Losing Miazga, Gonzalez, Villafana -- How is that good for MLS?

By Paul Gardner

Let’s see now. Matt Miazga -- we can define him, at age 20, as one of the most promising of the American youngsters -- is leaving the Red Bulls, going to England to join Chelsea. At the same time, Ashley Cole, who, as it happens, once played for Chelsea but is now a 35-year-old who is coming off being a flop at Roma, will be joining the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The timing is no doubt coincidental, so this can hardly be seen as a trade off. Yet, symbolically that is exactly what it is, and not a very attractive one. MLS sells off its starlet and gets a 35-year-old veteran in return. Shortly before this, Portland’s 26-year-old Jorge Villafana departed to play in Mexico and NYCFC imported the 30-year-old Frederic Brillant, a French player who, it’s safe to say, is unknown to the vast majority of American fans. And the Galaxy was involved in what does look like a trade, sending the 27-year-old defender Omar Gonzalez to Mexico, and bringing in a 32-year-old Belgian replacement, Jelle Van Damme -- another rather less-than-famous name.

The American youngsters with their glowing promise depart, the old guys from Europe with their fading reputations and their question marks arrive.

We are being told, by people whom I respect, that the departure of Miazga is a good move by MLS, that it makes sense. One thing: it definitely makes sense for Miazga, and in these situations the welfare of the players, particularly young ones, should be the first consideration.

So good luck to Miazga at Chelsea. Is it a good move for the Red Bulls? Financially, yes. They’ll get $3.75 million (of course, as would be the case with any club anywhere, there’s no guarantee at all that the money will be wisely used). But the Bulls lose a key player, and their fans lose the chance to see a favorite youngster, born locally, mature as a player.

How, then, is Miazga’s exit good for MLS? Why is it being spoken of as though MLS has made a canny move, when in fact neither MLS nor the Red Bulls had any realistic choice in the matter? Yes, they could have stood squarely in the way of the deal, and blocked the move. In other words, they could have seriously interfered with, possibly wrecked, Miazga’s future.

But where would that have got them? At the end this season, Miazga would be a free agent, free that is of any constraints that MLS or the Red Bulls might like to place on him. He could sign for any team he liked, and that team would not have to pay a transfer fee. MLS could have retained, for one season, a thoroughly disappointed and probably embittered player. But ... goodbye $5 million. Realistically, the Bulls and MLS had only one option.

So, a good business move. A good soccer move? That is highly questionable. Miazga’s departure cannot be seen in isolation. Presumably the defections of Villafana and Gonzalez are also to be seen as good moves. Financially, I suppose they will be.

But what kind of a league do Commissioner Don Garber and his owners think they are building? Well, we’ve been given the answer to that, on many occasions, by Garber himself: A league of choice, one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. Garber can point to a lot of good things about MLS -- rising attendances, widespread TV, new stadiums, but what he can’t offer is any significant rise, from season to season, in the caliber of the soccer. Are the current champions, Portland, playing better soccer than D.C. United played when they won the first MLS title in 1996?

It is not a silly question, and the fact that it can be asked without creating instant hilarity tells you that the answer is No.

The player moves described above give the lie to the dreams of being among the world’s elite in six years time. To have dreams is fine, is essential - no one is going to argue against ambitions, against plans for an exciting future. But there is a huge problem when MLS conducts its business in ways that seriously undermine its own dreams. If the dreams are not believed by the dream creators, then how realistic can they be?

To see MLS as one of the world’s top leagues is not an absurd vision. But it can only become reality when MLS is competitive with the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and so on. Which means that MLS will have to abandon its single-entity shelter and start spending real money.

Once that happens, once it is clear to the soccer world that MLS means business then the dream of world importance can become reality.

Right now MLS is a league dreaming of a future that its own actions are sabotaging. A league that is not creating, or being fed, enough good young players, and cannot hold on to such players when it does get them, a league that is even anxious to sell them, while its coaches continue to import dubious veterans.

I am not saying that is the way that MLS has chosen to operate. But that is the way things have played out, and MLS needs to take a hard look at where it’s going.

Possibly, by some very optimistic long-range thinking, one can imagine money pouring into MLS as European clubs buy up the starlets, and in this way MLS becomes rich enough to join the big guys. But I’d say that’s whistling Dixie.

Garber has done a terrific job in keeping MLS on the financial straight and narrow. There’s no reason to doubt he’ll continue to do that. That’s the business side. But if that gets taken care of at the expense of the soccer side, then big problems are in the offing.

The biggest of these problems is clearly the development of young players. This is an area that has now managed to get itself split into four parts, with MLS, the USSF, the colleges, and national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann all involved, but by no means seeing eye to eye. The very public outburst by Garber in 2014 when he panned Klinsmann for statements that encouraged young Americans to move abroad, and were clearly dismissive of MLS, tells some of the story.

Some of it. Another aspect is the naivete of MLS itself in buying into the myth that the colleges are doing a great job in producing good young players. They are not, and MLS has to know this. Yet it stages, every year, the ridiculous SuperDraft in which most of the players are collegians, and most of them are going nowhere.

The extraordinary extent to which MLS has brainwashed all and sundry -- including itself -- into believing in the importance of the colleges, was made plain in a story on a soccer website after this year’s draft. The No. 1 pick, Jack Harrison, had spent just one semester at Wake Forest. Yet the website ludicrously defined Harrison as a “Wake Forest product.”

Garber’s repeated hosannas to all the great young American players are not in touch with reality. The entire youth development industry (yes, like coaching, youth development has become a business) in the USA should be doing better, should be producing more top players. Three things work against this: the colleges, the reluctance throughout American soccer to fully engage with the Hispanic soccer community, and the pretense by MLS that all is well (a belief mulishly maintained even though it is so obviously undermined by the glossy frivolity of the MLS’s own PseudoDraft).

It is not enough for MLS to keep telling us how much they are spending on youth development, on their academies. Youth development is not merely, or even primarily, a matter of spending money. If it were, then Liverpool and Real Madrid and Chelsea and Barcelona and Juventus etc. would field first teams flooded with their own academy players. They don’t, they don’t even come close.

MLS should not be delighted by, nor should it be praised for, selling its best young players. The better, by far, scenario is that of Jordan Morris. A very talented player who did play college ball and -- despite being encouraged by Klinsmann’s buddy Andres Herzog to move to Germany -- opted to sign with Seattle. But there will not be many so obviously outstanding players coming along, who will be willing to turn down an offer to play in Europe.

Because there is another factor involved -- you could call it glamour, or magic -- but excitement fits nicely. All young American players now grow up with images of the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga in their minds. Those images are likely to seem more attractive than anything Kansas City or Chicago can offer. There is an excitement attached to the very idea of moving to Europe.

I doubt whether that excitement can be created by the usual marketing ploys or by calling a threadbare draft a SuperDraft. It’s going to take MLS some time to catch up on the excitement front. That comes when a league is alive with top players. Nothing else will do it.

Can there be any doubt that a league that has arrived at a point where it is selling off its most promising young players while bringing in players who are politely described as “experienced” (for which you can read “old”), is a league that, however financially successful it may be, has lost its soccer way?

38 comments about "Losing Miazga, Gonzalez, Villafana -- How is that good for MLS? ".
  1. Glenn Auve, January 30, 2016 at 8:59 a.m.

    And DC United lost one of their better young players, Perry Kitchen, to Europe as well. Although apparently he's had trouble finding a club willing to take him over there.

  2. Lee Stringfellow, January 30, 2016 at 9:07 a.m.

    I very much enjoy and respect the comments and analysis by Mr Garner. But I believe the primary reason for the " lagging behind " in the development of young soccer players in this country is that THE BEST YOUNG ATHLETES IN THE USA DO NOT PLAY SOCCER! They grow up playing what are considered " superior " and more "manly" sports by our culture football,basketball, etc. Until this mindset changes and the parents are enlightened your primary pool of elite player will be Hispanic.

  3. Al Gebra replied, January 30, 2016 at 1:02 p.m.

    Every time I hear someone say that the best pro athletes in the US are not playing soccer, I think of many NBA players like Shaq O'Neal, as tall as a tree but not very athletic. I also think of MLB players, 95% of which lack few athletic skills and, due to the nature of the sport, are grossly out of shape and overweight. The NFL? Compare, in every respect, the NFL hoodlums to the likes of a Thierry Henry or a Didier Drogba or a Rio Ferdinand. The American athlete in the NBA, MLB and the NFL would never make it in pro soccer leagues around the world, where play does not stop so the coach has to tell the players what to do next and where being fit, making correct decisions on their own, and always striving to be an all-around athlete is a necessity for success.

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, January 30, 2016 at 7:39 p.m.

    This is one of the few times that I have agreed with PG. However, I do not agree that the best young athletes in the country do not play soccer, rather they're "steered" to the other so-called US sports: fb, bb, bkb, sports that have unfettered exposure by tv and other media, and the "one and done" syndrome of basketball players, or the "three and gone" of football players, or the god forsakenly long high school/college baseball seasons. AND, it will be a pretty long time for us, the USA to produce the kinds of players, youth players that will want to play the jogo bonito, and stay home.

  5. Eric Shinn replied, February 1, 2016 at 9:43 a.m.

    The best athletes in this country DON'T play soccer. They're largely the point guards and shooting guards in basketball and the wide receivers, corners, and running backs in football. Pretending that all basketball players are as unathletic as Shaq or all football players as slow-footed as an offensive lineman is patently absurd. But can you see an athlete like Stephan Curry or Rajob Rondo on the soccer field from childhood on? How about someone like Deion Sanders in his prime, with 4.2 speed? If this country did like other countries do and steered its best into a single sport, the World Cup would become a competition for second place. THE best athletes on the planet, on average, are American. It's just a fact. But unfortunately, the VAST majority of them never step on a soccer field past the age of 12.

  6. Frank Grimes replied, February 1, 2016 at 11:50 a.m.

    While maybe the best American athletes don't play soccer, athleticism has never the been the USMNT weak point. In fact, I'd say their competitiveness over the last 20 years has been due to their athleticism and fitness. The best teams in the world aren't filled with 11 Michael Jordan, Mike Trout, Kobe Bryant athletic freaks, although I'm not saying there aren't their fair share as well. For every Ronaldo there is an Özil, for every Mascherano there is John Terry or Schweinsteiger. I think it's a little deeper than the athleticism of the USMNT. the combination of skills, smarts, as well as athleticism make world champions. The US probably stands to improve at all 3 to be World Cup winners, but let's not pretend athleticism is the only thing holding them back.

  7. K Michael replied, February 1, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

    Sorry to pile on the usual naïve refrain from Sports Fan Publica Americana "..if only our best athletes played soccer.." To amplify Wooden Ships reply, while there is certainly a level of athleticism and fitness required; in fact, soccer does have a unique fitness criteria blending equal parts core strength, endurance, and explosiveness; the attributes separating the great, the magical from the ordinary, are fast decision-making/vision, creativity, and technical skill. When one makes that comment, does one pause for a second and consider why are the greatest players of all time (Pele, Maradona, Messi) all under 5'9"? Why is the MLS MVP a wee-man of 5'3 (listed generously as 5'5)? If you catch yourself going there, take a deep breath, and realize that its that very thought process in the minds of technical directors, high school, and college coaches across our fruited plains that have had a hand in holding back US Soccer's development. Now, the ship is slowly turning, as the US DA system begins leaving its rocky fledgling years behind and expands its programs to the younger age groups and globalizes its calendar to birth year. It is also incorporating new programs to ID kids who are on a late development path so they don't slip thru the cracks while waiting for their growth spurts to catch them up with the rest of the pack (I fear the first American Messi may be running Cross Country his Senior year since he was told at age 14 that he couldn't help the team win now and wasn't "athletic" enough).

  8. Lonaka K, January 30, 2016 at 10:33 a.m.

    Paul, you just made the case for JK. MLS is NOT capable of developing elite soccer players. Although it is too late when MLS gets the 19,20,21 year old player trained in the US, because the youth coaches have NOT prepared them with the fundamentals. Even these "old" foreign players are better than our youn ones because their soccer intellect carries them through the remaining years of their career. That is one thing that American youth coaches can not teach is the intellectual part of the game. Most could nit analysis a match from a total team perspective.

  9. Ric Fonseca replied, January 30, 2016 at 7:42 p.m.

    Lona I do not agree with you that some US trained coaches cannot analyze a match "from a total team perspective." There are many of us that can do so, but are overshadowed by the "so-called" European and Latino "former pro" players/coaches that claim to be just what the doctor ordered but are only out there to line their greedy pockets with greenbacks.

  10. R2 Dad, January 30, 2016 at 11:45 a.m.

    I think MLS failed at the final hurdle, finding a team that would pay the most vs an environment where the player has the best chance of developing. Everyone looks at a club's first team, but their U21 setup, coaching, facilities and track record are just if not more important.

  11. beautiful game, January 30, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    The failure in youth development starts with the estrangement among the USSF, MLS, and the majority of local clubs that fail to identify potential. There is a gap of cooperation. And there are too few youth coaches that sink their teeth into youth development when there first priority is winning games (same dilemma as in college).

  12. Ric Fonseca replied, January 30, 2016 at 7:43 p.m.

    I w, you've hit the nail squarely on the head.

  13. Allan Lindh, January 30, 2016 at 1:06 p.m.

    So young people choose to make more money, play in a better league. Duh. The more serious question is why MLS chooses to spend big money on European has-been's, simply for their name value?? Spend the money on keeping your best young players. Spend more money on development. Get rid of the DP rule. MLS may have needed David Beckham once upon a time. They don't need Gerrard today.

  14. Ric Fonseca replied, January 30, 2016 at 7:49 p.m.

    Mr. Lindh, hallelujah and praise the lord! A perfect example of hipocracy is all one has to do is examine-look at a local MLS team, e.g. the Carson Galaxy whose own coach/gm recently said US born-developed players ought to be paid more, while at the same time getting "rid" of Omar Gonzalez (Juninho doesn't count) and then bring in over the hill players from the EPL and other Euro leagues, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, albeit for a short time as they will be here three-four years and then "retire" go back home, or get their coaching FA or US Soccer coaching license.

  15. BJ Genovese, January 30, 2016 at 3:28 p.m.

    Not to be the devils advocate... but lets take a little twist to this. First of all, this is great news for Matt Miazga. However should anyone be concerned with MLS academies deciding that youth players with EU passport or dual citizenship are more desireable? If they can sell players overseas (much simpler with PASSPORT/DUAL CITIZENSHIP) at a high rate and bring in big dollars... This is a reality already starting to happen. I can see already one player being better, howeve another just under his level but selected for EU passport/dual citizenship. As if its already not difficult enough for players to climb the youth developmental ranks here.

  16. Raymundo Ramirez, January 30, 2016 at 4:31 p.m.

    I am a US Soccer fan and I do wish the MLS will grow more soon in this country, and the only way the happens is through player development. Realistically, Europe will never let our league surpass theirs. What do we as soccer fans enjoy other than watching great quality European soccer and rooting for our favorite team each week? The Champions League. The best teams and players participate in that tournament and the players want to compete against the best in the world. What could the MLS offer a soccer star in their in terms of soccer competition? CONCACAF Champions League? The MLS's goal should be to emulate Mexico's and Argentina's leagues, develop players and send them to Europe. But then again, the other issue that brings up is player development. The MLS is in a tough situation.

  17. Ric Fonseca replied, January 30, 2016 at 8:02 p.m.

    Mr. Raymundo Ramirez, points well taken, yet I do not think that the MLS will ever, I mean EVER try to emulate Liga MX or Argentia or for that matter any other league. IMHO, the MLS wants to develop its own aura, its own style and system, however, right now it is failing to the point of absurdity. Reading PGs article as I've sai above, this is one of the very first times that I completely agree with him, his analysis and assessment of the situation, from a completely bottom-line/business perspective is spot on, yet he alludes to the brutal fact that the MLS Comish, a former US-football guru, is in the throes of learning all there is to learn about soccer, so his "soccer knowledge quotient" is surely lacking. And yes I agree "The MLS is in a tough situation...(sic)" but I will add that it is a situation of its own making.

  18. Scot Sutherland, January 30, 2016 at 10:09 p.m.

    I will continue to read PG until long after he stops writing. Yet, again sir, you have gone straight to a nerve and done us good by doing so. I stopped playing serious soccer when the NASL folded. I began coaching. There were only two choices for serious players at the time, college or a foreign league. Taking the long view I can honestly say that I would never have dreamed in 1984 that in my lifetime a 20-year-old American would be bought by Chelsea for 7-figures. So everything about MLS has been good for soccer in the United States. I see the current situation as an opportunity to bring some order to what has been the Wild West. Pay-to-play, college pseudo-soccer (they could make it more real), development academies, etc., will only be successful when the next generation Suarez's or Messi's are trying stuff on the playground. We play a lot of soccer, but we love football, basketball and to a lesser extent, baseball and hockey more. How do I know? I see more kids "trying stuff" by themselves in those sports. I watched a high school kid in his driveway shooting baskets for over an hour by himself. We are becoming increasingly passionate about soccer, but it still has a ways to go before it captures our cultural heart. When and if it does, I think we'll see 20-year-old Spaniards coming here.

  19. don Lamb, January 30, 2016 at 10:34 p.m.

    Completely off the mark again. Selling players is a huge part and purpose of developing players. If you think holding on to every good player in the league no matter what is a good idea, you are seeing the long term vision or not seeing the financial (most important) side of the game. Selling players not only earns teams money now, but it also increases the value of other prospects in the club. In a broader sense: Do you see how having an academy player star for the first team as a 19 year old and then be bought by Chelsea is a good thing for the NYRB Academy (financially and intangibly)? It also sends a good message to American players that they will be free to take opportunities outside of MLS if they want to. One of the knocks on MLS has been restrictions to player movement, so these sorts of moves show that might have be changing. Meanwhile, you continue to deny the importance of college soccer when a lot of the best young players in the league played in college.

  20. Robert Schaefer replied, January 31, 2016 at 12:10 a.m.

    I agree completely with Don Lamb. When MLS sells players to other leagues for millions of dollars, it is the best possible PR for 1000s of journeyman players in South America, Europe, and Africa.

    DO not conflate the signing of an aging star with the other 95% of deals being signed between clubs and agents. Obviously players like Gerrard are a short term fan draw. It is hardly the norm, and it has no relationship with the selling of players like Gonzo to a Mexican club or Miazga to Europe. This is definitely a VERY GOOD development for the league.

    Question: how likely would it have been in 1996 for some Liga MX or English top flight team to buy any of our young MLS players for seven figures? There are many of them now. Raise a glass to cheer it and accept the progress.

  21. Tyler Wells replied, January 31, 2016 at 8:33 a.m.

    Saner voices have spoken. Every normal league sells some of the talent it develops; even the Premiership which spends more and develops less than most. The MLS is slowly moving along the path of being a normal league, in terms of player development, and this is a good thing. Nothing is more important to the long-term success of the USMNT than the participation of the MLS in developing players.

  22. Robert Schaefer, January 31, 2016 at 12:02 a.m.

    "Are the current champions, Portland, playing better soccer than D.C. United played when they won the first MLS title in 1996?"

    I actually DID laugh, because any MLS team today would crush the 1996 DC United. When MLS started, over half the roster were rank amateurs. The class on the pitch is far better today. Salaries are also much higher, and of course that is the single biggest factor.

  23. John Hofmann, January 31, 2016 at 4:29 p.m.

    All these conflicting comments of soccer player exchanges between the U.S. and other countries got me thinking,..don't we have something akin to this with basketball. Blew my mind to be reminded that this game is only 125 yrs old in 2016. Years ago no country on earth could touch our game. Now there are top players coming from all over the world to our NBA, but they all play for their countries in the world competition (ie, the Olympics and world competitions). Occasionally an American goes elsewhere to play, but not too often. Better leagues elsewhere are closing the gap on the U.S., and I can imagine in the future to see this continue. It seems to me the U.S. is in the early stages of this type of cycle but in reverse in soccer.
    I don't believe I hear any complaining from other countries about their stars coming here to upgrade their game and get more money, nor about our less than stellar U.S. players occasionally going to their leagues.

  24. Ric Fonseca replied, January 31, 2016 at 9:35 p.m.

    Mr. Hoffman, have you read what Osorio, former Chicago Fire and NYRB coach said about the MLS, and said that Mexican players are better off going to Europe? And AA, as for seeing a Basketball Champions League in the horizon, yup, I can see Real Madrid and Barcelona - basketball teams - field teams comprised of Spanish players having honed their BBk skills with the likes of the Warriors, Clippers, NY, Cleveland, Lakers, etc. And Mr. Hoffman, you won't ever see any countries "complain" seeing their "stars" coming over this side of the pond....

  25. Ric Fonseca, January 31, 2016 at 9:41 p.m.

    Oh, and BTW folks, on the topic of having a lot of "has-been-Euro futbol-soccer players coming here," I wonder just how many of you have even heard that Mexico's Liga MX has allowed the influx of foreign players, mostly from South American, join Mexican teams, some have even gone the route of - gawd forbid!!! - acquiring Mexican citizenship just so they can play or hope to be called up to the national team? I've heard lots of radio-tv commentators from Jorge Ramos y su Banda, and local Spanish language ESPN Spanish radio, really rant and rave at those "foreigners" (my emphasis) daring to replace native-born Mexican players on the various Mexican NTs. Sound familiar???

  26. Daniel Clifton, January 31, 2016 at 10:39 p.m.

    PG makes many good points. The problems I have with this article is why would you complain about Miazga being bought up by Chelsea. This is exactly at this point in time what MLS should be striving for. Maybe 20 to 30 years down the line things will be different. Miazga going to one of the top leagues in the world at 20 is a great thing for US Soccer. Yedlin going over there at 21 a year or so ago was a good thing. This article points out the complexity of the problem for US soccer. After all the comments about the over the hill guys from Europe coming to MLS, let us also mention Giovinco and Dos Santos coming to MLS in their prime. Giovinco obviously loves playing here (as compared to playing in Italy). MLS needs to continue to be heavily involved in youth development. This is the only way to go in the US. Pay to play doesn't work and will not work. MLS has to seriously pick up the bandwagon of youth development from the earliest ages on. If that doesn't happen then we will be stuck with the mediocre development of youth that we have in the US now. So to me Miazga going to Chelsea is a victory for MLS. Keep it up.

  27. Wooden Ships, February 1, 2016 at 12:55 p.m.

    Good stuff here fellas. However, the comment about, "if our best athletes played soccer" just about gave me a seated concussion. If it was physical attributes the continent of Africa should have won numerous Cups. Which is why the game is so magical, its cerebral first with disciplined organizational structure/strategic/tactical combined with countless 1 V 1 moments. It's the most difficult sport to master. MLS can play a role in the transition to Training Compensation, but the USSF could too. It is the way. Our guys wanting to play with the best and to be challenged in the most competitive settings is also the best. Wow, things have changed since the 50's, 60's and 70's. Now, if JK can select the players to have a strong Copa and early qualifying then this could be a fun year.

  28. K Michael, February 1, 2016 at 3:43 p.m.

    Eric Shinn,
    Deandre Yedlin is a supreme athlete who I would consider as fast and athletic as the average point guard/running back/wideout. Yet, what is keeping him from the top levels of the sport? His skill level and field IQ! Here is a news flash: other countries' best athletes don't play soccer either! I am guessing that Neymar is not the top athlete in Brazil; nor Messi in Argentina; nor Iniesta in Spain, etc. They ARE the best soccer players in their country!

  29. K Michael, February 1, 2016 at 3:49 p.m.

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, but one final thought on the "if only our best athletes played soccer..." meme. Soccer is not the only sport where this mentality can wreak havoc. The NFL itself sees this crop up all the time. How many draft picks are busts due to an over-emphasis on their draft combine numbers (40 time, bench press, vertical) physical measurements, and a neglect of their IQ, personality, decision-making, "football speed", etc? Answer: a lot! JeMarcus Russell, anyone; Ryan Leaf?
    Listen, again, there is a definite level of athleticism required to compete at the highest levels of soccer, but it is far from the only criteria required.

  30. Graham Sanders, February 2, 2016 at 8:35 a.m.

    Unfortunately, this is probably the last we will hear of Mr. Miazga. He's 20 years old and should be playing regularly to develop. At Chelsea, he will be lost amongst the 30 odd players they have out on loan. Better he had stayed in New York and played at a higher level of competition.

  31. Wooden Ships replied, February 2, 2016 at 1:47 p.m.

    Definitely disagree with you Graham, respectfully. His training and that competitive environment will (should) sharpen, quicken and toughen his game. MLS can't provide anything close to this. Maybe in the future. The Few, The Proud, The Young have to aspire to be amongst the best. A little Marine Corops quip. Hoorah, from a Hooah!

  32. Tim Gibson, February 2, 2016 at 9:52 a.m.

    Lotsa good stuff here, keep up the good work everyone!
    I, too often do not agree with PG but it seems he has been listening to us in here recently & begins to see the light. Nicely Written Paul!
    Being from Northern NJ & growing up as a fan of The Cosmos, Metros & now RBNJ(yes, NJ) it's bittersweet to lose Miazga. My kids went thru club programs & onto High Schools playing against the quality Clifton H.S, Kearny & Harrison's of our diverse state & I must say that I am quite proud to see Matt Miazga "Succeed". It's "Almost' as good as how I felt seeing Timmy Howard get the call & move to Man U.
    We should all feel good for them, they made it to the Big leagues = Good for them! It's also a reflection on MLS & that we CAN nurture such talent. Don't be jealous that we lost them to the Big leagues, find the positives from it, there are some.
    With that being said, I feel our Youth programs do a decent job getting our kids prepared. I think if you look at how our U-14 & below kids do @ the internat'l level is quite respectable & on-par with how our Pro & Nat'l team does at times. To me, that is NOT the problem with US soccer development. I think our kids Soccer development gets Off-track post U-14. I strongly believe that if America is serious about improving our game, the Nat'l team programs AND MLS need to get more involved with how High School & Collegiate Soccer guide our kids. They are USA's 1st, 2nd & 3rd Divisions which feed our big leagues & that is not going to change any time soon, so it needs to be embraced. Stop knocking our youth clubs, they are alive & well. Yes some are over the top pay for play or whatever you want to label them as, they have them on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Overall, there are still many to choose from which equates to Opportunity. Point the finger at High School programs now where in some cases you have a 2nd year Art teacher who never played Soccer before teaching Freshman ball to U-15 Year olds that have been playing since U-6. Not 1 person reading this who watched their kid move from a decent level club ball to suffer thru a freshman H.S soccer program would disagree.

  33. Wooden Ships replied, February 2, 2016 at 2:19 p.m.

    Tim, I grew up with a Tim Gibson in St. Louis. Is it you? Long shot I know. Anyway, when you speak of high school and college soccer it leads me to how I see our future in this country. Sports will go the way of academies, quasi professional organizations. I've retired as a university instructor and soccer coach and our students are less knowledgeable and capable than ever. And, I attribute this lately to sports. Our "Bread and Circus" fascination with sports has caught up to us. I predict-hope that someday formal schooling will end after the 10th year of high school. No more varsity sport in high school and college. Our country has rapidly lost integrity and accountabity on all fronts. My goodness what we have accepted as national leadership is shameful. Back to soccer/Futbol, the serious and promising athletes go the way of sports academies. The others choose a vocation, go to two years of college in order to qualify for university studies, or serve in the military or some other governmental service program. Our fascination with sport has hurt, even corrupted our academics. And, our youth need to not live adolescence into their twenties. Things much more poignant are at risk, namely our way of life. So, simply put, everyone would be better off if school didn't sponsor competitive sports.

  34. Tim Gibson, February 2, 2016 at 3:07 p.m.

    Get it, got it W.S but good luck changing that. Unfortunately College Sports (Especially D1) is BIG $ now for each program, they are here to stay. The US Nat'l Team &/Or MLS needs to better tap in to those programs as feeders or they will continue to get $h!t out of them. And by tapping in, I mean support the coaching staffs w/training, strategies of whatever is deemed legal to do. Just DO something & align. Although somewhat better now, how boring (historically) has the D1 final 4 matches been let's say 10-15 years ago? When there were 4-huge D-men circling the wagons & hammering any offensive threat trying to engage the box. Yes, it's better now but still not what it should be. What should the D1 final 4 be?....Think of it as the US version of Division 2 quarterfinals equivalent in the European leagues because our Pro Division 2-3 is a mess. College is already set up & well organized, so our PRO systems need to better embrace it. H.S. Programs, especially the bigger name Prep schools are also making more $ now offa it. The Local MLS Academies need to align w/them as well to scope out more future Matt Miazgas & Timmy Howards.
    P.S. not the same TG, I live a sheltered life & never traveled farther than I could drop-kick.

  35. Wooden Ships replied, February 2, 2016 at 3:32 p.m.

    I hear ya Tim and thanks for the reply. Travel doesn't guarantee better intellect, just contrast and perspective. My observation regarding high school and college is in comparison with every other country, not counting Canada, that develops and promotes their very best in every sport. It's not through school settings, in fact most don't have competitive sports. They're exclusively academic with some social activities-clubs sprinkled in. I know you've heard, but how have we stacked up against developed nations in content knowledge in the last 3 decades? And it's getting worse. It's not just sport to blame there are many factors. Anyway, the implimentation of professional involvement with amateurism in high school and college would involve admitting that sport is more important.

  36. Tim Gibson, February 2, 2016 at 3:43 p.m.

    Well...this is about Soccer. Was Pele', Maradona ,Messi or Cristiano a scholar? IDK for sure but they did pretty well for themselves in finding sports as an outlet option at a young age. Not everyone is cut out for the books & they likely sukkked @ school. So instead of going the wrong way in life ya might as well kick a Soccer ball! :)
    GO USA!

  37. Wooden Ships replied, February 2, 2016 at 4:32 p.m.

    I agree Tim. They didn't however hone their skills in school.

  38. K Michael, February 2, 2016 at 9:09 p.m.

    The last thing any traditional American sports fan wants to hear, but the further USSF alienates itself from the high school>>college>>draft>>pro arc the better our soccer will be. High School coach gets a group of kids, is under pressure to win now, so tendency is to pick the biggest most athletic kids with above average quality. No real long-term development occurs. Then, another group of coaches in college cull recruits from this larger high school group and repeats the win-now process. Again, no long term development. Other countries ID talented 11/12 year olds, train them year round in professional academies, with very little emphasis on winning, with the best becoming professionals 8-10 years later. Who is likely to fare better internationally. The stop-start-stop-start every four years minimal patience plan; or the 8-10 year consistent training/development in a professional atmosphere? The US DA, early warts and all, is the the right direction, especially with the addition of the u12/13 age groups and the closer affiliation with professional soccer.

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