Juan Carlos Osorio on working in Colombia, Mexico and the USA, his goals for the future and how the Chicago Bulls changed him

Of the 32 World Cup 2018 head coaches, one launched his coaching career in the USA -- Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio, a native of Colombia who came to the USA in the mid-1980s. After playing at Southern Connecticut State, Osorio served as an assistant coach of the A-League's Staten Island Vipers and MLS's MetroStars (now Red Bulls) before spending six seasons as Manchester City assistant coach.

After his stint in England, Osorio became head coach of Colombia's Millionarios, in MLS coached the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls, whom he guided to an MLS Cup runner-up finish, and won a Colombian league title with Once Caldas.

His stints with Mexico's Puebla and Brazil's Sao Paulo sandwiched six titles, league and cup, with Colombia's Atletico Nacional. A year after Osorio took the helm, Mexico beat the USA on U.S. soil in World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1972 as El Tri cruised to booking a spot at this summer's World Cup.

Juan Carlos Osorio on ...

His early soccer experience. I grew up in the small Colombia city of Santa Rosa del Cabal, where as a kid you have three choices. You are a bicycle rider. Or you play soccer. And the other one is hang around the town drinking and partying. A small town like that -- it was about 50,000 when I grew up -- you don't have much to do. And I decided to play soccer. And soccer became my life.

Parents' response to soccer. At first, they were disappointed because they wanted me to be a doctor or a dentist. I went to university in Colombia for two semesters to become a dentist and then one day I just quit and said I want to play futbol.

Coming to America. I came as an international student in 1984, to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. Then I went Southern Connecticut College, where I played for Bob Dikranian and Ray Reid [assistant coach].

Adjusting to college soccer. It was tough. It was different. But it was my first taste of direct futbol. Not many passes. Not many long sequences of good passes. It was more, hit long balls and compete for second balls. And set pieces. ... I played central midfield.

The Chicago Bulls influence. I went to Chicago for a month or so. I had a chance to watch the Chicago Bulls practice. I thought, this is fantastic. Everything they train is based on the game itself. It shocked me because in those days -- and I was still playing -- a lot of teams trained in isolated ways. Even now.

If they need endurance, they go running in the forest. If they want to become stronger, they go to the gym. But the problem with the forest and the gym is that there is no decision-making. Running is good. The gym is good. But the training on the field has to be the most important part of training.

American influence on your coaching career. At Southern Connecticut, we did a lot of sports research, learning about the role of the brain. ... I watched how the hockey teams train, the basketball teams play, even American football. I learned a lot from different sports and considered what I could apply to soccer.

One thing that had a great impact on me was how Americans approach the games. They're very honest about it. I learned in my early days in America that you give your 100 percent. And athletically you compete at your best. You respect the opponents. No cheating. For you to become strong mentally you have to do the other things that make you a better athlete. Eat properly. Sleeping enough hours. Being disciplined. My time in the United States definitely marked my life forever.

Coaching education. I got my first license in the USA. The instructor was Mr. Arnie Ramirez. Arnold was very good. At that point he was the very successful coach of Long Island University. It was taught half English, half Spanish -- Spanglish. In 1997, I went to Holland and I took the Dutch certificate. And I also did my English FA license in 2004 and I got my UEFA A license. I have kept learning and getting more and more information about the game and preparation.

Always taking notes. My father worked at an American company, Parke-Davis, which manufactured medicine. And I remember learning from my dad in my early days how to write reports. How the best way to keep track of anything is by writing down the plan, the execution, and how you move through the plan. I learned a lot of things from my dad and even then there was this emphasis on an American way of doing things.

Manchester City. In those days, a lot of English teams played very direct soccer. I was there 2001 to 2006 -- and in the last 12 years many important coaches, continental managers they call them, came to the English game. But 10, 15 years ago, most of the teams were very direct and I got the chance not only to learn what what direct football is but how to counteract it, and also to respect that type of football, and how to prepare my teams to play against it. That's been fantastic, because with Mexico we'll get tested against teams that play direct.

Coaching in Brazil. Very skillful players. They all like to play a free role. It was a challenge to have a team play within a structure, as opposed to having 11 great players play at their will.

Back to Colombia. When I left Colombia and even when I came back, there was a lot of emphasis on tiki-taka -- way too many passes before penetrating. My biggest challenge was trying to combine both -- athleticism, the direct play of the countries where I had been coaching, meaning the U.S. and England, and combine that with the skills of the individual players and trying to make them understand that with talent alone, it's impossible to win big trophies.

Photos courtesy of SUM.

Mexico. I quickly learned the Mexican players are skillful, very technical, very aggressive, but I thought that, like any other country in the world, there were things to improve.

The 18-year Mexican-American El Tri player Jonathan Gonzalez. He's doing well. He's part of the group of young, upcoming Mexican players who have a good presence and hopefully will have a fantastic future with Mexican futbol.

The 'Hispanic Issue' in U.S. Soccer. Soccer is a global sport and for that reason alone, whoever is in charge of the Federation should look to combine different ethnic groups and give a chance to everybody. We know there has to be good talent. It takes top coaches to combine different styles of players and you have to start doing that combination at an early age.

Why Colombia has such skillful players. Because we play in the street. It's like American basketball players. They play at night. At midnight! In the Bronx, in Queens, in many many places. Just by playing you get plenty of experience and you develop good players. Learning to play the game by playing the game itself.

Advice for coaches of 6-, 7-, 8- 9-year-olds. The best training is to play. Just play.

The next chapter of his career. The most important thing right now is the World Cup. I hope, I pray to the Lord that we have a good World Cup, and then I would decide what to do.

I am Colombian, so one day I would like to coach my own national team. But I am also very grateful to the United States and admire this country. I studied here in America. I worked in MLS. My first job in professional soccer was in the U.S. Plus, the fact that my two boys were born in Queens. … The national team job in the United States is as appealing to me as it should be to any other manager because this is a great country.

And finally, if we do a good World Cup, the chances to continue with Mexico will hopefully be there. We'll decide what to do and what's best for everybody. Because there is a group of young players who I would like to see how they develop. I enjoy developing players, consolidating players, and if you can do that, you can do it in any nation that has good training facilities and is willing to spend some money on youth development.

10 comments about "Juan Carlos Osorio on working in Colombia, Mexico and the USA, his goals for the future and how the Chicago Bulls changed him".
  1. frank schoon, March 23, 2018 at 10:31 a.m.

    < "Advice for coaches of 6-, 7-, 8- 9-year-olds best training is to play. Just play.Why Colombia has such skillful players. Because we play in the street">
    It can't be more plainer than that!!! Coaches or rather the USSF doesn't realize how important playing "street ball or pickup soccer" is to player development.
    Rinus Michells stated that pickup/street soccer combines TWO of the most important elements of the game that players learn which is no longer seen or emphasized in player development. In other words today players learn tactics and technique as a SEPARATE function. The typical USSF licensed coach during practice works on skill exercises and then talks about tactics and how to play. This is where it all goes WRONG!!  
    Players in the street/pickup soccer employed and developed their SKILLS as related to the specific moment of the game in which they find themselves in. The more they play pickup/street soccer, the more they will experience  similar soccer situations repeating themselves, over and over, resulting in the player learning the techniques needed to be  employed. The players learn from other players ,better or older players, how and when to use certain techniques related to the particular game situations at hand. NO COACH BUT NO COACH ,regardless of the number of coaching licenses he possesses,  can teach this process , for it can only be learned through the process of playing. This is why Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michells stated that street soccer/pickup soccer was the greatest training grounds for player development, not coaches.
    Today you can go to any youth practice and you will notice that no coach(it is very rare) will a stop a small sided during practice and explain and demonstrate the a certain skill needed in a particular situation. This particular important aspect was a normal function in pickup/street soccer. 
    As a result players were more insightful, and thoughtful and SMARTER about the game during my street soccer days for everything they did had a thought behind it because their skills needed to coincide with the game situation at hand. And unfortunately this is not what is happening to player development today for coaches , train and coach technique and tactics,as a separate function

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2018 at 12:20 p.m.

    Frank, I am a big believer in the traditional progressive training session approach for youth (8-12), where one session has to address all aspects of player development. It maximizes long term learning. (Introduce targeted technique/perform repititions in isolation under increasing pressure/introduce a small sided game context/introduce a full sided context/end with unrestricted play like a match). I used different approaches to teach mentality, attacking, defending, and ball skills. My approach for fitness was in planning and controlling the work rates during the sessions.

    But these typcally twice-a-week organized training sessions should just be a small part of a players week of playing pickup sports.

    I think this fits with your views. What I think is important about the session structure is that it gives coaches an opportunity to observe and correct technique before players use the techniques in progressively more match like contexts. In other words coaches provide a progression of soccer problems to solve using the technique until players are deciding when to use the technique under match conditions. 

    I see organized training sessions for youth as a supplement, not a replacement for street soccer. Of course the problem today is that most kids don't play outside of the training sessions. This is why I call competitive soccer "self-selecting." The better players will usually be the ones that play the most. Development is that simple at the youth stage.    

  3. frank schoon replied, March 23, 2018 at 1:07 p.m.

    Bob, no disagreement on what you state. For example , today , I would show a move and then I tell them when this move or technical should be employed.
    During a small sided ,I will stop the game at  the moment this move should have be applied. This way ,I instill in them the connection of the move to the particular situation at hand. In my days street soccer playing days we didn't have to stop the game to make the player aware, for after so much street soccer the situation repeat itself so often that kid automatically identify it. Kids today don't have that luxury like I did and therefore the coach had the be canary in the coalmine ,so to speak, in warning he players when to apply the move...
    The problem, I find , is that there so few coaches who are able to express  the needed technical qualifications  unless they themselves have played and were very technical players; and this is why prefer to see attacking oriented players as youth coaches rather than defenders for they have limited scope in expressing the technical need at hand.
    So when I watch a small sided game, in any particular game situation at any moment as I see it develop, my mind is already thinking what skill to apply for the further movement of the ball to the next station. 

  4. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2018 at 12:35 p.m.

    Bob, here is column translated from the 'De Telegraaf" about Cruyff by J de Groot

    Today it is two years ago that Johan Cruijff passed away. Ronald Koeman, as a player in Barcelona, ​​grew up with the vision of the legendary Number 14. On the eve of his first international match, the national coach ended up in a discussion about the system to be used. Will it be 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 or should it remain 4-3-3 for Orange? Today it is two years ago that Johan Cruijff passed away. Ronald Koeman, as a player in Barcelona, ​​grew up with the vision of the legendary Number 14. On the eve of his first international match, the national coach ended up in a discussion about the system to be used. Will it be 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 or should the Orange just remain 4-3-3? Our way of playing during the World Cup in 1974 got the name total football. Who does not know it, I do not know, but it does cover the load. Total football is, apart from the quality of the players, mainly a question of distance and meters. That is the basis of the whole tactical thinking. If the distances and spaces are correct, everything is walkable.


    It also closes closely. It can not be the case that someone goes hunting by himself. Then it does not work. Someone starts provoking and then the team has to switch immediately as a whole.




  5. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2018 at 12:55 p.m.

    An example. If I put pressure on a right-footed defender, I would hunt for his right leg. As a result, he was forced to fit with his weak left leg. At that moment Johan Neeskens came from the left and that opponent was forced to act faster with his left leg. This way his problem was increased extra.

    To do that, Neeskens had to let go of his husband. His opponent was therefore free, but could not walk with Neeskens because from our defense Wim Suurbier was moved to the position of Neeskens.

    Because he had to keep an eye on Wim, this opponent came with his back to the duel between Neeskens and me with his fellow player. For example, a man-more situation was created quickly and effectively.

    So in summary: I put pressure on the opponent's strong leg, Neeskens did the same on his weak side and Suurbier made sure that Neeskens' opponent was forced to stay in his position. This all happened within a circle of five to ten meters.



  6. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    That is actually the essence of total football: you always do what you see. And never what you do not see. You have to have the overview and see the ball. The distances on the field and between the lines are essential. If you play football like that, even the goalkeeper is one line. "


    Cruijff's explanation is indeed based on 4-3-3, but the essence is playing space. From a dominant and goal-oriented competition institution. So chase instead of waiting and depthing instead of playing back balls.

    Cruijff's explanation is indeed based on 4-3-3, but the essence is playing space. From a dominant and goal-oriented competition institution. So chase instead of waiting and depthing instead of playing back balls.



    Then the core: performed by coaches and players with spatial insight.


  7. Arnold Ramirez, March 24, 2018 at 6:37 a.m.

    Juan Carlos Osorio is an excellent coach . It is a shame that the so called experts in Mexico keep putting him down. He has changed the mentality of the Mexican players and the way they play. 

  8. frank schoon replied, March 24, 2018 at 11:10 a.m.

    Arnold, would you go into it a little deeper about what these so-called Mexican experts state about Osorio. I don't pay that much attention to the Mexican soccer scene, but I would like to know a little more "inside baseball',furthermore how did Osorio changed some of the Mexican mentality and the way they play.....

  9. R2 Dad, March 25, 2018 at 1:05 a.m.

    I rate Osorio highly, but he's the South American equivalent of Jurgen Klinsmann--always tinkering with the lineups, playing people out of position. I figure he would do well here as the next coach of the USMNT but our media wouldn't treat him any better than the flack-catcher he is in Mexico for playing a 3-3-1-3 last night, even though El Tri won 3-0.

  10. Ric Fonseca replied, April 7, 2018 at 2:55 p.m.

    Gentlemen/Senores:  First I agree with A. Ramirez above, however I do not put too much validity on the "so-called Mexican experts." who are a peso a dozen, as everyone in soccer-dominant countries seems to be such an "expert."  To put it simply, any, and I mean A-N-Y Mexican NT Coach will ALWAYS be demonized and I'd venture to say spat upon by the "experts."  That Osorio has lasted this long, it is IMHO, because he has been able to impose his style on the MNTeams, BUT.. I would not go so far as to equate him as the "equivalent of Jurgen Klinsmann...(sic)" because any coach worth his "salt and pepper" will tell you, he/she MUST prepare his/her team for the opposition. So is it tinkering? Heck no! I can tell that he prepares his team for the opposition, whether it be an English, German, colombian, or Costa Rican or US team.  Betcha many will say the same about B. Arena or the curent US MNT coach (see, I've even forgotten his name!!!) 
    Lastly, Senore/Gents, I would mind seeing Osorio named as the US MNT Head Coach, and he just might be some day, as who'd be better than him knowing the US "system of play' or how other countries prepare their teams?  And.... can we forget the greats of the past Rinus Michels, Johann Nr. 14, Cruyff and focus on the here and now???  Just sayhin' PLAY ON!!! 

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