The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 2): Total Failure to Acknowledge Latino Presence

By Paul Gardner

For decades now, a very special and specific conundrum has been making its presence felt in American soccer. What to do about the growing presence of American-born Latino players? They can be seen as a welcome addition to the American talent pool. Or they can be seen as a damn nuisance because their style of play is rather different from the northern Europe style that has been traditionally favored in the USA.

Sadly, the second option is far too prevalent. An ignorant option that is holding back the development of the American game, and creating a damaging divide within the sport.

Without a resolution of the contradictions that this situation involves, American soccer is never going to achieve its full strength. It is a specifically soccer matter. I had thought that Klinsmann -- a Spanish-speaker, I was told -- could, and would tackle it.

That has not happened. It has never even looked likely to happen. Here we are at the end of a five-year reign -- which included three years with the added title of Technical Director -- and Klinsmann, to my knowledge, has never discussed the situation. His record of bringing Latino players into the national team is lamentable -- as you would expect, I suppose, from someone who is fixated on fussball.

The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 1): A Sorry Experience for American Soccer

Looking at the development side of the sport, we find a truly inexcusable situation. U.S. Soccer has nine men’s national teams, from under-14 up to the national team -- all of them, presumably, under Klinsmann’s authority. Nine coaches, then ... and only one of them, Tab Ramos with the U-20s, is Hispanic. That may have been OK with Klinsmann, but it ought not to be acceptable to Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer.

Because it fails to mirror the situation on the ground, fails completely to acknowledge that, particularly among the teams -- the better teams -- in the younger age groups, Hispanic names occur more and more frequently.

This is not just a question of numbers. The quality and, in particular, the style of the players is a crucial factor. If the USA is to start producing creative midfielders -- it has never been able to do this reliably within my memory span -- it is more than likely that the creative skills will be found within the Latino ranks.

Are they there? I have not the slightest doubt that they are there. But until we actively encourage their development -- and I now feel quite sure that means employing sympathetic Latino coaches -- we are not going to bring them to full growth.

A soccer development system that worships physical ability, that enshrines the word “hustle,” that salivates at the thought of “work rate” is, to me, an obscenity. It is, quite deliberately, in peerless ignorance, depriving the sport of its essential characteristics, of its unique skills and qualities, systematically trying to turn soccer into a soul-less athletic activity that can be measured and charted and diagramed and planned.

And of course, coached. Not just coached, but scientifically coached. Soccer as science? That appears to be the aim. So here come the coaching licenses, the coaching courses, the symposia, the workshops, the game plans, the systems, the manuals, the videos, the computer programs and the accompanying experts and all the lesser paraphernalia of what is now the coaching industry.

Don’t be deceived. The coaching industry, like all commercial operations, is out there to make money. The game itself is not the center of its operations, its place is as a means to an end. A financial end.

So we have a simple sport increasingly weighed down with cleverness. Not soccer cleverness, but scientific cleverness. I should say “scientific” -- because so much of this cleverness is, at best, junk science. I have sat through hours and hours and hours of coaching seminars. I don’t even go near them any more. That they are boring is one thing, but that they are very likely to be based on myths and untruths and unprovable assumptions and, quite often, just plain silliness ... that is something else.

In short, their value is questionable, even when measured in the “scientific” scale that they wished to be judged by.

When measured by the scale that I prefer -- a scale that is not concerned with scientific respectability but concentrates instead on aspects of the sport that do not lend themselves to easy measurement -- in a word, creativity -- they seem almost designed to suck the very life-blood out of the sport.

It is soccer’s misfortune to be a constant battleground between those who want a rustic physical game, and those who prefer a game where skills prevail. There is nothing new in this. The divide started the very day the sport was officially born, back in 1863.

The bewhiskered Victorian English sportsmen who were trying to come up with a set of rules for their new sport, soon split into two factions. One of them, of course, wanted a physical game -- they wanted a rule that allowed players to kick each other. Hacking, they called it. They were voted down. So they marched out of the meeting and founded their own sport -- rugby.

For the moment, the proponents of physical play had been routed. But they have never gone away. The fight goes on. It has surfaced in the USA where -- unfortunately -- it has acquired an ethnic angle. And where it is further complicated by the existence of the college game.

Whatever may be the intentions, even the wishes, of the army of college coaches, the fact is that their teams -- with a few notable exceptions -- play a straightforward, unsophisticated style of soccer. The soccer of the suburbs, the white suburbs with their club soccer, whence come so many of the college players. It is still rare to see Hispanic players on college teams.

The damage that college soccer’s minimal interest in Latino players does to player-development programs cannot be overestimated. The college game is still -- despite a mountain of evidence revealing its inadequacies -- regarded by many as the “natural” training ground for young American talent. Yet everyone knows that fewer and fewer top American talents opt for the college route to the pro game. And MLS persists with its ridiculous SuperDraft, which is a college draft that emphasizes mainly non-Latino players.

To have, at the heart of the youth movement, a well-organized nationwide system that virtually ignores homegrown Latino talent is asking for trouble. Not only is it absurdly self-defeating, it smacks of discrimination, and it provides significant backing for the view that Latino soccer counts for little and can be ignored.

How big a step is it from that to these damning stats? I have already drawn attention to the shameful dearth of Latino coaches on U.S. Soccer’s national teams. The situation is no different with the colleges, where Latino coaches are rarely to be seen. And, while I’m on the subject, MLS does no better. Of its 20 teams in 2016, only two have Latino coaches.

But MLS is a pro organization where results matter above all. There has been an acceptance, though not exactly a tumultuous one, of the value of Latino playmakers. The evidence that a creative midfielder -- a Latin American No. 10 -- can have a major effect on a team’s style and effectiveness is undeniable. The list includes Javier Morales at Real Salt Lake, Diego Valeri at Portland, Ignacio Piatti at Montreal, Federico Higuain at Columbus, Mauro Diaz at Dallas, and most recently Nicolas Lodeiro at Seattle.

The first of the Latino playmakers was there at the very birth of the league in 1996: Marco Etcheverry, the Bolivian who was the key player in D.C. United’s early domination of the league, with wins in three of the first four MLS championships. Something that carries high significance, because Etcheverry’s coach at D.C.United in the late 1990s was Bruce Arena.

Can it be inferred from that highly successful combination 20 years ago, that Arena is the man to bring on the paradigm shift that seems to be necessary if American soccer is to enthusiastically --- rather than reluctantly -- embrace its growing Latino talent pool?

Can -- or will -- Arena tackle the great conundrum of American soccer, the conundrum that Klinsmann simply ignored: what to do about the growing Latino presence?

• Next: The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 3): Damage Repair: Bruce Arena returns -- Tab Ramos waits

• The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 1): A Sorry Experience for American Soccer

51 comments about "The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 2): Total Failure to Acknowledge Latino Presence".
  1. Allan Lindh, December 1, 2016 at 2:55 p.m.

    Right on Paul Gardner
    And if you don't believe him, go to a park near you on a Sunday morning.

  2. Leland Price, December 1, 2016 at 3:03 p.m.

    Totally agree. His description of college teams and coaching brings up bad memories of my nephew's time at William and Mary. He was creative. The team was mechanical - didn't even want defenders to make forward runs.

  3. Dale Greenley, December 1, 2016 at 3:06 p.m.

    Although I don't always agree with Paul Gardner, his articles are generally thought provoking. After having coached at various levels for 30 years (and still active in the competitive youth scene, I think there's some truth to what Paul says. I might add, though, that it's not just the creative Latin players who might not fit the US MNT mold (which sometimes flows down to the State ODP level), but it is the creative non-Latin players who may also be getting missed. And, IMHO, it might take another half generation for there to be a tipping point across the coaching spectrum to change that.

  4. Kent James, December 1, 2016 at 3:06 p.m.

    This was one area where people had really criticized BB, and thought JK was going to go heavily into the Hispanic community. But if anything, it seems to have gotten worse under JK's reign. Now maybe if they were playing in Germany...

  5. Daniel Clifton, December 1, 2016 at 3:23 p.m.

    Thought provoking article by PG. I agree with the comment about not just creative Latino players being ignored,but any creative player who in particular is on the small side, being ignored. This has been going on for decades and it is the SOS different day in 2016. It is way past time for change. One of the elements of youth soccer that has to change is pay to play. This economically excludes Latinos and others right off thr bat.

  6. Gabriel Chapman, December 1, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.

    Excellent article! I coach a very mixed team in the Atlanta area - slightly more than a third of my players are Latino. Each player on the team brings something special to the table, and the Latino players tend to be the most creative. They have rubbed off on the players from different backgrounds and have made the entire team more creative as a consequence.

    In my mind, increasing the influence of these creative players in our national teams should be a top priority. I'm hopeful that Arena will be impactful in this area. Improving the USMNT midfield will create a dramatic shift in both results and our ability to play a more attractive, sophisticated game.

  7. frank schoon replied, December 6, 2016 at 4:06 p.m.

    I understand where you're getting at and I agree on certain points you make about youth's exposure to more creative type of players. But let me pose to you another angle. Germany beat Brazil in the WC'14 with the score of 7-0. The Brazilians , individually , man for man, are much more creative than any of the German players; it has always been that way and that is why Brazil is so world famous for their creative play.....WHAT HAPPENED!!! There is not enough space to fully explain this whole issue. But you're doing the right thing and what you also should do with your team is to bring in older players( kids) whenever you can to practice with your team for that is the real secret of getting your players to improve and another thing to do is play 11v11 on a half field with with standard goals. This will force and teach them to think faster and move faster in less space, for there is one thing American players are not good is functioning in small spaces, technical and tactically

  8. Ric Fonseca, December 1, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.

    Very interesting approach to the dearth of Latino players in the US Soccer world, however, PG does not really address the reasons for not having Latino coaches in the college scene, something I will address in another post, and since it is a subject very clsoe and dear to my heart , well, wait and read! Saludos amigos!!!

  9. VIC Aguilera, December 1, 2016 at 4:15 p.m.

    Mr. Gardner hit the nail right on the head. I have been making this point exactly for the last 10 years of how the powers that be are looking in the wrong places for talent. I have earnestly said the powers that be need to go to the 'barrios' urban parts of the cities to scout latino players. Pickup soccer games are to Latinos as basketball games to African-American youth. I wonder if when Martin Vasquez left the USMNT, was it over this topic that Mr. Gardner has now exposed. Thank you Mr. Gadner!!!

  10. frank schoon, December 1, 2016 at 4:28 p.m.

    It is too easy to blame the current failures of the national team on Klinsman . If anything the american soccer experience is in need of foreign coaches influences.and not of those that came through the ranks of college soccer or the MLS....PLEASE!!
    The real problem is the lack of development of creative players in the US. over the past 30years. We have yet to see a nice tricky winger that can make a defender look silly. or a nice distributor at midfield like a Valderama, a Sneyder ,a Pirlo,etc., players who have a touch and a feel on the ball and who are able to stoke and caress it. The only thing we've been blessed with sofar are half decent goalies , a position that really has nothing to do with soccer...
    Whether one looks at youth, high school, college or the MLS soccer , the one thing you will notice is the lack of ball possession at all levels of the American game. American teams have difficulty stringing two passes together unless it is placed back to their backfield Just about every pass is a 50/50 ball, for players lack good sense of positioning and adequate technical skill under pressure.
    I have difficulty watching a full MLS game for after 20minutes , I've had enough for it is just not soccer. How often or when is the last time one sees a one touch outside of the foot pass made that floats and drops behind the defender for incoming attacker to receive on the run. How often do you see cross made by an overlapping outside back running full speed 40yards with his tongue hanging out, placing the ball about 15 yards behind the goal.
    The only reason I would watch a full MLS game would be to watch a player like a Stoichkov who has superior kicking/passing skills. Just listening to the his kicks on crosses gives me goose bumps. Just close your eyes and listen to the sound of perfection when he executes a corner kick.
    I agree the coaching schools with these licensed coaches who spout and yell and expressthe soccer jargon , along the side of the field is absurd.
    At youth tournaments , one can tell which coaches are licensed by the jargon they spout..They are all programmed , all employ the same warmup exercises, the cones, the pennies, etc.The warmup exercises have become a three ring circus more important than the upcoming.
    Johan Cruyff totally was against licensed coaches for youth for they do more harm than good. He believesdthat good players, without book or classroom knowledge , are better for the kids for they would guide rather than teach pedantic instructions. With licensed programmed coaches team play rather than individuality is stressed and thereby introducing one of the reasons why the american player all look and play the same a description applied in Hollland to players as 'grey mice".
    The parents of the american youth pay a lot of money to these soccer academies run by , you guessed it..LICENCED COACHES. How many kids come out of these academies being able to dribble and pass with either foot....NIL....

  11. Will G, December 1, 2016 at 4:48 p.m.

    I guess I will be on my own here, but I thought this was an absolute garbage article filled with nothing more the racial overtures. Gardner stopped just shy of calling JK, US Soccer, College Soccer and Club Soccer racist - and just about anyone else involved in the sport. Roy Rees was the first YNT coach to really bring Hispanic players in the youth teams and to say that they are being disregarded is just stupid. Hispanic players (Mexico, S America, Spain) are not creative because they are Hispanic. They are creative because the youth environment they grew up in. The US's lack of creative players is not down to "lack of Hispanics", its down to the fact that our youth system sucks. Please someone name me all the Hispanic players that JK and the YNT coaches have left out of their squads that hold the key to US National Team success. I am not a JK supporter and am glad he is gone, but this article is one of the most disgusting things I have borders on defamation. Is there a creative #10 or inverted #7 and #11 out there that could one day be in our full team? Sure, but that creativity that Gardner seems to think only Hispanic players contain, doesn't do a ton of good as a center back or #6. There are many other skill sets that are important to put together to proper mix of players. Maybe Gardner will write his next article about how US Soccer doesn't have enough African-American players on the wing...because, we all know, they are fast. Disgusting piece of journalism.

  12. Luis Gonzalez replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:05 p.m.

    Will G, it's not overt racism or discrimination....No one is trying to be evil....It's just that the coaches and establishment look for a skill set that tends to exclude Latino players....Collectively, the coaching establishment tends to look for the Uber athlete...a guy that is 6 ft tall, that is physical, and can jump high...If you don't fill that "type" you are overlooked...this has to change, and it's only going to change, if we turn our heads south and look at what they do in the youth systems of Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:44 p.m.

    Luis, I agree that you have identified the problem but I don't think the cause is development coaches looking for tall athletes that can jump high. Rather I think the problem is development coaches looking for the oldest athletes in terms of physical maturity. These physical advantages are not talent-based and temporary. Typical thinking is that they don't need a full side of talented players, just a nucleus of 2 or 3 backed up by a bunch of older kids.

  14. Scott Johnson replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:59 p.m.

    In some markets, the problem is pay-for-play clubs looking for players who can afford the fees. Many poor kids (and the economics does discriminate against Latinos, even if the club coaches are colorblind, or themselves Latino) simply cannot afford club soccer, particularly at the higher levels of competition where lots of travel is involved. Some youth clubs are more enlightened than others. But come to the futsal gyms here in Orygun in the wintertime--and many of them are not full of club teams but with largely-Hispanic sides consisting of kids who can't afford club (or ones who can, and play in the futsal leagues in addition to their club team). That said, at the NCAA level the focus on athletes over skilled footballers is a problem--though this is hardly unique to the United States (don't forget Cruyff's remarks that if he were a youngster today, he'd never get through the Dutch system due to his slight, unathletic build).

  15. Will G replied, December 1, 2016 at 6:02 p.m.

    Luis - I don't agree at all. If you look at the best DA teams of last year, you will see squads littered with Latino talent. Look, I am not saying Gardner is trying to be evil, but for me he is just spouting nonsense to make a point. My point is that the lack of creative players has nothing to do with the exclusion of Latinos and has everything to do with the lack of capable coaches. Gardner comes across as if Latino's are the only ones that have some kind of innate creativity. There is no reason with the amount of kids that we have in this country, that there can't be more creative white kids, black kids and Hispanic kids. Take a gander at our YNT's, there are plenty of Latino players but still, our YNT's are a colossal failure. That isn't down to not having enough Latino players, it is down to us not having enough creative players. Again, I ask, name me a creative Latino player that has been overlooked from out YNT or NT strictly due to their heritage. Gardner trying to connect "lack of creativity" to "lack of Hispanics" is the same as trying to connect "lack of pace" to "lack of African-American" players. I want better players in our youth set up just like everyone else does, I just don't care what race they are.

  16. Tyler Wells replied, December 1, 2016 at 9:06 p.m.

    Absolutely right, change this to more whites in engineering and everyone would absolutely correctly scream racism. The idea that "Latin" players are inherently better than any other ethnic group is absurd. Besides, most latins in the US are of Mexican or Central American descent, not Brazilian or Argentine, and Mexico and Central America haven't exactly produced an overwhelming amount of number 10 flair players.

  17. Will G replied, December 2, 2016 at 9:34 a.m.

    Jake - I am sure you were trying to make a valid point, but I can't ascertain what exactly it is you are trying to say. Are you trying to tell us that any soccer coach with limited capability simply has to build a squad with Hispanic players to be good? I don't understand at all the connection to basketball and black players. I apologize in advance if I am not understanding your comments correctly, but to throw a blanket statement like "the day we have 6-7 Hispanic players in the NT, we will become a world power" is absolutely asinine. If those 6-7 Hispanic players are US based and receive the same piss poor training our youth players receive, it won't matter if they are Hispanic, Black, White or Purple - they will still be behind. Now, I might agree with you if we were somehow able to grab 6-7 Hispanic players that happened to have a US passport, but grew up in the S. American youth academies. Many on here, including you and Paul Gardner are missing the boat on this one. Being Hispanic does not make you a great soccer player, growing up in a great academy, with great youth coaches does.

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, December 2, 2016 at 1:43 p.m.

    Jake, player development suffers when building the best youth team possible is the objective. Player development and team development are conflicting objectives. One looks long term at producing a future adult player-to-be and the other looks for short term match success based on current performance relative to a small group of youth players. The earlier the players are in the development process the greater the conflict in the two competing objectives.

  19. metro metro replied, December 5, 2016 at 10:15 a.m.

    I agree with Will G.
    Its not the only answer.

  20. M L replied, December 6, 2016 at 12:24 p.m.

    Here's some more "disgusting" journalism.

    Yes Virginia — race, class, and economics DO influence sports on a national level. The fancy suburbs can only carry the US so far.

  21. Luis Gonzalez, December 1, 2016 at 4:56 p.m.

    A small "case in point" of what Mr. Gardner talks about...when I got my US Soccer Coaching license three years ago in Laguna Niguel California, my two instructors were from England. They spent two days talking about how players in England are developed. Not one minute was spent talking about how players in Latin America were developed. I struggle to name more than 5 English stars on the world scene......But, I can name you over 25 Latin American stars. CalSouth, how many of your instructors are Latino? Mr. Gardner, thank you for pointing out the dirty little secret in the youth US Soccer scene. It is disgraceful.

  22. Bob Ashpole, December 1, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    Paul, you are so right: "So we have a simple sport increasingly weighed down with cleverness. Not soccer cleverness, but scientific cleverness. I should say “scientific” -- because so much of this cleverness is, at best, junk science." I am reminded of my encounter with social sciences at university during the early 1970s. Except for economics a few other rare exceptional professors, it was all 50-cent words with special definitions and no substance beneath the facade. Over the last 40 years I noticed negative trends in youth soccer too. There is nothing wrong with using science and the scientific method in coaching, but that is not what is happening. How to develop players is not a secret and has not changed much in 30 years. Despite this, the trend continues to coach kids like senior players. The focus is is on developing teams rather than players, winning instead of development, team tactics at ever younger ages instead fundamentals, functional training and an emphasis on system-specific positions at ever younger ages at the expense of fundamentals. The only essential technology is a ball. But the trend in U-Littles is now to use large sided complicated exercises, i.e., sides of 7 and 8 with 1 ball. When was the last time you heard anyone extol the virtue of 1v1s?

  23. Asa Christiana, December 1, 2016 at 5:36 p.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly, and I'm so glad the author points out the issue of playing style. There are always going to be players that, let's say, hold the ball too long at times. But that style can also be effective. Yes it's usually better to pass the ball as quickly as possible, to catch the defense out of position, but not always. Take Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal. Wenger is smart enough to give him his freedom to go where he wants and do what makes sense to him. That's an extreme example, but there is a way to integrate Latin-style players into a team approach. It takes a savvy coach, one who can blend freedom and discipline. But savvy coaches are in short supply here in the U.S. Hence the overall state of the sport.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:56 p.m.

    The "Latin style" of play was more distinctive 30 years ago, but now the "Latin" style of play has incorporated North American combination passing elements just as North American style has incorporated elements of the Latin style. Paul mentioned DC United and other examples in his article. I played adult recreational in Northern Virginia for many years and saw the same transformation in adult amateur teams over the years.

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, December 1, 2016 at 10:26 p.m.

    About 2 generations ago what we called "latin" style was what I also called a hot weather style. Generally speaking the player on the ball played intensely and penetrated by dribbling until he passed to a teammate who then took his turn. There were no long runs off the ball and not much movement. In the center channel penetration was also made by short passing, but again no long passes or long runs off the ball. This was contrasted with teams using long passes, long runs and wing play and late crosses to attack. By about 20 years ago the old "Latin" style had disappeared and was replaced by melding combination passing mixing short and long passes and more movement off the ball, although dribbling and short passing were still very much a part of the style. The big difference was the players off the ball becoming more involved in showing for passes and the player on the ball spent far fewer time on the ball, so the ball circulated faster. The other teams commonly had a mix of players including Hispanic and the play started to moving to the same hybrid of styles. Naturally the players with the better ball skills would usually be attacking but not always. Saying that Hispanics played differently than other ethnic groups was always an over simplification. For instance Donovan and Dempsey both played in Hispanic leagues in addition to AYSO and USYSA. I don't imagine anyone in Texas or Southern California over the last 30 years hasn't been influenced by the Hispanic players and leagues, at least indirectly. The popularity and influence of Barca and Tiki Taka was not limited to Hispanics.

  26. Bob Ashpole replied, December 1, 2016 at 10:30 p.m.

    Jake I should mention that I am describing adult amateur teams, not youth soccer.

  27. Bob Ashpole replied, December 2, 2016 at 12:14 a.m.

    Jake, I don't care for stereotyping. Not being politically correct. It just leads to mistakes. Skin color has nothing to do with skill or style of play. Hispanic is not a race. It is a Spanish-speaking culture. Brazil is not a Hispanic country. I cannot recall any team I ever played on that did not have Hispanic and Latino people, although we never thought that way. We simply shared a love of playing. I sincerely believe that for the last 30 years good soccer is good soccer, world wide. The differences that exist today, such as in Brazil and Spain, I believe are due to youth futsal, nothing more.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, December 2, 2016 at 2 p.m.

    Jake you probably won't believe this, but I don't think in terms of "black people" or white people either. Probably because I spent the last 40 years either in the military or military communities. In soccer like life, people should be judged on who they are and their potential, not on their past or irrelevant stuff like skin color. Skin color is a fact, like eye color, gender, and having two feet. So don't ask me to talk about athletes or children as "black people." Thank you for reminding me how different the military communities and values are. What particularly rankles me is people assuming whether someone is Hispanic or not by their surname or skin color.

  29. Bob Ashpole, December 1, 2016 at 5:50 p.m.

    Hispanic and Latino are two different but related terms. Latinos include Hispanics, but also Brazilians, French, Protuguese, and Italians as well.

  30. Luis Gonzalez, December 1, 2016 at 6:53 p.m.

    Will G, after your second post, I'm not entirely in agreement, BUT I understand better what you are saying...We both want the same thing. Again, I think collectively, US Soccer needs to turn our coaches and development staff's attention to South America and really take an in-depth look at what they are doing down there...I sound like a broken record, but look no further than Uruguay, a country of only 3 million people, yet they have more than 40 players playing in Europe's major first division leagues!! By contrast, the US has a population of 340 million, and we only have a few young men playing in Europe. Granted, Uruguay has a long soccer tradition, but that tiny country continues to produce first-rate talent, year after year.

  31. Will G replied, December 2, 2016 at 10:20 a.m.

    I agree with you completely Luis. We have all slammed the lack of good coaching in our country, but as we do that, we also have to realize that our issues go much, much deeper than just poor coaching. There are significant cultural differences between S American countries and the US. Culture is shaped by societies and most cultures take generations to build. The US offers so many more athletic avenues than S American countries. Soccer is ingrained in the culture of Uruguay, it is not in the US. Every kid in S America grows up wanting to be Pele or Messi. In S America, soccer is National Pride, it is city pride, it is community pride, that's just not the way it is here. Can we get there, sure, but it is going to take time - not 5 or 10 years, but generations. All that being said, there are some things we can control - better coaching, more affordability, more effort to get US kids abroad at younger ages to train in the best academies, even if just for a month or two every year. The thing we can't control is the acceptance of soccer in our society - that happens organically and we are at least 60 years behind the rest of the world.

  32. aaron dutch, December 1, 2016 at 8:26 p.m.

    This article while adding value to the discussion misses the real point. We have monoculture football in the US. How many of the USMNT players never played on a top youth club with fee's of at least 3k a year & national travel costs? Being hispanic (I am) can be a factor but being poor or from a hood of "some kind" is more important. The US misses all the "hood" players from inner city to suburb to rural thats the key. We have over invested ( myself included) into nice safe, white (my daughters:) football with great clubs TSF/PDA etc.. & we get boy or girls very average quality development. Where is the outrage that you look at the USWNT poster and how many now white women or U-15 to U-23? The men are 20% better, Until we are willing to have a real discussion on monoculture football not just how hispanic is the US team we will never improve. I want the poor, tired, hungry masses (all colors) developing their guts out in a real system that respect the global best practices of how to develop players (dutch, spanish, belgium, iceland, etc..)

  33. Goal Goal, December 1, 2016 at 8:32 p.m.

    I agree with almost everything except our failure to develop creative midfielders and we probably need to look at Latino players to accomplish this. The problem is U14 and up national team coaching stifles the creative player. Touch the ball more than two times and the player is criticized. The talent is there believe me but the coaching is suspect. The best person for the job should be the one doing the job. If they are playing good soccer on Mars bring in the Martian coach. What we are doing now is not working and it looks like someone has finally put it out in front.

  34. Scott Johnson replied, December 1, 2016 at 8:45 p.m.

    The thing that should be penalized--if we are going to penalize players (and with the caveat that even the best players are never 100%) is losing the ball. If a player can keep the ball without passing (despite pressure), fine. If the player needs to hot-potato the ball somewhere else before being challenged by a defender, then that's what the player needs to do. It's the players that dribble into traffic and cough it up that need fixing, not the players that can dribble through traffic and come out the other side, or beat defenders one-on-one.

  35. Tim Gibson, December 1, 2016 at 9:51 p.m.

    yea, the latino issue is a major one,especially at the youth level but it goes beyond that. Our youth programs are in decent shape now & better off in general then they were 10 years ago. We lose it post U-14 when kids go to High School & the onto College. It's not going to change until we pull the plug on School Soccer programs. Look at the massive amount of kids playing ball now that leave their club teams so they can play High School ball. How many of you have personally watched your kid go from playing club @ a decent level & go onto the High School team only to see the level of competition drop off tenfold. This (to me) is the root of the US soccer wasteland when we take kids playing 8 years & toss them into weak programs that are dominated by coaches pressured to win at all cost.

  36. Kelly Ross, December 1, 2016 at 9:51 p.m.

    I too look forward to the day when more inner city, black youth appear in national level competitions and eventually, US National teams. This is another, untapped resource that will greatly contribute to the betterment of US Soccer. And I mean American-born black youth ... I look forward to a wider conversation and effort to reach out to "other?" communities which don't have the traditional means/access afforded by the "usual pool players.". They are out there. Go find them. With all the money US Soccer is sitting on; with all these "professional coaches" and development professionals .... it seems resources could be better utilized by working and developing from within ... As a once-lauded outsider emphatically asked: "What the hell do you have, to lose?!"

  37. R2 Dad, December 2, 2016 at 1:49 a.m.

    Let's say you know of an excellent hispanic talent (player or coach), and you want to contact a US Soccer representative, to forward their name for consideration. Who do you contact? I call BS on US Soccer, a very inward-facing organization that makes no effort at transparency nor accountability. Who is your regional scout? Does s/he have a name? What is their contact information? No, US Soccer/DA/MLS has this all closed off, their dealings all behind closed doors. Perhaps the US government should nominally fund it so we can insist the public trust is looked after by professional soccer people rather than business people. Just sayin', cause you brought it up.

  38. Steve Gliatis, December 2, 2016 at 2:52 a.m.


  39. Ron Frechette, December 2, 2016 at 7:50 a.m.

    The culture that is being talked about is where younger and smaller players are playing "up" and having to develop skills to cope with the size/speed differences. If you look at the Latino pickup games - there is usually a substantial age/size difference between the players. I have seen this in players of all skin colors - so the issue is really with understanding how to teach and allow players to learn by failure to get better. I love having a player come to my team that is the youngest of his/her larger soccer family - Boy can they play; Heads up, comfortable on the ball, and knows when to dribble or pass. This is no different than what happens with inner city basketball player development. US Soccer is too tied to only playing within a specific age group and needs to understand when and how to allow potential playmakers play up and be challenged with older players.
    The Latino community allows this level of play, while suburban based players (read helicopter parents) don't. Money is at the root of many of the player development problems but that has been stated clearly and US Soccer is at fault for allowing this to hinder good player development. Good coaches who really look into how a good player has developed will see this and find ways to help those players. Teaching good soccer can be done by coaches that have gone through the coaching courses but they have to teach finding pockets, when and how to turn, doing pre-looks to make sure you don't get hammered by those larger faster players. That is the mark of a good coach not how many badges they have and what accent they do or don't have!

  40. Will G replied, December 2, 2016 at 10:44 a.m.

    Very good post - it is definitely one of the things that should happen more. If you are the best player on a team, you are on the wrong team. Kids need to be put on situations where they are uncomfortable, that is how they get better. Unfortunately, the focus on trophies at a young age prohibits many coaches in the US from doing this. They would rather have the best 10 year old play with his peers so they can have the best team, instead of having the best 10 year old play with 12 year olds and just be an average player in the team.

  41. ROBERT BOND, December 2, 2016 at 8:05 a.m.

    just coddle them the way we do football and basketball players.....

  42. Kevin Sims, December 2, 2016 at 8:35 a.m.

    Coaches selecting players for USA teams do not care one bit about the color, race or ethnic background of players. Here is what they do care about: can he/she play? ... Can he/she solve puzzles, keep possession, trouble defenses, anticipate, read the game, display mastery of the ball? ... Exhibit skill under pressure? However, far too many youth coaches err in making it all about the physical ability to make a difference. The hurdles which are the biggest: culture, environment and identification. Youth coaches must value the clever over the strong, the quick feet over the fast running, the sneaky over the predictable, the risk taker over the safe player who makes no mistakes because he tries nothing.

  43. Miguel Dedo, December 2, 2016 at 10:11 a.m.

    False advertising?
    Part 1 of PG’s “The Klinsmann Interlude” ended with “but so far I haven’t even mentioned what I consider to be the most damaging of Klinsmann’s flaws.”
    Then we get the old bromide of “more Latinos” as the panacea for US soccer.
    This again sparks the familiar – and always breathless – discussion of US soccer judged against the sole standard of winning the FIFA World Cup; parallel to discussing the US food industry as if its sole objective was to produce a Michelin 3-star restaurant – and the only way to achieve this is to ban any cuisine other than French and to insist that only French be spoken in kitchens and at dining tables.
    Get a life. For many (perhaps most) people playing soccer in the US, the game is no more about winning the World Cup than winning the FIBA World Cup is to everyone who plays basketball.
    Add in the familiar repetitions of the “noble savage” presumption about how world-class players develop. This is sadly naïve on several bases: 1. It does not describe how such players are developed either in soccer (in countries that have the best national soccer teams) or in basketball in countries that have the best basketball teams. 2. It is not what the many people who enjoy pick-up soccer or local league play want from the game.
    This attitude is perhaps uniquely American. We, much more than other cultures, have turned entertainment into something we watch (enjoy vicariously) rather than do. Pro sports revenues in the US are greater than the GDP of over 130 countries in the world. Add in college sports revenues −− −

  44. David B, December 2, 2016 at 11:06 a.m.

    Paul, Surely you could have figured out a less offensive way to get your point across. You sound like Reggie White, he said "blacks ''like to sing and dance,'' while whites ''know how to tap into money.'' Asians, he said, know how to ''turn a television into a watch.'' American Indians, he said, ''have been very gifted'' in ''spirituality.'' and know how to sneak up on people.''" This article is offensive to the point of being unreadable.

  45. Ric Fonseca replied, December 2, 2016 at 3:21 p.m.

    Vic Aguilera: I first met Martin Vazquez when he played for Cal St Univ Los Angeles (btw, in the "middle" of East Los Angeles) under the coaching guidance of Berhane Andeberhan (A UCLA grad from Eritrea) and then afterwards followed his pro-career in Mexico and the US. My last contact with him was when he and Carlos Juarez (from Guatemala and a local SMHS player) to coach in the old pro circuit in San Diego. Both also got their US Soccer coaching Licenses, and graduate degrees. However, imagine my surprise years afterwards when I learned that he'd gone to Germany with Klinsmann and then worked with him when he was named to the national side. But, imagine my complete surprise to learn some years later that he, Martin (and Carlos) had been "let go" in favor or JK's amigos from Germany! My question is why, what happened, those two, at least from the distance seemed to be good amigos/ freunds. friends, and yet, not a peep, a word was ever uttered as to why Martin left the NT coaching staff! So where is he? I believe that Mike Woitalla mentioned to me that he, Vasquez, is somewhere in Arizona, and perhaps it was best that he left before JK was dismissed. I will probably find out more when the coaches convention opens up next month in Los Angeles.

  46. Bob Ashpole replied, December 3, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

    Ric: I was also concerned by Vazquez leaving the program as well as the exclusion of Donovan and Feilhaber from the team. That marked the end of my hopes to see Dempsey, Donovan, Feilhaber, Bradley and Torres play together. I still think that was a missed opportunity.

  47. Goal Goal, December 2, 2016 at 11:29 a.m.

    The failure of the mens national team is on the back of US SOCCER. Period. Their failure to expect results is the problem. It is not going to get better until the youth programs get better. Pardon me and maybe I am all alone here but those that refer to MLS soccer as good soccer I totally do not agree. Maybe it will change maybe it wont.

  48. Bob Ashpole replied, December 4, 2016 at 4:40 p.m.

    Try comparing MLS to the bottom tier of the "top" leagues instead of teams in the upper tier. Lower tier Spanish teams still play like Spanish teams, but lower tier EPL teams are like a model for MLS to follow. I haven't watched a lower tier German match since it reformed its youth development system so I cannot compare. Sadly I don't think MLS will actually clean up its play until the EPL does.

  49. Andrew Kear, December 3, 2016 at 10:12 p.m.

    Then why did Bradly and Arena do so much better with the same talent?

  50. Gladys Reyes, December 6, 2016 at 9:34 a.m.

    Finally someone did speak up for the Hispanic players. We have so much talent here in the United States and all we see is discrimination in Soccer. I go to all the games that many high school have here, locally and the games that those kids plays is like seen Barcelona and Real Madrid playing. I think that who ever is recruiting is not looking in the correct places.

  51. Ray Shines, December 12, 2016 at 11:33 p.m.

    God, Gardner has been beating this drum for so long, it's embarrassing.

    And I love the people who think that their local league is just full of world-class soccer players. People who could surely compete internationally.

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