Atlanta goes Dutch -- not a great idea

The whoops of joy emanating from Atlanta to announce the signing of Frank de Boer as their new coach should be recognized for what they are -- sheer piffle.

And very, very disappointing piffle at that.

Atlanta, with its original signing of coach Gerardo Martino opted for a South American style for their team. A brave and visionary move in the unimaginative world of MLS coaching. But a move that paid off almost instantly -- with a team that played the most exciting soccer in the league and that won the championship in just its second year of existence. Not to mention those enormous crowds at the home games.

Yet here we have Atlanta abandoning the Latin American theme, opting instead for a Dutch coach. Something has gone badly wrong with the Atlanta thinking. Can it be that they have failed to understand what made Martino so special? For a start, Martino is an Argentine with a deep knowledge and understanding of the Latino game. Beyond that, he has many important contacts in South America. He knows the players, too. He could immediately find, for Atlanta, a small group of some of the best players MLS has ever seen, and convince them -- which probably wasn’t easy -- that Atlanta, USA was where they should be playing.

Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Franco Escobar, Yamil Asad (and the one who got away, who was lured to China at the last minute, who would probably have been the most spectacular of all of them, Oscar Romero). These were the guys who got Atlanta off to that sizzling start in 2017.

Such young players have always been available to MLS clubs, should those clubs have been interested. But of course, they have shown little interest. Anyway, Martino must have proved clearly to his Atlanta bosses that there is what amounts to a rule in global soccer: when you sign a foreign coach, you’re also signing on with a foreign soccer culture. Martino brought Latinos -- an English coach would bring English players and attitudes, a German brings the German approach. And a Dutch coach will bring Dutch influence.

Dutch influence seems to be on the rise in the USA at the moment, particularly at the Federation. Just why that should be so is quite beyond me. The Dutch failure to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup surely underlined that the Dutch game is in trouble. It is quite a while since the Dutch had a team worth watching. After its disgraceful performance at the 2010 World Cup final, Dutch soccer -- once personified by the sublime Johann Cruyff -- sunk closer to the level of the dreadful Nigel de Jong.

From the general decline in the caliber of Dutch soccer, to the specific talents of Frank de Boer. This is what Atlanta president Darren Eales (greatly admired around here for bringing in Martino) had to say about him: “Frank de Boer has a distinguished background, both as manager and player, and we’re ecstatic to welcome him to our club.”

No argument that de Boer’s playing record was distinguished -- but to apply that adjective to his coaching career is a stretch too far. Yes, he won four consecutive Dutch titles (2011-14) with Ajax, but that is a feat considerably vitiated by the fact that the Dutch league was by then no big deal. When de Boer took his team into European competition, for those four consecutive years, it never once got out of the first round of play in the Champions League.

Leaving Ajax in 2016, de Boer signed as coach of Inter Milan later that year. That did not go at all well, and de Boer was sacked three months later. In 2017 de Boer tried England, signing on at Crystal Palace, where he lasted only 77 days before being fired. De Boer was taking on the look of a coach who was going to find it difficult to get a top job in Europe.

Now de Boer is in the USA, joining MLS. There’s not much experience of Dutch coaches here. Ruud Gullit took over the L.A. Galaxy for the 2008 season but lasted only four months. Thomas Rongen has been around a bit -- he won the MLS title with D.C. United in 1999. But the most relevant Rongen memory is from 2005 when he -- a Dutchman -- was appointed coach of the supposedly Latino Chivas USA. A disaster -- after just 10 games, Rongen was fired, with a 1-8-1 record. It certainly had all the appearance of a soccer culture clash.

None of that background, of course, appears Darren Eales’s statement. But this does: “When we began our search, we were determined to find someone who fit all of our criteria. In addition to meeting our club’s core values, Frank’s philosophical views for how to play unequivocally aligns with ours.”

Which is what I mean by piffle. If we assume that the amazingly successful Martino met all the club’s “core values” (I mean, how could he not have?), and that de Boer also conforms, we are saying that there is no difference in the Latin and the Dutch approach.

Which is piffle-issimo. So too is the revelation that de Boer’s “philosophical views” on playing style agree totally with Atlanta’s. Well, I guess they would, wouldn’t they? -- that must have been an intriguing part of the job interview.

I read that de Boer will be bringing Total Soccer to Atlanta. And that this means fluidity. A word on that: Total Soccer took the soccer world by storm in the early 1970s, supposedly replacing “rigid” tactics. But it was only the European soccer world that marveled.

The South Americans had already shown us, with the wonderfully free movement of Brazil in 1958 and 1962, and that superb 1970 team -- World Cup winners, all three -- all we really needed to know about the basic tenets of Total Soccer. But the Europeans had failed to pay attention, so Total Soccer was treated as something startlingly new. It was not, and it is not now. The Dutch never won anything with it at its apex, and the Europeans, including the Dutch themselves, have moved on.

Nevertheless, if you do consider Total Soccer a Dutch, or a European, innovation then you will acknowledge that it did have an exceptional quality: it represented an attacking approach. Virtually every other European tactical system is based on strengthening defensive play (the Italian catenaccio, still very much alive when Total Soccer arrived, being the classic example).

But Atlanta has tasted the real thing: Latin American individuality and improvisation as a natural part of a player’s soccer personality, not as something imposed by a system. Why would Atlanta need the artificiality of an out-of-date Total Soccer? It does not -- just so long as Atlanta keeps the faith with its Latino start.

Eales seems to be under the impression that Atlanta is doing just that. Really? When all is said and done, how can Martino and de Boer -- from such diverse soccer backgrounds, Martino an Argentine who played as an attacking midfielder, De Boer a Dutch defender -- turn out, according to the Atlanta yardsticks, to be almost the same person? How likely is that?

I have used the word disappointing, and it is certainly that to see Atlanta, having just emphatically and most excitingly proved that a Latin coach and the Latin game can flourish in MLS, lose its nerve and revert to a trustworthy but standard European coach. Disappointing yes, but it strikes deeper. The hiring of de Boer smacks of betrayal.

32 comments about "Atlanta goes Dutch -- not a great idea".
  1. P T, December 24, 2018 at 1:09 p.m.

    Since it is so disappointing why not outline the alternative options - so the rest of the MLS can hire off your list and move forward with an innovator (I am not trying to be snarky).  ATL will have to learn from their mistake or bask in their brilliance with de Boer.  The other point is since the MLS is so thrifty on spending and short on skilled players, it still may not matter who the manager is - ATL still has a wealth of talent that may still win. 

  2. George Gorecki, December 24, 2018 at 2:19 p.m.

    Funny how Gardner is convinced that Dutch soccer is in decline, yet one look at the rosters of Europe's top clubs shows that they have imported a lot of Dutch players or foreign players who had made their mark in the Eredivisie. Seems to me that MLS could do a lot worse than importing Dutch talent and ideas.

  3. Henry Gankema, December 24, 2018 at 3:26 p.m.

    I agree !!!

  4. Wooden Ships, December 24, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.

    Absolutely Paul and betrayal is accurate. Our dominant culture still thinks looking across the pond is the way. Fricking ridiculous. You’re correct in your historical report of the Latin style preceding anything Europe dreamed up. Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Hannuhka and Kwanza. 

  5. Gonzalo Munevar, December 24, 2018 at 4:20 p.m.

    How disappointing that Atlanta has gone this route.  A truly excellent article!

  6. Dave Wolf, December 24, 2018 at 4:46 p.m.

    A thorough and complete reporting of this story would have included the facts that de Boer speaks Spanish fluently and has been most heavily influenced by the Cryuff inspired Barcelona (they're still decent, aren't they?), NOT the Cryuff inspired Ajax. Gardner's writing has been boring (focusing almost exclusively on the Latin issue) for quite some time, but now its lazy as well.

  7. Wooden Ships replied, December 24, 2018 at 5:02 p.m.

    Dave, we’ve evidently interpreted this article differently. Speaking Spanish is certainly a plus but let’s see which direction he goes. Hopefully, Atlanta has encouraged him to continue looking south. Lazy, a tad harsh wouldn’t you say? He’s one of the few soccer journalists that isn’t afraid to write/speak his mind. If you’ve not noticed nationally, for years and years that a bias in soccer culture exists in the states, then you have been living in the bubble that is US soccer. Nothing personally against the Dutch, it’s part of my ancestry. Wishing him and Atlanta continued fortune. 

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, December 24, 2018 at 7:08 p.m.

    I too think Gardner is making too much of nationalities and ignoring the impact of Cruyff and Dutch Style Principles of play on modern soccer. Good soccer is limited by individuals, not by national borders.

    To think of "Latin" soccer as being a separate path uninfluenced by Dutch principles of play ignores the history at Barcelona, Cruyff's dream team and the era under Guardiola. Finally Ajax is not the typical Dutch club any more than Real Madrid or Barca are typical Spanish clubs. Even Ajax has been inconsistent regarding following Cruyff's ideas. Even Italy has seen improvement from the Dutch principles (the great AC Milan teams.) Through Guardiola, the Dutch influence has been brought successfully to the Bundesliga and to the EPL.  

    The highly successful DC United teams early in the league history depended on South America players. Even when Dutchman Rogen was in charge.

    Instinct tells me that studying how Cruyff and Guardiola have melded Dutch principles at foreign clubs will provide a path to guide US coaches wanting to improve our multiculture game.  

  9. don Lamb replied, December 26, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    Well said, Dave and Bob.

  10. frank schoon, December 25, 2018 at 10:55 a.m.

    I've gotten over my disappointment of TATA leaving. I would have liked to have seen him kept on and be a major influence in US soccer for another couple of years. I even suggested coach of USMNT, but that wasn't in the cards for he couldn't speak english, likewise a weak attribute of Cruyff as well. So I would assume the USSF in their quest for perfection will ,in the near future, stipulate that the MNT coach must have a major in English, a minor in English Lit., in order to be worthy of coaching the great world class talent of players we have.
    A lot of what PG stated I agree upon but when he began talking about Total Soccer, the whole mish-mash, tells me how little he really knows about it. He's just another journalist whose talent is better at typing about soccer. For example, the term "Total Soccer" was made up by soccer Journalists, like himself, who have little understanding ,like the soccer coaches who copied Michels, of how the Dutch really played. Read some of the autobiographies of the players of Ajax or those of the Dutch WC'74 and all to a man have no clue what you were talking about if you mention "Total Soccer". The Dutch followed certain principles of soccer that were way ahead of its time and still employed and has become a standard in much of today's coaching philosophies. These standard/principles is also followed in Latin America. Cesar Menotti,the coach of Argentina won the  WC'78 by copying the Dutch style, which he studied for 3years. Brazil in WC'14 got a lesson in Dutch style/philosophy soccer when Germany cleaned their clocks 7-1. After this major defeat Brazil wised up and followed the Dutch principles as you can see now when watching Brazil. South American soccer have never been the same since the Dutch in WC'74 showed the South American powerhouses, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay how to play soccer, efficient, fast and technical, which lead Pele to state the Dutch played like South Americans but better.
    Coaching and playing styles have become intertwined, unlike 40years ago when you could truly  state a preference between South American and European style.
    NEXT POST...

  11. frank schoon, December 25, 2018 at 12:43 p.m.

    "The hiring of de Boer smacks of betrayal." as stated by PG, is total nonsense. In other words Atlanta United had issued a statement to the Atlanta public, in short, that they will folllow South American style soccer and make a break with European style , influence.. Wow,I totally missed that... I must have been at Pet Smart looking for new kitty litter that day when this statement was made.
    He further denigrated de Boer as just a defender as compared to Tata who was an attacking midfielder. De Boer was a former WINGER who later on chose to play left back, sweeper and centerback, because he was unhappy not getting the ball enough as an attacking leftwing. As a player, he was not fast, but smart for he eliminated his direct opponent through how he positioned off the ball and that the amount of tackles he made in his playing career as a defender for Ajax and Barcelona can be counted on one hand; and realize he as an outside back faced nothing but fast players. This one aspect, the defensive positioning off the ball to eliminate an opponents, so sorely needs to be taught to American players who answer only to speed and physical strength as an antidote. This is what I would call another strand which needs to be placed into the DNA of American players.
    And how can we further bolster the American DNA, as represented by high level of playing and soccer know how, is by hiring coaches of the quality like a de Boer, Tata from abroad for EVERY team in the MLS. This has to come for remember we first brought over great players to introduce the Americans how the game is played, now the next step is to bring over great coaches who played and coached at the HIGHEST LEVEL. Next , you hire Americans as assistent coaches so they can learn the deeper insights. Having a PRO coaching license from the USSF ,just doesn't do it, for there is so much more to be learned and you certainly won't learned it from these two dutch dingbats at the federation who likewise who never did anything in soccer or played at a high level. It reminds me of what Ernst Happel, who Johan Cruyff considered as one of the four coaches in the world like himself who really knew the game, to have said that "you won't find good coaches at the federation of any country for if they were they'll be coaching a professional club." This is why we need to bring in high level type of coaches because of their knowhow that is not found or attained at the USSF...

  12. frank schoon, December 25, 2018 at 1:48 p.m.

    PG's assertion that bringing over foreign coaches would mean they would drag along some of their countrymen. This has some merit but it is hyperbole. Let's look at it a little deeper. No self-respecting good player is going to come and play in the MLS. Only players like a Zlatan, nearing 40, close to using a walker, probably the slowest player in the MLS, is still able to score 20 goals with 10 assist not even playing a complete season will show interest in coming here. The US soccer fan is not interested in seeing a second division Berhalter type of player coming here and play for they wouldn't add anything to the game. I wouldn't mind if de Boer would bring a couple of young talented Ajax players like Frenkie de Jong, or de Ligt but they would never come and are more interested in playing for well-known club in Europe like Barcelona, or City,etc.... We are not going to see an entourage ,if any , from Holland coming. I wouldn't mind a dutch experienced player who is much better and adds stability to the team than what the MLS has, no problem.
    The one thing I would like to see is for the MLS not to hire coaches from Germany, Italy , England, for they have totally nothing to offer the Amerian players, only a coaches from Holland ,France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and some other South American country perhaps...
    On paper, de Boer and Tata look divergent in their experience but both know what good soccer is and both have coached and followed the Cruyfffian philosophy...Both have Barcelona as their apex of experience and both are attacking minded and know the game. They have more in common than you think. Tata had good insight info about the South American players and knows what to look for as far as talent goes but of a lower tier. This was the NICHE Atlantal should keep exploring and keep Tata as an advisor to finding those types of player.
    As far as betrayal goes...there was none..Look at the big picture. Atlanta hired another GREAT, capable coach . It would have been a betrayal if they decided to go on the cheap and hired someone from here , a USSF prospect...
    I have to credit Atlanta for sticking to and finding another high level coach and forego the element of we need a Latino or European. No, we need a good coach who has played at the highest level, and coached at the highest level, and who was technical himself and wants to play an attacking, exciting game.

  13. Kent James replied, December 27, 2018 at 10:16 p.m.

    Nice historical info, well done.

  14. Wooden Ships, December 25, 2018 at 3:58 p.m.

    Merry Christmas guys. Frank, Bob, et al, let me provide my insight into this article and my perspective. Aside from the tactical development of the game and the like discipline required to minimize the threat of a dynamic 1V1 threat, I perceive this from a freedom to play, to dare, to joy with the ball.  I often look at the world, endeavors, from a philosophical frame of reference. My life experiences and sociological training. Classicism vs Romanticism. Parts of the world, nations, are known for particular cultural attributes. I won’t laud one culture over another, but if reviewing depth of art there is a distinction. Having played with and against players from all continents, not counting Antarctica and Australia (are they a continent? Pluto?) I have found a leaning toward business-workmanlike-yeoman like, versus the dreamer, starry eyed, artistic flair type. Classic-Romantic. Tata was successful because of the mix of players, but more importantly his permission to be themselves and play the way they live/love. Coaches are often over rated, too much tactical insistence is repetitive, ultimately boring and counter intuitive to freedom to play. Finding the balance is an art, not a science. We are still on the yellow brick road of soccer empiricism. This hire vs the potential romantic is cryptically what Paul might be implying. 

  15. frank schoon replied, December 25, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you and Bob, R2 ,BG, Kent, etc. all you guys who I so much enjoy conversing with everyday....
    Look , I truly agree with you on the Romantic and the freedom of play allowed by Tata...that's why I miss him so much for Tata was responsible for me being to be able to watch an MLS game to the end instead of for 20min.  
    I"m Romanticist and that is why I so often talk about the old days of soccer when there was freedom of spirit, of thinking, of expressing how you want to play all wrapped up in this innocence.
    And this is why I am a large critic of the coaching school methods for they kill the joy, the freedom,  through scientific analysis, risk aversion , eliminating freedom of play and movement with the ball and that's why we  have such a lack of inidividualism on the field. Can you imagine if the great individualists of soccer were teaching at the coaching school/academy....Can you imagine Tele Santana the coach of the '82 Brazilian team running the USSF coaching school instead of those who teach the dogmatic approaches of soccer, which is like comparing a mercedes to a Russian tractor.
    Tata was nice and although he gave a freedom to attacking impulses he did organize the back end to allow the team to play the way it did....I'm going to miss him.....

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, December 27, 2018 at 3:22 p.m.

    On this topic, I am currently reading Jonathan Wilson's new book (The Barcelona Inheritance). I am only about 80 pages into it so far, but it is thought provoking.

    It won't have anything new (aside from Wilson's views). I have read the usual soccer books, but Wilson brings all the threads together and knits an interesting historical view of how the great Ajax soccer spread to Barcelona and influenced many of the current generation of top coaches in Europe. Soccer in Europe has no national borders. The intial chapter is a concise summary of Cruyff's playing and coaching career, serving as an introduction to the thesis, rather than the center of attention.  

    The book inspires critical thinking about style of play and coaching the senior game, and I am greatly enjoying it. 

    The US is historically a nation of immigrants. Our current president is a second generation citizen and our First Lady is an immigrant. The Southwest is multicultrual with historic Hispanic roots. The USA is in reality a melting pot of cultures. We need to be a melting pot of soccer cultures too, taking the best from each to create something new. This is already happening in top European leagues. If we keeping thinking in terms of cultural stereotypes instead of good soccer, we will be left behind.  

  17. frank schoon replied, December 27, 2018 at 3:46 p.m.

    Bob, not familiar with the book, but keep me up on what you find interesting about it.....

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, December 28, 2018 at 1:28 p.m.

    Frank, I think you will get a chuckle out of this. Wilson explains that Cruyff was more successful managing at Barcelona (than at Ajax) because there were fewer Dutchmen in Barcelona's management. If Paul Gardner reads the comments, he may chuckle too. 

  19. frank schoon replied, December 28, 2018 at 2:23 p.m.

    Bob , you are so right. The dutch are their own worst enemy. Cruyff describes the Dutch with one word, "but". After a thorough analysis , locked tight, a dutchman will always counter you, "But". 
    This is why foreign coaches don't like dutch players for they always question the coach,unlike in England ,Germany,Spain, Italy, where players must do as the coach says. This is why dictatorship could never a get a toehold in the dutch culture, we're too individualistic and have our own opinions. The Knute Rockny's of this world in the world of soccer coaching in Holland wouldn't last a day for they'd laugh at him....In order for a dutch player to respect a coach, he has got to be able to backup ,point by point his analysis of what he wants to do. You sow any doubt and it's over.
    THis is why Nunez the chairman of Barcelona didn't like Cruyff for he had his own ideas about how things should be run.
    Cruyff stated that Bayern is the best run club in longevity for it is run by 3 guys Beckenbauer, Hoeness, Rumminnegge, who all have a glorious soccer backround and know about soccer. 
    In comparison to Ajax, Cruyff stated we have people in controlling functions whose daytime job is to run a plumbing business and have no clue about soccer.
    You will see that in Spain, they have problems with the Director who usually is a upper class person who is not a soccer player but has big buckos and influence.

  20. Bob Ashpole, December 26, 2018 at 8:50 a.m.

    Merry Xmas and happy holidays to everyone.

    I will go even further. Instead of Romanticism vs. Classicism, I think of it as "Attacking Soccer vs. Playing Scared," the vocabulary slightly telegraphing my preference. :) 

    It is not that playing a disciplined, limited role is not fun, but it cannot match the joy of being fully involved in both defending and attacking with the freedom to be creative. Some players prefer the creator role, some prefer the destroyer role, while some want both roles.

    This discussion is important because player personality (attitude) is a key to success in good soccer. In Dutch Style play, players are supposed to be both attacking and defending regardless of which team has the ball. I think of that as the bedrock principle of good soccer. 

  21. Kent James replied, December 27, 2018 at 10:14 p.m.

    Bob, "attacking soccer v. playing scared" is right on the division, though (as you know), your naming scheme is a bit harsh.  I think it is really (as I suspect you know) classic attack v defense, creative v disciplined; as my college coach broke it down, the attack wants to be unpredictable whereas the defense wants to make the attack predictable (and thus, easier to stop).  I would go further in dividing the attacking play into an attack based on a team effort (1 touch passing, constant movement of both players and the ball) v. one that relies more on individual brilliance, though, of course, combining both of those is best (Messi and Barcelona being the prime example).  I think PG would argue the Dutch are more of the team oriented attack, while South American teams are more individual brilliance oriented.  I think each can have it's allure.  Not sure where De Boer falls on this continuum, but I guess we'll find out.

  22. frank schoon replied, December 28, 2018 at 9:12 a.m.

    Kent, having read both Bob and your comments, I would say there isn't really much if any difference between what you say and Bob, perhaps it lies more in semantics. He stated the principles of bed rock soccer is really what it comes down to, all defend ,all attack. Now here is where we break it further down. For example, we know what Messi's strength is and we know what Ronaldinho's strenght was;both played for Barcelona. Ask yourself why does Messi, a great individualist, stink when he plays for the Argentinian National Team and looks like a Superstar when he plays for Barcelona. Let me take it a step deeper the Argentinian team is made great South American ,individualistic, ball players, better man for man than the Barcelona players, in overall comparisons, not necessarily in every case....
    The answer is that Barcelona constructed their team in order to make Messi  function best in what he is good at, it's that simple!
    Barcelona, TACTICALLY, plays in a manner that allows Messi to play less defense, like Ronaldinho.
    One way of doing this is to force the opponents, for example,  to build up on the their left side if Ronaldinho play left wing for Barcelona. In this manner Barcelona  saves Ronaldinho energy for his offensive forays by keeping defensive work away from him. In the same manner this is done with Messi. But in a way, saving energy to create more offensive threats can also be considered helping on defense  because Ronaldinho/Messi  make it easier on their teammates on defense for breathers....In other words we need to look at offense and defense not so in direct terms but also indirect. Another example, Barcelona copied the Ajax and Dutch '74 team style of attack. In other  words the left flank of both teams was called the "Tutti Fruiti" flank (Romantic) , in other words the creative, and playful side flank. But in soccer you need balance, so if one flank is playful than the other side needs to follow more the "classic" or more serious side. That is a defensive maneuver to back the playful side if the ball is lost. SEE NEXT POST

  23. frank schoon replied, December 28, 2018 at 10:07 a.m.

    Kent, even within the "playful, Romantic, Tutti frutti" flank, LOL, there are also defensive steps taken in order for players like Cruyff, who tends to drift to the left side, Keizer, Krol, not to be so encumbered on defense for they want to employ them to  pressure the opponents offensively. And that defensive step was "Gerrit Muhren' ,the left half back, he was not allowed to lose the ball. So when he had the ball the Ajax team felt so relaxed allowing Ajax on offensive, knowing there would be no ball loss that might catch certain players out of position, producing a counter attack. For your information Gerrit Muhren on Ajax had better skills than Cruyff, Muhren was only alowed to use 40%of his abilities in order for Cruyff to be at 100%.
    Likewise on the Dutch WC'74 team, the leftside was the Tutti-Frutti side but in this situation, Rensenbrink the leftwing was not allowed to ever lose the ball, again saving Cruyff having to waste energy on defense. Now Cruyff did play defense , he initiated the high pressure foray on defenders thus forcing the defender's hand. Of course, I forgot to mention, the great van Hanegem who played left halfback, a player many afficionados believed was the star of the Dutch '74 team not Cruyff. This only goes to show you what great individualists/team players they had.
    A word on Total Soccer...I finished reading van Hanegem's autobiography for the 3rd time, since  I always read a great book 3 times following Gurdjieff's,a mystic, suggestion if you want to learn read it 3x. Van Hanegem, like Johnny Rep, the right wing in their autobiographies, BOTH stated the dutch team was so disorganized even 2 weeks before the WC'74 and had no idea how this team would play. As a matter of fact the Dutch team was lucky to qualify. If Total Soccer was how the Dutch played why was nothing heard of this Total Soccer during the Qualification games leading up to the WC. Somehow the term"Total Soccer", had made such a good run. Van Hanegem,stated no one ever mentioned "total soccer", the team finally got together. Realize the Dutch team, had 5 players who were chosen  on the World Team; and not to mention Piet Keizer the greatest left wing Holland ever produced and Cruyff's mentor who played one game in the WC. Cruyff in his last book picked Piet Keizer on his the All Time World Team.

  24. frank schoon replied, December 28, 2018 at 10:08 a.m.

    I wish Van Hanegem's book would be printed in English for he has such deep understanding of the game, a must for an American Coach to read. He is like Cruyff but his insights are easier for the laymen to understand.
    Both Cruyff and van Hanegem were so detailed in their understanding of soccer that once they once had an argument which lasted for 15min on how to best drink a bottle of Perrier water. In an 50th year anniversary game, after van Basten after scored a goal, Cruyff on the field during the game had a 15 min. running discussion with Van Basten why he should have used another part of the foot as related to the spin , the goalie and other possible options....

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, December 28, 2018 at 1:22 p.m.

    Kent, the creative vs. disciplined distinction is a false dichotomy. I can see how my post (without the final paragraph) could be read to support that dichotomy. I agree that a lot of teams attack without discipline, but that is not good soccer. They don't have to play that way. 

    To both attack and defend regardless of who has the ball requires discipline. Teams that successfully play possession style, but not following Dutch prinicples, also are attacking with discipline. I don't want to imply that there is only one way to play the game or even only one way to win matches (aside from the obvious--score more goals). I suspect we all agree that teams playing possession without spans of creativity are not very successful. 

    Style may be a vague term, but I find discussions about style very interesting.     

  26. Kent James replied, December 29, 2018 at 10:26 a.m.

    Frank, I don't know enough about Dutch soccer in the 1970s to have an opinion, but what you're saying makes sense.  While the Dutch may not (themselves) have called it total soccer, I think the world learned (as Bob has advocated) that instead of having some players who are "defenders" and some who are "attackers" (and a few who do both, the midfielders), soccer is better if everyone can attack and everyone can defend (a sentiment I certainly agree with).  On the other hand, PG has consistently argued against making everyone defend, because doing so may prevent them from attacking to the best of their ability (this is what you are suggesting Barcelona does with Messi, and I agree with both you and PG that this is appropriate).  

    Bob, while I agree that it is possible to be both creative and disciplined, there are limits, and there will be tradeoffs.  It's all about risk v. reward.  Taking more risks inevitably leads to more opportunities for the other team to score.  If you are smart about the risks you take, the chances you might score outweigh the opportunities you provide the other team, so it's worth it.  But that may depend on personell and/or the game situation (late in the game protecting a lead you might take fewer risks, though sometimes teams shoot themselves in the foot by trying to take no risks (and hunkering down) which turns out to be quite risky!).  Good teams are creative enough to score goals, but disciplined enough to allow the other team to score fewer.  Undisciplined teams don't think about the big picture; sometimes they are creative and attack minded at the expense of the defense (sending everyone forward, even if some who go have little chance of contributing and leave holes in the defense, e.g.).  Other times, they're just bad (lazy, e.g.).  From your other posts, as Frank said, I'm not sure we're that far apart.  I was only objecting to your characterization of trying to limit the other team's chances on goal as "playing scared".  Good defense (which is often mental more than physical, in that i requires reading to game to see where the potential dangers lie) is as much a part of the game as good offense (good defense forces the offense to up their game).

  27. frank schoon replied, December 29, 2018 at 11:49 a.m.

    Kent, what is meant everybody defends and attacks, means that Messi ,for example, or any good player up front should help out and take part ,instead of standing there, just watching with a finger  up his nose. But his efforts should not extend that it becomes detrimental to his future attacking ability as the game transpires. For example, Messi's role is to cover the opponent's centerback when they have the ball and force them to pass wide thus boxing them in near the sideline. This does not require a lot of energy to carry out the assingment, or Messi needs to position in manner in front the centerback to block a passing lane to an attacking or passing type of midfielder. We tend to subtly think of defense,  as chasing, running from behind , tackling,etc,blah,blah, blah....Well ,if Messi does that a few times he'll have his tongue hanging out of his mouth. In other words the object is for Messi to be chased down not the other way around for it is the latter , it will a tough....
    Yes, you can be creative and play disciplined, at the same time ,Cruyff, Pele, Beckenbauer, Messi,etc all are/were. Be creative when it is called for, but realize it takes discipline first in order to find yourself in a situation that calls for being creative. For example, my favorite position is the wing for you'll find always creative players there but at Ajax, the rule is once you have two defenders marking you don't attempt to be creative, you pass the ball. In other words this is defensive manuever in order for you not to lose the ball, other wise you stand the chance of losing it forcing you to have to run and chase back and lose energy.
    And yes, Kent, their is risk in being creative. At Ajax ,they want the wings to be creative on the opponent's third and that is done when you are 1v1 with the defender, not 1v2. It is ok if you lose the ball in 1v1, let us say, for we still have at 7 players behind the ball and positionally we're safe positioned far away from our own goal. At Ajax the wing must be able to beat the defender 1v1, that's what you're trained and paid for doing.

  28. don Lamb, December 26, 2018 at 9:42 a.m.

    The number of assumptions in this article that are based on stupid stereotypes is worrisome. For starters, we are not just talking about Dutch culutre with de Boer, we are talking about Ajax culture (Luis Suarez and the Barcelona way of playing as two major Ajax exports).

    Many other troublesome arguments based on the assumption that ATL will be abandoning their South American pipeline when nothing at all points to that being the case. Pity Martinez is coming in, and the front office has said that they will continue identifying and recruiting South American talent. De Boer speaks spanish, and he is fully committed to a possession style game, so there doesn't appear to be a massive shift in philosophy here.

    Moreover, another GREAT signal from this hire that is not discussed in the article is the emphasis on youth and homegrown development. Bring it on!

    PS - Did PG notice San Jose's hire of Almeyda? Surely he's predicting San Jose overtakes Atlanta now that one has a South American coach while the other has a lowly Dutch coach, huh?

  29. don Lamb, December 26, 2018 at 9:48 a.m.

    To add: We REALLY should stop this rigid and outdated way of thinking that someone's philosophy, style, personality, qualities, etc. is guided strictly by their nationality. That is the same line of ideological thinking that leads to racism and a generally siloed global perspective.

  30. Wooden Ships replied, December 26, 2018 at 10:24 a.m.

    Point taken here Don, that’s not I referenced or infurred above. Perhaps you are projecting some. What overcomes those items are lived experiences which demonstrate the inaccuracies of generalizations and stereotypes. Appreciate your views sir.

  31. don Lamb replied, December 26, 2018 at 11:50 a.m.

    Cheers, WS

  32. don Lamb, December 26, 2018 at 10:09 a.m.


    Is PG aware of another Dutchman, Dennis te Kloese, being brought to MLS? Hard to imagine how conflicted he is about that one considering he was most recently a major part of the FMF and the main person behind Jonathan Gonzalez' recruitment away from the US. I have a feeling PG won't try to tackle that one -- the nuance might make his head explode.

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