USA-Ghana International Friendly Player Ratings

July 1 in East Hartford, Conn.
USA 2, Ghana 1. 
Goals: Dwyer 19, Acosta 52; Gyan 60.

Dom Dwyer, making his U.S. debut, and Kellyn Acosta scored their first international goals and a resilient defense held off Ghana’s efforts to add onto Asamoah Gyan’s goal to give the USA a 2-1 victory Saturday in its Gold Cup warmup match.

Coach Bruce Arena used his usual four-man back line, paired Dax McCarty and Kelyn Acosta as central mids, and deployed Joe Corona in the hole behind Dwyer to good effect. Dwyer opened the scoring with a vicious volley of a shot deflected into his path and a sweet free kick by Acosta proved to be the winner.

Dwyer, 1-0:

Acosta, 2-0:

USA Player Ratings:
Player (Team) Caps/Goals
6 Brad Guzan (Atlanta United). 55/0.
Not called upon much in first half, stopped Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick by diving left to swat the ball to safety.

6 Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), 49/5.
Solid and reliable at both ends of the field. Stared down David Accam one-v-one, played good balls up the right flank, got forward far enough a few times to swing in a good cross.

5 Matt Besler (Sporting KC) 40/1.
Played a nice ball up the channel that ran nicely for Dwyer, stepped into midfield to intercept passes, won his fair share of headers and duels.

6 Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), 3/0.
Extremely solid in the tackle and in the air. Battled valiantly in the goalmouth, passed efficiently in his own half. Long balls were usually wasted.

5 Jorge Villafana (Santos/MEX); 7/0).
Dribbled through a tackle and inadvertently deflected a Corona shot into the wheelhouse of Dwyer for his first U.S. goal. Fortunate not to be sent off when he grabbed Frank Acheampong's jersey and a foul was called for a penalty. Worked some nice combinations going forward.

6 Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas) 9/1.
Curled a free kick inside the far post for his first international goal. Let Rashid Sumalia run onto a free kick that he headed over the bar, hit another free kick into the wall, cautioned for late tackle.

6 Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire) 7/0.
Passed efficiently when allotted time and space. Connected often with first-time passes that kept Ghana scrambling. Penetrating balls forward produced chances. Not strong or quick enough a few times to stop the ball when Ghana dribbled through his sector but overall played a tidy, crisp game.

5 Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), 1/0.
Started well, played Dwyer through with a nice flick, drew a foul just outside the box when Dwyer returned the favor.

4 Paul Arriola (Tijuana/MEX); 6/2.
Labored on the left side without much influence in the attack and didn’t contribute a lot of defensive stops until the second half. Drew a foul with a nice stop-and-start move on a counterattack.

6 Joe Corona (Tijuana/MEX); 18/2.
Provided some of the best U.S. touches in the first half, including a flicked through ball for Dwyer that forced the keeper into a reckless challenge. Cracked a shot that deflected to Dwyer for his goal. His blend of touch and guile caused Ghana numerous problems.
7 Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC); 1/1.
Pestered, harassed and threatened the Ghanaian defense before and after crushing a volley to score his first U.S. goal. Hit his first chance weakly to the keeper, shook off the effect of reckless foul and upended him. Slipped in teammates several times with first-time passes and balls won in the air. Ramped up the competition at forward with incredible determination and ruthless finish.
5 Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), 32/6.
Some lively work on the left flank to link up with Saief and Villafana.

5 Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL), 1/0.
Started on the left, drifted into the middle, floated to the right, and looked confident and competent in all areas.

5 Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), 61/2.
Unlucky not to score when he nailed a Morris cross and was denied by the keeper.

5 Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), 16/2.
Zipped up the left flank to serve an excellent cross from which Bedoya nearly scored.

NR Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), 40/1.
Emergency sub when Villafana had to leave the match.

TRIVIA. Dwyer is the 48th player to score on his senior U.S. debut. Morris last performed the feat against Mexico in a 2-0 win in April, 2015.
July 1 in East Hartford, Conn.
USA 2 Ghana 1. Goals: Dwyer 19, Acosta 52; Gyan 60.
USA – Guzan; Zusi, Hedges, Besler, Villafana (Gonzalez, 88), Acosta, McCarty, Rowe (Zardes, 61), Arriola (Bedoya, 71), Corona (Saief, 70), Dwyer (Morris, 72).
Ghana – R. Ofori, Sumalia (Opoku, 41), Lumor, Akaminko (Sarfo, 81), Boye, Abu (Sackey, 60), Acheampong (Poku, 71), E. Ofori, Gyan, Dwamena (Waris, 66), Accam (Agyepong, 46).
Referee: Ismael Cornejo (El Salvador)
Att.: 28,754.

67 comments about "USA-Ghana International Friendly Player Ratings".
  1. Wooden Ships, July 1, 2017 at 8:52 p.m.

    Enjoyed the watch. Ratings are not always revealing. Saief, is so much more than an equally rated Zardes. I didn't miss MB and JA a second. There was some great interplay, great pressure (against a very quick team), some real positive attacking. Corona behind Dwyer was dynamic. For the first time in my memory there are some real quality players to pick from. I hope Arena chooses technical and imaginative going forward. The stereotypical US side, hoping for restarts and counters to sneak in a win, should be a footnote.

  2. uffe gustafsson, July 1, 2017 at 8:56 p.m.

    Am I wrong in the goalie not setting up his wall properly on that second goal, looked to easy to me.

  3. Kent James replied, July 1, 2017 at 10:28 p.m.

    The wall was so big, that for him to be able to see the ball around it, he'd almost have to be standing next to the post (which would have helped in this case), but I'm guessing he didn't feel comfortable leaving so much of the goal open on the other side. Probably should have made a smaller wall (it was pretty clear he didn't see the ball until too late, but it was a nice shot by Acosta).

  4. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2017 at 11:03 a.m.

    Uffe, you are correct...

  5. Kent James, July 1, 2017 at 10:25 p.m.

    I was very impressed by the the play of the US "B" (or "C"?) team. I was surprised by McCarty's passing in the midfield )his reputation is more of a bulldog); lot's of one touch angles (as the Ghanaian [yeah had to look that one up] players were trying to tackle him). Dwyer was as impressive as advertised.

    We had a lot of penetrating passes up the middle that were then played 1-2 between the forwards, getting us chances. To be realistic, I thought the Ghanaian back line played poorly (rash challenges, dribbling out of the back when outnumbered, inability to hold a line), but you can only play against the opposition that's on the field (I'm assuming this was not their "A" team either).

    All in all, an entertaining game in which we didn't field our best team and still got a result, so well done.

  6. John Soares, July 1, 2017 at 10:47 p.m.

    I think it was a very good game. Please no comparisons to B teams and Barca/Real. Good to see young/new players get a chance AND overall do very well. Acosta had a somewhat weak half but (even goal aside) very good second half. Hedges was somewhat reluctant early on, but caught on. Loved Dwyer, not so much for the goal, but for the ALL OUT effort. Mild disappointments, Corona, did well, BUT he is a PRO on a youth team... could have done better. Arriola? will not judge effort, but hardly there. Dax, like an anchor, deserves a 10... under the circumstances. This is was a VERY good exhibition of future stars!?

  7. R2 Dad replied, July 4, 2017 at 9:35 p.m.

    I know everyone wants to be positive after a win, but don't think we should get too carried away here about quality and depth. It was raining, and the officials missed two red cards. Was Ghana pressing? No. Because most sides will press our back line and expose this weakness right off the bat, leading to boatloads of long balls. This was a pedestrian Ghana side. Dax did well in the M Bradley back-passing role but certainly not man of the match as I've read. I don't assume to see everything on the field and the fact that Corona got kicked up and down all night tells me he was Ghana's most irritating opponent. I though Besler was weak given the lack of pressing, Zusi's probably not going to make Russia so why is he being given time when a viable backup needs minutes at this position? Villafana was well-positioned to hit that Dwyer goal, and continues to improve.

  8. beautiful game, July 1, 2017 at 10:54 p.m.

    Ghana squad had a lot of athleticism and not much else. Zardes showed zero soccer IQ in second half by dribbling & rounding past the outside defender with plenty of space and to pick out a central defender and wasted the opportunity by unloading to no one in the area. Ratings were a bit too generous.

  9. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2017 at 11:06 a.m.

    I W, agree. I don't know what they see in Zardek. Everytime I see him on the field , I think where did he buy that little piece of the Carpet Barn....

  10. Dan Eckert, July 2, 2017 at 8:01 a.m.

    Guzan a 6? Sure - he saved a PK - that grandma could have fallen over and stopped - but the back line and the overall defense just made me nervous. All he does is jump up and down and yell with his arms stretched out. I think he lacks leadership (and confidence) to hold the role. Why didn't Arena give someone else a look? There MUST be someone coming up that is worth giving some time.

  11. Miguel Dedo, July 2, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.

    Dom Dwyer and Kenny Saif brought real grit to the attack. Competition becomes really intense now for the front-runner positions. Taylor Twellman pointed out the importance of this match for Jordan Morris and for Gyasi Zardes. Villafaña was Dr. Jekyll (his support for the attack) and Mr. Hyde (fouls that gave up a missed penalty and a free-kick goal.) Dax McCarty looked particularly good providing an outlet for teammates under pressure. Kellyn Acosta; beautifully-struck goal, a few free kicks mangled; must remember he is only 21 years old.

  12. frank schoon, July 2, 2017 at 12:03 p.m.

    Guys, talk about a low IQ rating game. I do give ESPN a thumbs up on their programming though from drone racing and dovetailing right into Pinball Machine
    games, oops, sorry ,soccer game. My first impression was that we have no depth when it come to 2nd and 3rd tier players. Over all the years the US can't seem to come up with , a striker, a center forward or goal getter, who is good, smooth, sly ,tricky, good one on one, good with either foot. Instead, we produce, blue collar ,fire breathers that leave behind divots in the grass in their runs, roll up the sleeves show the biceps and fight, who spend just as much time in the weight room lifting,as practicing soccer. Morris, Dwyer, Altidore, etc and the rest of the US strikers, past and present other than Dempsey, tend to fit this mold. Like the Italian Pirlo states about the American players, they need to play more soccer (thinking) and less running(fighting). The Hispanic players we have exhibit an unhispanic style of play, which hispanic players are known for. Again ,technically we don't have players at the highest level that can even make a hard pass on the ground with the instep instead use the good old instep, which is slower. Zusi, does nothing other than pass mostly backwards or square, which is pathetic for guy who is usually wide open on the sideline and who has one of the best views of the field. That is why Beckham did so well with the space and time affording him that Zusi so squanders. As far as I'm concerned if Zusi can't even make a decent forward pass, he shouldn't even be out there. Dwyer,defensively, has only his eye on the ball, like a bull looking at a red flag, does not think about cutting down passing options behind him for that is all he can really do since he's the point man. He doesn't play smart for he runs around by himself chasing the defenders who outnumber him usually three to one, wasting a lot of unnecessary energy. Notice in many instances, Dwyer runs after the defenders without support to help him. I fault the coaching staff for not changing that situation. Why is Corona and Dwyer playing together because they are so similar in their style of play. One thing you don't want is to have two ,so similar, strikers playing together and worse without real wing play that could help spread the opponent's defense,and create more space to operate in. Ghana is a joke. If I were the Ghana coach, I would have played 4-3-3 with wingers thus spreading out the American defensive line for often they would try to cover one Ghanian in front of penalty area. Playing 4-3-3 ,spreading out the attack all over the field thus creating a lot of 1v1 challenges which the American could never win as seen as how often they lost one on one duels out there. For we can't outrun them and we lack the technical ability to beat them 1v1. NEXT POST

  13. frank schoon replied, July 2, 2017 at 2:02 p.m.

    I meant the good old inside of the foot pass which is slower type of pass...

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 9:13 a.m.

    I think Zusi's choices are driven by his limitations. He wants the ball played into space so he can run onto it. When it is played to his feet, he tends to play scared and pass back. The fact that Beasley and Zusi are in Arena's mix at FB reflects the lack of depth of pool at FB. Rather than criticize Zusi for not being Robben (or even Fabian Johnson) and getting old, I would rather focus on who better can we find for the flank.

  15. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    BOB, Suzi is not an attacker and has none of the qualities of an attacker and can't even be mentioned in the same breath as Robben. And that he is scared with the ball should say enough why should even be considered in whatever capacity. Arena should have replaced him with an attacker who can play some defense for let's face Suzi ,defensively, didn't have all that much to do out there. You're right about the lack of depth when have to consider Beasley or Suzi, heck even Dax Mc Carthy could play that position or Acosta and both of those have better ball skills then Suzi or Beasley. Since we don't have sly strikers who are good one on one, who don't need to rely on muscle and fight, we need good wingers to take the pressure off our center forward or striker but we don't. We are lame on the wings

  16. Brian McLindsay replied, July 3, 2017 at 1:48 p.m.

    Damarcus Beasley is probably the highest soccer IQ player the U.S. currently has on the team (with the possible exception of the inexperienced CP). He is the oldest player and is no longer as fast as he was 10 or 12 years ago, but is still our best option at the left back position (we have never had depth at the left back position and Beasley is the best we have ever had at that position). As for an attacking back, yea that is the "modern" way backs are played but it should never be considered a positive when you have 6 or possible 7 other players further forward who are suppose to be more skilled or more creative than a lowly back and your calling for the need of your backs to go forward. Wouldn't it be nice to have the right talent where the defensive backs could actually defend and allow them to get forward 2 times per half to help create an overload at opportune times, rather than expecting them to run up and down the touchline on a continual basis because the front line and midfielders are not able to create an effective attack on their own? Even the best back can't be forward without offering an opportunity for a counter attack, as you cannot be in two places at the same time. The attacking back is great fun, usually not marked and rarely studied for play patterns when on the attack, but a back that is continually needed forward is a symptom of other team problems.

  17. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 5:35 p.m.

    Brian ,you brought up some good points and I'm in total agreement with the 'back' situation. I think it is ridiculous for backs to make all these attacking runs. Ajax, and Dutch team of WC'74 did it, but today it is incessant, making the backs not only lose a lot of energy, but the runs are so predictable. It is fine to employ an overlap by the back or halfback, either one, in order to shake things up but instead it has become fashionable.Attacks down the flank should be done by a wing. He has a lot less yardage to cover and he can cross the ball and place it better than any back or halfback and he has and can create more options technically. By Ajax a wing has to be able to cross the ball in 2 ways. One, by beating the opponent 1v1 or two, cross the ball by curving it around the defender. I now see U10 backs making runs and after a while the kid is dead tired. But this is what happens with stupid youth coaches with a license who follow what the pros do. My kids don't play flatback defense, but man to man and a sweeper and once in a while the back can overlap and not because it is fashionable. 'But the pros do it' as you hear these idiot youth coaches say , but my answer is that you are not dealing here with pros but kids who need to develop first. I have noticed that crosses today are so poor a lot end up behind or in the stance because a back does it. Beasley should not into the predicament he had with Mexico with the goal which was not his fault by the coaches. There isn't all that much to do in the position Beasley plays. I much rather would see a Dax McCarthy there, for then you not only Bradley as a distributor but also Dax, which can cause the opponents
    defensive problems for now you two distributors if needed

  18. frank schoon, July 2, 2017 at 12:17 p.m.

    We looked good up front, only because the Ghanians are not good on defense, unable to shift from zonal to man to man , and lacking creative attack in the opponent's third. I do think it is unfair to our players for to see how well they would do by throwing them together with 2nd and 3rd tier players;instead is for some of them to play with the first tier. I mean , even Pele effectiveness would show quite a diminution playing with the tier we have out there. It is just not fair for them. I would need to study Dax McCarthy more to give an opinion, although I do think he was one of the better ones out there as far as stability and availability goes.
    I do think that the US needs to have wingers and I don't mean those just running up down. The US needs to begin to produce crafty wingers. I would think from the Latin pool of players who can handle a ball like a typical Latino and NOT someone who looks like he's been in the weight room thinking he improve his foot skills there. What I see so often is that once we have ball transition up front we have to slow the tempo because we have to wait for someone to make a flank run. Actually this happened also by the Ghanians...

  19. Zabivaka Sobaka, July 2, 2017 at 5:42 p.m.

    Schoon, just for your information, Zardes colors his hair so his grandparents, who have bad vision can see him on the field. Another thing - you are using a lot of words to talk about something that you do not, even remotely, not overcomplicate thing

  20. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 8:13 a.m.

    ZAB, I appreciate the hairdo update. You should approach SA and ask of them if they're interested in you doing a Coiffure updates on MLS players. BTW, If my posts are getting too complex for you, maybe try your interest in another sports like watching 'Bowling for Dollars".

  21. beautiful game, July 2, 2017 at 7:41 p.m.

    FS, no one wants to believe what u expressed about the American player's soccer IQ. I.E., IMHO, Pirlo at 39 may be physically deficient, but his IQ is double of most MLS players. And Giovinco's soccer IQ is 2-3 points higher than any other striker in the MLS. It's obvious. Who can name any "top" American MLS players that are consistent game after game. Soccer IQ defines Quality.

  22. Wooden Ships replied, July 2, 2017 at 11:08 p.m.

    I w, so many years have gone by and Frank has me by a few. I have no idea of the SA demographics, and what ages are posting. For me your statement is obvious along with nearly all of Franks observations. In discussing IQ of the modern US soccer player most all of it has been curriculum driven-training sessions. I believe many a talented player hasn't fit the club mold. Maybe that's changing, but IQ doesn't come from coaching sessions alone. For you, me, and how many others, the quality of our play has a ways to go, but we are improving.

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 8:46 a.m.

    "Social IQ" correlates to playing multiple sports during development, something US Soccer discourages and has been out of fashion for decades. The tendency now is early specialization, which has advantages under the US youth development process with 8 year old travel teams and year round soccer.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 8:47 a.m.

    Spell checked again. Soccer IQ, not Social IQ.

  25. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 9:10 a.m.

    BOB , I so disagree with US soccer about discouraging doing other sports. Cruyff likewise sees this as bad. Cruyff had to choose between baseball and soccer when he was young. These kids need to have their bodies developed in a natural manner and not develop in one direction. Likewise for me it was basketball. Kids should be doing different things, in the beginning

  26. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 12:31 p.m.

    Ships , you're right the players who are curriculum driven are spoonfed and don't think the game unlike those who grew playing street soccer. In street soccer, playing with older better players you learn to survive and have to think smart for you couldn't outrun them on concrete and besides they were older and better too. Today's players lack the soccer intelligence and that is also a problem with todays pro players in Holland. The old guard keeps lament about it there. In the old days the coaching was poor and the players were good and today it is reversed , the coaching is better but the players are worse..Today's players look for the coach to have the answers and in the old the players made the decisions during the game if changes were made. Players today lack the street savviness.

  27. don Lamb replied, July 3, 2017 at 12:43 p.m.

    Frank - What about Germany? They have proven to have an amazing player development system. This system is highly structured. However, this system also accounts for the need for creativity and autonomous decision making in player development. The Germans have proven that a structured environment can create world class players -- and not just a couple of them, but by the bucket. Same with Spain... Even though both of these cultures are highly structured when it comes to player development, you wouldn't say that either produces players who are always looking to the coach for answers, would you?

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 4:02 p.m.

    Don their is a difference between structured environment and structured play. The problem is over-coaching leading to structured play conforming to the coaches abstract view of perfect play. That doesn't create innovative problem solvers.

  29. don Lamb replied, July 3, 2017 at 5:42 p.m.

    Bob - A few here believe that it's impossible for great players and problem solvers to come from structured environments.

  30. Wooden Ships replied, July 3, 2017 at 8:51 p.m.

    What Bob said don. How often do coaches allow players to just play and create/problem solve, without incessant instruction. I've known countless guys, from the late 60's on-including many former teammates that played Pro and have been capped, that struggled at times with over bearing coaches and instruction. After my playing days I coached college for many years and most of my domestic recruits were constantly looking for instruction, confirmation and reinforcement. Their imagination to a large extent had been coached out of them.

  31. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 9:33 p.m.

    Ships, you stated it perfectly!

  32. don Lamb replied, July 3, 2017 at 11:08 p.m.

    WS - That is very sad for those players, but it does not have to be that way.

  33. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:22 a.m.


  34. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:31 a.m.


  35. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.


  36. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:44 a.m.


  37. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:52 a.m.


  38. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 8:57 a.m.


  39. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 9:02 a.m.


  40. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 9:05 a.m.


  41. Brian McLindsay, July 3, 2017 at 2:19 p.m.

    Frank - Tip 58 goes to the heart of a high soccer IQ. Some of the REA studies show that later maturing players do very well at the senior playing level. The studies did not conclude it is because they developed better positional play or even better overall game IQ, but when you can't out run your opponent, you must somehow compensate if your going to compete. Interestingly some of the current youth players with excellent anticipation and positioning also played tennis early on, which requires reading body language and anticipating likely ball play.

  42. frank schoon replied, July 3, 2017 at 2:43 p.m.

    Brian, this is why soccer according to Cruyff is all about movement off the ball, letting the ball do the running, which is more effective and faster. And he states movement has nothing to do with running 10, 15 yards but 2 or 3 steps sideways or up and down. Players that rely on speed will never become thinking players. And the more you rely on speed the less technique you are able to apply.But unfortunately soccer today is less technical because it relies so much on speed, not ball speed for that is a whole other ball of wax, and athletic ability which has nothing to do with playing soccer. That is why the late Ernst Happel, one of the greatest and smartest coaches ever ,once stated soccer is really 80% thinking and 20% skills and Cruyff stated that soccer is played with the mind carried out with feet.
    But today's players are reared up in a climate just in the opposite way. What you meant about tennis , the same applies to basketball. If you played soccer, than basketball becomes so much easier. Cruyff began as #9 but became more of #10 that roamed. The reason why he left the #9 position was his body because he is so frail wouldn't be able to take the beating especially if he has his back to the goal. He , like me grew up in an era where we always faced the goal upon receiving the ball and therefore I as a player never liked having my back facing downfield receiving the ball. Cruyff Learned from this to never receive the ball standing still and always on the move and position himself off the ball facing downfield.

  43. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 4:07 p.m.

    Frank that is what I am picking up from the books you suggested I read. My conclusion is that, without Cruyff's personal style of play and the great players around him playing off it, there would not have been the total soccer as it evolved.

  44. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 6:08 p.m.

    Bob Yes that is true, It was Michels that developed the Total Soccer concept , it took about 3years to get there. It was the players that worked out the details on the field. In a recent interview with a friend of Cruyff, he stated that at kitchen table in Cruyff's home it was explained to him that Cruyff and Keizer that ran Ajax and who handled the finer details of Total Soccer on the field. Because both players had a lot of respect for what Michels did not want to state the real truths of what happen behind the scenes and thus allow the outer world to give Michels all due credit. I will explain how the Total Soccer came about in my next post below

  45. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.

    Bob, it began with the backline made up of one sweeper and 3 man to man defenders. The 3 defenders were not defenders originally. The left and right fullbacks were former wingers, the center fullback was a former center forward, the sweeper was the only true defender who could play midfield as well .They began playing man to man the next year moved into switching. Their next goalie the following year came out of his goal to cover the territory behind the defense. Step by step things began to form.
    Next,the attacking sweeper creating numerical superiority at midfield ,a la Beckenbauer. The upcoming overlaps of the outside backs and halfbacks, center fullback. If the back moves up the halfback took over his spot so that the back did not have to rush back after an attack. If the halfback overlap then the back would move up to fill the halfback position thereby never leaving an open spot or gap between the next line, obviating an opponent counterattack. Also you must keep in mind that the distance between the sweeper and center forward is all time about 35yards thus keeping all three lines close together and making it difficult for opponent to do anything due to the lack of space to get anything started. Back passes , square passes were not allowed, and preferably not in your own half unlike what you see today. The offside trap came about not because you want to catch opponents offside but because the team as it moves forward on attack all lines have to move up and that is how the offside trap came into existence. Furthermore any passing around midfield ,circulating the ball was not to play keep away but to give the team a breather for their next attack. Two things here , you must keep in mind ,the offside trap was not use for offsides but making the backline move to keep the spacing between line small and the ball circulating around midfield to start an attack was employed to give players a rest. (But to the outside world soccer teams copied the Dutch and instituted the offside trap to catch players offside and therefore totally misinterpreted the real intention and that goes for the ball circulation around midfield as well for they didn't know purpose was a breather.) The breather was necessary because of the high pressure defense, Ajax placed on the opponents to regain ball possession taking a lot of energy. This is why Cruyff states that the first line of defense is the front line for defense began up front not in the back and the first line of offense is the backline.
    The next step as I explained to Brian about Cruyff switching from a #9 role to a #10 was for his safety. So on paper he was #9 but withdrawn leaving his space open for the right half to run into unsuspectedly from the weak side. Furthermore there was a rule about balance on the flanks. One flank was playful where overlaps occurred and different players would appear there than the other flank was the more organized and straight . NEXT POST

  46. frank schoon, July 3, 2017 at 7:32 p.m.

    With Ajax the left flank was the playful one with Cruyff , Keizer,both who had no restrictions on their play. The only one restricted was Gerrit Muhren the left halfback, the greatest technician on the team, better than Cruyff. Muhren's had one assignment ,he was not to lose the ball. He was so good at it for it allowed the Ajax to go on offense without worrying about losing the ball and being out of position. This is how good Muhren was. In the those days the Lefthalf was left footed and was the control center of the team. This role was later given to the great Van Hanegem on the famous Dutch team of WC'74. Keizer and Cruyff once asked Muhren how he got to be so good with a ball. He took him to his house where his backyard 12x20 ft walled in all brick, where games were played 1v1,2v2 ,3v3. He could do anything on a dime. He came from Volendam, a small fishing village, that is renowned today in Holland for developing technical players. With Cruyff ,Keizer ,Muhren and Krol the leftfull back and former winger ,the attention was placed on Ajax left side allowing the right flank, to make back door runs behind the opponents. The center half, more of defensive role although also an offensive player, was only allowed to shoot or head on goal, nothing else. If he started dribbling and doing his own thing it would ruin the team concept. Realize this is the same concept of play copied by Barcelona when Guardiola began coaching his Tiki Taka style was to control the ball on one flank, thus leaving the weak side open for back door runs. Guardiola credits what the dutch invented 50years ago and it is still so effective. As far as passes go, it was length over breath, fullbacks never stand still receiving the ball but must be moving forwards, ball are played ahead of you in order to increase tempo. Do you know how many players today can actually pass a ball in front of a player without the player having to adjust his run or his gate. This is why the players 50 years were so much more technical than today. Todays players don't have the skills that was demanded 50 years ago by Ajax and that Total Soccer has never come back for the player today are not good enough to play it

  47. Wooden Ships replied, July 3, 2017 at 10:14 p.m.

    Damn good stuff Frank.

  48. don Lamb replied, July 3, 2017 at 11:10 p.m.

    Frank - Every player playing at a high level can "pass the ball in front of a player without the player having to adjust his run or his gate." That is a very basic skill by today's standards.

  49. Bob Ashpole replied, July 3, 2017 at 11:28 p.m.

    My pet peeve these days is rote pattern passing drills with players in static "diamond formations." In the 1980's when I played the equivalent was the "weave" drills. In both cases, these patterns are too predictable to be effective in a match. The drill conditions are too controlled to have much value as technical training. I cringe every time I hear a youth coach during technical training telling young players to only pass on the ground. That is different that telling them to pass to feet.

  50. frank schoon replied, July 4, 2017 at 8:36 a.m.

    Bob, you are so right. These coaches have no clue what they are doing. "PASS ONLY ON THE GROUND", that says it all. "ONLY","ONLY","ONLY","ONLY". That sums it up for today's coaching and developing of kids. Kids in the street soccer days never heard of restrictions, for they learned and developed playing in an environment of "DO", "DO", "DO", not DON'T , DON'T ,DON'T". That is why coaches have stifled the development of the players and it is so much worse today for these kids are so robotic. I mean look at Suzi, this poor guy has played at the highest level and can't even make a decent pass or is afraid too. Suzi sums up the problem of American player development. This is why Cruyff states that he doesn't want licensed coached up to about the age 14 training kids but just players. The moment a coach gets a license he wants to show the players "this is how it is done" because I went to coaching school. They feel the need to express themselves for after all they have spend time taking a coaching license.
    Cruyff wants real soccer players to be GUIDING the kids not coaching them or telling them don't do this or that, no instead players need allow the kids to be creative and let them do and experience. Not only are the youth so programmed but so are the coaches. Whenever I go to a youth tournament , I watch the coaches,what they do and what they say before the game begins. You can tell the licensed coaches from a mile away. They all carry their little bag with pennies and cones and set their pre-game warmup routines. It is so funny to watch for it is like watching the "Stepford Wives" how all these coaches similar act and conduct their warm up routines. And they employ similar soccer jargon. It is laughable.
    Somebody ought to make a movie out of this. I seriously think that the coaches who go take a license course are somehow secretly " chipped" ,maybe during lunch time, to follow the USSF training methods..
    These kids should be taught all manners of passing, on the ground, in the air, outside of foot, toe, heel , whatever. It is when the kid is well rounded in passing that is when a coach should say this particular pass should be employed in this situation but not "passes should ONLY be on the ground!" . WE ARE DOING IT ALL WRONG. We should not be coaching KIDS, but DEVELOPING kids but apparently the USSF doesn't get that. Coaching is for pros or college, but in the youth it is developing. The problem is the IDIOT coaches see Barcelona play, and think 'oh ,this is how you play soccer" . And as a result we have mini Guardiolas out there with a super duper coaching license telling the kids this is how it is done...

  51. frank schoon replied, July 4, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    SHIPS, A couple other things I didn't mention was every player must know the role and responsibilities of the player he mostly likely will take over when switching positions. Also ,you rarely see a tackle made by the fullbacks because they were smart for they could read the opponent's attacker since the defenders themselves were former attackers. Also In those days left footed players play on the left flank, unlike today you see a right footed leftwing cut inside instead of beating his back go down the wing and force the opponents to run back and give space away to upcoming attackers. Watch the old games of Ajax on Youtube, like Ajax-Inter '71, Ajax-Bayern'73 with Beckenbauer. Did you know that Hennie Cruyff, Johan's brother, told me that after he decided not to go pro, Ruud Krol , the Ajax left back took over his position.
    When you watch the Holland '74WC,and Ajax of the Cruyff years ,watch the positioning off. It was perfection. One of the reasons Cruyff sees today's soccer as a lower quality is because of faulty positioning of the players off the ball and therefore as a result we see so many backward passes for the player are positioned wrong. He stated soccer as played by the Dutch in WC'74 was such a high level that he has yet to see a team come near that level of play. And the teams that has excited world soccer in the past 10 years is Barcelona and Bayern (Spanish and German soccer)both of which follow the Dutch philosophy of play from 50years. So it goes to show how advanced the Dutch were in soccer 50years ago. You are old enough to appreciate this but can you imagine if you took one the best players on the USMNT and place him back in time on the Ajax team of Cruyff. Technically, he would be so far behind and tactically would not have the street savviness and smarts to even survive. His would eyes would go side to side like in a cartoon. Actually Arnold Muhren who is the brother of Gerrit Muhren was 20th man on the team. Arnold stated when Ajax asked him to come on the team, in his first practice Arnold was so distraught watching Cruyff and Piet Keizer in practice,saying it was so fast that it was like watching a cartoon(Arnold did not mean "fast" as in running but in ball handling skills and ball movement). He decided after the first practice with Ajax to leave and quit the team for he couldn't believe the level of soccer played. Then Johan,Keizer and Gerrit had a talk with him and put him at ease,so he decided to stay.Arnold was traded a couple of years later to play at Ipswich for Bobby Robson in England and became player of the year in England.

  52. frank schoon, July 4, 2017 at 9:04 a.m.

    Bob, a favorite passing drill used by the Ajax first team and employed even by Ajax youth U10 is the 4v2. You make a rectangle 6 big steps by 3 big steps, for example . Then don't post a player by each cone but instead between the cones so that players can move off the ball.(that is the secret). You place 2 players inside the rectangle. Allow one or two touch. The 4 player are not allowed to leave the line between the 2 cones. The object is pass the ball length wise between the 2 defenders. I usually give a point to a player who's able to make the length pass in case he makes a bad pass for he doesn't go into the middle then. Also the defenders need to stop any pass that splits them, so this takes defensive positional thinking and force the players to pass wide. This is a real thinking game as far as thinking a step ahead. In other words the players off the ball ,especially the one(s) who think will be getting the ball must position his body in a manner that he can pass to the next open man in a continuous manner. That means the receiver should face square to the passer. It is all about the next pass not the pass you are positioned for to receive. The old Ajax guys meet twice a week to play this 4v2 for over 40years now. Cruyff stated if you can play this game ,you can play soccer for everything about soccer is in this game. I will let you in on a little secret why 4v2? When you play 4-3-3 which is the best tactical system to play, the team that has ball possession always outnumbers the opponent 4v2.( I will let think this over why that is so...)

  53. frank schoon replied, July 4, 2017 at 9:14 a.m.


  54. beautiful game, July 4, 2017 at 12:12 p.m.

    Some good stuff here. I would propose that all U-8 games be played with 6 field players on a 40 x 60 field with enough space where players can develop their instinctive soccer IQ and 1v1 skills.

  55. frank schoon replied, July 4, 2017 at 12:19 p.m.

    IW, Cruyff suggested the best way two play is 6v6 . In other words 1 goalie and 5 field players. I have the notes on the size of the field he suggested. Even the goalie can come out and play. But the reason for 5 players is that is nothing square like in 4v4 games which Cruyff thinks are useless for youth to learn and with 5v5 there is open space to run into. This 5v5 serves much better than 4v4 as far as tactics and positioning and moving off the ball.

  56. frank schoon replied, July 4, 2017 at 2:01 p.m.

    IW, the size of 4v2 rectangle really depends on the players abilities. 8steps by 4. In the beginning you need to coach them and show them. Let us say A ,B are opposite each other on the length (4step line) and C,D on the 8step line opposite each other and defenders E,F in the middle. For example, if ( A) positioned on the end with the ball first look at B the length pass. E,F has to position in a way they are NOT standing square but a couple steps to avoid the split pass to B. Let us say E is facing A with the ball. If E is smart he should position defensively in a way blocking one passing lane to either C or D. This means E the defender should not stand facing square to A for then A is allowed two direct passing options C or D. Notice this what Dwyer failed to do on defense against Ghana up front. The defender F has stopped the long pass(the important one to B). Since either C or D will receive the ball. What I would do If I were A is to turn my body toward lets say C, appearing C will get, but as I pass I heel it to D. Now before that happens B needs to move a step or 2 and anticipate the pass from C or D. Both C,D expecting the ball have to position their body in relation to where B is moving or positioned so that pass quickly as possible to B. This is just a sample of the thinking and looking that is going on offensively and defensively. Of course in this game I teach the players some different
    passing tricks and nuances to throw the defenders off.
    The pass the learn is a one-touch pass from A or B over the defenders length wise. There is so much to this game. In this game ,the player will learn that ball movement is done by moving a couple steps to the right or left.. I found one on Youtube for Ajax U10 but I think the square is way too big

  57. don Lamb replied, July 5, 2017 at 9:25 a.m.

    Now, how would you have the five play, Frank. This is all entirely useless if they are set up in a 2-3 or a 3-2, which is what many coaches will do. 2-1-2 is also a poor setup in terms of development. They must play a 1-3-1. They will give up some goals, but they will learn that they must move to create angles/targets for the player with the ball and that they must move to cover each other defensively.

  58. Jay Wall, July 5, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.

    DL - In a 6 v 6 game with young players why impose a specific system on them when they can better benefit from learning to make decisions based on what their opponents do and give them. When a team plays a set system with players assigned to positions, a savvy opponent will quickly know which player they are playing most of the time and play accordingly. In reality it is mathmatically better for players to create spaces for themseleves and their teammates so they can exchange positions, create overlapping runs, off the ball movement and the 5 field players can then attack in 120 different mathmatical combinations that force opponents to constantly have to make defensive adjustments which must be done well or the creative team will get them off balance and score. The biggest nightmare in 6 v 6 is teh keeper coming out as a field player from time to time and creating up to 720 different attacking combinations the opponents must solve. >> Would you reather play a static U.S. team that plays in set positions or a creative European team that constantly creates changes that makes it hareder for defenses to play well?

  59. don Lamb replied, July 5, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.

    Of course that is preferred, Jay. But that is just not realistic for the vast majority of 8-9 year olds that I coach. At U8 we do not give them positions. We tell them to look at four things: the ball, the opponents, their teammates, and the space to determine where they should be. This is too complex for them, but it introduces these ideas. At U10, hopefully they are beginning to compute some of these things. However, they still need a starting position, and they do need some direction with so many players on the field. Our training curriculum is 3v3 at U10, so their is no positional training there. The games are a different matter, and it's a bit much for the spacial recognition most 8-9 year olds to comprehend where 12 players are and should be. They need structure. That is not to say that the ideal form of this structure involves interchanging and freedom of movement. Of course it does. And as Bob refers to below, the tactics that they are learning in the game setting, which is merely an extension of training rather than a competition, translates to the higher levels of the game. How many professional or international teams do you know of that just through 10 players on the field without any positions?

  60. frank schoon, July 5, 2017 at 10:24 a.m.

    JAY, some people just don't get it....good response...

  61. don Lamb replied, July 5, 2017 at 3:10 p.m.

    Frank, oh sage one, what contribution to youth development do you actually make in the real world?

  62. Bob Ashpole, July 5, 2017 at 12:27 p.m.

    The whole point of small sided youth games is to focus on technique and individual tactics which will ultimately transfer to 11-a-side soccer, not teach team tactics for 6-man sides.

  63. frank schoon replied, July 5, 2017 at 1:54 p.m.

    BOB, It is playing these types of games where so many of the soccer situations are found in real games. This is why playing street soccer prepared you for so many of the real game situations ahead of time. The coach didn't have to tell the kids what to do for they have experienced so much already playing in the streets. And if you look at most of the soccer played in real games it is really made up of small sided games.....This is why Cruyff stated street soccer was the best training grounds ever for players too learn...What I like about street soccer, there were no tactical systems employed, you just went out and played and found your open space and where to move. Piet Keizer once stated that tactics are for the lesser gods, for Great players don't need to follow tactics they know what to do just by looking.

  64. Nick Prodanovich, July 5, 2017 at 4 p.m.

    Hey Frank,

    So after all these years, mostly talking on the field when you were playing, I find you here talking some more

  65. Nick Prodanovich replied, July 5, 2017 at 4:02 p.m.

    Gordon, Dennis and Carl would be proud :).

  66. frank schoon replied, July 5, 2017 at 5:41 p.m.

    Hi, NICK...long time no see.

  67. frank schoon replied, July 5, 2017 at 6:03 p.m.

    Nick, when so many played with horse blinders on there had to be someone giving directions...LOLOLOL

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