Claudio Reyna (second from left) at New York City Soccer Initiative. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)
Reyna, who played for clubs in Germany, England and Scotland, said the USA's failure to qualify was a wake-up call and a reality check.
“I think it’s everybody’s fault," he said. "It’s not U.S. Soccer. It’s soccer in the U.S.”
He said arrogance in American soccer was a fundamental problem.
"There’s a lack of humility," he said. "There’s a lack of modesty with how we approach the sport here. You go to Germany, Spain -- and I’ve had the privilege of living abroad for 13 years and traveling the world all the time to learn from people on how to be a better sporting director, how to be a better coach, how do academy coaches work -- and the one thing you see is that there’s much more humility in the work. You go to speak to a U-14, U-15 coach at FC Barcelona and they want to learn more from you than you from them."
Reyna said those Americans involved in soccer think they're better than they really are and it has caught with them.
"If you go to the local clubs anywhere in the country," he said, "and the U-14, U-15 coach, youth technical director and they have all the answers, they have everything. They tend to be arrogant, they don’t want to listen, they don’t realize what they’re doing isn’t right.”
Reyna said the problem is that people confuse soccer's growth of the last decade with progress. But he says progress has stalled and he fears it will remain stalled. Reyna says talent isn't the problem -- his son Giovanni is one of the top U-15 players in the country -- but the environment is lacking. The solutions begin at home, said Reyna, who pointed to the work of NYCFC under head coach Patrick Vieira in trying to create a culture that pushes players.
He said blaming one person or one institution misses the point.
"I think we need to be focused on progress and not control," he said. "There’s too much focus on who’s got the power and who controls the sport and that’s not going to help us. They’re not going to make the difference."