at our own feelings at a deeper level.

  37. Che Guevara, November 11, 2013 at 8:14 p.m.

    Kent, Hispanics often have great ball skills. Not much different as to what PG said. He just went into detail. PG is stating that certain players are better used in a particular style of play. Therefore, an English style of play does not better suit the "Majority" of our better more "skilled" players. Do you not agree?? Or do you think that most of our better players in USa are of English descent or better suited for an English style ?? Or European for that matter?? Or are we better suited for a Brazilian style or Mexican style ?? You will probably say "we must make up our own style". Thats nice to say but what is that exactly?? remember we are the only country to want to do shootouts in Pro soccer games not too long ago. Thats what the great USA soccer minds thought would be a good idea. At the moment there are European styles that are a little bit diverse and Hispanic styles and the best of all, Brazilian style. That style seems to be successful at all levels. European teams pay the biggest $$ for Brazilians in the best leagues and adapt to them. They just come in and do what they do. Brazilians are the most scouted even though there may be a better player here or there in Sweden or Africa. Stereotype?? Sure. Why?? No one produces more top players. All Positive.

  38. Kent James, November 13, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

    Che, stereotypes (good or bad) characterize an individual based on the behavior of a group. I would hope that at the national team level, we're looking at individuals based on their own skill sets, not the skill sets of the demographic group to which they belong. For that matter, any player evaluation, regardless of the level, should look at the individual as an individual. As for the US style, I'd like to see the US play with the technical skills of the Dutch, Latin creativity, Northern European physicality and aerial prowess, and the never say die attitude and athleticism of most US sports. More realistically, I think you vary your style based on the personnel available; if you have someone who is a tremendous finisher in the air, you feed him crosses. If you've got guys who can take people on, you encourage them to do that. Players who can shoot from distance should be encouraged to do so. In other words, coaches (as well as players) should be creative and adapt to the situation. But stereotypes need not be part of the equation.

  39. Che Guevara, November 14, 2013 at 12:06 p.m.

    Kent, If I wanted to get offended and used Stereotypes as an excuse I would get offended by what you just said and accuse you of stereotyping. You just said As for the US style, I'd like to see the US play with the technical skills of the Dutch, Latin creativity, Northern European physicality and aerial prowess, and the never say die attitude and athleticism of most US sports." Do you mean only USA players have a "never say die" attitude?? Do you mean that only European Players have physical and aerial prowess?? You see what I mean?? It's silly to focus on the negatives of an opinion. PG said the same thing you just did but he went into detail on his opinion. I am sure you didnt mean to say anything negative as well. Fact is everything you mentioned are common traits in each culture. Its what they are better known for. If USA were looking for more skill & creativity, whomever it might be, seeing more Hispanic would not be a surprise to anyone, according to what you just said. If Physicality was the main trait looked for then you would see more of the European descent players. This doesnt mean that you cant find a big physical player in the Hispanic community in USA. It just means its not as common. Same with creativity in the NonHispanic community. You cant accuse anyone of stereotyping if you have close to same opinions. You have to admit that this subject is extremely sensitive because it involves Hispanics. You dont see this in a basketball blog with black players dominating that sport. Taboo. Your a racist if you do. Hispanics?? Acceptable to show outrage on these matters. Fact remains that if you go to your local league that has ethnic teams you will see most of them play according to your stereotypes you just mentioned. You know what?? Theres nothing wrong with it for you to notice.

  40. Che Guevara, November 15, 2013 at 10:24 a.m.

    And there is nothing wrong with Paul G. to notice the same.

  41. Kent James, November 18, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.

    Che, team style is different than a stereotype. Stereotyping would be to apply those characteristics to the individuals on the team. Hispanic teams generally like to play soccer with an emphasis on ball skill. This is an observable fact. But when you don't know a team, and you see that they are hispanic, and you therefore assume that they will emphasize ball skill, that is a stereotype. Likewise, to see an Hispanic player and white player from the suburbs and say "well, the Hispanic player has better ball skills because he's Hispanic and comes from a culture that values those things" is a stereotype. He might have better ball skills, but one should evaluate the players based on their observable skills, not their ethnicity or race. I think when there was a lack of Hispanics on the US national team, when clearly there are a lot of Hispanics who play soccer in the US, it was important to understand why that was so and rectify the situation, so it was important to pay attention to ethnicity. But once it is clear that Hispanics are no longer being excluded (at least at the National team level), looking at ethnicity is no longer relevant. I think it is poor journalism for PG to say that at national team with a higher percentage of Hispanics is more skillful than one with a lower percentage; maybe they are, maybe they aren't, but that characterization should be based on observing the team, not looking at the percentage of Hispanics. Do you disagree? Maybe I'm missing your point...

  42. Che Guevara, November 19, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

    kent, kent, kent, are we just trying to be politically correct?? I know what you meant and it makes no difference. Since hispanics "Generally" play skilled soccer then one will unintentionally always assume this because it is unaviodable. Its human nature. You cant just say a Hispanic player has better ball skills because he is Hispanic but you cant help but assume it because of what generally happens. Yes of course if you have the responsability of picking the best players then you should not look at race. That said, PG said that appointing Tab Ramos was good for USA because we finally apointed someone with alot more knowledge of the game that prefered a Latin Style of play that by consequence is generally played by mostly Hispanics in USA. No stereotype. Those are all facts. Thats what you just called Team Style. It just so happens that the ones that fit that style a little better are Latinos. He specified that Ramos was not looking for Latinos. he also said that at the moment Latinos have the edge in ball skill in USA soccer. key words "at the moment". That is also clearly true. Black people have the edge in basketball skill as well. Nothing wrong with accepting and saying this. In fact i have heard that alot and never heard anyone complain. PG only mentions that it is great to see that the most skillful players are finally being selected for our USA National Teams and he points out that most happen to be Hispanic. He also points out that it might have something to do with Hispanic culture which is also a correct assertion. It appears he finds it incredible that being that in the Hispanic culture there are so many skillful players and the majority in USA that there were very few Hispanics representing this country in the near past. And that my friend is the bigger and more logical question. Why were there so few Hispanics picked for our USA National teams given our demographics ??? Hell, why was Richie Williams U17 Team so limited on Hispanic players?? You know, the team that didnt even make the World VCup this year. Why dont we jump to the same conclusions there??

  43. Kent James, November 20, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.

    Che, I think Ramos (and Reyna) are great coaches, and am glad they are defining the national team programs (I liked Hugo Perez as player, and assume he will be a good coach also). I'm glad Hispanics are getting the opportunities they deserve to be part of the national team. I don't think the US team should play a Latin style, but neither do I think the US should play a Northern European style. I'd like us to combine elements of both (you may prefer the pure Latin style, which is fine). But that's a different debate. In terms of discussing the national teams, now that it is clear Hispanics are no longer being overlooked, I think it would be healthier to de-emphasize the focus on ethnicity, and simply focus on the quality of the players and the teams. I think using ethnicity as a short-hand for skill creates more problems than it solves. On more technical soccer point, I think skill is a broader category than just ball skill. So while I do agree that historically US teams have been deeper athletically (and ball-skill challenged), I don't want the pendulum to swing too far the other way, where the only characteristics that count are ball skills. There needs to be a balance.

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