Commentary

Put Costa Rica high on the list of nations we might learn from

By Mike Woitalla
@MikeWoitalla

We're always looking abroad for insight and ideas on how to improve our player development. The Dutch have long been particularly popular. MLS sent its youth academy coaches to learn from the French. U.S. Club Soccer has partnered with Spain.

Many eyes are on the Germans, who won the World Cup after a revamp. Besides, our national team coach and Technical Director is a German. The Belgians too, are en vogue.

Even unsuccessful soccer countries can fill a hall of U.S. coaches. At the last NSCAA Convention, I watched American coaches flock to a lecture by a coach from Scotland, which hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1998, when it went winless.

Here’s an idea. Let’s check out what’s going on in Costa Rica, a nation whose population (4.5 million) is one fourth of the greater Los Angeles area.

Costa Rica, which beat the USA, 1-0, earlier this month, you’ll remember also had a more successful 2014 World Cup than the USA.

The Ticos were drawn with three former world champions, and won the group! Playing impressive soccer, they beat Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (2-0), and having clinched second-round passage, tied 0-0 with England. Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals, where it fell to the Netherlands in a penalty-kick shootout.

Nine members of Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup squad played in a U-17 World Cup.

The current Costa Rica U-17s did something remarkable on Thursday at the U-17 World Cup, beating France in the round of 16, in a penalty kick tiebreaker after a scoreless tie.

Costa Rica-France Highlights:

France was the only team to win all three of its group games, outscoring its three foes, 14-4. It entered the tournament as European champion, having beaten Germany, 4-1 in the final.

The U.S. Soccer Federation spent $14 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year on youth national teams and player development. I’ll bet you Costa Rica spends a fraction of that.

Mexico reaches quarterfinals by routing host

Speaking of U.S. regional rivals who seem to be doing something right at the youth level, Mexico reached the quarterfinals at the U-17 World Cup by beating host Chile, 4-1. (The Chileans had beaten the USA, 4-1, in group play.)

Mexico-Chile Highlights:

Mexico reached the second round with wins over Argentina (2-0) and Germany (2-1), and a scoreless tie with Australia.

Mexico has won the U-17 World Cup twice, in 2005 and 2011. It finished runner-up in 2013, losing, 3-0, to Nigeria in the final after beating Italy, Brazil and Argentina.

Under-17 World Cup: TV Schedule & Results

In the quarterfinals, Mexico faces Ecuador. Costa Rica meets Belgium. Four-time champion Nigeria, which beat the USA, 2-0, in group play, faces three-time champion Brazil. Croatia, which the USA tied, 2-2, meets Mali.

U.S. U-20 women down a pair of Spanish clubs

The Michelle French-coached U.S. U-20 national team, with a young roster because its older players are busy with college ball, beat Spanish women's La Liga first-place team Atletico Madrid, 3-0, and 15th-place Rayo Vallecano, 4-1.

Marley Canales, Ella Stevens and Mallory Pugh scored second-half goals to down Atletico Madrid. Ashley Sanchez, a 16-year-old, scored all four U.S. goals against Rayo Vallecano after coming on as 68th minute sub.

Oct. 27 in Madrid.
Rayo Vallecano 1 USA U-20s 4. Goals: Patri (pen.) 80; Sanchez 68, Sanchez (Pugh) 75, Sanchez 78, Sanchez (Pugh)    82.
Rayo Vallecano -- Ana, Anama, Costa, Ale, Jenni, Codo, Sarray, Estela, Silvi, Marian, Nicole.
USA -- Chandler, Doyle (Pickett, 46), Hiatt (Morse, 46), Otto, Fox, Gorzak (Harr, 46), Bosco, Pinto (Stevens, 46), Torres (6- DeMelo, 46), Redei (Sanchez, 68), Spaanstra (Pugh, 46).

Oct. 23 in Madrid
Atletico Madrid 0 USA U-20s 3. Goals: Canales 57, Stevens 60, Pugh (Canales) 75.
Atlético Madrid Féminas -- Gallardo, Goncalves (K.Robles, 57), V.Robles (Tudela, 61), Garcia (Galvez, 61), Beltran (Cebrian, 57), Sosa, Coronel, Calderon, Rodriguez (Leon, 57),  Gonzelez, Garcia.
USA -- Chandler, Pickett, Morse (Hiatt, 15), Otto, Fox (Doyle, 79), Harr (Bosco, 67), Stevens (Pinto, 61), DeMelo (Torres, 82), Canales, Pugh, Sanchez (16- Spaanstra, 70).

Around the Net

... U.S. Soccer Development Academy players aren't allowed to play high school soccer, but the Chicago Tribune's Jon Kerr reports on three Chicago area players, including two already committed to colleges, who are leaving their Academy teams to play senior year high school ball. The article brings up the arguments from both sides of the high school vs. club battle over young talent. Says one of the players, "I need a break. I needed more freedom to express myself without all the pressure, and high school has helped me with that." A rewarding risk? Area players take a break from club soccer

... Fargo Soccer Club president Matt Noah says discrimination is behind North Dakota State University not allowing his teams to participate in a new youth tournament it is hosting. Noah says his club is about half the price of others, and has close to 1,000 players, many of them new Americans. "It's an unrestricted, open tournament, unsanctioned, they're supposed to let everybody in," says Noah. Fargo Soccer Club claims discrimination as NDSU bans them from tournament
26 comments about "Put Costa Rica high on the list of nations we might learn from".
  1. stewart hayes, October 30, 2015 at 11:46 a.m.

    Lets not forget the admirable performance of the CR Women in Canada this past summer where they tied Spain and Korea and lost 1-0 vs Brazil. They played defensively but their 1v1 composure was excellent. They rarely gave the ball away even when pressured by 2-3 opponents they were able to find an open teammate. According to one player on the team they were paid 45,000 colones per month during training.* At the current exchange rate of 533/dollar that's $2.81 per day. That would hardly cover the bus fare to and from training. Info from *

  2. Bob Ashpole, October 30, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    Sending coaches to learn from successful youth coaches in foreign countries is not going to improve youth soccer as a program. We have been doing that for decades already. What is needed is better management of youth soccer programs as well as a greater emphasis on children's physical development, education and health nation-wide. At the top of the pyramid, USSF is trying to micromanage youth soccer. At the bottom of the pyramid unsupervised coaches are left to independently train teams. So we have the worst of both worlds. Management is a lost art today. It has long been accepted that managers can only effectively supervise 5 people. The key to managing larger organizations is to pick competent people, set their goals, delegate authority to them, provide them resources, and get out of their way.

  3. aaron dutch, October 30, 2015 at 2:01 p.m.

    Bob has nailed it. We really have rec sports with a ball on the field (also know as soccer) the kids run around, randomly kick balls, learn almost nothing accept put the ball in the net over there and if you can pass to somebody. They do this for 2-4 years (depends where you live) then they graduate to advanced rec sports (also known as local travel). They start to do 1960's/70's wait around drills with someone and a clipboard who is trying to remember all the drills which are a mash pit of unrelated pieces of the development pyramid. 90% of kids stay here for 5-8 years. Then they finish their career with High School and their first real club team. The club team has to fix everything that was done the last 5-10 years all while everyone wants to win NOW or I quit and go to the better club i.e. 2 more wins an hour away. This of course is happening while the high school team is a collection of few very good players, a few more good players (your core of your high school team) then a bunch of avg. to below avg. rec/local travel players and the rest kids who want to have fun/stay in shape/play with friends. Of course for the very good to elite players top 1-10% they skip all of this and start at an elite club at 3-6 years old get burned out/hurt 10-15 years later and have to rediscover the game on their own terms and their love it.

  4. Jacob Kuba, October 30, 2015 at 8:41 p.m.

    Great article Mike. Lets start looking at what Costa Rica, Mexico, Belgium, Germany have in common and stay away from trying to copy a specific style. Our Federation talks way too much about player development yet has yet to even mention trying to learn something from the 2 countries with the most success in individual player development - Argentina and Brazil. Mexico is steadily on the rise with players making it in Europe and succeeding. Now Costa Rica is running past us? I did not know they were that small. Would we have a better National Team if we conquered Costa Rica and brought in their player pool? No. We would not. Does anyone truly believe that in this entire USA we dont have a group of better players than Costa Rica? Why is it we only7 call for Klins's head or whoever else is running senior team and not the people in charge of Youth National Team Soccer, who oversee scouting and player slection along with National Team Coaches?

  5. Andrew Kear, October 31, 2015 at 5:31 a.m.

    Everything was going well until Klinsmann came onto the US scene. What is amazing this is completely true, Just look at the statistics. The U23 and U17 teams really starting losing badly right when Klinsmann took over US soccer development.

    weird......

  6. Emile Jordan, October 31, 2015 at 7:07 a.m.

    Everybody seems to be saying the same thing in different ways. I went to Kathmandu and remote villages in Nepal on a Mission Trip with an organization called Mountain Child. They gave me the unique opportunity to "teach" soccer because I was a "Professional Coach". If I did not connect with those kids by simply playing and having fun I would have been a blazing fool. Playing bare foot or with sandals for the most part on gnarly fields the creativity, skills, and competitive spirit displayed to varying degrees created a magical environment to play some exciting soccer.

    I am thinking there has yet to be a world class player come out of Nepal, but I think the reason is the other extreme of the health issues we have here in the U.S.A. We have to much, they have to little.

    My point is that soccer is like no other sport in that at the core you have freedom to be creative and express yourself in your own unique way with your own God given talent.

    At age 11 as a hyper energy kid I got introduced to soccer by a man named George Vizvary, who is a legendary Junior College Coach and implementer of youth soccer in my community where I grew up. He set me up playing in practice with a local adult mostly German team at a place called Oehler's Mountain Lodge. They loved me playing with them and hanging out afterwards having a coke while they tipped a few brewskys, probably because I would chase the balls that went out of bounds now that I think about it. An introduction to the sport of soccer that has permeated with me since and will forever.

    I am now 56 and literally nothing has changed when it comes to soccer. It is the most fun sport in the world because kids of all ages can play and express their unique personalities in ways we had no idea they could. All we have to do is share our experiences through playful, naturally competitive activities. When this happens, all of a sudden the kids you thought were a pain in the ... are blowing your mind with their creative talent.

  7. Chris Kovalcik, October 31, 2015 at 9:14 a.m.

    I think we should remember many of the countries we speak about are only known for one sport (maybe two); it is their passion and all their time, efforts and energy go to this sport. In the U.S., we have so many choices and want to win at everything. So in essence, we have diluted our soccer efforts and this exists because of our culture and mindset.

    Why are we the best at basketball? It is because of our basketball culture and mindset which drives the development and growth of players.

    As the U.S. grows more diverse, we will probably get better at soccer but it is certainly not because of affluent, suburban kids who mostly view soccer as a hobby and parents that are willing to fork over big money for this organized activity.

  8. Jacob Kuba replied, October 31, 2015 at 10:26 a.m.

    Not so. Panama picks baseball first. Then boxing. Rugby is a bigger sport in alot of these countries over soccer. But even if that were the case, lets never forget that Costa Rica is the smaller than Los Angeles. Its not the other sports we love, its the people in charge of scouting and choosing players. I have heard endless stories of top player =s getting snubbed onl;y because they wont join DA clubs or how about Mexico's Starting U17 goalie? He was #3 for our Usa Team at one point!! What did they think was going to happen?? Of course the kid went where his talents were apreccitated, especially when he saw the writing on the wall. Richie falied big time last World Cup and he was given another chance? Why? What merited that dicision? His extensive resume? His record as coach?

  9. Andrew Kear replied, October 31, 2015 at 10:46 a.m.

    Unfortunately, America's top sport is a game nobody else except Canada plays. Football uses up a lot of America's athletic resources. The more popular football becomes the more sports like US tennis suffer. What is the point playing a sport nobody else plays. America's athletic prowess should be judged by sports played by other nations. Without success in soccer America is not a true athletic power.

  10. Jacob Kuba replied, October 31, 2015 at 12:37 p.m.

    Andrew, what exactly do you mean by athletic p[ower? Do you mean Tom Brady, Reggie bush, Vick? What makes you think those top NFL athletes would make world class soccer players?? Soccer uses a whole other set of skills not used in football so it really defies logic when people say this. USA's other top sport is Basketball. Have you not noticed soccer crazed countries catching up to us in basketball? Argentina even beat us in a semi for god's sakes. Spain, Germany, Turkey, etc. We are extremely naive to think that USA is the only country that can produce the athletes we see in the NFL as far as athleticism goes. Also, in soccer, those freak atheltes arent so dominant on the world stage unless you consider all those Hispanic players athletic freaks. Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, etc. The highest paid players in the world mostly do not look like or even resmeblke a top NFL player. So lets please stop making this argument as a copout as to why tiny Costa Rica is leaving us behind in soccer. Unless, again, you think Costa Rica is capablke of producing NFL type athletes and that is reason they dominate soccer!!

  11. stewart hayes replied, October 31, 2015 at 1:04 p.m.

    All you have to do is turn on the news at 6am in Costa Rica to get a sense of what the people care about. Teletica, channel 7, devotes 15 minutes to deadly events and then 15 minutes to sports, of this 14 is devoted to soccer. One thing I have noticed is that in the pick up games and organized play the individuals are much more inclined to hold the ball and take on a player before passing. There is always a sense that the player in possession is reading the game and not just passing for passing sake. Is an overemphasis on passing in our youth programs harmful? The coaching on the recreational level here is much less organized and of poor quality ie. 1-3 balls, players running laps to warm up, players in lines waiting a turn to shoot etc... all the stuff we in the USA would say is harmful.

  12. Jacob Kuba replied, October 31, 2015 at 3:34 p.m.

    Stweart, that is an excellent observation and yes the current overmephasis on passing is harmful. Posession without a purpose. If you look at youth soccer, in general in USA, there is now an emphasis mostly on passing. The higher you go, DA, the passing gets better but the decision making in the final 1/3 does not. We simply dont know when to dribble, shoot, pass, move off the ball, overlap, create, etc. or better yet, how to. Why? because it is not encouraged. Why? Too risky. We dont play to win or to exite the fans. W play to not lose. Why? Because its a pay to play sport where the people paying, usually have kids that just want to experience being part of a team = Team Play. They love to see a passing game, everybody defends, no superstars attitude. They pay so coaches adhere to that. Poor kids want to shine. Want to prove they are the best on the field. Of course this is a general statement. These are tendencies. And certainly a pay to play kid can have that mentality of outshining everyone with dribbles creativity but it is just not that usual and frowned upon. I have been around of parents who hate the kid that shows skill (holds on to the ball too long) and start yelling at them to "send the ball" often when there is no run established and even when the player holding the ball is trying to send an unpredictable pass and waiting for the run. Coaches hear the money parents complaining and getting restless and guess who gets subbed or scolded?

  13. aaron dutch, October 31, 2015 at 11:21 a.m.

    Organization is still king, we are entering a cycle where we are going to be losing. This will lead to a retrenchment back to what we know (american coaches, run & gun, grind out soccer) The problem is in the past we had a joke of qualification path to the world cup, gold cup, copa etc.. But with Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama all having a solid or good cycle we now for the first time have to earn our CONCACAF position not just show up and get 1 or 2 every cycle. All our broken structures will come out. After we fire JK, his coaches and we go back to "American Soccer Style" shut down all his changes he is pushing we will face new world. While I still think while with a perfect structure, coachng etc.. we still wouldnt win the world cup we would be a real top 8 and even top 4 in our great cycles and maybe a final or 2. With our go back to "American Soccer" we will fall like a rock 1998 results.

  14. Joe Linzner, October 31, 2015 at 11:50 a.m.

    personally I find that the structured clinical and regimented approach in under 14 soccer is, at least to my mind, conducive to suppressing creativity. That is the age where ease and comfort on the ball develops. It is here where there should be lots of one on one, and two on two play times should be used. very small fields and small netted box goals. Turn them lose and let them dribble and work their way to the goal. Keep score and at the end of the season reward the most improved, and other categories and use Futsal as an example. As the age and grasp the need for ball control, add players, increase field size. At formative ages, conditioning is not as important as control. we also used to set up goals 8ft apart and use only the head to head back and forth and try and score two on two. Head only nothing else. individual games all mini contests all fun for youngsters. dribbling, shooting, receiving, passing all done as a competitive game. No pressure from adults. The youngsters provide plenty as they strive to be better than the other. Every effort should be made to film individuals and when viewed in a class room one on one with a coach, constructive suggestions as to improvement of technique by both coach and child. I would only address those who exhibit a desire to play. NO Babysitting... AYSO limited to under 8s and those with only a passing interest.

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, October 31, 2015 at 10:28 p.m.

    Joe, what is the purpose of amateur sports?

  16. David Crowther, October 31, 2015 at 3:53 p.m.

    Given it's size, Costa Rica does do a good job of developing players. But they still don't produce a constant flow of top-notch prospects. The generations that participated in the 2007 through 2011 U20 World Cups were exceptional(reaching the semifinals and quarterfinals in 2009 and 2011 respectively) and providing most of the players who excelled in Brazil last year. But the youth teams between 2011 and this 2015 U17 squad were abysmal, failing to qualify to any major tournaments or produce any prospects of note. What they do have is a system in place that maximizes the potential of the good generations of players when they do come along.

  17. David Crowther, October 31, 2015 at 4:12 p.m.

    What strikes me about this latest Tico U17 squad is their tactical sophistication. Though these players were clearly inferior to the young French stars on a 1x1 basis, they never strayed from their game plan. After an initial 30 minutes of bending but not breaking against the French onslaught (during which few real chances were allowed), the Ticos were able to gradually take over tactical control of the game. They slowed things down by keeping possession with a lot of short horizontal passing, interrupted by sudden quick thrusts forward. For periods it looked almost like a game of keep away, with the French chasing after the ball all over the field as they increasingly lost composure. It was also very effective in that the Ticos actually ended up with more direct shots on goal and with the best scoring chance of the game (a header off the crossbar). This does highlight one of the reasons for the relative success of the Tico youth programs. Players are brought up in a well defined tactical approach to the game from a young age. I don't think the same thing can be said about the US youth development programs.

  18. Ric Fonseca, November 1, 2015 at 12:24 a.m.

    Come on now folks, when the US started out with youth soccer and baptized the "recreation" side of soccer, we fell into a trap that everybody has to play at least 50% of the game, and to heck with learning any soccer skills. This reminds me when my son started out in the national recreational youth region (ayso) because of my experience, I was told to coach a team, and then eventually the k-league (yes indeed, folks, a "k-league"!!!) all stars! Whooopee! BUT when I decided to teach our kids some skills, how to defend, take on a defender with the balls, shield the ball, etc, a few days later a parent told the commissioner in my area that I was teaching the kids illegal moves, and in short I was not teaching them good sportsmanship! And the kid's father never attended a practice and was not even athletically inclined (I knew this ahead of time), but a desk-bound father who thought his kid was the cream of the top of the pie.... sadly, the kid (or was it gladly?) left the sport and focused on tee-ball. OK, fine and dandy, what does this have to do with the article? Simply put, t IMO the country started out with a heavy dose of "recreational" soccer and became a very strong opponent of competitive soccer, so much that it has prevailed and continued to this day, with very few skilled players (excluding the Latino players, of course) and with everyone of those boys receiving the "perennial" and "expect" participation trophy. And know what? This is still the norm, and this is one of the BASIC reason we're not doing so well in producing skilled players, what with pay-for-play clubs, academies, the old ODP programs, recreational vs competitive groups in ayso and even state affiliated clubs and leagues. Yes, we ought to look to CR, mexico, El Salvador, etc., but if we have a bunch of guys at the very top with blind folders, and tunnel vision, then I say we still have another 20 years to go before we can even think of saying "Wow, we've finally caught up!"

  19. Andrew Kear, November 1, 2015 at 4:52 a.m.

    Isn't the simplest explanation usually the best. This is mostly Klinsmann's doing. None of these poor performances at the youth and national team level were evident until Klinsmann became technical director and coach for the USMNT. What is staggering is he has not been fired.

  20. Jacob Kuba replied, November 1, 2015 at 7:33 a.m.

    They werent evident before because we expected more from Klins. Not because he actually made our Youth Program worse. He simply failed to make the obvious adjustmnts like firing the entire current staff from U14 to U23 and the entire scouting staff. Appointing knowledgable people that dont have a personal agenda. He failed to make the program transparent and accountable.

  21. Ric Fonseca replied, November 1, 2015 at 4:58 p.m.

    No, it "...isn't the simplest explanation usally the best..." in this case firing JK, and I beg to differ with you that the "poor performances at the youth...(etc.)" levels WERE evident even WAY before JK was anointed US soccer's savior. And as "they weren't evident before..." was "because we expected more from Klins...(sic)" What many fail to realize and accept is that the very heavyweight "good old boy" network was so firmly in place since the advent of the US National Soccer Coaching Schools, that even if one U14 coach was singled out, then there would all heck to pay, what with, the good ole boy network would raise a stink of high heaven.. And I can guarantee you that there are very few and far apart people (read: coaches) that DO have a personal agenda, and then to say he "failed to make the program transparent and accountable..." once again I point to the good ole boy network of US coaches! In closing I so very vividly remember when youth soccer, yes, recreational (ayso) and competitive (affiliated state youth associations) got a firm start from the early 70's on, their mantra was that in 20-25 years, we'd be a soccer power, and mind you, this was WAY before ODP Development Academies, us Soccer hired "scouts" to look for and find talented players, very few pay-for-play clubs, and the inundation and flooding of coaches from across the pond and south of our borders. So go figure!

  22. Jacob Kuba replied, November 1, 2015 at 6:34 p.m.

    Ric, somehow what i wrote did not say what I meant. I meant it was evident before Klins that our youth programs were tainted and flawed. It is just more evident now that it is flawed because in the eyes of the public Klins was supposed to magically give us better results at all levels. Thats what people mistakenly expected from him. Its now a huge dissapoinytment somehow even though alot of us already knew and expected these results. The U14 and U15 USA current teams are getting hyped up as the most talented ever. For those that dont want to go as far in history as to what Ric is talking about, just go back 3-4 yeasr when everyone said the exact same thing about the current U17's (97) and 99's, when Hugo Perez had them. The exact same thing.

  23. aaron dutch, November 1, 2015 at 4:53 p.m.

    Ric like usual you are 100% correct we are just in your tidal wake:) Andrew how did JK do this in the last 4 years? please read Ric's comments for years. Until we want soccer/ football to be about skills, fun, love of the game, respect of the game, inclusion of low income kids we will never raise above the top 16. We really deserve our mid-30's ranking as that is where our talent is. I think you need a new (yes another organization) that is focused on urban, latin, rural kids i.e. lower income population. It has to be almost free $50 a year, fun, beach, futsal, small side, foot volley, freestyle, etc. all about building crazy "dunk contest" hip hop type feel, culture that is "american style" we have tried brute force, grind out american ( pay2play, top 10%, white only) soccer and it doesnt work, wastes huge resources, unfair to everybody.

  24. Greg Milton, November 3, 2015 at 7:48 a.m.

    The US was not a soccer power before JK. So please stop whining about how Jk has taken US soccer into the basement. We were there when he got here. Dutch echoes exactly what the essence of the problem is - that you think you can coach and have a bunch of puppets blossom into awe-inspiring players. the fact that you think that soccer can be perfected with practice sessions is ridic. The top players simply play..they were awesome before they got to their clubs...they were selected before any coach put their imprint on them. Short of teaching a few skills, kids learn from playing. The US crushes in basketball bc at every school and playground the kids are playing for their own glory and develop as they mature. I saw a kids game this wknd where a Mom flipped out bc her kid the GK got kicked trying to collect the ball. Now do you think that kid is going home and playing in the street....No..that kid only plays when they are parents and coaches around. That kid will not even get a taste for real soccer until it is too late. Maybe that kid could be good - but I am sure no matter how much is spent on getting him coaching, it will not happen. i have Dad's asking for trainers. I try to discourage it. I tell him soccer is free, but you need to find kids who love to play it. Yes those are th Latino, African kids and anyone else not from the US. Maybe you are lucky like I am am and have a bunch of kids play in the neighborhood (I think their parents played college or at some point passed on their passion to their kids). I also think the US will get better as this current generation is growing up with soccer as a real sport in their mind and given the internet, every kid can see and copy Neymar and Messi. Until the US program starts to recruit and include the poor kids of every background, and leave out the college pipeline unless a player is truly worthy, it will not work with the residency program and even the academies will not work but to make average players who are coached up. Many of the best players do not play college, nor do they attend academies. So the player pool is not comprised of the countries best talent. I Also think JK is getting more dirt bc in prior years the youth teams were not covered so no one got to see how bad they were too. Trust me I played against them and those kids were not very good technically. And every 4 years or so, you get the reality check.

  25. Mark Ellis, November 3, 2015 at 11:10 a.m.

    Greg Milton has it right, "US was not a soccer power before JK" and as Andrew says, "how did JK do this in the last 4 years".
    The state of the U.S. soccer programs has not been "done to it" by a national team coach. It was lacking far before. To anyone who thinks we have the same class of players as other countries, please tell me, how many players does the U.S. national team field, who START in top league teams internationally, on a consistent basis. I remember U.S. journalists crying over how we were beaten by the Rep of Ireland B-team in 2014. Following is a list of the "B team" the U.S. faced.
    Shay Given - G -EPL starter, Aston Villa
    Ciaran Clark - D -EPL starter, Aston Villa
    Aiden McGeady - M - EPL starter, Everton
    Anthony Pilkington - M - English Championship starter, Cardiff
    Stephen Quinn - M - EPL starter, Hull
    Shane Long - F - EPL starter, Southampton
    Alex Pearce - D - English Championship starter, Reading
    These are just the players I was familiar with, so there may be more starters in leagues that are competitive internationally. However, don't you think this is sort of an indicator of U.S. skill levels?

    How to fix/improve U.S. soccer is the question though.....

    This to me is the key to football/soccer and might be one of the best lines I've heard, from Greg Milton.
    "soccer is free"
    I've been fortunate to visit some of the countries in the world that excel at the sport of football/soccer and that is where the sport is played in the streets, in parks and playgrounds because kids love it. As a few here stated, in the younger years kids are not developed by trainers or coaches, nor motivated by participation trophies, they play by themselves and in small groups dribbling and defending one-on-one for individual glory. Since this article pertains to Costa Rica, I can say first hand that throughout that country where I travelled, I always saw kids and sometimes adults kicking around, some formal matches, but most in the streets, literally. I drove roads where kids were literally playing across the road, imaginary goals on either side, pausing everytime a car need to pass.

  26. aaron dutch, November 3, 2015 at 7:36 p.m.

    Like usual Ric, Greg & Mark say it all. go to costa rica its an amazing country and the kids all play all the time its FREE

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