The USMNT's main problem remains its impotent offense

The USA managed to score once in 180 minutes, plus stoppage time, in its year opening friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

Much was made of how many U.S. players were national team newcomers and how young a squad came into the January camp. Yet a similar assessment applied to both opponents.

In fact, the U.S. squad had more experience than its foes. Five Americans were at the 2022 World Cup. Neither Serbia (four caps among the entire roster) nor Colombia, which didn't go to Qatar, included a World Cup player.

Plus, the USA was the home team. But it lost 2-1 to Serbia and tied Colombia, 0-0. For the first time in a decade, the USA opened the year by going winless in its first two games.

"Overall, I think we achieved our objectives,” said U.S. interim coach Anthony Hudson.

Those objectives should have also included scoring more than once and winning, and maybe even soccer worth paying to watch.

“The objective was to look at players, give players a chance, players we've been monitoring, and then also be able to balance the group so we get through the two games," Hudson explained.

He mentioned Brandon Vazquez (photo), who scored the lone goal, and Alejandro Zendejas as among the dozen debutants who gave especially promising performances, and one wouldn’t disagree. But the infrequency of creating good scoring chances in the first two games of 2023 was a reminder that the team had the same problem in 2022.

The USA has scored five goals in its last nine games. It reached the second round of the 2022 World Cup despite only two goals in group play, no doubt benefitting from the fact that Iran and Wales were probably the tournament’s weakest teams besides host Qatar.

In all 16 of the USA’s games in 2022, it scored 21 goals. Ten of those came in wins over Panama (5-1) and Grenada (5-0). In the other 14 games, the USA scored 11 goals and was shut out seven times.

The USA’s leading scorers in 2022, with five each, were Jesus Ferreira and Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic scored the gamewinner against Iran at the World Cup, and in qualifying he struck once against Honduras and hit a hat trick against Panama.

Four of Ferreira’s goals were scored against Grenada (No. 168 in the FIFA World Ranking) and the other in the qualifying win over Panama. At the World Cup, Ferreira, Haji Wright and Josh Sargent (twice) started at center forward in the four games.

In my colleague Scott French’s piece on Ferreira, he lists the other center forward candidates for the future: Sargent, Wright, Vazquez, Jordan Pefok, Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike and “maybe Falorin Balogun.”

There’s a part of French’s article that’s especially worth pondering. It’s this from Ferreira:

“The coaches will notice my work, that I'm a guy that's going to keep running no matter what and press [opposing defenses]. Pressing is one of my key things, so keep showing and keep working to [tell] coaches that I want to be here and want to represent the country.”

That’s a center forward’s insight — believing that the key to earning frontline playing time is defensive tenacity — into the Gregg Berhalter system, which has produced a meager scoring rate. 

Center forwards should be judged on their rate of converting chances. And in the U.S. national team's recent history they've been served up with too few to make fair assessments.

Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos

48 comments about "The USMNT's main problem remains its impotent offense".
  1. Terry Lynch, January 30, 2023 at 7:25 a.m.

    What he said.

    (Re my comment on French's article yesterday.)

    Berhalter was a defender.  No idea how to score.  Doesn't understand a pure scorer's mentality.

    Ferreira, like many others, is fine at a lower level but can't handle the big jump to the top.  Vasquez' header showed me something.  Deserves more chances.  IMO, a true scorer has to have the ability to get you a goal out of nothing.  The good ones do that.

  2. humble 1 replied, January 30, 2023 at 11:26 a.m.

    Klopp was a defender also.  No problem.  Let's not forget, GB was our first ever USA coach who had a professional career and was capped by the USA.  That he was a defender is ok, there are many defenders and even GK's that are decent coaches, because they see the game and lead from the back.  It's about the product. Let's not discourage defenders and keepers from becoming coaches for crimeny sake.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, January 31, 2023 at 2:23 p.m.

    The Kloop "Theory" of GegenPress, Which is just "Re-Invention" of Trap and Steal, (Something we Learned back at my USSF "C" Liscence somewhere in the 80s) is what you would expect of a Defender like Kloop or Ggg or Marsch or Tuechel...
    They Can't figure out Attacking Tactics, or Trust in the INDIVIDUAL Ability of Players,,, so Press the H&LL out of the Opponent, and Win Back the Ball as Close to Opponent Goal, within 6 Seconds, and go to Goal Quickly in the Moment of Opponents Weakness caused in the Sudden Transition from Offense to Defense... Not Brain Surgery.!!!
    But, "Patterns of Play" and Tactics to Breakdown a Bunker-Bus Opponent are Not Strengths of Either, and hence the Chances for the #9 go Wanting.
    Players like Salah, CP, Sane, TIRE OF CHASING and Lose Enthusiasm, and you have to Re-Invigorate the Press, by, Selling Players and Bringing IN New Ones that will Buy into your "Personality" and "Charisma" as a Coach... But, That is all Cyclical, as is most Coaching Jobs.

  4. frank schoon replied, January 31, 2023 at 3:52 p.m.

    Santi, you're so right about Klopp. The pressing was chase and hunt by Michels at Ajax in 1970 and taught at the KNVB in the 70's....
    That's all these former defender type coaches Klopp, Marsch and Tuchel can come up with for they lack the creative abilities 

  5. Sean Guillory, January 30, 2023 at 8:08 a.m.

    This should not be a surprise to anyone.  We have turned into this country that is enthralled with possession soccer with. I end product.  I see it at the youth level clubs where my son plays. Even on this site we have Frank and others who would rather see "beautiful" football instead of winning and that defines this view on goal scoring.  You have to score goals if you want to win.  I am all for nice combined okay but if you do it with intent and wanting to score, you will.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, February 1, 2023 at 8:21 p.m.

    "Possession" soccer is not a good phrase. It really has no meaning unless you start trying to kill of the match at the first second. I prefer to say "patient" soccer, but then I was never a very patient player or coach. The best description for "possession" soccer is that the team does not turn over the ball by taking a (very) low percentage shot. They will reset and create space for another attempt to penetrate. The problem is that it takes skill to play possession well. It takes a lot less skill to pass into space for a player to run onto the ball. So most of the US plays long ball turbo soccer.

    GB's system is exactly the opposite of good soccer principles. His team are spread out making it very easy for the opponents always to be numbers up.  Because his teams don't stay compact, the long balls over the top pull the team even futher apart and isolates the forward assuming he gets possession of the ball. Hudson's teams (I include the U20s) play smarter. They try to maintain their shape while penetrating with combination passing into the middle third. 

    To play good soccer everyone on the field has to have good ball skills, including the back line. They should have midfielder type skills on the ball, but we keep selecting players who are at best tactically slow on the ball. 

    We used to have some tactically slow midfielders too, but that was last cycle. (By tactical speed I am talking about overall speed of play--how long it takes the player to do something effective with the ball. Some people never do anything effective with the ball. I think that is your gripe about "possession" soccer. It is players not being effective while possessing the ball.) 

    Frank for example is advocating attacking soccer.

  7. frank schoon, January 30, 2023 at 9:34 a.m.

    Goal scorers???? There are many facets that go into the 'ART' of goal scoring and many of these facets are subjective, and subtle which can only be noticed by those who have an 'eye' for it. The first real goal scorer that the American soccer fan has met up with was ZLATAN. He was a scoring machine. Since he left the MLS, what has come to fill his space in the MLS....NOTHING.  

    Becoming a goal scorer doesn't just come about. In America or North America and even including Mexico, if you want, where are all the goal scorers? In the last 30 years there has only been one, Hugo Sanchez from Mexico who played for Real Madrid in the early 90's.

    Let's keep this further North, in America we have NO CULTURE surrounding goal scorers.  For example, in Holland we have a Rolodex on goal scorers of all different kinds that goes back to the 50's, a la Cruyff ,van Basten, Gullit, van der Kuylen, Bergkamp, Kluivert, van Nistlerooy and many more. Look at Argentina and their historic rolodex of goal scorers;or Brazil ,idem ditto, and even England.....

    With this 'goalscoring' culture there is much generated knowledge, insights and inside details created over time by those goal scorers who either now TEACH, COACH, TRAIN, ADVISE,or COMMENTATE. In other words the knowledge flows through the total aspect of soccer, which aids EVERYONE who is involved in soccer...The youth can study their type of goal scorer and learn. A licensed TRAINER could that I mentioned would point the way that best suits a youth type of scorer.

    Likewise there is no culture of soccer promulgated by American soccer journalists, who I think lack a feel for the game and are more interested in writing stories about soccer, human interest stories but lack anything deeper which to me is one of the aspects ,one of many , that make up the 'ART' of scoring. In Holland we have former greats write weekly columns about soccer. I use to drive 30miles from Reston to DC to buy a dutch paper for $5 that a carried a weekly column by Johan Cruyff. It was worth the cost to me even if it were $10, because a phrase, an idea or just a reaction of a Cruyffian insight to the game can open up so many other mental doors ,technically and tactically speaking about the game.... I realize long ago that soccer insights, the deeper insight about the game is not found in soccer books but are found in interviews, biographies, commentating, and in soccer collumns by writers who played at the highest level

                                                             NEXT POST

  8. Peter Kurilecz replied, January 30, 2023 at 3:58 p.m.

    "press [opposing defenses]"

    I think you misintrepreted what he is saying. pressing defenses can and does result in scoring chances. pressing defenders throws them off their game

  9. frank schoon replied, January 30, 2023 at 4:16 p.m.

    Peter, your post must be to someone else ,not to me...  :)

  10. frank schoon, January 30, 2023 at 10:16 a.m.

    A youth players doesn't just become a goal scorer if he scores a lot of goal. As he gets older his opponents become more sophisticated as well. Zlatan playing in his youth played lots of pickup soccer was trained by anyone. He didn't join a club at an early age for he was too poor ,that came about in his late teens. He had no coaching but developed playing pickup mostly. Ajax saw him and worked with him, he was a #9 with lots of frills ,the fans liked his style a very Ajax style. It wasn't until he was sold to an Italian team coached by Fabio Capello, a good midfielder in his playing days. He told Zlatan I wanted to see you score goals, nothing else, otherwise I don't need you. This is how Zlatan became a goal scorer for spend all his time and movement focused on scoring 

    Zlatan by being a fighter , worked on lots of one on one moves, studying and copying Ronaldo of Brazil dribbling moves and most importantly , playing lots of PICKUP soccer everyday made him a fighter, confident on the ball which he perfected. Take that into account, Zlatan became the goal scorer he is. Christiano Ronaldo went as a young player to Man.Utd and was not known as a goalscorer. It wasn't until he played for Real Madrid that his goal scoring ways came about...

    Note, Zlatan studied and copied moves from previous, older stars. Ronaldo, likewise studied, Figo, Eusebio, Futre and other Portugese goal scorers and dribbling, CULTURES. There is a RED LINE through all of this, copying previous , older, retired stars.....That particular aspect is never stress here in coaching....

    Looking at both ,they are different types of players, but both were similar in their development, PICKUP soccer was a basic feature..Pickup soccer develops a players personality. The difference with Ronaldo is that Zlatan like Messi developed more naturally, whereas Ronaldo is described by Zlatan as a product more of his training. You just become a goal scorer as youth by practicing shooting ,for there is so much that makes up a goalscorer. But first of all you need a culture, a map so to speak to follow and we don't have that.....
                                                           NEXT POST

  11. frank schoon, January 30, 2023 at 10:47 a.m.

    The problem we have in America is that we don't understand the adage, "if you don't have the ball, you can't score". In other words with no 'ball possession' ,you have nothing to build on. Even if a team doesn't score but outshot the opponent and had lots of attempts on goal, a coach ,although perhaps frustrated, should realize the object is to create situations to score that's the important aspect. It is easier to pinpoint for the coach where the problem lies. 

    Here are some of the problems with scoring. Bad Passes, centerbacks  kicking vertical long balls is   symptomatic of the overal problem. We don't produce great passers in our game. There is no CULTURE of passing or dribbling.  At Ajax, it is drilled into you,  how you pass, to which foot, the speed, why this player and not the other one, why this foot and not the other one. Even before the pass, why trap it this way it takes long, or why stand in this manner to receive the ball . .... Van Basten ,in his late teens, one of the world's great goal scorers, would cry coming home from practice at Ajax constantly was told what he was doing wrong and corrected.... Here all you  along the sideline is "Well done" by your coach.....

    So looking at our situation, we have no great dribblers that can create space, to make it easier to score for others; we have no great passers ,a la Pirlo, a la Valderame, or whatever that can see the openings ahead of time and have the great passing skills to give a goal scorer a chance.. We don't have players with 1v1 confidence and can laugh at an opponent , instead thinking, "I hope I can get by him". Study Zlatan, his confidence, his cockiness, that's what you also need. There is so much mental aspects to this game...

    And we are questioning 'why' we don't score much. Remember Messi, who had problems scoring when playing  with the Argentinian national team, he was a flop for many years. That should tell you there are other factors. Pele, could score playing for any team, anywhere. It is more than just scoring that needs to be worked on to bolster the ability to score ,especially in the US. And having licensed coaches for youth soccer has nothing to do with creating better scorers...

  12. humble 1 replied, January 30, 2023 at 11:41 a.m.

    Write-on on Frank!  Luis Suarez is who he is - now getting hat tricks in Brazil, not becuase of his development in academies, but because of his development, before he was at academies.  His three brothers, all whom had professional careers to varying extents, the same.  To be fair, what Sean writes is correct about youth soccer hear.  They forget the fundamental proposition, of possession ball, which the Dutch know very well, is that when out of options, you have to create.  This skill, to keep the ball, you must learn, FIRST!  Then, you begin the possession game.  Not before.  I kid you not, when my son was 7 he was the master of keeping players off the ball with his apple rump, the director of his club told him this was wrong!  At the time, I was learning the game.  Did not know how wrong he was, and how right my son's natural instinct was.  That director is highly respected in this town, puts lots of boys into our local MLS Academy.  It is all about possession from U6, here you hear the parents yelling 'pass the ball' after 2 or more dribbles!  In uruguay and argentina most of the youth teams play 442, also, many if not most of their premier division teams.  Why?  Because that is the best way to develop strikers.  Have two targets for everyone and have a handy target for your striker, to develop that aspect of his/her game.  Also, there the number goal in youth soccer is not the pass, but your ability to move with and without the ball in small spaces.  For defenders and attackers.  This is at the margin how players are judged.  If you cannot work in small spaces, no matter how fast, big, strong, you do not advance to the elite level, unless, you score a lot of goals or are a keeper.   

  13. R2 Dad, January 30, 2023 at 12:19 p.m.

    Changing our soccer culture is a tall order, and pick up soccer isn't an easy fix, either. Getting kids to love the ball and transition into Futsal seems do-able. Futsal leads to Falcao, futsal leagues, international futsal on TV, etc. And would give these freestyle/tiktok/YT people somewhere to exhibit their skills.

  14. frank schoon replied, January 30, 2023 at 2:46 p.m.

    R2, we have a culture when it comes to goalkeepers but we don't have a culture when it comes to dribblers, ball handlers, great passers and thinkers of the game and that can be of our coaches to for we really no soccer coaching culture.
    Remember how we began  a culture by switching over from sweeper to playing with two centerbacks . It took a while to get used to. Remember those days or when Mikasa ball were replaced with stitched balls, that was also a change in culture...

    Playing futsall is good for your development but the best futsall player in the world is not necessarily a good field player...Watch this video of this dutch player who was the best indoor player in the world. He likewise  was a field player for a while...

    Grunholzz - YouTube

    He may be the best indoor  player in the world but not on the grassfield, not by a longshot....Yes ,there are aspects of Futsal which  help players in their development and certainly should be stressed or played.

  15. R2 Dad replied, January 30, 2023 at 4:26 p.m.

    Agreed, Frank, but the culture can't be created just be for the few top field players--we need all the other people who played futsal/soccer involved as well--how do we do that? Granted, this is much easier when you have a local pro team to connect with, and maybe that's the next important step: building out the lower leagues in this country so our kids grow up watching/idolizing local professionals.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, January 30, 2023 at 4:55 p.m.

    R2 Dad, it isn't changing "our" soccer culture. I learned in the school yard and playing with Hispanics. And from a Hispanic coach.

    Soccer in the Southwest and in "Ethnic" leagues elsewhere is not your typical USSF pay to play. (While I was on the East Coast I saw Ethnic leagues denied access to fields and shut down by wealthy suburban soccer parents.) From Southern California to Texas, soccer is heavily influenced by Hispanic coaches, players, and coaching instructors. Chicago is out of touch with what is happening because they are focused on the business side of soccer. Hopefully Cone's presidency is the start of something good for the sport itself.

  17. cony konstin, January 30, 2023 at 12:59 p.m.

    The US National team needs a coach that has the ability to transmit an attacking scheme to his players. That is why USSF needs to immediately get in contact with Jupp Heynckes.

    If USSF hires him it will send a message to the world that we are serious about winning the next World Cup. There is no one else in my opinion that is a better fit than Jupp Heynckes. 

  18. Ben Myers, January 30, 2023 at 1:17 p.m.

    The scoring problem goes beyond Berhalter.  Let's even assume that one of his assistants is a world-class expert on finishing.  The issue is the dearth of opportunities for kids to develop and learn finishing skills and to understand buildup to the finish.  Why can't we work potential strikers with practice of finishes of balls served from all angles?  This teaches kids serving the balls the importance of buildup and getting to the spot where a killer ball can be served up.  My instruction with fairly advanced players has usually been that the striker has the choice of one or two touches and no more.  One touch is a volley and if the striker chooses two touches, the first one places the ball where it can be struck well.  My work with an entire team of Under 12s resulted in a high school team scoring over 100 goals in a championship season.  And yes, every U-12 kid got to play the role of striker, resulting in balanced scoring when in high school. 

    Folks, this is not rocket science! It is a matter of emphasis in training in a training-obsessed culture. 

  19. Kent James, January 30, 2023 at 1:24 p.m.

    The difference between good teams and great teams is finishing.  We've been creating chances; where we've been lacking is finishing.  While I think the truly great players have instincts that others lack (Lewandowski is a good example), all players can get better if there is emphasis on finishing.  I think a lot of training focuses on possession; we need to put more on finishing.

  20. frank schoon replied, January 30, 2023 at 2:08 p.m.

    I remember Lewandowski when Guardiola was coach of Bayern. He was not the player we know of him now, he didn't even start for Bayern at one time. His ability of scoring began to grow over time, just like Zlatan and Ronaldo weren't known as scorers in the beginning but only later in their playing days....You can't just make scorers by just working hard on scoring in their youth. 

    It is not the scoring you work on first but all the other aspects a player needs to develops that leads to the path of becoming a good goalgetter. To think  you just need to train on practicing scoring goals, that's not the answer....I wish it was that simple.... For those who think that just practicing scoring goals is really putting the cart before the horse.  The other aspects comes first and by the time you have integrated the other finer aspects than scoring goals will become easier or easier. 

  21. Philip Carragher, January 30, 2023 at 3:15 p.m.

    I'd say one out of every fifty, maybe seventy five kids was born with a nose for the goal. That kid has a ferocity about putting the ball into the net, and he or she probably has a parent that may be a problem to deal with. There is an edge, an inherited one, but one that's worth investing in. See what you can do to keep the problem parent positive with the kid and the team and, don't, and I repeat don't, yell at the goal scorer.

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, January 30, 2023 at 5:02 p.m.

    I call it a "goal oriented" personality, and good keepers need it too. It is a matter of intense focus.

    It isn't me. I played a lot of forward, but I had a "helper" personality. I got a bigger kick out of serving up the ball on a platter for a teammate to finish than I ever did out of scoring myself. A perfect assist is beautiful to see and rarer than goals.

  23. Philip Carragher replied, January 30, 2023 at 7:05 p.m.

    Right on Bob. Goalies shouldn't be yelled at either. Funny you should say that about scoring versus assisting. I enjoyed assists because of the happiness my teammate goal-scorers got from putting the ball in the net. These days their goal-tales are usually what gets recounted when we see each other and they still get fired up about them.

  24. Wooden Ships replied, January 30, 2023 at 8:14 p.m.

    Bob, I agree with your thoughts on assists. This is a big reason for our scoring impotence. We lack quality (technical skills) service. I too agree with goal scoring-nose for goal. You can instruct on how to strike a ball but finishing is mostly innate. You cant teach innate or instinct. Not that you mentioned it, but I prefer two strikers working together. In the mid we use athletes first, defenders first, we aren't using mids that can creat and deliver those beautiful assists. We are hardly a threat in restarts anymore on top of everything else. 

  25. Bob Ashpole replied, January 30, 2023 at 10:43 p.m.

    Nothing like sugar coating the message, WS! I would laugh if I wasn't crying.

  26. Bob Ashpole, January 30, 2023 at 4:41 p.m.

    Mike, the headline put me off, but, because you wrote the piece, I read it anyway. Your comments are exactly on point. Good article. 

    For a start USSF needs to dump its "playing out of the back" system, which really should be called "bogged down in the back". The 70 yard circle with the 6 and 8 in the middle is stupid soccer. I never played that way and I suspect you didn't either. So why are we supposed to be coaching that way?

  27. James Madison, January 30, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.

    What's all of a sudden wrong with pressing. From as long as we have had coaching schools, we've taught that the first priority when the ball is lost in the forward oone-third is to get it back, because it is a lot easier to score after gaining possession in the forwrd third than after gaining possessin in the defensive third.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, January 30, 2023 at 10:51 p.m.

    James, Mike didn't say pressing is wrong. What he is saying is that a 9 shouldn't be making his reputation by pressing. He should be making his reputation by scoring goals. 

  29. James Madison, January 30, 2023 at 6:25 p.m.

    The PRIMARY PROBLEM of the US is its lack of technical skill.  If you cannot pass the ball consistently, it will be difficult to get a player into a position to shoot and score.

  30. Bob Ashpole replied, January 30, 2023 at 10:54 p.m.

    Agree. More determinative, without good first touch teams can't play in small spaces so they are stuck playing long balls.

  31. Kevin Leahy, January 31, 2023 at 6:31 a.m.

    Scoring goals is understanding the game and the moment. It's also dependent on the vision and interplay of your teammate. Even the first team of USMNT have a huge struggle with this. Everything is too uniformed in training and doesn't lead to the kind of players that have the tools necessary to break an opponent down. Saw more creative American players back in the 70's than I see now.

  32. humble 1, January 31, 2023 at 9:20 a.m.

    Futsal is a sport on it's own, rather than a complement to soccer, it is in addition to soccer, in the offseason.  If you know pickleball, it is similar to tennis and played on tennis court, but, everyone that plays pickleball is not a tennis player.  In my experience clubs that put soccer players to play futsal during the soccer season as part of their regular practice do not help them become better soccer players, rather, they may even perform worse.  While strikers are important, they do not score all the goals, teams score goals, but, if you want a guage of our ability to score, while it's true that our growth as a nation is measure by our players developing abroad, for our goal scoring ability, as a nation, look at the fraction of goals in MLS scored by players that learned to play as domestic youth.  This is the true measure.  Until we are scoring most of the goals in our #1 league, we will not be a goal scoring nation and we should focus on defense.  In Brazil, Argentina, Uruugay, and even Costa Rica and Panama, players that learn to play at home score most of the goals.  Mexico, another story, and, that is part of their current problem.  Have a nice day. 

  33. Bob Ashpole replied, January 31, 2023 at 1:05 p.m.

    Think of playing futsal as cross-training. Playing indoor or futsal is great early because it helps foot-eye coordination. It is good anytime because it requires playing in small spaces. Shorter quicker movements are used off the ball and first touch is vital. 

    Perhaps the most important tactical lesson is timing of the movements. The tight spaces punish those whose timing is too early or too late.

    Some people can learn everything from one persepective. But more people benefit from experiencing things from a new perspective. 

    For me personally, playing indoor helped me a lot with playing in small spaces. It also helped me as a coach. I looked at how Barca played under Cruyff and Pep and could see how playing futsal had influenced the style. Other teams would bypass tight spaces, but Barca would play right through them like it was open space.  

  34. humble 1 replied, February 3, 2023 at 11:55 a.m.

    Futsal is for me is another sport.  So in that sense - yes - cross training.  My son has played a lot of futsal.  It is very raw and mostly mis-understood here.  The challenge for futsal is it's placement in the soccer season.  It become a real problem for boys, I mean real problem, when U13 boys, who are mostly 12 years old during the season, in 6th or 7th grade, where girls are taller than many boys in the middle schools at this age, are moved to 11v11 in the youth setup.  The boys already struggle to cover the field and this is the main thing they need to learn - to train for - running up and down the pitch - with and without the ball - at the club playing with a team.  If you put them in futsal - during the soccer season - you detract from their growth into the big pitch.  This I have seen with my own eyes, as we have a very large club here that foolishly puts the boys and girls to train once a week on their tiny futsal pitch.  Nonsense. I have an idea of how the Uruguayan's use futsal to develop skill on and off ball in small spaces, I know that, is not the way. If futsal becomes part of freeplay - then I'm 100% ok that it be played anytime - no refs - no parents - and especially - no coaches - the the boys and girls play - then it can be anytime any day of the year.  No limits on free play.  Thank you!   

  35. Bob Ashpole replied, February 3, 2023 at 2:55 p.m.

    Sorry to disagree Humble. I think your problem is the adult fields are too large. Youth soccer is not supposed to be about developing fitness to run up and down an adult size field. The objective is to develope good players for the senior game, not play the senior game at 13. At 13 they should have already mastered the fundamentals and are just beginning to learn large group tactics, which is really applying what they learned in small sided games to larger groups. There is more depth for defending and penetrating, but the game is the same. 

    This is the start of advanced training and of funtional training. It is also a point where training plans become individualized rather than one general plan fits all. The game itself should not change. Most players have deficiencies in fundamentals which will prevent effective tactical trainning. So they need remedial training on some fundamentals. After remedial training, they can move to the U13 curriculum. I know almost nobody coaches this way, but that is why we don't develop skilled players.

  36. Alan Blackledge, January 31, 2023 at 1:22 p.m.

    And yet if we had scored the2 unfortunates against Serbia that hit the posts and won the game everyone's player evaluation score would have gone up 2 points except the goal scorers...there's would go up by 3...
    And some of the posting geniuses don't seem to know that the only person to win the World Cup as both a player & coach was a defender...Der Kaiser...

  37. Bob Ashpole replied, January 31, 2023 at 7:06 p.m.

    April Heinrichs won the women's world cup as the team captain. As the WNT coach she finished 3rd in 2003 but won olympic gold in 2004. She was also technical director for the US WNT from 2011 to 2018 which included the 2015 world cup win. She was a hall-of-fame forward.

    Jill Ellis coached the US WNT to 2 world cup wins. She played college in the mid 80's before there was a WNT or women's professional soccer. She was a forward too.


  38. Bob Ashpole replied, January 31, 2023 at 7:12 p.m.

    The only other coach to win two world cups was Vittorio Pozzo who invented the 2323 attacking formation in the 1930s which is still popular in the US today.

  39. Bob Ashpole replied, January 31, 2023 at 7:14 p.m.

    Forgot to mention that Pozzo was a midfielder.

  40. Alan Blackledge, January 31, 2023 at 1:22 p.m.

    And yet if we had scored the2 unfortunates against Serbia that hit the posts and won the game everyone's player evaluation score would have gone up 2 points except the goal scorers...there's would go up by 3...
    And some of the posting geniuses don't seem to know that the only person to win the World Cup as both a player & coach was a defender...Der Kaiser...

  41. frank schoon replied, January 31, 2023 at 9:22 p.m.

    Alan, maybe it is news to you but Franz Beckenbauer originally started out as a winger, then became an attacking midfielder. But at midfield he realized at the WC'66 he was forced to play defense by having to chase after Bobby Charlton the attacking English midfielder. So to please Beckenbauer they moved him back and played him as an attacking libero ,meaning players like Paul Breitner , Schwarzenbeck and the other fullback had to do the dirty work for him . Beckenbauer was never a defender , never had dirt never on his shorts . He was an attacking sweeper always coming up with the ball to midfield unaccosted due to Wolfgang Overrath creating space for him at midfield.  

    This is perhaps why those posting geniuses didn't see him as a defender , and neither did Beckenbauer consider  himself as one.... Have a nice day!

  42. Alan Blackledge, February 1, 2023 at 1:14 p.m.

    Frank, the man that always has a lot to say even when he doesn't watch a great the Dutch are...that never won the World Cup! Frank, lots of players have played different positions over their's a clue, he was a defender at the 1974 World know the team that beat the Dutch and the whining Cruyff who was so devastated that he couldn't manage to get the courage to play in 1978...yup, I'm having a great day!!!

  43. frank schoon replied, February 1, 2023 at 1:51 p.m.

    Alan, Reading your post says more about your personal feelings that I don't really care about. I would suggest to go fight your inner demons with someone else.  Instead please stay on point that we were discussing. Your point of Beckenbauer playing sweeper in 1974WC  (no kidding),was a brilliant observation. He played the attacking sweeper role which meant moving all the way upfield coming from the backline. They only needed him as man of last resort on defense , for the real defensive work was carried out by the other 3 and that's why he rarely had to wash his shorts for grass stains after games.
    BTW, he played fantastic as sweeper at the EC'72 ,as well.

  44. Bob Ashpole, February 2, 2023 at 4:13 a.m.

    I thought of a way to explain positional play by a team of highly skilled players in defensive terms.

    The reason we press is to deny areas of the field to the attackers and force them to play in less dangerous areas of the field. We trade the balance of man-to-man coverage for increased pressure around the ball. For typical teams it works great.

    Against a technical team like Barca it doesn't work. They aren't denied anythiing by the press. They have the ability to play through the defensive pressure, and they punish teams for being unbalanced. So against a rare team like Barca, defensive balance becomes more important.

    The reasonn I value positional play is more about what happens away from the ball than what happens around the ball. But the key is ball skills, especially first touch.

    It is easy for a coach to understand what to do with one highly skilled player. You make him your "playmaker" and have the turbo soccer revolve around him. Barca demonstrates how to use 4 or more highly skilled players at a time with devastating success. Positional play is how this becomes both an offensive and defensive advantage at the same time. Like chess the strongest movements are the moves that improve both attack and defense at the same time. 

    Coaches like Cruyff and Pep are thinking offensively and defensively all the time. They don't think of them as four separate "moments of play" like USSF teaches coaches. Against their teams when your press wins the ball your team won't have any open path forward. Position becomes more important than turbo.

  45. frank schoon replied, February 2, 2023 at 8:39 a.m.

    Bob, Good stuff. The reason the high press didn't work against Barcelona was they had a frontline of Messi, Ronaldinho, Henri, or Eto or Zlatan, Perez that kept the opponents backline very weary and therefore they could not close the ranks to give support for the high press. They knew by moving a long ball would follow behind to have any of these types mentioned run after...

    In other words the backline couldn't risk moving up towards midline to support their high press. And this is why Barcelona didn't suffer the high press defense...Ofcourse their build up didn't consists of 10,000 square and back passes but moved quickly forward with fast ballmovements and smart passes by Xavi and Iniesta

  46. humble 1, February 3, 2023 at 12:13 p.m.

    This little discussion just keeps giving.  Thank you.  A lot of good nuggets above - never really saw the sweeper position played in my time, but, now I get how it can be used in the attack, conceptually anyway.  The beaut y of soccer.  My son played CDM last two years in HS on Freshman team, then as sophmore on JV, scoring 10gls and 10 asts, both years, this is good.  At club he is CB and CDM and they use him FB sometimes, to get him on pitch with older boys.  This year he's Varsity in HS.  Coach is deploying him as RB/LB.  What!  Well he is learning that he can do all the destroying he did as CDM, as that is one of his gifts, destroy attacks, and he never gets marked like he would by a CDM in MF.  He is killing it.  Have to hand to coach to have the vision to set him free there. 

  47. humble 1 replied, February 3, 2023 at 12:29 p.m.

    His other gift is vision and passing he has the cutter - to go thru lines on ground and - the glorious long ball that everyone hates - but he perfected, and he can go over them - and he has the flick - and he can get himself space with his touch and and dribbles, to execute - so on the side as the FB.  Last three games he figure it out - he did not start two of the games - played only 40 minutes in both - and the last one he did start - played 60m - playing 100m out of 240 - 11 gols by his team - 9 he was on the pitch when scored - 1 was his assist - top drawer - after stripping ball from attacker, dribble two defenders and flick over two more to put in 18yd box on foot of MF making a run for a gol - then the 8 others all the other goals he had a hand in winning and starting the attack.  Beast.  The key is - he has the fitness and ability to run like a FB - not blazing speed - and he is not bothers by CDM with a nose for the ball.   His HS coach is a legend, over 600 wins, former pro player back in the day.  Thinking outside the box.  This is what we need for the Natty Mens Team - thinking outside the box - we have players that can score - we need a leader that puts them together in a way that gets the most from the group.  Interesting that the HS coaches today more so than ever - basically assemble talent developed at clubs and use them for 3 months.  The ability to see what the players can bring, individually, and in the conext of the group, the team, this is what we need, more than ever.  Our boys have skills, again. Maybe not like the Dutch, but skills never-the-less.  We need a coach that can make a team that is greater than the sum of the parts.  We need the warrior spirit, we don't want to leave that on the table, but we have goals in our group, they just need a coaching staff that can be the catalyst to bring them out of the boys.

  48. frank schoon replied, February 3, 2023 at 2:35 p.m.

    Humble, the Sweeper is really a centerback who plays behind the other centerback, as backup, and who has better ball skills, this is why older attackers could play that roll, as well. He can go on attack and therefore forces the opponent's midfield having pick him up, thus sacrificing a midfielder....He stirs up defensive problems for the midfielders.

    The two centerbacks today don't  have attacking qualities but sort of guard the centerlane. As with no sweeper it forces the #6(CMD) to come back for the ball, resulting in one less midfielder to pass to forwards , and usually the CMD usually receives the ball with his back facing downfield with no fieldview..

    I prefer the sweeper for gives extra attack stimulus. By the sweeper moving up you also create give and go situations not only in the back with centerback but also at mid with CMD going forwards. The centerback positions has created players with little attacking skills, it makes for easier guarding and it has created many more square passes and/or backpasses which this game is drowning in....

    If I were a smart coach I would make my team play with a sweeper for it will mess the opponent's rhythm of play for they are used to playing against a team with a sweeper. This is like when most teams at one time played 4-4-2, no wingers but with foam on the mouth outside halfbacks. What resulted in the outside backs not having to play against wingers. But all of sudden when they are playing a team with wingers that can mess up their rhythm. That is why you should always play the opposite of what is trendy...

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications