Of tattoos and voodoo and science ... and soccer

By Paul Gardner

My calendar says March 1. But, quite possibly, global warming has advanced things. The weather is spring-like and there is a hint of April 1 in the air. Or so it seems to me.

What am I to make of this? The Philadelphia Union has sent me a press release announcing the appointment of an official club tattooer, or maybe it’s a tattooist. Or even a tattoo artist. All wrong. It’s a tattoo officer we’re dealing with.

Whichever, the Union is looking for a Chief Tattoo Officer. The idea (and I don’t think I needed to be told this) comes from the club’s marketing guys. The Union’s Marketing VP, Doug Vosik, tells us: “This is an exciting initiative ... to provide a revolutionary service for our players and front office.”

Exciting maybe, but intriguing certainly -- especially so as Vosik makes it clear that Union players are among the intended beneficiaries of this move. Well, I’ve long regarded tattoos as among man’s sillier inventions, quite useless, usually unsightly, often regretted. But they are a vogue, so I shall try to rethink.

Can they possibly be of use to players? I guess we’ll soon know, when we start to look at individual performances (tattooed vs. non-tattooed) and team results. Maybe the tats will make a difference -- and the Union, as one of the league’s least successful teams, can certainly do with something different.

I shall revisit the tattoo factor shortly.

Another apparent dose of April foolishness comes from Africa. From Rwanda where, the London Daily Mirror reports, the local soccer federation is attempting to rid the sport of witchcraft. Tricky, this, because witchcraft is itself elusive -- to the point where there are many who deny that it exists at all.

But an incident in a game in December last year has the Rwandan federation worried. The game was in its final minutes, and Rayon was losing 1-0 to Mukura Victory. At that point, the referee spotted Rayon striker Moussa Camara running to the Mukura goalmouth and placing “an object” inside the goal.

The referee yellow-carded Camara, the game resumed and within a minute Rayon had scored the tying goal. Accusations of witchcraft were voiced by the Mukura team.

So, from now on, a coach guilty of using witchcraft will be banned for four matches and fined.

This case of alleged witchcraft takes us a step further because it reveals that the Rwandan authorities not only believe in the existence of witchcraft, but are worried that it actually does work. So what about a Chief Tattoo Officer? Can he have a positive effect on the Philadelphia Union’s soccer skills? Well, given that no one has so far thought to make, never mind measure, the connection, we don’t know whether tattoos work or not. It seems highly unlikely, but we don’t know.

But at least we know, more or less, what a Tattoo Officer is and what he does. The problem with witchcraft is how to identify it. The Rwandan federation admits that it will have to investigate reports from match officials -- because, as an official put it “There is no scientific way to prove the use of witchcraft ...”

What interests me here is the introduction of the word “scientific.” Time for full disclosure. I have, in the past, several times declared that I consider soccer coaching to be a form of voodoo. And I have also written: “the junk sciences, of which soccer coaching is a leading example” (that’s a direct quote from a 1993 SoccerTalk column).

If that sounds like I’ve burned all my bridges to the coaching crowd -- well, I don’t think so. I do believe that coaching has a large element of luck and guesswork in it. Those vague -- but rather attractive -- qualities are part of what I mean when I talk of voodoo. Also included are other difficult-to-define things like instinct, intuition, serendipity and just plain wishful thinking. These elusive, but decidedly human, qualities do seem to me to be as important -- actually more important -- than the laboratory certainties that the scientific approach implies.

And so to our scientist. Meet James Bunce, recently appointed as U.S. Soccer’s High Performance Director. I rush to point out that this is not a coaching job. Actually, I’m at a loss to describe exactly what sort of job it is. Maybe the Federation’s breathless announcement will take care of that. I get the impression that Bunce will be doing just about everything: “initiatives dedicated to enhancing elite athletic performance and improving the development of younger players ... physical development, nutrition, recovery, strength and conditioning, mental conditioning, performance data and performance research and innovation.”

Bunce comes with genuine, not junk, science credentials -- degrees in sports science and sports performance. More impressive though, he can actually claim to real life success in the player development field. He spent eight years with Southampton, the southern English Premier League club that has built up a remarkable record of developing young talent, and can cite Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a young player who benefitted from his methods.

But this time it’s not science or voodoo that bothers me. It’s this business of repeatedly inviting foreigners to come here to tell us what to do. I do not believe we need to be doing that. Especially when they are Brits, who invariably bring with them a baggage of thoroughly outdated and proved-to-be ineffective soccer concepts.

Having surprisingly given up a top job with the English Premier League -- which U.S. Soccer calls “arguably the best professional soccer league in the world” -- Bunce now talks enthusiastically of the future of the American game, and how he can help “accelerate U.S. Soccer’s ability to develop world-class players, coaches and referees.” He sees the U.S. as “a sleeping giant ready to absolutely explode and dominate the soccer scene.”

Ahah -- a feeling that I recognize. Back in 1983 I wrote a story about the encouraging performance of the USA in that year’s U-20 World Cup -- it was headlined “The Awakening of the American Soccer Giant.” Over 30 years ago, and the American giant sleeps on.

Maybe Bunce’s brand of science can bring it to life. But I rather doubt it. The problem is not a lack of science, or of tattoos, or the presence of witchcraft. It is a lack of vision. By which I mean a blind refusal to embrace the full scope of the vast American talent pool.

60 comments about "Of tattoos and voodoo and science ... and soccer".
  1. Mark Zylker, March 1, 2017 at 10:14 a.m.

    Why are you always so negative? I never get through the first paragraph of your "opinions". Now you have decided to tell us about Global Warming (a hoax). Please keep your political objectives to yourself.

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, March 1, 2017 at 11:03 a.m.

    Why are you complaining about an article that you didn't read? The only political comment I see on this page is yours.

  3. frank schoon replied, March 1, 2017 at 12:23 p.m.

    Bob, he must have been effected by Global Warming

  4. Bob Ashpole, March 1, 2017 at 11:26 a.m.

    I too don't think that superstitions should be encouraged regardless of cultural form (tattoos or voodoo). As for Bunce's role, USSF has designated a specific person responsible for managing changes to adapt the organizational policies and programs to advances in science and technology. I don't care for this management strategy because I prefer an organization to make every manager responsible for innovation, not just one. Like you I also dislike bringing in foreign managers because 1) they are disadvantaged by their cultural bias and 2) it deprives qualified US managers of the experience and opportunity for growth. I don't object to foreign experts being used as consultants for US managers. In fact I encourage it.

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now, March 1, 2017 at 11:54 a.m.

    You raise a good point Paul - why is soccer america bringing over a tired old English columnist to write columns who will inevitably bring his outdated views here and write a bunch of negative things?

  6. frank schoon, March 1, 2017 at 11:57 a.m.

    This is not surprising bringing in these so-called experts who probably can even dribble a ball themselves or like those who run the coaching school whose playing experience level is comparable to having played for "Joe's Pizza Hut". Yes folks, for when you watch the players of the U20 National Team always make thrown ins downfield into a crowd of 2000 people waiting for the ball instead of passing it backward to an open defender who has much better odds of doing something constructive with the ball. I think we need to teach our player how to play soccer first, even after 50 years .The great Ernst Happel perhaps one of the greatest coaches ever once stated that those who work at the coaching school are not your better coaches and purveyors of soccer wisdom;likewise Wiel Coerver stated these types at the coaching school are basically better at being professors of the game and are more suited to talking to a potted plant. Yes folks , after 50 years we don't even know how to make a decent ,smart and functional throw-in. We definitely don't need to bring more experts to improve speed or sports performance. Talk about sports performance ,look at what happened to East Germany whose soccer players were trained with athletic prowess but produced a level of soccer that was laughable.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, March 1, 2017 at 6:58 p.m.

    Frank I am beginning to understand your viewpoint. It is not elitist. As Cruyff would say, your view of soccer is "from the field." It is a populist and player's viewpoint. I like that.

  8. frank schoon replied, March 1, 2017 at 8:11 p.m.

    Bob, I'm glad you're seeing what I'm trying to say.
    I wrote something on Game Technique in trying to answer Don. See "What they are saying- Aleksande Ceferino"

  9. Nick Daverese replied, March 2, 2017 at 1:29 a.m.

    I never really considered a throw in down field a big attacking advantage. I would rather a throw in just a restart with the goal being for the team throwing in the ball to hold possession for their team.

  10. frank schoon replied, March 2, 2017 at 10:54 a.m.

    Nick, Cruyff once said that 50% of the thrown ins end up going to the other team ,anyway. But to see a U20men's national team execute throw-ins like they were U-10 is unbelievable. Throwing the ball into crowd of people is totally useless, for you don't know what is going to happen with the ball. This should be a golden rule,something taught to coaches going for a license( I'm not talking about the ankle biters but at least 10years old ones) But seeing this at this high level of soccer( I'm using highly level loosely) U20 at the mens' national team which is an age for professionals, is unbelievable and leads me to really ask what is going on with the coaching school.
    Here is another aspect which is unbelievable and it is continually done like it is a normal, and nobody even blinks an eye. When I was young at Ajax, you were told that outside backs should never pass the ball to the wing and if you do you're benched. The reason is that the wing when receiving the ball would have his back facing downfield and not only will he have a defender in his back but also he will be locked in by the sideline. Worse he will have no view downfield for attacking/passing options. As a result the wing will end up returning the pass and thereby stopping not only the tempo of the attack but the attack itself. You're taught that the wing receiving the ball should always be facing downfield. Today this pass is a normal and no one blinks and it is one worse passes to make. This I question the material and who teaching the coaches at the coaching school for there are so many elementary things that are not right.

  11. Daniel Clifton, March 1, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.

    Are all soccer coaches (or whatever you want to call Bunce) who come from England without any knowledge they can impart on the American soccer scene. I understand the criticism of those coaches, so often associated with England, who prefer long ball and big, strong, fast atheletes. I was talking to a friend of mine recently who is a former pro soccer player (NASL), and he was saying to me he thought the firing of Klinsmann was a mistake. One of the reasons he cited for why it was a mistake was that he was asserting that Klinsmann in his job as technical directer was getting rid of all of the English coaches at the youth developmental levels. I am not sure where he got his information, but I thought that was an interesting twist on the "get rid of the English soccer coaches" mantra.

  12. frank schoon replied, March 1, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.

    He might be right. I have always stated they need to get rid of all these English coaches/trainers involved in youth soccer for the past 40years. They are involved everywhere , here. Ironically England, has never been known for youth development but apparently these english coaches have a found a home here.

  13. Gonzalo Munevar, March 1, 2017 at 1:45 p.m.

    A very amusing article.

  14. Bob Ashpole, March 1, 2017 at 6:55 p.m.

    It is a mistake to associate Bunce with the conventional wisdom about English coaches and style of play. Even at the height of the English long ball phase, there were clubs that were exceptions. My objection is different. I strongly feel that US Soccer should be managed by US citizens. Use foreign experts as assistants or consultants, that is a smart move, but not as the actual managers of US soccer.

  15. frank schoon, March 1, 2017 at 8:18 p.m.

    I would bring foreign experts not those license "poopers" who can talk all day, but those, who have earned their spurs on the field. What could you not learn from a Beckenbaur, a Cruyff, how 'bout, a Figo..or those who have knowledge and insight into the game we can't find here.

  16. Ginger Peeler, March 1, 2017 at 9:03 p.m.

    Fire Paul...perhaps it's time for you to stop reading Paul's articles? You obviously don't really know about his background. Enlightenment time: Paul came to the USA in 1959. In the 60's, he became a full-time free-lance journalist. He has written for Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and USA Today. In 1983, he was the color commentator for the ABC coverage of the World Cup Final. From 1979 to 1981, he was the color commentator with Jim McKay for NASL. In 1996, he was the color commentator for the NBC World Cup coverage. His column appears twice s week at Paul is the Elder Statesman for the sport of soccer in the USA. It appears as if he has forgotten more about the sport of soccer than you have ever experienced!!! You choose to view everything he says in the negative. You could learn a lot from him if you actually paid attention to what he says. Bob, thanks for continuing to be the voice of reason.

  17. Al Gebra replied, March 3, 2017 at 1:06 p.m.

    Ginger ... couldn't have said it better. This "Fire Paul" guy is a weenie and a distraction

  18. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 3, 2017 at 4:20 p.m.

    Thank you. I am capable of reading his wikipedia article so there is no need for you to copy and paste it here. However, it may be time for you to stop reading my comments since they upset you so much. Did you know that you are not required to read them? Thanks.

  19. Nick Daverese, March 2, 2017 at 1:17 a.m.

    They really have a club tattoo artist funny strange.

    One of my sons thought it was a bright idea to have his Jujitsu club tattooed on the back of his calf and on the back of his neck.

    Good thing he is an iron welder and not a business man. No one important sees it when he works on top of a building.

  20. Nick Daverese, March 2, 2017 at 1:23 a.m.

    Once I heard him say the player made a dogs breakfast out of his chance to score. Then I thought what the heck does that mean.

    Then I head another English color man call a half volley goal sheer elegance, and thought what a beautiful way to call that goal.

    So I guess it depends who is saying it.

  21. Nick Daverese, March 2, 2017 at 4:52 a.m.

    When Beckenbauer won the WC as a manager he did not have a coaching license.

  22. frank schoon replied, March 2, 2017 at 10:01 a.m.

    Nick, exactly my sympathies..They forced Cruyff to get a coaching license, which is a total joke for these idiots of the Coaching School would go to the stadium and take notes on him while watching him play. Cruyff told them to take a walk and if they don't give hime a license he would leave Holland and go to Spain. They gave in and gave him a license...

  23. Nick Daverese, March 2, 2017 at 11:28 a.m.

    I do feel a former player should get some kind of coaching license when coaching kids. It we'll help them on how to deal with kids. If the coach doesn't have kids it could help them.

    A lot of assistant coaches in all sports think they can deal with kids in the same way. As we know all people are different it helps to have some kind of life experience to reach everyone.

  24. frank schoon replied, March 2, 2017 at 11:37 a.m.

    Nick, what you're talking about has nothing to do with a coaching license.Dealing with kids, has to do with adult maturity,character, personality, or just the ability of how to dealing with people to people skills. I've never attained a coaching license for I found too many who did had difficult taking on a lamp post one on one. The most important aspect I found is to be able to teach the kids the love and beauty for the game and the rest will fall in place.

  25. Nick Daverese, March 2, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

    Now your talking one of the first things we can teach a new player is our love of the game. Not everyone can go on in our game at higher levels. But give him a love for the game he may never quit playing it also can create a lot of new coaches.

  26. MA Soccer replied, March 3, 2017 at 10:02 a.m.

    Kind of a pointless article however I don't get how many people in this forum take any chance to complain about the English. There has been and are today are a large number of young fantastic coaches from the UK, as well as other countries, raising the level of the game in the US. We need more coaches from Europe, South central america and Asia not less. There are not enough Americans trained to coach at the youth level. Get off the tired English long ball BS, your dating yourself. I was at a session last night with two early 20s English coaches on a talented U17 team, great session very modern and progressive. The field next was an equally good session run by an American coach. Not saying American coaches are not good (I am one) just that we need all of the good coaches we can get.

  27. Nick Daverese, March 3, 2017 at 3:11 p.m.

    They can't get work in England so they come to the US and get work coaching kid teams here.

    Americans hear their accent and think they must know what they are doing.

    Then they say they played professionally in the U.K. Then Americans think they played in the premiership.

    Then they say we are not looking for just winning games they are looking to Develope players.

    That means they can hold their jobs without having to win games.

    A byproduct of player development is wins. So if they still are not winning get someone else.

  28. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 3, 2017 at 4:21 p.m.

    Judging youth coaches by wins? Yikes! That is not a popular viewpoint around here and for good reason!

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, March 3, 2017 at 4:50 p.m.

    FPGN your opinion is based on an assumption that the opposing teams have equal training opportunities. When the opposing teams unfortunately do not have good training opportunities, especially for U-Littles, it takes about six weeks for even novice players to beat their opponents consistently. Further more when training opportunities are equal you expect teams to win about half the matches. No team should be losing every game and that is I suspect Nick meant by "without having to win games" and "not winning." He is not saying losing some game means the coach is bad. I bet if you asked him Nick would say losing matches is an important part of the development process, and if a coach wins every match then he is not challenging his team enough.

  30. frank schoon replied, March 3, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.

    Nick, To me winning is not important but playing good soccer. That is the first thing I teach or taught my players the difference between what is bad and and what is good soccer. So that when do lose a game they won't feel as bad since they understand how they played and what is good. as compared how the opponents played. I had a 11year old " B" team back in the 80's and the "A" had the fast, big players and athletic players. They would beat us playing boom ball, and there was nothing you can do about it. But my kids, 90%of them made varsity where as the ones from the 'A" team only a couple made it. It is better to lose playing good soccer than winning playing bad soccer, for when you play bad soccer and win tells it tells you that you haven't learned anything. At the La Masia Academy at Barcelona the word winning is never used but playing 'good soccer'.
    Cruyff stated that in the Ajax youth system , you these use these games to see how much the players have learned.

  31. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 1:07 a.m.

    My proudest coaching moment was 23 years ago when I was coaching my first team--8 & 9 y.o. (U10g) in a house league. Back then select didn't start until U11. The club had about 500 U10 girls and placed the oldest girls with the coach who would be the U11 A travel team next year. These girls were about 6 inches taller than the rest of the U10s and their matches were blowouts. About half my players were complete novices at the start but this was about 12 weeks into the season when we played this team. The girls were fearless and amazing, the scored tied 1-1 in the final minutes. They scored and we ran out of time. At the whistle, my players were jumping up and down and screaming. The opponent were dejected like they had lost. Most amazing, my team's parents were jumping up and down in celebration of the loss! I have not seen anything like that before or since. I didn't have to say anything it was so obvious that they played a fantastic game. I am sure those girls will never forget that match and their teammates. I cannot take any credit because they were a truly special group of girls. At that age everybody has development potential even if they are a first time player.

  32. Bob Ashpole, March 3, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.

    Over the years I have seen plenty of bad coaches including "trained" and licensed coaches. Coaching is something you learn by doing. Good coaches continuously trying to improve. While I have seen some bad coaches like Nick has and a few good ones like MA has, the worst coaches I have seen, and unfortunately seen a lot of, are parent coaches who not only haven't played soccer, but are not athletes at all. They have nothing to teach the players at all, not even a love of playing soccer because how can someone who never got off the couch teach a kid to love playing. Since they cannot teach fundamentals, invariably these coaches think they will lead them to victory through their tactical genius learned from watching what EPL coaches do on the sidelines during matches.

  33. frank schoon replied, March 3, 2017 at 5:12 p.m.

    Bob, Here is an anecdote told by George Best about the Great Puskas. Remember those old greats just don't have the skills of today's players,LOLOL.
    “I was with (Bobby) Charlton, (Denis) Law and Puskas, we were coaching in a football academy in Australia. The youngsters we were coaching did not respect him, including making fun of his weight and age.
    "We decided to let the guys challenge a coach to hit the crossbar 10 times in a row, obviously they picked the old fat one.
    "Law asked the kids how many they thought the old fat coach would get out of 10. Most said less than five. I said 10.
    "The old fat coach stepped up and hit nine in a row. For the tenth shot he scooped the ball in the air, bounced it off both shoulders and his head, then flicked it over with his heel and cannoned the ball off the crossbar on the volley.
    "They all stood in silence then one kid asked who he was, I replied, 'To you, his name is Mr. Puskas.'”

  34. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 1:24 a.m.

    That is a great story Frank.

  35. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 10:53 a.m.

    Bob, I had a book and lend it out but I forgot to whom many years ago. But this book was all about those types of anecdotes. There was an anecdote told by Paco Gento who played left wing with Puskas and Di Stefano for Real Madrid in their glory days. Gento stated when Puskas came over from Hungary fleeing from the Russians to play for Madrid, they all knew he was a great player but they didn't know how good he really was until they saw him juggle a bar of soap while taking a shower. When Puskas was coach of Panathinaikos and took that team to the European finals against than the Great Ajax in '70 one of his players stated he saw Puskas juggle a watermelon seed 40 times in a row. All the other players attempted it and got up to only 4 times. Cruyff stated that Puskas' left foot was like a hand, so much touch and skill on the ball. I remember there was an interview with a player from Feyenoord who played with Cruyff in his last year. Cruyff was not liked by the Feyenoord players because after all Ajax has always been their nemesis. That is like fire and water. So as he and Cruyff were running around the whole field doing laps, he stated to Cruyff " you know, you think you know it all and you always think that you're right". Cruyff turned to him with a smile and said 'Yes".
    Cruyff then proceeded to point to a ball laying on the field about 40 yards from the goal. Cruyff stated " you see that ball there, well I"m going to kick that ball and it will hit the top of the crossbar not the front but on top it.
    As It hit the top of the bar, Cruyff proceed to run back and smile at him. The player ended up saying, you gotta have respect for that. One of my high school players, trying out for the Los Angeles Aztecs where Cruyff was playing told me that while they were practicing, they saw a little a guy in the distance walking up to the field with a cigarette in his mouth. Rinus Michels told Cruyff to join the game. Cruyff proceeded the dribble and beat everyone on the other team and than proceeded to walk off the field back to locker room. Another one of my players , who played with the Cosmos at the time, told me he he saw Cruyff standing behind the goal ,chip the ball over the goal allowing the ball to spin back into the goal. There are so many wonderful stories about these greats and what they can do with a ball and all of the kids that I have ever trained and coached know these stories ,for it makes them wonder and see the beauty and appreciate the art form of the game: for that to me is one of the first things I teach them to appreciate the sport....

  36. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 4 p.m.

    I have Kuper's "Soccer Men," which I greatly enjoyed. Is that the one?

  37. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 4:16 p.m.

    Bob, I don't know. It was in the 80's when I got the book from England . If it has the story of Gento talking about Puskas, then it is the one....

  38. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 4:22 p.m.

    Bob, this is also an interesting website for soccer
    As a matter of that is where I found the story of Puskas. Type in the name on top of website and it will search about players as well

  39. Nick Daverese, March 3, 2017 at 4:58 p.m.

    I learned to love the game at any early age. I saw it was different then other game played here. I had no father to speak off. A coach I saw at my local field saw me watching them practice every time they practice. He knew I lived on the street and not at home. Gave me a ball and just said practice. That's all I do for years. I did not play a league game until I was 16 yrs old on his adult team. But I played in friendlies a year or two before that. If I ever had a father figure it was him.

    That is why I got into coaching to share what I learned with others. It wasn't about money then I knew their was no real money in our game then.

    I also had to like the play to want to help them.

  40. frank schoon, March 3, 2017 at 5:07 p.m.

    Bob, your right, a lot of coaches who are not technical work a lot on tactical stuff . Instead the youth really at this particular stage of their development is technique. I remember some parents complained that I don't teach tactics. Of course the parents don't have an eye for the lack of technique displayed by their kid. Why bother with tactics when they need so much work on technique ,which is the important ,first to learn. And as far tactics go ,I kept it simple. One, always have someone behind you for support, two, know where your open man is.

  41. Nick Daverese, March 3, 2017 at 6:23 p.m.

    If you watch most games here. One player makes a diagonal run it is to a flank. That is the run that they hit most of the time. They don't hit the second run. Because the dribbler is not the guy that hits that run or it's not made at all you definitely never see the third diagonal run hit.

    Part of the reason for that it is the support player is the guy that will make that pass. So you need the back player to get that back pass to hit it.

    You also hardly ever see a flank player make a run to the center of the field. That is why an up top player can get isolate here. In Germany those runs are made. So a player does not get isolated by himself.

    Here we love a high percentage players. Like Claudio Reyna

    I would rather watch a player like Marco Etcheverry. He had a 40 or 50 percent success rate. But when he hit something it would translate into goals.

    When he first came to D.C. United his coach did not like him. Marco was an acquired taste. He was different then other players. Normally when a player gets mad he plays bad. But when Marco got mad he got better much better. I loved that about him.

  42. frank schoon, March 3, 2017 at 7:03 p.m.

    Nick that is true about Etcheverry. He had a nice passing technique with his left and he could take on a player as well and he wasn't known as speed demon or a fast player. He had the ability to make a short to medium pass over the head of the opponent.He was the first player that mentioned "street soccer' in an interview here. He stated that when he goes back to Bolivia he plays 'street soccer". Claudio Reyna was much too slow. He always required a second touch on the ball before passing. Reyna's rhythm with the ball made him too predictable so that in his last world cup, I don't know if you remember, but that second touch on the ball caused him to lose the ball to an opponent who ended up scoring. As far as players being isolated this happens everywhere. I've seen it happen to Zlatan with ManUtd, and even with Barcelona in their last game with PSG, where Neymar, and Suarez were isolated.
    What you are really saying with the cross pass to the flank in American soccer there are no 3rd man off the ball runs or even 4th man but you don't have to make a cross pass , that is seen in any situation here.

  43. Nick Daverese, March 3, 2017 at 8:25 p.m.

    What am going tell you actually happen when I was watching US play at my home.

    We had people over so I go up to watch the game in relative peace.

    I see Reyna get a pass in the middle of the field 20 yards from his attacking goal. No one on in he had a lot of choices. He could attack the middle and shoot himself. Of course no flank player moved to the center in front of him so he had a through pass option. Instead he throw the ball out to the flank I thought it was a terrible choice in that situation. But it was high percentage but what did that accomplish.

    I had a small tv in that room. I actually threw it out my bedroom window.

  44. frank schoon, March 4, 2017 at 11:51 a.m.

    Nick, First of all the US doesn't or didn't play a 4-3-3 whereby you have wings make diagonal runs cutting so that you give a 'jab" pass. The US plays more of a counterattacking soccer with pass going straight forwards up the middle with the striker standing with his back to the goal. I tape the American games to show what you shouldn't do, not in how this is how you should play.

  45. Nick Daverese, March 4, 2017 at 12:16 p.m.

    I wish they did play or at least try it to quick strike or counter once in a while. Not enough speed and skill on their team to make it work.

    When Klinnesmann got rid of Donovan. If he kept him coming off the bench he still had speed and he could pass a counter attack had more a chance to work. But not Klinnesmann I think he dumped him because Klinnesmann was dumped from the German team.

    He probably thought if I was dumped so why not dump Donovan.

  46. frank schoon, March 4, 2017 at 12:33 p.m.

    Nick, A great counterattack is also an art form. But when I say that the US plays counterattacking soccer is more to say that they don't have the capability to play combinational soccer with a good build and left to prey on simple counterattack They just don't have these types or players for build up ,with combinational, positional game. Germany it is in their genes and have played counterattacking soccer as a style for the last 40 years. Although HSV in the early 80's when Ernst Happel was coaching played good combinational soccer. But it wasn't until Bayern hired Van Gaal and Guardiola that they changed their counterattacking style and applied less running and more combinational play. I guess you like the counterattacking style of game , I prefer more the build and combinations , although and apply a counterattack when it is needed

  47. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 1:36 a.m.

    When JK replaced Bradley I was so disappointed because I thought that we had about 5 potentially great midfielders (Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Torres & Feilhaber), but then JK didn't use them. I was so looking forward to them playing together, building on the MNT performance at the 2010 final. Now it is a missed opportunity.

  48. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 11:08 a.m.

    Bob, you maybe right. I wish SA would get into more into depth interviews. I would like SA to get more in to the meat and details and insights of the game like the Dutch journalists( they are not as good as they were years ago when a lot of them likewise went to the coaching academy for a license in order to get more sense of the game for the readers). I've noticed that the Germans, Belgians, French, English and Americans, don't get into the nuts and bolts of the game unlike the Dutch so that after you read the article you have actually learned something about the game. I would like SA to interview Klinsmann and really talk nuts and bolts and what his thoughts are about the game and American soccer in general. You here so many criticisms of him but so many don't know what really went on behind the scenes. Sometimes the criticism sound rational until you get the real poop of the why's and hows. Right now none of the readers aren't any wiser as to what really went with Klinsman during his coaching stint. I do know one thing is that he introduced a harsher reality to the American game that was needed.

  49. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 11:12 a.m.

    Bob , here is the problem with Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan at midfield. It is unbalanced. And what I mean by unbalanced is that all 3 like to have the ball come to their feet, they are all ball handlers. Too much of the same thing. In other words ,all are too similar....

  50. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 4:31 p.m.

    Interesting comment. To an extent that is true of all 5 I mentioned. I think Donovan and Feilhaber could have adjusted. Bradley and Torres were holding mids rather than regularly playing in front of the ball, so I don't see a problem. I have played with tall skilled players like Dempsey before and they want the ball to their feet. It has to do with their body type. The longer the leg, the slower it is. Short legs are quick. So I don't see Dempsey changing how he plays. Not you but a lot of people blame the player receiving the ball for "bad touch" when in reality the passer made play difficult by a bad pass.

  51. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 6:52 p.m.

    Bob, yes.The problem with having similar players at midfield tend to slow the game down. If all like the ball to come to their feet than it slows the tempo of the attack down so it doesn't really matter who receives the ball for you get same effect and the coach is at a loss to figure why they are having problems. Or it happens that all 3 midfielders could turn toward the backline waiting to receive the ball. NOT GOOD. That is why some teams might have great midfield players but they all do same thing and thus no efficiency. It is like having 2 Beckenbauers in the back...doesn't work. If you look at the Dutch '74 team, their left half back Van Hangegem was their control center, he determined the tempo of the attack, the center halfback Wim Jansen was the defensive type always staying behind the ball and the right half back Neeskens was the attacking type that would make runs into the space ,that Cruyff left, to run into, and all 3 can also play defense when needed. Look at Barcelona, Xavi was the control player, Busquets more of defenser type and Iniesta more the attacking type. Although the nuances have changed somewhat basically Barcelona and Ajax of '70's and Dutch '74 total soccer team played similar. You right the quality of the pass can influence the effectiveness of the receiver. Wingers are very susceptible to the quality of pass received, like for instance receiving the pass from the back behind him is a LOUSY pass. Or when the left halfback is right footed that can have a problem with a give and go pass with the 3rd man, it can also slow the pass and tempo of the attack. This is why when you pass the center forward who has his back to the goal with a man in his back should receive the ball on his weak foot not his strong foot thus allowing him to quickly turn...

  52. Bob Ashpole replied, March 8, 2017 at 1:33 a.m.

    Understood. Midfielders ought to be able to play every role, but most have a favorite role. It is important for the midfielders to adapt their play to who else is on the field. Everyone coming back for the ball is just as bad as everyone running away from the ball isolating the first attacker, which I particularly hate. I consider this a fundamental, part of teaching U-Littles how to support off the ball.

  53. Nick Daverese, March 5, 2017 at 9:03 a.m.

    When Dempsey first came to the national team I just did not think he was good enough to be on that team.i also thought he was not skillful enough with the ball.

    Then I noticed no matter where you played him. When the ball was up he was always up. Even if someone else brought the ball up. Then he was a dangerous player to score. I thought that was his best attribute.

    One of the things I look for in a player is the ability to be up when the ball is up.

  54. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 11:22 a.m.

    Nick, the first thing I noticed about Dempsey was his one on one ball handling skills were better than anyone else on the team. He is not "afraid' to take on players which is a rarity with the American players. He, right now would be a nice right wing or left wing, for he has the ability to beat a man and therefore creating numerical superiority and forcing the another defender to make a choice leaving his man or pick up Dempsey. Currently we don't have a winger that forces the opponents to adjust. What I mean by this is Cruyff's teams like the "Dream Team" employed Laudrup as the attacker on the front line to usually beat a defender, creating numerical superiority because then he would be creating a 2v1 situations
    which forces the opponent's defense to adjust and commit.

  55. Nick Daverese, March 5, 2017 at 9:18 a.m.

    What I was saying before if you work with players and develope them. You don't think the result of all that work on the practice field will be more wins?

    On losses you learn much more about player and team weakness from losses. It harder to see if you win. But when you see those weakness you should address the practice plan to help them with those weakness.

    Like Frank said you just want to see rhem play a good game. But I think our version of a good game makes it far more likely that they will win the game then lose the game.

    I have seen what some might consider teams play an incompete game still win because they had 4 or 5 guys on the team who can finish a chance or a half a chance.

    Then you see teams play a complete game and lose because they did not have enough guys who can finish.

  56. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.

    Nick , You're right. As you begin to play good soccer automatically the wins will come around. As far as weaknesses go, once you recognize them in the game, then use the next practice is to work on them. The first thing I want to see when choosing to play good soccer and good soccer means having ball possession to carry out what you want to do, is to NEVER EVER see a throw in downfield where 2000 people are waiting for the ball,like you saw the U20's did, which is so HOUSE LEAGUE. I hope maybe in the nest coaching convention or at the coaching school or coaching academy they will bringing it up for other wise how can you take these coaching license serious.

  57. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 4:47 p.m.

    I don't have anything near the experience you guys have. I have coached U-Littles though at a time when other coaches were concentrating on special tactics to win youth matches. What I wanted to see in a match was good attitude, good decision making, quick transitions, good positioning and good technique. Those imply good vision and anticipation too. I really didn't care about the unsuccessful executions. I cared about knowing what to do and effort. Success will come from these. I guess my attitude explains why I loved coaching U10 to 12s. It is all about fundamentals. The more I learn about elite soccer, the more I see that fundamentals are important at any level and age.

  58. frank schoon replied, March 5, 2017 at 6:54 p.m.

    Yes, Bob ,I enjoy those age too

  59. Nick Daverese, March 5, 2017 at 5:26 p.m.

    You know it can take years for a player to be a good decision maker.

    We want to make good decision makers.

    I was dreaming about good English players I thought about Paul Scholes one of my favorite players.

    Then I thought about Tom Jones who I saw at the Beacon Theather recently :)

  60. Bob Ashpole replied, March 5, 2017 at 6:48 p.m.

    You always make me laugh.

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