Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On the Future of US Football....errr, Soccer

Correspomdents Ed and Scott weigh in on the fortunes of the USMNT after last night's crucial victory over regional "powerhouse" Guatemala :-/

Ed:  I watched the game last evening.  I liked our lineup better, though I still don’t understand a few things.  First of all, Guatemala is terrible; how we lost to them last week is beyond belief.  I would think a good U.S. college team could beat them.  Second, at least last night Jurgen Klinsman had people at their appropriate positions – except for Bradley, whom he insists on playing in a number 10 though Bradley can’t help himself and often fell back into the number 6 position in spite of Beckerman being there.  I still think we are a better team with Bradley at 6, Nagbe  at 8 and Nguyen (or your boy Benny Feilhaber, Scott, but for whatever reason he’s an enemy of the state) at 10, and Beckerman on the bench unless and until we need him.  I was glad to see Zusi again, though I’m not sure of Castillo – he’s like a taller, younger imitation brand of Beasley.
My conclusions were:  we still aren’t very good at the simple tasks of passing and receiving.  I don’t watch much US National Team but clearly these guys aren’t at BPL level as they miss a lot of passes and have some poor first touches.  While we dominated the game and score line, there were no style points for us like there are when an overmatched team in the BPL plays a lower level team, e.g., Spurs playing Sunderland.  Sunderland will have their shots but Spurs will dominate possession and the game and there will usually be chance after chance. 

Dempsey played well but he’s definitely not going to be there next world cup as the 30 thing is upon him.

Bobby Wood is okay.  Like Castillo, I find it surprising that we don’t have any better USA players at those positions considering the talent we sometimes see just in South Florida.
Whatever.  They won.  They were better.  Onward.
I should note that US Youth Soccer has dramatically increased the number of US Soccer Academies.  I don’t know if this is a Klinsman thing, but suspect it is.  In Germany he is credited in small part to the cleaning up of their malfunctioning and fractured system.  German soccer put a ton of money into training coaches to get a high number of highly qualified coaches throughout, and JK forced money into facilities for the same purpose. I  believe to be an academy you need both a highly licensed coach and a certain quantity of facilities.  I imagine this will be good for USA youth soccer in general and the development of better players than we currently have on our USA national team.  If JK’s legacy is this, then he may have earned his money as it’s probably the most important thing for USA to get better at the international game (that said, I don’t know much about all the new academies springing up).  The current players are better than he’s made them look, but they still just aren’t that good compared to their top European counterparts. 

Scott:  I agree with pretty much everything Ed said except we dominated the game so much (granted, I only watched the first half and then skimmed the second) that I’m not sure what more could have been expected.  Maybe another 2 goals but 4 is plenty.  I think we lacked style points because we simply lack the requisite number of players with deft touch.  So maybe I am agreeing with Ed on everything.  I certainly saw a lot of errant first touches – it was like watching a “highlight” reel of Fort Lauderdale over 45s.
Interesting point he made about more academies here and that perhaps that was Jurgen’s influence in Germany.  Maybe he’s really more a director of football than a coach.

Ed (always needing the last word): I read a book on German soccer called Das Boot! (really, on both counts).  They didn’t detail what JK did but he had some involvement (though he wasn’t necessarily the primary mover).  It spoke of how he pushed to get guys in who were citizens elsewhere – Ozil for example.  And how he wanted a focus on youth and better facilities.  He did all the same things with the German team—playing players out of position and antagonizing a lot of people in German soccer at the time.  German soccer was much more of a mess than people realize – it was overrun with local rivalries, players from different areas not wanting to play with each other, and a lack of good and developed coaches.  They wanted to reach out and make sure more kids had good training as well so as not to lose the ones who weren’t in the Bayern or Dortmund academy or wherever.  I think Tony Kroos is considered a success story on that front.  Today, people think favorably of his upsetting the apple cart and the status quo because they ended up winning the World Cup shortly after he left with “his” team.  I suspect he has taken that model here, though there is less of an apple cart to upset and I have found many of his moves to be antagonizing without much purpose.  Regardless, if he is pushing to refocus US youth soccer in America – and I’m sure he’s not the only person – then I think that’s the right idea.  You can’t read Das Boot without thinking of USA soccer and applying the lessons learned there to the USA.  In short, for them it was mostly about training coaches to ultimately have players better at playing a less direct style.  This is what JK says he wants here.  I’d say the players cannot really do this yet.

This is a relieved farlieonfootie for March 30. 

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