Commentary

Dennis te Kloese on Mexican success and the USA's challenges

Interview by Mike Woitalla

Dennis te Kloese, the Mexican soccer federation's director of youth national teams, served as Chivas USA’s director of soccer in 2005-08. The Dutchman, who first moved to Mexico in 2003 to become Chivas Guadalajara’s scouting director, was also Tigres UANL’s academy director in 2008-2011. Currently in his second stint with Mexican federation, we spoke with Kloese about the success of Mexico’s U-17 program.

SOCCER AMERICA: Mexico’s U-17 World Cup record since 2005 has included two title wins, a runner-up finish, and a fourth-place finish at the 2015 U-17 World Cup, where Mexico beat Argentina, Germany, host Chile and Ecuador. What are the key reasons are for the program’s success and consistency?

DENNIS TE KLOESE: I think it’s a big achievement that since 2011 we reached the semifinals each time, which meant we played all possible matches – 21 games at the last three U-17 World Cups.

The youth competition has gotten stronger and over the last few years thanks to the initiative of the [professional] league, whose clubs field U-20, U-17 and now also U-15 teams. The U-17 and U-20 teams have the same schedule and travel with the first teams, and face the same opponents.

So when the players aren’t called up by us, they’re playing good games every week. We have a lot support from the clubs. When we scout them we see good games. They’re well trained. They’re sharp.

The support of the league and the club owners is a big part of the success.

Another important factor is we have consistency in the staff of the youth national team program. There’s a lot of continuity and a lot of experience with us here at the Federation. For example, Raul Gutierrez, who was the U-17 coach during the 2011 and 2013 cycle [when Mexico finished world champion and runner-up], now coaches the U-23 team. Raul's U-17 assistant in 2011 and 2013, Mario Arteaga, was U-17 head coach in Chile 2015.

SA: The other way to judge a U-17 program is whether its players move on to the higher level national teams. How is Mexico’s record on that?

DENNIS TE KLOESE: The team that won the 2005 U-17 World Cup included Hector Moreno, Giovanni dos Santos, Carlos Vela and a few players who have had moments of good play within league.

The [U-23] team that is heading to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has different players from events including the 2011 and 2013 U-20 World Cups, and players from the 2013 U-17 team.

It’s a process and playing in these youth events gives them extra strength to compete at the higher levels. And you’ll see our full national team filled with players who have not only participated but have had success in U-17s and U-20s.

Editor’s note: The Mexico team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games included three U-17 World Cup alums and five who played in a U-20 World Cup. Mexico finished third at the 2011 U-20 World Cup.

SA: The USA, meanwhile, failed to win a game at the 2015 U-17 World Cup, failed to qualify in 2013, and hasn’t won a knockout stage game since 1999. Does that record surprise you and do you think it’s reflective of the youth talent in the USA?

DENNIS TE KLOESE: I must say that the time I worked in the U.S. from 2005 to 2008, when we started the Chivas USA academy -- I really enjoyed working there because there’s so much talent and so much eagerness to be part of a professional program.

In Mexico obviously the programs are already settled and have been around for years. But I was always impressed with excitement in the U.S. and how willing the players and parents were to invest time in a professional program, or an ID camp … Parents would drive their kids hours to get them in the best situation.

I was also impressed with enormous amount of talent that came from all kinds of different leagues.

I’ve seen over the last few years how the U.S. game has progressed, MLS and the Development Academy for example, but it’s a huge country. Part of the issue, first of all -- MLS programs are still growing. I think they’re on a very good level and they’re doing the right things.

The U.S. soccer environment is very diversified with all kinds of different ideas.

In Mexico there are different opinions but between the league and national teams, everybody who’s involved in youth soccer in Mexico, most of the biggest percentage wants to go in the same direction. I don’t see that sometimes in the U.S., which probably makes it very hard for U.S. national teams and club teams and academy teams to find the way, to get a grip on so much talent in such a large country.

13 comments about "Dennis te Kloese on Mexican success and the USA's challenges".
  1. Wooden Ships, January 12, 2016 at 5:15 p.m.

    Tactics smactics. Lets bottom line the difference, between us and most nations-its not academies, clubs, styles of play or ingenious coaching. It's technical abilities at a consistently high level...
    Very, very few of our players could or would start for other countries or foreign clubs. Our numbers are growing, now our technical ability needs to leap with it.

  2. Goal Goal replied, January 15, 2016 at 12:16 p.m.

    Twellmans are an institution in St. Louis. Right up there with Bob Horgan and the Dunns and Terry Michler. What a high school rivalry between SLUH and CBC. US Soccer has all but killed those times with their stupid rules concerning playing academy and HS for the boys. Michler is still active and his ability is far above any of the national coach's we have in place at the youth national level. Period!!!

  3. Brian Something, January 12, 2016 at 5:59 p.m.

    The US has qualified for 15 out of the 16 U17 World Cups held but has won exactly one knockout round game and none in the last 9 tournaments. This tells me for all the investment and breathless hype, we have stagnated.

  4. Goal Goal, January 12, 2016 at 8:24 p.m.

    Until we get coaches at the youth level who promote creative play without the kid having to worry about making a mistake and getting chastised for it we will continue on the path of mediocrity. The coaches for our national teams u15,17 and on cringe when a kid attempts to get creative on the pitch. They promote a certain type of play and we keep getting walked on the international level. You watch the youth national team coaches and they appear to be cloaned. They all say the same thing at the same time. Even the players get disgusted. These kids aren't stupid and when you break their spirit and self confidence what happens. Exactly what has been happening. Nada!!

  5. Wooden Ships replied, January 12, 2016 at 8:47 p.m.

    Fanfor, bravo. That's what I've witnessed for two, two I say, generations now. Our players would be more skilled and creative, if the only thing adults/coaches would do is drop them off. This is a simple game requiring amazing skill as you move up and its best developed au natural, so to speak.

  6. Goal Goal, January 13, 2016 at 10:11 p.m.

    Club soccer in this country has become a racket. Go watch the development teams and tell me how many creative you players you see on the field. Tell me how many creative players have come through the system in this country and are successful in the pro ranks abroad. Don't talk to me about MLS. In most cases it's knock down drag out soccer at best. Go to the national camps and you see puppets. Let a kid make a mistake trying to create something away from the plan and they are taken off the list. You here the constant reference to development is more important than winning is a front. Just one question. Where has doing what we have been doing gotten us? Comments please.

  7. Wooden Ships replied, January 14, 2016 at 11:02 a.m.

    Fanfor, Taylor Twellman made the same observation a few months back. Robotic, clonish, non creative, predictable. Taylor's dad and uncle, peers of mine, played with more creativity. That was sort of my point earlier, left largely to their own devices, children-youth that imaginative risk and skill amongst themselves. I too believe the massive club models have inhibited touch and flair. I'm an old turd now, but I promise we had more creative and talented players back in the day, that weren't punished for occasional experimentation.

  8. Goal Goal, January 14, 2016 at 10:18 p.m.

    The talent is here. Coaching and the ability to develop this talent is lacking. Coaching at the club level is suspect at best. A lot of certificates and ratings behind the coaches names but they just can't seem to make it happen. It will never happen until the coaches let the kids be themselves. I see kids with great talent who are squeezed so tight by the coaches that it kills their passion for the game and they are lost.

  9. Mark Brooks, January 15, 2016 at 12:22 a.m.

    1. I have witnessed, at the ODP regional level, that players are picked for size, strength, and speed. Not creative technical ability. That has to change.

    2. We, as coaches, have to stop feeding the monster that is tournament driven clubs. We play too many tournaments. Our players don't get better playing 4 or more games on a weekend.

    3. Our players would develop far more creatively, tactically, and technically if we, as coaches, provided more training sessions that refine technical elements from U12 to U16. More training sessions that refine creative attacking. We need to demand more on finishing, opening up the space, measuring the pass, and creative runs off the ball. We can't do that training twice or 3 times a week up to their u17 year. It won't happen.

    4. We, as coaches, have to know the end-game. So many of us forget that we are trying to polish a few gems instead of listening to our egos and trying to win the U12 World Cup in our local towns.

    5. Our style of play? We are Americans. Our style of play should be to press all out as high as we can. Attack with flair. Finish with flair. That would make us all proud. We see it in basketball, football, and baseball. It is truly American to take risks. That should be inherent in our style.

    6. Looking for Bigger, Stronger, and Faster players only leads to defensive, conservative futbol. That's bad for us. Not good for the game.

    7. It's telling that we don't see more technically gifted kids. Especially since we are the country that takes in immigrants.

    8. Something has to be done with the high school vs club involvement. So many kids want to play in front of their peers. Sorry parents but playing in front of you is just not enough of a carrot. Which means that coaches that babysit for high school teams have to be fired and replaced with coaches who know how to develop kids.

  10. GA Soccer Forum, January 15, 2016 at 9:32 a.m.

    No question ---- I also see it as "over coaching" Their is no rawness in the game any more. Coaches are trying to control the game vs letting the kids learn and dictate the style of play. too much shouting and screaming at kids vs constructive coaching. The concept of 'free' play here in Georiga is almost as rare as seeing a bald eagle.... it doesn't happen

  11. Tony Riverplate , January 17, 2016 at 10 p.m.

    So the situation is hopeless. While other country's provide investment in their youth programs they come here to coach because they know the U.S. Pays to play. $$$$.

  12. Goal Goal, January 23, 2016 at 6:39 p.m.

    Sitting here watching the WATER play Ireland and I will tell you in my humble opinion are far more exciting to watch than any of our men's teams. They are skilled, not afraid to take a chance and more important they attack the goal. Which is a big problem with our men's teams. Yeah I know the first argument is well its women's soccer. It's all relavent. Right. It's coaching I believe.

  13. Goal Goal replied, January 25, 2016 at 7:44 p.m.

    Excuse me if was watching the Womens National Team. I hate spell check.

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