David Caetano on Portugal's player development, mental fitness and the importance of nurturing creativity

Portugal is a small nation. But on the global soccer scene, it punches way above its weight. Meanwhile the United States -- with 30 times as many people -- still struggles to find its place on the world men's stage.

David Caetano has spent the past few decades observing differences between the two countries. A star at Danbury (Connecticut) High School and the University of Rhode Island, he was a first-round draft pick of the New York Cosmos in 1982. They did not sign him. Instead he headed to his parents’ native country to play with Benfica (under coach Sven Goran Eriksson) and Maritimo.

Caetano returned to the USA for stints with AISA and ASL teams, but spent the past 16 years in Europe. He’s watched all aspects of the game – particularly youth development – with a keen eye.

For many years, he says, U.S. Soccer’s philosophy was to select players who passed, played safely and defended well. “That doesn’t get teams very far,” he notes. What’s lacking is creativity.

In the past few years, Caetano says, “very technical” American players have become more creative. Playing in Europe has helped. Men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter has implemented “a winning style of play that is appropriate to help teams get better.” Yet player development begins much earlier.

Though U.S. coaches are well-organized -- and, says Caetano, probably earn higher education degrees than their Portuguese counterparts -- most high-level soccer coaching education in Portugal is done by active coaches and/or former professionals. These include coaches from the Benfica, Sporting and Porto academies. Caetano calls their wealth of knowledge “amazing.”

In Portugal, young players join clubs at around 5 years old. When they reach 12 or 13 at top-level clubs, they do not pay to play. Academy players live on a campus. Academies aim to balance instruction (allowing both skill and creativity to flourish) with pressure (preparing players to succeed despite many distractions and demands).

Academy players work with tutors for school, and sports psychologists for mentality. They watch and are inspired by older professionals on their club teams. They learn professional habits, on and off the field. They are immersed in a culture in which soccer is a main topic of conversation.

“Mental fitness” is as important as physical fitness, Caetano believes. Much of that comes from playing in a cauldron of competition. When U.S. teams reach the quarterfinals of a Youth World Cup, he says, the emotional rollercoaster of winning, losing and mentally preparing for the next match takes a toll. That leads to mistakes, leading to further demoralization. The high level of competition in Europe -- and living in an environment in which soccer competition is constantly stressed -- prepares young players to be mentally fit, Caetano says.

Players like Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo grew up in that environment. They were also pushed to balance technical ability with creativity. Caetano was fortunate to play for youth coach Al Diniz and state coach Bob Dikranian, who encouraged freedom of expression. He says that is too rare here.

He also believes U.S. Soccer made a mistake in 2011 by hiring Jürgen Klinsmann rather than Carlos Queiroz to lead the men’s national team. Quieroz had achieved great success on the developmental level, coaching Portugal’s U-20 squad to two FIFA U-20 World Cup titles. Caetano saw Queiroz in action, and was impressed with his demeanor as both a coach and a teacher.

Queiroz was no stranger to U.S. Soccer. He and Dan Gaspar -- another Connecticut native, who had been Queiroz’s goalkeeper coach with Sporting Lisbon and worked with the Portuguese World Cup team -- collaborated on an extensive study for creating a standard procedure for player development for U.S. Soccer. “Project 2010” was a $50 million development plan started just before the 1998 World Cup. It did lead to two programs – Project 40/Generation adidas and the U-17 residency camp in Bradenton, Florida -- but neither produced a World Cup title for the Americans.

In fact, the USA has never advanced past the quarterfinals (after beating Portugal in their opening match in 2002) since reaching the semifinals of the 13-team inaugural World Cup in 1930. Portugal has not hoisted the World Cup either. Of course, they did win the 2016 European Championship. For a country with just 10 million people, they are doing something right.

37 comments about "David Caetano on Portugal's player development, mental fitness and the importance of nurturing creativity".
  1. R2 Dad, April 13, 2021 at 3:32 a.m.

    Portugal, despite their clubs feeding talent to Spain and England, punches above its weight. They have to be a contender for the Euros despite being in group F the group of death. I think they are stronger than that 2016 squad. Their academy system will continue to pump out talent, with plenty of creativity. MLS can only dream of such quality and quantity, all from a country the population of the LA basin.

  2. david caetano replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:56 a.m.

    hi RD, top talent in Portugal goes to the top 3 clubs who dominate Porto FC Sporting Lisbon and Benfica. They have and learn from each other as they have a high level of understanding how to develop players. Initially it was Sporting mostly. US Soccer federation has not been good in developing players.  I tried out with the US Jr. national team and at training I would drbble by most national team defenders. Would make passes also. Coaching staff didn't keep me on the team. Few years after I was the Cosmos 6th pick in 1st round by World recognized German national team Coach Hennes Weisweller. It is not complicated to develop players. Claudio Reyna had a perfect opurtunity a few years back but USSF didn't keep him. We need people like Claudio and to me there is no other way.

  3. frank schoon, April 13, 2021 at 10:45 a.m.

     I thought David's article was interesting and elucidated some insights about player development.
    His quote, about Berhalter's implementing a 'winning style' helps team get better is nonsensical to me, but I agree as he states, 'player development begins much earlier'. I also agree that they should have hired Carlos Queiroz over Jurgen Klinsman. Carlos believes that if you are incapable to string 5 passes in row as a style than you're not playing soccer. In light of what Carlos stated maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to choose Klinsman for we DONT have the style , the players, the quality, or experience to play that kind of ball on the NT. Therefore Klinsman was better suited as coach with his German backround and style of play which suited our American players better. After all, this is the NT and we can't be experimenting ,we need to win on a short-term basis.
    Like David says, "player development starts at much earlier level"...not at the NT level.

    I found it interesting that David never mentioned "PICKUP" soccer for that is the elephant in the room when comparing the Portugese youth development to US youth...WHERE WAS THAT CONVERSATION TO BE FOUND????

    He mentioned great stars, a little county Portugal produces, like Ronaldo and Figo and relates that to how they were taught at the academy. Througout Portugal's history, great players have come and gone. Eusebio, Simoes, Coluna,Torez, Quaresma, Deco, Chalana, etc.....some good midfielders, attackers,etc.. The academies, over there like in Holland(Ajax) and Portugal, both small countries, are run by COMPETENT people, former greats or good players who actually done someting as compared to what I would call 'professors' , A-licensed 'programmed' coaches that run the Academies here. There is a whole lot difference in the teaching there,and this is why a big country like US ,with so many soccer participants ,even by law of average don't produce a great passer , a great dribbler, a great thinker, instead we produce lots of turbo.....We even get players coming over here nearing 40's with no wheels show how it is done.. Zlatan ,for example, grew up playing and learning soccer by going to the Zlatan Academy of soccer, in other words he played pickup soccer on the streets until he 17, before joining a team.
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  4. Ben Myers replied, April 14, 2021 at 1:20 p.m.

    The US does not produce many great finishers, either.  There is not enough time spent in US training sessions on finishing.  Especially at an early age, kids can learn the mechanics, the focus and the concentration needed when the ball arrives, so they can put it in the back of the net.

  5. Ben Myers replied, April 14, 2021 at 1:22 p.m.

    And finishing is fun for the kids, too.  Working on it in training sessions puts fun and enthusiasm into the game.

  6. frank schoon replied, April 14, 2021 at 2:06 p.m.

    Ben, It is mindboggling to me that so many kids playing, and take into account, 50years of this , we have never produced a great scorer. Now I understand, it is not that easy to create scorers. For example, Haaland from Norway????? Talk about stiffs, you can't name a great Norwegian player from in the past 50year...Norway who???? And here is Haaland...where did he come from...Norway has no history of great scorers or players; or for that matter the Scandinavian area has never produced great players... Zlatan ,is an exception but I don't even consider him Scandinavian, and I don't think he himself does either. As a matter of fact he learned playing with foreign cultures.

    This is what I'm trying to infer, it was basically the law of average played in Haaland's case and ofcourse his dad helped...but that is not really saying much for there are plenty of dads around to help their son....
    Yes, ofcourse you need to practice scoring and all that but it is not that easy. Work on shooting as such certainly wouldn't hurt, but there a lot other that come into play to become a great scorer that is not so easy to determine . But if it's that easy to produce goalgetter just by working on the skill set of scoring we would have tons of scorers out there....

  7. Philip Carragher replied, April 14, 2021 at 2:57 p.m.

    Ben and Frank, I agree, you can train that into a player. Years ago, the then Notre Dame Men's coach, Mike Berticelli, ran an excellent 30 minute coaching seminar demonstrating how to teach players the "goal scoring attitude". I still use that drill with my kids and they love it. But the effect from that drill doesn't compare to what a natural goal scorer can do. Unfortunately, what I've seen happen about a dozen times over the years is watching that rare young player who is a natural goal scorer get that goal-scoring hunger coached out of him, either by yelling at him or by playing him in the wrong position. Conversely, I've also, once, seen a natural goal scorer get his goal scoring Mojo revived by excellent coaching.

  8. frank schoon replied, April 14, 2021 at 3:31 p.m.

    Ben,Philip, Zlatan was not the goalgetter that he is now. When he came to Ajax they did not pick him as a goalgetter ,although he did play #9 but Ajax had lots of other good players up front that scored. Ajax uses their front line because their so good 1v1, to create open space as well as 2v1 situations allowing their teammate to score....
    It was when Zlatan was traded to Inter that Fabio Capello the coach told him if you don't score,I don't need you. That was the moment he decided to spend all his waking time on scoring. The advantage he had was he was a great skilled 1v1 player and ball handler, he can create situations on his own because of his great skills. And that was what Ajax saw in him a great skilled offensive player who can score as well but not be 'the' scorer. Ajax played a more versatile type of offense as compared to Italian teams that rely only upon a scorer....

  9. david caetano replied, April 15, 2021 at 4:58 p.m.

    hi Ben, Frank and Phil (Phil did you see my reply to you?)
    enjoyed reading your perspective on goal scoring players production in US.
    Phil said " a natural goal scorer get that goal-scoring hunger coached out of him, either by yelling at him or by playing him in the wrong position. ". I agree 100% and in addition there are youth coaches that when a player is scoring goals and enjoying to score, the coach becomes a 'yeller' from the sideline and keeps tell that player to pass the ball and does this also at halftime where everyone can hear the coach. That of course takes the natural scoring ability of a player away. The goal scorer should be given positive reinforcement for scoring or even trying. I coached at a high school. Player who takes our free kicks missed a direct not by much top 90degree. Ref didn't blow the whistle made him take it againa. When ref said to take it again, I got up off the bench and yelled at the player, 'Jeff you need to put the ball in top corner". Now he knew I wasn't yeling at him as I try to make things fun with less pressure when it is called for. He probably laughed focused, relaxed then put the ball exactly in top right hand corner. Goalscorers I believe have a special personality as do goalkeepers and they have an instinct to score and be at the right place at the right time.This is learned and the coach is the player themselves playing in small sided games, pickup games etc. I believe this can be taught at a very young age but anything you do to teach has to be a fun challengiing experience for the player. I enjoy this topic and your comments.

  10. frank schoon, April 13, 2021 at 11:32 a.m.

    There's a reason why the Ajax youth development went down hill in the early 90's, according to Cruyff, was due to Louis van Gaal. Van Gaal, was a teacher an educator, everything to him was programmed, he was pedantic, dogmatic, non-individualistic, collective ,group oriented. With that philosophy, he almost ruined the Ajax 'individualistic youth development. Do you know why you notice coaches today sitting with pen and paper taking notes during the game. That 'idiocy' began with van Gaal when he had the success with Ajax in early to mid 90's, before that time nobody wrote down notes. All the coaches watched van Gaal studiously write down notes. Well, You know how coaches are, they all copy each other, there is no 'brain', you have to look under a rock to find one that's creative.  If Guardiola, decided to play a 1-7-2 system, tomorrow, as a joke, I will guarantee that in the next few weeks, coaches, at the youth level, high school, college level, pro-level will begin to institute, talk about this system as part of tactics.... 

    Carlos Bruno, a former Portugese player, who was with Sporting Lissabon academy,  went to study  how Ajax youth train and noticed like Cruyff, the lack of Individuality on the ball due to Van Gaal's programmed training. It was because of that he made sure Christian Ronaldo and the Portugese youth would not be trained that way. And now, you know the rest of story of Ronaldo, who grew up playing street soccer, a 1000 kilometers away from Portugal, on a small poor island called Madeira.

    David mentioned, that US coaches are well-organized and earn higher education degrees than their Portuguese counterparts., HMMMMM, reminds me of van Gaal who likewise was 'well-educated' and has a well organized backround and look what he did for Ajax's youth development. Having that backround does not make one a good trainer/coach...I find it more of a problem, a disadvantage when it comes to developing players. Like David stated, most high level soccer coaching is done by active and former players and coaches and "WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE IS AMAZING.


    Great interview, Dan....

  11. humble 1 replied, April 13, 2021 at 6:13 p.m.

    I agree pickup soccer is missing here, but coached at academies are not part of that process.  That is more of the culture, the community.  There is something missing here, something you do not see in D,C,B or A licensed coaches in the U.S. and this is a recognition of the library of movements a player should master and then the process from the first time a movement is made to the player actualizing it in a game context.  Yes, pick-up soccer does some of this, it can do a lot of it, but at some point the player transitions, probably 12,13,14 to the academy, and they are not finished forming their movements in game contexts.  Since our coaches (1) have to win (for whatever reason) and (2) they are not taught the library of movements or how to develop a system and manage a players personal development in the context of that system, this is what you get.  The sooner a player departs for development in Europe, the better the chance, but this is not a guaranee, that his development trajectory could be rectified.  So yeah, pick-up, important, but that is the culture, our coaching problem is a poor concieved coaching education and licensing system.  I wish we get both soon! 

  12. Philip Carragher replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:46 a.m.

    Humble, are these movements you speak of Coerver drills or something else? I'd like to know more. Thanks.

  13. david caetano replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:57 a.m.

    hi Humble 1, well said. In Europe I can speak more specifially in Portugal I believe youth players are not developed fully for the most part because the goal is for teams to win.  thanks for your comment

  14. humble 1 replied, April 14, 2021 at 9:51 a.m.

    Mr Phil, look up the Croatian Soccer Curriculum book.  There-in you will find a table of about 120
    movements and a progression by age bracket.  A guide - nada mas - but an eye opener.  If you prefer a free resource, search the Australian football associations youth development resources, you will not find the same table, but you will find similar material.  If you read German, I am told the Germans have the ultimate resource for the movements a youth player should master and the progression.  I wish I had all those resources when I began my soccer dad journey.  Soccer America and their faithful commentators have been a gift.  Cheers!

  15. Philip Carragher replied, April 14, 2021 at 12:56 p.m.

    Humble 1, thanks for the recommendations. I got the Croatian book, superb, found the table you were referring to (104 techniques), and couldn't help but come away wondering how the US will ever have enough coaches that can demonstrate and teach these techniques properly. A high school coaching friend of mine used to have his boys begin tryouts by having each one stand in front of an open net and from 10 yards out hold a ball and then volley or drop kick the ball into the net with pace. Some years no one could do it despite being pay for play travel club graduates. He'd advise them to go back to their clubs and demand a refund.

  16. humble 1 replied, April 15, 2021 at 11:36 a.m.

    Hello again Mr. Phil, simple 2 part answer.  (1) never depend on club for technical development.  Club has your kid 3 to 4 trainings a week for 1 to 2 hours, then a game.  You will never develop this at your club.  It ruffles a lot of feathers when I say this, but the family, mums and pops, and friends, and the individual player.  At least give the player the list, you'd be amazed at what a motivated 11 or 12 year old boy or girl will do when they have this list.  This is of course, a bit of a connundrum from our 'club' friends because they almost all hawk their amazing developement programs, and push parents away from being part of player development.  (2) the list is a guide, not a checklist.  Begin with awarenes.  Have a list.  Since USSF baned headers until U13, what have they done to help kids catch up?  Not one thing.  Watch any U15/16 game today and you see, a bunch of kids that have no clue how to head a ball, learning in the only training they get, games.  It is not so complicated.  Kids naturally learn to do many of these things on their own, if given the chance, and even non-soccer parents such as myself can help their kids develop, if given a chance and some decent guidance.  Cheers!

  17. humble 1 replied, April 15, 2021 at 11:45 a.m.

    Mr. Phil, I add one more comment, along the lines of how to teach all this, there is methodology for all these movements, it is in this book and others.  Today, one can find a youtube video for every single movement in that book, there are also specific trainings for each or each subset of movements and a guide to at what age you break the movements into.  By age 10 these should be done, now by age 14, these, etc.  When you break it down that way, not so complicate.  Then there is the fact, that these movements are not really mastered until kids can do them in game situations, so the player develpment is to see the kid do it alone, then with a static defender, then with a dynamic defender then in a game.  Knowing what you kid should be learning, seeing it in practice, now watch for it in the game, gives parents something to do other than watch the score, and judge the player and the team on that alone.  Many european youth coach programs teach these principals.  The coaches some here and are very frustrated, and either they adapt or quit and fail.  The key point is that the american coaches and organizations in general, are not learning from these outsiders, they are forcing them to adapt.  I can count on both hands the number of foreign coaches I know who have been dumbed down by our system.  This is the opostite of what should be happening.  It serves the organizations, but not the youth.  

  18. david caetano replied, April 15, 2021 at 5:15 p.m.

    Phil, agree about giving parents something to look for while watching games. Before my High school season I invited any parent who wanted to attend my theory classroom session where I explained exactly how I wanted the players/ team to play. Gives them a better perspective and they can watch the improvement. I also said that I was not available after games to speak with them if they had questions. But anyother time would be ok. After games people just spent 90 minutes watching the game and many times very intense minutes. so not good time to discuss nor coach players in my opinion.

  19. david caetano, April 13, 2021 at 4:22 p.m.

    hi Frank,

    thank's for adding your thoughts. A combination that gives a coach more probability of success is if he/she are former top level players and have a university degree in this area as well as some soccer coaching education but not to much.

    In Portugal pick up soccer is much less played then the past. Professionals on TV and in personal conversations mention this quite often. I agree pick up soccer development is important, but also needs certain specifics to develop at higher rate and properly.

    The education degrees in US are only focused on theory and tactics etc. Portugal has the same but also have continuing education classes for coaches using many speakers who are from pro academies, and professionals.


  20. frank schoon replied, April 13, 2021 at 5:14 p.m.

    Hi David, I agree pickup soccer is played a lot less compared to the days I played it in Holland because of the lack of cars. The point i'm making is that there is a pickup culture in Europe but not here. The problem I find is that with all the space we have in this country, you can drive around all day but find anyone kicking a ball around. You need a pickup culture where mixed ages can play and experiment. Look at our players they all look like, play alike, there is not one that has an individual drive with the ball. I want to see someone that is not afraid to take on players; I want to see ballhogs in the youth for it is the ballhogs later that become the better players. 

    You're right all this education produces nothing but theorie and tactics and laptop coaches with PC soccer programs...

    Again, David ,thanks for the interview, we need more of this .....

  21. david caetano replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:45 a.m.

    hi Humble 1, well said. In Europe I can speak more specifially in Portugal I believe youth players are not developed fully for the most part because the goal is for teams to win.  thanks for your comment

  22. humble 1 replied, April 26, 2021 at 1:14 p.m.

    David, the red herring of team winning and counting goals of player as measure of development is a challenge for all nations.  The difference between Portugal and the USA is that at the parent, coach, club and national level, there is a common understanding of the true futbol player development path.  There you will and awareness, knowledge, understanding and above all the ability to implement systems toward that end.  So there is a balance against the red herring of winning and goals.  He we have not even the awareness.  The key element to effect this chance, I believe, our coach licensing programs, are not making in happen.  We have acelrated investment and development of our professional leagues without and equal investment in coaching.  The national federation ignores our largest cohort of coaches, those teaching in middle and high school and college.  So we are driving our ferrari in first gear.

  23. david caetano, April 13, 2021 at 4:24 p.m.

    hi Frank,
    Carlos Queiroz played at very competitive level until I believe reaching the professional level where he had an injury and opted to focus on University with sports and soccer specialty. The combination of what he learned at university and his very competitive playing experience gives him a what I think is a clearer insight into developing players.
    You have an excellent insight. enjoyed your comments.

  24. frank schoon replied, April 13, 2021 at 5:16 p.m.

    David, I would have liked to have Quarisma go to the MLS. You who would have like to come here as coach is Jesus who coached Benfica earlier....great coach....Thanks you for your compliments....

  25. david caetano replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:40 a.m.

    hi Frank,
    I agree it is essential for those anywhere use one gola or 2 goals, 1 v 1,  4 v 3, 5 v 5  etc. pick up games to develop players. These who do this though need to watch the pros (not All) or older players who demonstrate a unique ability to be creative and do fun things with the ball when getting around defenders. Thanks for your feedback and thoughts

  26. Philip Carragher, April 13, 2021 at 6:13 p.m.

    Wow, what a great article and comments. This is rich. Let's do more of this. (David, we must have just missed each other in CT soccer. I graduated from Wilton HS in 1976 but only played there my senior year.) Here is a conundrum I find myself when coaching my 5th-8th middle school boys and girls. Despite having some of them coming to me from travel teams (pay-to-play), they don't understand soccer. No thinking, just reacting. Frank, I like your observation about Queiroz's philosophy that if a team can't string together 5 passes they're not playing soccer. I agree. So that's what I focus on. Stringing together passes. I've even done that with my younger teams. I had a U7 and U8 boys AYSO team occassionally stringing together ten passes. One magical aspect of multiple pass sequences is that they often led to goals. And this was with just one, one hour practice per week with a game on the weeknd for 8 weeks in the fall and another 8 weeks in the spring. By mid spring season we were playing an intelligent passing game.  The creativity part happened when we'd scrimmage or play a short-handed team so I'd give them my best one or two players and they'd run wild.

  27. frank schoon replied, April 14, 2021 at 8:59 a.m.

    Great stuff, Philip. I employed a passing exercise by splitting up the team in half. The object was to see which team would get to 25passes( not in row,LOL). Each team constantly had to chase after the ball in order to get it and make passes. You determine the quality of the pass if it is worth counting, for example you can pass back and forth to the same player.

    Another one is to create a big rectangle or square 20x20 bigger or small paces then play 11v4, having at minimum 4defenders trying to get the be surprised how quick those 4 defenders get the ball. I had one coach feel sorry for the 4defenders, thinking they would be running around all day....welll, try a few seconds...

    Or, in the first exercise, the player with the ball is allowed to pass the ball only on the 3rd or more touch. This forces the players to move away from opponents and look while dribbling. You will note how fast the game picks up

    Another exercise is the defender doesn't have to steal the ball, but only tag the player who has the ball....Note, the difference how players react as far as positioning....

  28. david caetano replied, April 14, 2021 at 9:05 a.m.

    hi Philip, Glad you enjoyed the article. Interesting I played against you as I graduated in 78. I played with Ridgefield Al Diniz teams for many years as a youth and I would love the Wilton indoor tournaments. I coached High School for a few years and had players who had been playing many years and some travel teams. I had to teach passing properly with the inside of the foot so it became natural. I was amazed at the inability to pass at a level I consider appropriate. thanks for your comment.

  29. Philip Carragher, April 14, 2021 at 11:59 a.m.

    Hi David, maybe we did play against each other. The Ridgefield player "Neal(?)", who went onto play at Fairfield U. maybe was one of your teammates. He was a senior and so was I.

  30. david caetano replied, April 15, 2021 at 5:16 p.m.

    hi Phil, yes I know Neal. Was older but sometimes would train with us.

  31. david caetano replied, April 17, 2021 at 6:26 a.m.

    hi Philip, Thought I responded to this. I know Neal. Remember he use to sometimes train with us.

  32. Alan Goldstein, April 16, 2021 at 11:19 a.m.

    David Caetano- about the past... I coached hs and club in Columbia, Md during the time you played. About American players then...I emphasized technical ball skills combined with movement and vision to open defenses. One year Team America played in DC in the NASL. The best American national team defender ( who will remain nameless) would regularly scrimmage with my hs team and my players were regularly unimpressed. He basically knew nothing about the type of game we played.
    Pickup soccer....hasnt happened in 40-50 yrs of soccer growth in this country. The culture for pickup, informal play isnt there, perhaps because of the constantly increasing formal time... More club sessions, more matches, more traveling to those matches, more stratification of levels that prevents exposure to better players to watch and learn from. Plus the number of options to spend the small free time left. As one of my Brazilian friends said, "here kids have many choices, in Brazil we had choices too- soccer, soccer and soccer". Great discussion! 

  33. david caetano replied, April 16, 2021 at 1:42 p.m.

    hi Alan, We as youth with Ridgefield soccer club use to play in the Clumbia, Md tournament. I went to DC to speak to Team America (US natioanl team) coach to be considered for the team. few months before I played a friendly with Benfica vs Bulgaria and the national soccer newspaper said about my playing. "a pleasant surprise". Even having been lucky to be at this level at this time I was not chosen to get on the national team. Alhough, I think they may of been a team in the league and maybe could not add more players. When I was in High School remember watching the national team at giants stadium and not being impressed with some players.

  34. Grant Goodwin, April 16, 2021 at 1:36 p.m.

    Great article and cannot argue.  However, i have two questions:  
    1) Don't you think that some of our best athletes choosing American football or basketball detracts from our potential.  I don't know what else Portugal has as far as "glamorous" sports from which kids can choose to play.
    2) Can Frank tell me why he is so negative about US?  We have more Americans now playing in top leagues than ever...Pulisic can't pass?  What can McKinney do...nothing?  Dest (who didn't grow up here) is starting for Barcelona (even though Frank says he does not have the talent to do so).  Now Frank will say that "these are not Juve and Barca of yester year, but nothing can be done about that.  All they can is play for the "top" teams in Europe, and to say that we cannot produce anyone who can pass, dribble, or is just asinine.  Frank i know you played for MD when they won a National Title, but instead of complaining, you have so much knowledge and wisdom to impart to the little kids as no "elite" coach wants to mess with them.  However, we know that development at U-10 is crtical, but too often we have dads "coaching."

  35. david caetano replied, April 17, 2021 at 6:33 a.m.

    Hi Grant, good point but I believe there are many players who can develop to be exceptional international players. The other sports do have great athletes that if soccer players also have  potential to be great soccer players. In recent times there are, I think many athletes choosing between soccer and other major sports and some must be choosing soccer I would assume.

  36. humble 1 replied, April 26, 2021 at 1:26 p.m.

    I am late on this so probably only speak to myself, but I never accept that our many sports destracts from the development of soccer players.  Look at three tiny nations know for systematically developing soccer players, Holland, Portugal, Uruguay.  Total population between three about 25 million.  The real stumbling block for soccer in the USA is soccer itself and for me it is the USSF.  Soccer is such a different sport than baseball, basketball or American football.  To give an example, you will be hard pressed to find professional American football players less that 6' tall and less than 200 Lbs.  On the other hand in professional soccer, players taller than 6' and more than 200 lbs are less than 10%,  I would guess are less than 10% of professionals.  Look at the biggest soccer player you can think of look up his weight. You will see what I mean.  Basketball same thing for height, very few players less than 6' are proffessional.  Baseball, all together different, running does not matter, at all.  Go to a professinal baseball game, finding one player with a soccer build is very difficult.  The real stumbling block for soccer is soccer itself.  Look to the USSF.  Ask USSF why our coach licensing system and referee systems are not world class.  Ask them why in 2017 they opened teh Girls DA and expaned Boys DA to U12 from U13, both of which required licensed coached, but did not prime the system with qualified coaches, rather, they disqualified a bunch of coaches almost at the same time.  This kind of stuff is inexplicable, but tells it all as it relates to why soccer is its own enemy in the US.  I only remembered that blunder as I was writing.  Look it up, you will see it actually happened. Anyway, ownward!  

  37. david caetano, April 27, 2021 at 6:44 a.m.

    hi humble 1, good points. completly agree USSF makes many errors. I think they need to be much better.

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