Barry Pauwels on U.S. Soccer's Belgian-Dutch leadership, Raphael Wicky's expertise, and the Youth Task Force

Barry Pauwels, who arrived from Belgium, has been U.S. Soccer’s Director of Coach Education for nearly two years. He succeeded Nico Romeijn, the Dutchman who after serving in that role since 2015 became U.S. Soccer’s Chief Sport Development Officer. Pauwels also served as an assistant coach along with Canadian Ante Jazic to Swiss Raphael Wicky during the USA’s 2019 U-17 World Cup campaign last a month.
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SOCCER AMERICA: What was your coach education role in Belgium?

BARRY PAUWELS: I was responsible in Belgium for all programming from the grassroots to the A level and the pro level. Belgium is a little bit of a complex country where you have the Flemish Dutch-speaking parts, and you have the French-speaking part. Education is basically the responsibility of the communities and it's driven by the government. I was responsible for coaching education for the Flemish part of the Belgian federation.

SA: You were a part of the Belgium’s relatively recent rise in soccer world?

BARRY PAUWELS: I was involved in a lot of steps of the process. The real process started after the dip in 1998. Sometimes you have to hit the bottom before people start to reflect. We saw that we were in bad shape and then we started to study successful teams and successful nations in soccer.

SA: Such as?

BARRY PAUWELS: In the 1990s you had Ajax being really successful. We also looked at France, which won the 1998 World Cup. And then of course Spanish soccer, its national team, started to grow and improve.

And Barcelona, influenced by Johan Cruyff. So we looked at all these models to see, how did they build up. How do they regain the ball, and how do they transition. Looking at the strengths of those successful teams, and then we reflected on how we could do it.

And we saw that we needed to adapt if we had the intention of becoming successful in the future.

SA: How did Belgium do it?

BARRY PAUWELS: The first thing you do is you develop an identity, you develop a style of play. Then it’s about implementation. How you implement a new identity? And coaching education was the main way to inspire coaches through all players of education because they create on a daily basis the environment where players develop. It's ultimately all about player development.

That was huge part. Then, first, we used the youth national teams to test on the highest to see if it could be successful. The second part is we were inspirational for our clubs because it was no longer about a theoretical framework, but it also got implementation through the national teams. And you inspire clubs and you inspire coaches.

We built an identity that you saw from U-15 to the first team. You saw a clear style of play. Clear identity. And the only thing that changed was the size of the shirt. That was built on the belief that this was really important for player development.

But it would not be correct for our  [Belgian] federation to take credit for what is happening now, because you are in a small nation, you only have 400,000 people involved in soccer – and clubs and clubs coaches are more important in development than national teams. Players spend more than 95% of their time in the club environment. Coaching education is the driver to steer change and inspire people.

SA: How did you end up at U.S. Soccer?

BARRY PAUWELS: My role at the Belgian federation included giving training sessions, doing workshops, working in a UEFA context in study groups -- so you meet a lot of people. One of the people who noticed me was Ryan Mooney [U.S. Soccer’s Chief Soccer Officer, who left the federation in December 2018].

Ryan basically reached out and started a conversation. We had a couple of really interesting conversations exploring ideas and challenges and U.S. Soccer’s next steps.

The day the U.S. got eliminated from 2018 World Cup qualifying was the day I decided to come to the U.S. I had really inspirational and open conversations with leaders of the federation that gave me a lot of inspiration, a lot of energy, and motivation and courage to make that decision.

We are all a big family in American soccer, the people in the clubs, the members – and ultimately and hopefully I will be able to contribute because of what I learned in Belgium: It takes vulnerability and people with good intentions who leave their backpack behind. To have honest conversations and try to get on the same page.

I say this from the bottom of my heart: If we are able at some point, with all technical leaders, and all influencers in the game, to get on the same page in this country, I have never seen, and I have also worked a little bit in China and I have worked all over Europe, the huge possibilities we have here.

SA: As far as getting on a country on the same page and creating an identity and playing style, in addition to you arriving from Belgium, U.S. Soccer’s leadership includes Earnie Stewart (Sporting Director), Nico Romeijn (Chief Sport Development Officer) and Wim Van Zwam (lead coaching instructor), who all hail from the Netherlands. Belgium and the Netherlands are nations significantly different from the United States demographically and geographically, background of kids, background of coaches. What makes you think the best way for American soccer to be run is by people from countries that are so different than ours?

BARRY PAUWELS: It's a really legitimate question. And I would ask the same question if I were in your shoes, because I'm a guest in your country. And it's not about my ideas, and bringing everything we've done in Belgium and coming here and to copy it. That's not how it works.

I've been hired because I have a certain level of expertise in setting up and leading coaching education and improving the processes within coaching education, but I've been mostly hired because off my attitude and because of the fact that I recognize that every coaching education process and every development process of a player is based on an identity. And the identity in Belgium is different that the identity in Holland, and it's only a 15-minute drive to go from one county to another.

So it's based on culture. So when I come in, the first thing is to try to understand the complexity of the game and how the game is organized and how culture can influence things like an identity and style of play. And then when you look at the implementation, [in the USA] you have more than 100 members, more than 100 organizations involved in organizing soccer, supporting players in their development, supporting coaches in their development.

What I've learned and what I bring in, the first thing I bring I think is the knowledge and the expertise that if you want to build an identity you need to do it in a partnership. And I think the [Youth Task Force, coaching] Working Group is a really good implementation of the fact that you now see that U.S. Soccer recognizes and wants to work in close partnership with its members. And I couldn’t be more happy with that.

Six months after his election to U.S. Soccer presidency, Carlos Cordeiro in July of 2018 proposed a task force to address American youth soccer issues. In October 2018, U.S. Soccer launched a nine-member Youth Soccer Task Force, which was followed by the creation of six working groups. The Coaching Working Group is staff-supported by Pauwels.

That's what we created with all those Working Groups based on specific focuses and challenges we have, in referee matters, standards & certification ... coaching matters.

So how can we bring all that expertise and these different views and processes all together and have a meaningful discussion to first evaluate where we are in this country, and second, determine what are our next steps that we can all make together to improve. One of my responsibilities is to help support that process.

SA: The Youth Task Force did not include Latinos in its Working Groups when the number of people involved grew to 60, even though the USA population under age 18 is 25% Latino and the U.S. youth national program pool in 2019 is about 40% Latino. Carlos Juarez has since been was added to the Coaching Working Group after the absence of Latinos had been pointed out. But what did you think when you saw that the Coaching Working Group didn’t include Latinos? Especially considering U.S. demographics and the success of the Latin style of soccer?

BARRY PAUWELS: I like the question and the comparison you try to make. But when you look at the Working Group we started out with, it was put together because they were specific experts. All with a different background from all across the country representing various organizations, and that's why those people were there.

The second part was Mike Cullina, our chair who leads the working group and ourselves, we knew that we didn't have enough representation and we didn't have enough expertise. That's why this group is continuously open.

Mike is continuously looking for more expertise. Looking for more variation in the representation. Making sure that the organizations are represented, making sure that the communities are represented.

U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force’s Coaching Working Group
Within in the last two months, the composition of the Coaching Working Group for the U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force that was launched in October of 2018 has added Carlos Juarez, Yael Averbach, Tom Turner and Tom Condone. No longer in the group is Nick Perera from the original eight. (Perera is currently in Paraguay playing for the USA in the Beach Soccer World Cup.)

SA: We just watched the USA and Mexico at the U-17 World Cup. Mexico finished runner-up and the USA failed to reach the second round.

BARRY PAUWELS: I was part of the staff ...

SA: When you came back, and as you know we have a very large Mexican-American soccer-playing population, kids who play that style of soccer, did you go back to the Working Group with and say, "Let's reflect on what Mexico is doing"?

BARRY PAUWELS: It's about how experiences steer you as a technical leader in a department or an organization that allows you to build knowledge and to challenge some of your expertise. But in each tournament you will have key moments that decide if you will go on or not go on. Just to rely on one observation, just remember we played Mexico in Concacaf U-17 final, and we were the better team. [Mexico won, 2-1, in overtime.]

There are a lot of things that we do good. But we come back and we will take the time to reflect and that doesn't mean me reflecting alone. I was one of the assistant coaches, so I was part of the team. The reflection will be done by a bigger group of people and will be shared with Gregg [Berhalter] and Earnie [Stewart] and with Kate [Markgraf]. There will be a bigger group reflecting on that experience and taking lessons out of it, and to see how we can improve our processes in order to be more successful.

Losing 4-0 to the Netherlands in its final group game -- after a 4-1 loss to Senegal and a 0-0 tie to Japan -- ranks the performance of Raphael Wicky's team with the worst of the USA's 17 appearances at the biennial U-17 world championship.

SA: The USA, the only nation to qualify for all but one U-17 World Cup, has been relatively successful at that level and reached the quarterfinals two years ago. What went wrong this time?

BARRY PAUWELS: You can focus on two things. You can focus on the process and you can focus on the result. So I would say, let's first focus on the process.

I think the Federation made an incredible move to hire a new head coach with the expertise of Raphael Wicky. I was part of his first training session when he arrived and I have been part of the last games at the World Cup. I have rarely seen someone with his competency and his level of experience coaching at that level. I think we made a really good move to bring him in.

SA: What do you mean by his experience coaching at this level?

BARRY PAUWELS:  I mean coaching at the under-17 national team if you know that he coached in the Champions League the year before and he was a head coach at the high level of competition -- that means you have a unique skill set and you have unique abilities to operate at that level. The fact that U.S. Soccer brought in a coach of that magnitude to support the process of developing players at the under-17 level -- that's for me exceptional.

SA: You still think it was a good idea to have this team coached by someone who had not coached American kids until he came in March? And neither of his two assistants had experience coaching U.S. players at a world championship.

BARRY PAUWELS: The main task of a coach is to create a learning environment for children in order to steer their development the next level. Ultimately that development will be crucial in long term. We all the time aim for long-term development. Of course, you have some tournaments where you create measurements. At the international level you have European Championships, Concacaf Championships -- confederation championship -- and then you have World Cups.

When you look at the expertise, there was a lot of expertise in the coaching staff. On the player level, both Ante [Jazic] and Rafa had big careers as players. They have experiences coaching with youth national teams, Rafa in Switzerland and Ante in Canada. Myself, I was at two European Championships with Belgium U-19 women. I was at the U-17 European Championship in Azerbaijan a couple years ago. So you have a lot of expertise.

And children do not differ from each other. They all have the same basic needs. We talk about generation management more than the factor of a nationality. Of course that comes into the equation, but it's about being able to manage a certain age group, manage a certain level of generation.

And I think the coaching staff did well.

SA: How do measure that they did well? Obviously we don't how many of the players will succeed at the higher levels, but considering the results, with Wicky coming in March, what do you see as signs of success and that the Wicky hiring was a good idea?

BARRY PAUWELS: It's all about long-term development. All players are on a pathway. Allow me to look at the Belgian context for example, the generation that is playing now, which has Kevin De Bruyne and all these big players, even had difficulties to qualify for a tournament in Europe. They never won big prizes. At the youth level, it was all about developing the individual. Because ultimately you go to the first team that is where players from different age groups and categories come together.

I think looking at the process of player development from a long-term perspective is really, really important.

SA: The first coach-education initiatives to come out of the U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force have just been announced …

BARRY PAUWELS: The Task Force Coaching Working Group has two major responsibilities. The group discusses topics that are based on two specific areas. The first one is to improve accessibility to the courses. We do that by identifying barriers that coaches have to educate themselves. So the Working Group produces advice and recommendations in order to improve the accessibility of the courses.

The second area is how do we grow this pool of instructors. To run more courses, we need add more instructors.

U.S. Soccer’s Coaching Education Pilot Coaching Programs based on Youth Task Force recommendations.
Modify the requirements for the Grassroots Instructor License course, changing the prerequisite from a B-License to all C-License coaches.
Modify the C-License course format from a two five-day commitment to a five two-day commitment, and D-License course format from a two three-day commitment to a four day-and-a-half commitment.
Expand the in-person Grassroots courses from a 12:1 candidate to instructor ratio, to an 18:1 ratio.

BARRY PAUWELS: We got feedback and questions, can we tweak this, and we said, OK, let's get on the same page. We created the Working Group. Let's try to identify areas where we can improve. Let's listen to the people who on a daily basis implement and organize these courses. Let’s get that feedback and let's be really, really open minded. And based on that feedback we created the pilot courses and we will see what feedback we get from the pilot coaches.

We are open to change. I think we and all of our members have the same ambitions. Now we have the vehicle to exchange ideas, where we exchange experiences, and based on these experiences we develop new initiatives. And co-create the future together.

SA: In 2018, U.S. Soccer replaced the F and E licenses with the Grassroots Pathway, which made starting the licensing process convenient with online courses and I liked them very much because of their Play-Practice-Play approach

BARRY PAUWELS: We have the online courses 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, 11v11 -- but we also have the in-person courses for those four. In January 2020, we will announce Spanish courses for the in-person 4v4, 7v7, 9v9 and 11v11 courses. We are now in the last phase of translation for all of these courses. We have pilot-tested the 7v7 in-person. Those courses are going through their final revisions. Also the online health and safety module. We are hopeful to launch the in-person Spanish courses early next year.

We envision to go through the same process with the online courses. We're aiming by the end of 2020 to have all the 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, 11v11 courses translated and acceptable for Spanish-speaking for the end of 2020. We expect the first course to be available by the summer of 2020.

SA: For the higher level courses, one challenge has been the travel cost for candidates. Has that been addressed?

BARRY PAUWELS: This year we had about 40 coaching C license courses. So more accessibility can be created by increasing the number, so now we go from 40 to 50 in 2020.

The C course is organized by our members. The U.S. Soccer coaching department does the C license the B, A license, both senior and youth. Our members do C license and below.

We support our members in strategic planning. We organize a lot of workshops. We provide a lot of data to see how you can detect areas in your geographical surface where your coaches live.

SA: How would you describe the Federation's relationship with United Soccer Coaches? In 2015, U.S. Soccer stopped allowing candidates to skip lower-level U.S. Soccer courses if they had diplomas from the NSCAA (now United Soccer Coaches).

BARRY PAUWELS: United Soccer Coaches is a member of U.S. Soccer. That means they can run our courses. They also run grassroots courses. United Soccer Coaches is a big organization with really good people on board. Again, we're all on the same team.

We try to improve environments for children who on a daily basis go to the training field and want to have the best time of their lives. They arrive with great expectations and we believe as U.S. Soccer that experience can best be delivered by a licensed coach. Because you educate yourself in how to create the best possible environment for children, where they can enjoy, where they can be challenged. Where they get support and further develop. That's what we all try and do.

SA: One of the complaints from DA clubs is U.S. Soccer requires coaches to have a B licenses, which increase clubs’ financial challenges. They have to pay for their coaches to obtain the B license or hire B license coaches who can require higher pay because of the high demand for B license coaches. Why wouldn’t a C icense qualify someone to coach U-14s or U-13s?

BARRY PAUWELS: In every country, it's like this.

SA: Assuming the goal is to create world-class players and the USA becoming a world power on the the men's side, what do you think are the biggest challenges and what makes you most optimistic?

BARRY PAUWELS: I'm an optimist, so let me start on that side. We have high-level universities. We have a high-level educational system. There's a lot of research going on in the U.S., and it's world-class research. There are all these organizations, like the Aspen Institute, that do all this great work, and many, many more, to partner up with. They do incredible work in research.

For us, as a Federation, it's really important that we keep on looking at research to make meaningful decisions, the best decisions.

We are in a country where sports is part of society. I come from a country where sports is not part of society. The level of facilities we have here is nowhere else in the world. The number of clubs. The importance of sports in education is really, really important. That's not the case elsewhere in the world.

Then you have our mindset to improve. Our mindset is to do better everyday. Our dream to someday be No. 1. I think these are the biggest attributes one can ask for. You have knowledge, you have the culture, and then you have the facilities to run that.

Now how do we as a Federation take all these possibilities, co-create, collaborate, bring people together, because that's then the challenge. With different organizations and different levels, how do we bring people together? How do we unite?

But I can tell you when I walk into the office at 8 a.m. in the morning and I leave at 6 p.m., I know that people at U.S. Soccer House, and people from all of our members, they also wake up with that energy to bring people together and discuss -- to further improve the game.

16 comments about "Barry Pauwels on U.S. Soccer's Belgian-Dutch leadership, Raphael Wicky's expertise, and the Youth Task Force".
  1. Bob Ashpole, November 25, 2019 at 7:27 a.m.

    People use terms like "style of play" and "identity" constantly, but the more I see it the more I doubt that these terms have any definition. It reminds of studying "social sciences" in University. 90% of the "knowledge" was smoke and mirrors, i.e., learning a vocabulary and then parroting back the words in an acceptable manner to pass the course. 

    Some would say that soccer and USSF are a lot like those University professers teaching the social sciences. The trick is to see past the smoke and mirrors to identify the best 10%.

    I was actually impressed with Mr. Pauwels as I am with Belgium's football progress. But--there is usually a but.... Mr. Pauwels basic premises lead to a paradox. 

    1. "The first thing you do is you develop an identity, you develop a style of play. Then it’s about implementation."  

    2. "every coaching education process and every development process of a player is based on an identity. So [identity is] based on culture. So when I come in, the first thing is to try to understand the complexity of the game and how the game is organized and how culture can influence things like an identity and style of play."

    The paradox is two sided. First we are a geographically vast nation of different cultures, including Asian and Hispanic, not just European. Second the American tradition reflects our heritage of former colonies born in revolution. The American tradition is independence, initiative and ingenity.

    Then there is also the trouble I have in following his logic. We develop an identity, but that idenity is based on our culture, which Pauwels has presumeably studied and determined. Then we impose this "developed identity" on everyone.

    That is a great plan, but not how real life works. Every club in Holland doesn't play like Ajax. Ajax doesn't even always play like Ajax. Ditto for Spain and Barcelona. 

    This is not how great players of the past developed their skills. They did it in American fashion by playing unorganzied soccer in streets and vacant lots. This happened in the historically great soccer nations of South America and Europe too.


  2. Beau Dure replied, November 25, 2019 at 9:16 a.m.

    I have indeed wondered if it makes sense to have a "national style," and I first wrote about that maybe 10 years ago, when Bruce Arena scoffed at the idea, saying we're too diverse. 

    For recently, I started to wonder what we would do if we decided "OK, we're going to go possession only without a target forward," only to have someone like Abby Wambach emerge. Do we just not play her on the national team? Maybe not have Megan Rapinoe lob the ball for her?

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, November 25, 2019 at 10:17 a.m.

    Exactly, but it see it more on the macro level. I believe that fundamentals should be the focus of player development, including principles of play. "Formations" and "style of play" are matters of team training and what I see as a game plan.

    I believe that the training curriculum for player development ought to be the same regardless as to what team tactics they will be playing at the senior level. At a certain stage of player development, the future professionals will begin to be associated with particular professional clubs. At that point they can start preparing specifically to play at that club. 

    I am glad you mentioned "target forward". These are what I call role player positions. My belief is that we should develop players cabable in all the roles, defending, ball winning, attacking, and playmaking. On any particular team there will be a mix of abilities in the players. The coach should figure out how to make the strongest team with that mix, but that doesn't mean we should intentional produce players lacking some important abilities. 

    What position a particular player is assigned all depends on who else is available. So why aspire to develop 1-footed 1-dimensional role players? We will no doubt always produce less than perfect players, but that should not be the objectivve.

  4. Kent James replied, November 25, 2019 at 9:44 p.m.

    I agree on the "national style" question. Twenty years ago (and earlier) there were distinct national styles, with the primary divide being the English (physical style, long passing, high pace) v. the Latin style (Brazil) focused on ball control, short passing, dribbling and deception.  But I feel like both sides have moved towards each other, so the distinctions are much less significant (and with most of the best players playing in the top European leagues with people from other countries, such a blend should not be surprising).  There are still some outliers (Spain comes to mind) but more often teams are defined by their most talented players, and the succesful teams adopt their styles to allow their most talented players to excel. 

    I think instead of adopting a national style (I think anyone using that description be required to define what it means and how it differs from other national styles), we develop the best players we can, we bring the best players into the national team, and we adopt our style to suit their skillset.  Granted, you may have to make some stylistic decisions if you have different style players who are equally good, but you try to find players who can contain their opponents while also exploiting their weaknesses.  I think trying to get all our youth teams playing the same "style" is counterproductive.  

  5. frank schoon, November 25, 2019 at 10:14 a.m.

    Reading this interview , I had tough time not biting my lip. The questions of the interview were better  than the  wishy washy CYA answers from Barry Pauwels. I mean, the double speak, the meaningless generalities, evoked here are just embarrassing. We are being over run by professor types, classroom types, who couldn't take on a lamppost one on one running the soccer(show) development here. Reading this interview tells how bad our soccer situation really is. Guys, if you can't see the 'BALONEY" here  for what it is, then good luck to you...

    Check this out. In reference to U17 WC ,what went wrong????? Here is the RESPONSE! He basically has to give cover for Wicky, stating how lucky we are to have him as a very competent  coach, and ofcourse indirectly he subtly implies himself and the whole staff as well....That was basically his answer in a nutshell. In other words  we still don't know anything. A real soccer person like Johan Cruyff would have given you the run down, Technically and tactically speaking. For example, Cruyff at one of the youth's world cups where Van der Vaart and Wesley were playing, gave a synopsis on what was all wrong. In summation , the only  Barry Pauwel's stated what was that how EXCEPTONAL  it was to hire Wicky......THAT'S IT!!!!.  I have a good nose as far as sensing who knows the game well upon hearing or reading their explanations and I can certify that I'm impressed with Barry Pauwels ..... NOTHING OF INTEREST WAS SAID OR EXPLAINED, OTHER THAN CYA!!!!!!!!!!
    I fault SA for not having a follow up question, like "What did you notice we need to work on ,or went wrong, technically, tactically, because that is what a good dutch soccer journalist would have asked......Of course this particular aspect is lacking in American soccer journalism which is not getting into the NUTS AND BOLTS of the game whereby the reader can actually learn something....

    NEXT POST....

  6. frank schoon, November 25, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    SA, posed the question concerning the effectiveness of American soccer run by people from countries that are different from ours. In short, yes, we need foreign expertise, but not these IDIOTS, these professors, classroom types who bring over here, who love to talke about ORGANIZATION, COMMITTEES, WORKING GROUPS, TASK FORCE, I mean BLAH,BLAH ,,BLAH....Here's his answer,,< I've been hired because I have a certain level of expertise in setting up and leading coaching education and improving the processes within coaching education, but I've been mostly hired because off my attitude and because of the fact that I recognize that every coaching education> that's what we need...This guy is a policy wonk and does part time work as a coach as far as I'm concerned.

    The bottom is what is being taught and who is teaching.....Well as you can see I'm not impressed what is being taught and WHO teaches our youth. We need real people as often I stated ,like a Zlatan, Villa, Valderama, Cubillas, Etcheverry, etc ,etc, types likes that can actually do something with their feet, with their high level experience, who cut through the VERBAL, baloney these classroom types evoke,who we pay big money too.

    SA inquires on style and Mexico is doing. Barry answers,NOW GET THIS VERBAL BARAGE, <  It's about how experiences steer you as a technical leader in a department or an organization that allows you to build knowledge and to challenge some of your expertise. But in each tournament you will have key moments that decide if you will go on or not go on. "> 
    Guys, I"m stopping here before my brain is about to blow out concerning all of the BS expressed in this interview.... 

  7. Philip Carragher, November 25, 2019 at 11:20 a.m.

    Yikes. This reminds me of corporations hiring consultants to take an inordinate amount of time and get paid buckets of money to come up with platitudes that lead to what? One best practice I'd like US Soccer to deploy: like in Brazil, have a truly competent U-14 coach in each soccer community be responsible for the training and assessment of local players; this well paid and revered coach makes sure that the players going on to higher levels are ready for it. By the way, I love watching Mexico play. Lastly, and I agree with these comments, that it would be best to train players with all the requisite physical and thinking skills that a good coach can then mold into positional players that best fits the team; however, despite my son having used that very approach, when it came time for college recruiting most coaches showed up looking for players to plug into specific positions and never seemed to, for example, consider a highly skilled forward for a midfield position.

  8. frank schoon replied, November 25, 2019 at 11:50 a.m.

    Philip, I was not impressed with Mexico in the least...Brazil was the best soccer playing team in all its aspects, positionally, and especially technically, they were miles ahead of the other teams......They were a joy to watch but Mexico ,other than someone who has free-kick ability, didn't impress me...

  9. R2 Dad replied, November 25, 2019 at 3:27 p.m.

    PC--it is, after all, NCAA-approved/managed/dictated college soccer. The limitations of the league rules dictate all else. No surprise college coaches are unable to think outside the box.

  10. frank schoon, November 25, 2019 at 1:39 p.m.

    SA, question how Belgium became successful, and Barry answer was due to developing an identity,  a style of play. WHY, didn't SA ask Barry to elaborate on what kind of style or identity Belgium has. WHAT WAS THE IDENTITY. The reason I ask having been very familiar with Belgium soccer for the past 50+ years along with the dutch and belgium have a Flemish backround in common. I don't see anything new or different in Belgium soccer other than they had a influx of immigrants and this particular generation of Belgium players have  had some stars, which is natural process.
    And besides  several Belgium players, defenders played and learned their game while at Ajax. Note there were no Belgium attackers. Luke Nilis was the only decent attacker coming from Belgium who played for PSV in Holland in the past 25 years and now including a Belgium player for Napoli  although not a household name like most Belgium players.

    As far as I'm concerned Belgium had a good generation of players coming through not due to great coaching or development as Barry believes.  All through soccer history, Belgium soccer is not exactly a popular item although you would think so being so close to their Dutch next door neighbor in geography and cultural similarity. Belgium due to their culture does not produce "Great" players like their dutch neighbor. How many Belgium world stars have you heard of or can hand. The Belgium culture, history, soccer all are very similar, it is BLAND , to put it bluntly.

    Belgium has a style which is reflected in their culture. Belgians are not adventurous which reflects in their soccer. It is "defense' that takes precedence not "offense" which is what the dutch employs  which is  reflected in dutch history ,a country that sailed the seven and was everywhere...try New York. Even today, so much of the dutch is found in how New Yorkers are.The dutch are very direct, non PC, tell it like it is, which is so opposite of the Belgians who are very , very circumspect in their opinions, not wanting to upset anyone. The Belgian culture is more suited for position as ambassador....The culture of Belgium like the Dutch is reflected in their soccer. With this in mind I seriously question what Barry states about creating a new  style and identity. Belgiums always had a style in their soccer. Try watching Belgium soccer, 'snooze' ,sorry that's what it is. Belgium just had a good generation, and they always had from time to time a good player, like Paul van Himst, or a Nilis, or a good national team in 1980 but other than that, Belgian soccer hasn't changed.
    I assume Barry was hired on the supposition that Belgium has changed for the better due to great training techniques, coaching education,which the USSF would like to take advantage of. And I'm saying, it is more due to other factors...players personnel and immigration.  

  11. Kevin Leahy, November 25, 2019 at 2:50 p.m.

    Education is a wonderful thing when it is applied in a proper way. The USSF keeps getting into the weeds. This is an organization that, keeps tripping over its self. You can't do everything by committee either. Someone has to have the final authority. 

  12. R2 Dad, November 25, 2019 at 4:03 p.m.

    The way our system works now, no one entity is responsible for teaching fundamentals, so it doesn't happen. Our problem is at the bottom, not the top. This talking head should not be the focus of our ire--he's only dealing with the talent presented to him. We should have 10x the number of qualified players than we do, making this guy's job so much easier to take credit for success. How did Pulisic succeed? He didn't stay trapped in the disfunction of this country. He escaped to a program in a country that could do it. I think he would have developed even further in Amsterdam, but at least he got out.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, November 25, 2019 at 9:11 p.m.

    Pulisic's parents were athletes and understood development.

  14. R2 Dad replied, November 25, 2019 at 10:44 p.m.

    Bob, they weren't just any athletes--his parents were college soccer players who knew the pitfalls of the landscape here. Had his parents played any other sport, and without being immersed in the culture from an early age, he would not have had the proper environment in which to develop.

  15. Goal Goal, November 26, 2019 at 4:11 p.m.

    What would you think of a national team program that brought a group of U17 kids from far and wide to play in I guess what is considered and important tournament.  When I say far and wide I mean many came hundreds of miles and a few thousands of miles very enthusiastically  to participate in this tournament.  Pulled out of school, pulled away from top level clubs interrupting a training regemen that we don't have here.  Only to arrive and they find an organization that is not prepared for them.  They find out that those with local MLS connections are given priority over others.  They find a coach who has no idea who they are, where they play or their accomplishments at their present clubs even the ones playing for well recognized clubs in Europe.  They learn that that the coach doesn't even know what position they play.

    I am not mentioning the organization.  Just saying.  What would you guys/gals think about that.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, November 28, 2019 at 1:47 p.m.

    I am thinking that when Tab Ramos left the program, they turned off the lights.

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