Tag Archives: U.S. Soccer

New York Cosmos – Why the Cosmos can be the best thing that ever happened to U.S. soccer

Re-posted from June, 1st, 2011

As a soccer fan living in New York City, I am very excited to see The New York Cosmos coming back to life. As a matter of fact, I see the Cosmos coming back as the best thing that ever happened to U.S soccer, besides of winning the World Cup. Not only does this create the first serious soccer rivalry in American soccer, Cosmos also has the ability to draw international business attention to American soccer. Not only that, but the opportunity to attract superstars and increase the sports national and international “flair” will dramatically increase. Unlike other major sports in the U.S. such as “football” and baseball, soccer is a sport that is catching Global attention and for U.S. soccer catching that kind of attention would be an incredible business opportunity. That, in the long run, can’t be met by “football” or baseball. Continue reading

US Soccer — Honeymoon is over for Jurgen Klinsmann — Jeff Carlisle – ESPN

US Soccer — Honeymoon is over for Jurgen Klinsmann — Jeff Carlisle – ESPN.

US Soccer – Juergen Klinsmann’s trouble

US Soccer — Jurgen Klinsmann still upbeat despite loss — Ravi Ubha from Paris – ESPN.

The U.S national team harvested another loss. France was the opponent today and the winner of the match. If you look at the press reports in both countries, nobody is happy. A 1-0 win against the United States is rather average for the French. In the U.S. the experts are wondering when the team is intending to score goals. 2 goals in the last 5 games is not enough for the media in the U.S..

Listening to the experts on TV and reading the articles from guys that probably have never played the game (such as the one in the link above), it seems they are all just waiting for the WC qualifiers to start so that they can shoot with everything they have. Klinsmann made it clear that he is experimenting and that he is not interested in results at this point. The experts, deep inside, know a change in U.S. soccer was mandatory and they were all hoping that with Klinsmann, from one day to the other, the team will win against everyone. Not so fast. Miracles can happen quickly, the impossible takes a little longer.

Klinsmann has a big job to master. He must transform “crocks” into dancing shoes. He must make up the mistakes of at least 10 years in no time and deliver something Americans haven’t experienced yet. He must put the team and U.S. soccer on the World map, once and for all. This is important for soccer in this country where the winners of the two major sports usually call themselves “World Champions”, even though nobody else is playing. World Champions, that’s the goal, at one point.

Looking at the game today, one thing is clearly sticking out: Major League Soccer is not a competitive league. In no way can the league produce top players that are able to turn games on an international level. Examples: Kyle Beckerman and Brek Shea. Both are top players in the MLS, but struggle on an international level. Shea is a young kid that can have a bright future, if he gets out of this league and can make his way to Europe. He should be over there already, for at least three years. For Beckerman it doesn’t look good at all. He has “progressed” to much already as that any of the top clubs in Europe would be interested. They have that kind of material in the category “18 year old”. It is no wonder that Klinsmann is looking for players that could play for the U.S. everywhere he can. Those he found are of the same age as Beckerman and Shea, have even less talent, but have a much more intensive “education” than the two. And that is what this team needs. Before you can bark with the big dogs, you need to be able to lift your leg. In the case of soccer, Klinsmann needs to find the players first, before he can go after the big guns. Something the experts should consider when they unleash their wisdom.

All things considered, Klinsmann and the team are making progress. You can take something good out of every game. If Klinsmann is able to bring together the good things of the past few games, he will succeed and with him U.S. soccer. If he can manage to change the insufficient structures of U.S. soccer and support all the talent, the U.S. will be World Champions one day. Real World Champions. Imagine that.




Jurgen Klinsmann names 22-man squad for Mexico – News | FOX Sports on MSN

Jurgen Klinsmann names 22-man squad for Mexico – News | FOX Sports on MSN.

U.S. Soccer National Team. Not all bad surprises in Juergen Klinsmann’s first roster for the clash with Mexico on Wednesday. What is a surprise is that Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Jozy Altidore (Alkmaar) are not on the list. In my opinion this has its reason in Klinsmann’s desire to find alternatives in the U.S. offense. It is commonly known what Dempsey and Altidore can do.

Galarcep: Jurgen Klinsmann’s hiring has holiday feel – News | FOX Sports on MSN

Galarcep: Jurgen Klinsmann’s hiring has holiday feel – News | FOX Sports on MSN.

Exciting news for U.S. soccer, still.

What Klinsmann can do for U.S. Soccer

For a couple of days now I follow the discussion about and around the new U.S. National Coach Juergen Klinsmann. Everyone that knows about soccer or not is participating somehow. One of the major headaches for the experts, what is Klinsmann about to do in order to make things better? What will he change?

Well, there is not much wisdom necessary, he will try to teach on how to win a soccer game. An important game that is. The U.S. have won soccer games before, but the important games, on a world stage, went all ”straight into the pants” as the Germans say. When experts come up with successes on a world stage, they always refer to the famous win against Spain a few years back. Well done, however, there is not a lot of value given to a win in the Confederations Cup. At least not in the big soccer world. Successes are measured in world cup accomplishments. What counts for the big soccer nations is reaching the semifinal and up at the world cup. The rest is “cold coffee”, also a German saying.

The problem of the past years in U.S. soccer is a certain comfort with a few minor accomplishments and the following lack of focus on the important things (This, along with the biggest problem, college soccer, is something Klinsmann will address). While ten years ago all the U.S. had to do was catching up, 5 years ago, once they caught up, the build up for better successes was missed. The U.S. is not short of talent, we have more than many of the big soccer nations, but we are short of guys that teach a few things regarding the importance of winning a soccer game and how to win. Many of the foreign youth coaches here, gave it a try, but had to let it go, because the youth is so “protected” from doing things that are on the edge of the game. All our kids are technically very well educated. They learn to pass, dribble, juggle the ball and all those things. And those coaches that want to teach drills in that department are very popular, with parents and players, because its fun and easy. Since the most in the U.S. operate like that, on the national level that is not an issue and nice games develop. When they go to international competitions, it now starts to become difficult. The other nations can juggle the ball as well, but they do a few other things our kids have never seen before. Do the “juggle” in high pace and under physical and mental pressure turns into a struggle. On top of that, others are able to unpack a few things that for our kids are forbidden fruit and they are taught exactly that, don’t do it.

My best example of a waste of soccer talent is the actually best U.S. soccer player, Landon Donavan. Man, that boy had talent. Remember when he pulled the Germans 2002 all over the field? And almost(!) became the hero in that game? He had the talent and the abilities to become the first American world soccer star. It took him 9 more years to get a real soccer mentality and it needed a last chance in England at Everton FC. He messed up two opportunities before in Germany, in Munich and Leverkusen. Anyway, the visit in England did the trick and put him to the next level. His game and his personality has changed during the spell at Everton. When you watch him playing now and compare this to before the “break trough” in England, you can clearly see the difference. The nice young kid that could play soccer so well, became quite feisty and sometimes quite an a.. on the soccer field. He got a soccer mentality. What prevents him today from becoming a super star is, he is not 20 anymore. He missed to learn the soccer mentality when he was a teenager. That is what Klinsmann will try to teach the U.S.. Good luck, Juergen.

What some journalists and some viewers can learn from the Women’s Soccer World Cup

While reading the reports of the soccer guru’s about the women’s soccer world cup final this morning, it saw myself forced to write a few words about a sport still most Americans don’t understand. That includes, as sad as it is, a group of people that should actually focus on soccer education while reporting on important soccer events. I am talking about some soccer journalists. They wear titles like “12 year veteran of the American soccer beat” and “Best Football writer” and other. I do understand that not every article can be as good as the other, but when it comes to writing about important events, you need to know what you are talking about and be aware of the consequences your article might have. Here is an example: If I am a Plumber and have to educate a group of medical students on heart surgery, there might be a catastrophe luring for the doctors association.

If you want to educate people on soccer, or inform, you must know what you are talking about. The game between the U.S. and Japan yesterday was one of the most intriguing soccer games Continue reading

Women’s Soccer World Cup Final 2011: Soccer is that good (and brutal)

What a game! The Women Soccer World Cup Final 2011 was an incredible game. Everyone that saw the game today went from one emotional outbreak to another. Pain, disappointment and excitement turned into joy, early celebrations, outbreaks of pride and all the way back to the beginning. At the end, we all sat there with an open mouth and couldn’t believe what just happened.

After two hours of world class soccer and a stunning pk shoot-out, Japan was the new World Champion. For those holding it with the U.S. women, heaven appeared to come down and excitement turned into disbelieve. Those that were holding it with the Japanese were ecstatic Continue reading

NYC World Cup – Cosmos COPA NYC 2011 quarterfinals this Sunday, July 17th

cosmoscopa Eight teams are fighting for their chance to reach the COSMOS COPA’s semi final on July 23rd. As the tournament is enjoying growing popularity, the quality of soccer has improved as the group stages clearly displayed. Tommy Smyth, ESPN’s Irish soccer expert supports this view, “compared to last year, the quality of the games has tremendously improved”. 

The tournament is only played for the third time and has an incredible potential to become the major cultural event in New York City. 30 community based “national teams” went into the qualifying rounds and 16 qualified for the group stages. Surprisingly, some of the major soccer countries and World Cup winners Continue reading

The awakening of an American soccer giant – Remember the Cosmos

cosmosThe New York Cosmos put U.S. soccer on the world stage in the 1970s. For those who are old enough to remember, soccer exploded in the United States when Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia and many other international superstars joined the Cosmos in New York City, stunning an American audience and the American sports world.

Since then, soccer grew into a sport played by millions of kids across the country, and U.S. teams became serious contenders in international competition in all age groups and for men and women alike, but Cosmos hasn’t had a team since 1985. The New York Cosmos is now making a comeback and on its way to becoming an expansion team in the MLS. Still infused with flair, fabulousness and the promise of greatness, the club has lost none of its international name recognition or the ability to rally masses around the world, more than any other sports team in the United States. The Cosmos Continue reading

Why no Soccer Superstar and no World Cup for the U.S.?

Here are three reasons why we still don’t have an international soccer superstar and no World Cup success:

  1. College soccer
  2. Insufficient coaching and opportunity to learn “more”
  3. A young league and young teams/clubs that have to grow slow and need to adjust to the requirements of international soccer.

College Soccer

The major reason why we don’t have a soccer superstar in U.S. soccer is college! College soccer is also the major reason why the U.S. has not managed to win a World Cup or reach consistent significant success at past World Cups.

Of all major soccer countries, which the U.S. is, despite the lack of international success, the U.S. has the most talent available. The exception may be Brazil and Argentina. There is no European country, or soccer power house, that has the same pool of youth players to chose from, not only by numbers, but in quality. American soccer talent up to U18 is enough to create 3 world class teams with a number of super stars.

In 2000 I started getting involved in a program called ODP (Olympic Development Program). I have been told the program has been founded to prepare the U.S. for coming soccer World Cups. As a European coming from one of the major forces in world soccer (Germany), I had to smile. I couldn’t believe the U.S. will ever have a chance to take a serious shot at a soccer World Cup. My opinion changed quickly. When I went to the regional tournament of Region 1 (the U.S. has 5 regions), which was held at Ryder University in New Jersey, and saw the quality of youth soccer, I was stunned. Looking at the talent in all age groups, I was convinced the U.S. has a serious shot at the World Cup, possibly earlier as 2010.

While the ODP program had major flaws, for one it wasn’t able to pull all the talent this country has, it produced more than enough players to work with and be successful. One of my classical claims is, with the show ups of a NYC tryout for an ODP program, you can create a World Cup winner in any age group. The problems in American youth soccer turn up later, when the players turn 18 and go to college. American college soccer  is by far not as competitive as programs the rest of the world has in place for players age 17 – 23. While here in the U.S. the players “run around” in college teams, European players in that age group are playing and practice with the big shots in soccer. The learning experience made in Europe during that very important stage of a soccer career, can’t be made up by college soccer. Over the years of college, American players lose so much quality, and much more, do not add to their quality, that it can’t be made up afterwards.

Lionel Messi is 23 and a superstar in soccer. Make him join the American college program would have been a waste for soccer AND the player. To become what he is today, required him to leave his country and move to Spain. This is what young American kids have to do in order to advance and become superstars in soccer. They need to go abroad to keep learning and establish themselves in professional soccer.

Over the past years American youth soccer has incorporated an Academy program. While the program has the advantage that it brings the top youth players of an region together earlier and lets the players compete on a higher level of quality, the major problem remains. Comes college time, the most are lost. For those that stay around and join MLS teams, the limit is that, MLS soccer, which is not top notch soccer, yet.

In a Wall Street Journal report from June 17th, 2011, Sunil Gulati, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, made an interesting statement:

Sunil Gulati, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said he would have expected a U.S. player to become a stalwart for one of the world’s top clubs by now, but that he’s not “shocked” it hasn’t happened. “There are so few players at that level,” he said. “I believe it’s something that will happen over time.”

Gulati said the U.S. is better off building a broad base of excellence and a system that can nurture greatness rather than enduring a Godot-like wait for an American soccer icon. A country has its best chance of producing a Nobel-prizewinning physicist, he said, if it has a collection of top research universities housing 50 great scientists.

His statement tells me that he is aware of the problem, but because he won’t be the man that will change it (and neither will I), he goes with the flow and relies on the sheer numbers of talent. One or two will finally make it. He is right. It will happen, but that superstar or quality of the national team will not come out of college soccer.  With the increasing number of players that take a risk and go to Europe, rather than college, one or more of these kids will make it big. Those that don’t make it big, will at least make it bigger than those that stay and go to college. If you take a look at the U.S. national teams over the past 10-15 years, the number of players that played or play in foreign countries is increasing. So it will go on, and so the quality of the team and the players will increase. One can take a look at every soccer superstar in the world, they all took a risk at one point and made the decision to become a professional player, rather than getting educated first.

Education is big business in the U.S. and so it is sold as the most important invention since the wheel. Education has turned into a powerful industry and is treated, similar to housing, as an “American dream”.  While education is important and should be pursued by soccer players, and all young athletes and kids, it is also possible to obtain college level education at a later time and even while playing professional soccer. There are more than enough examples for such. One of the most prominent examples for this is the German ex-international goalie Oliver Kahn. He finished his education while stopping shots for Bayern Munich and the German national team. Also, being a professional player is a business and provides players with plenty of comparable experience. With the right attitude and approach, a professional soccer career provides more practical experience and business skill than any college.

Insufficient coaching and opportunity to learn “more”

In the same report of the Wall Street Journal, Eric Wynalda, the former U.S. international stated:

“We are a country of overcoaches. The talents and abilities of our players now exceed the knowledge of the coaching, so the result is stagnation”.

Coaching of the more advanced youth teams in the U.S. is insufficient. While many of the coaches have a long list of certifications under their belt, the practical experience and understanding of the game on a higher level is lacking. With that, a major ability to read games and adjust quickly on the field is missing. Many coaches that coach decent youth teams are unable to play more systems than one or two. Special situations, as they occur multiple times during a game, will not, and cannot, be addressed. The same counts for the majority of college soccer teams and even many youth teams of MLS teams.

Taking a decent youth soccer team in the U.S. to the next level remains a major challenge. Parent involvement to the disadvantage of the team, over emphasizing of officials, adjustment of rules and other actions that are meant as good turn many good soccer performances and important experiences into a major problem and hold the players back from creating and learning a winning attitude. This attitude is needed in order to be successful on an international level. Many players are so “protected” by parents and coaches, that they are unable to develop important skills needed in international competition.

Eric Wynalda’s statement is certainly true when it comes to the U.S. national team. With players like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donavan and others, the experience on the field by far exceeds the experience “on the bench”.  It is important for U.S. soccer, in order to advance and further close the gap to the world class teams in the world, to have a coach and management that has significant international experience, as a player, coach and management overall.  The problem can be found on the junior level as well, where very often the players exceed the experience of the coaches and get stuck.

A young league and young teams and clubs that need time to grow and need time to adjust to the requirements of international soccer

While the MLS is steadily improving, the league is depending on players coming over from other foreign leagues. Professional players that are near retirement seeking a last payout in MLS. Sounding rather negative, it is a very important part of the MLS and will continue to be for quite some time. Even if these players are not playing on 100% anymore, they still have to offer a lot young American players can learn from, not only on the field, but also off the field. Shining examples are David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. Playing with such personalities can only help players like Tim Ream from the New York Red Bulls, and many others, to get better and prepare them for a possible move overseas when the chance presents itself.

The MLS is suffering from the major U.S. soccer problem, college soccer. MLS and soccer are losing the best and most hopeful players to college. While the number of players that decide to go with soccer is increasing, the quality of the MLS is still taking a hit. In the current system, it will take a long time until the league will reach top international class.

What to do?

With the current structure, there is not much U.S. soccer can do. It is probably next to impossible to change the system to improve soccer. Too many chairs have to be moved, or removed, to make such changes. The improvement will come from individual decisions, as always, by single players. Someone, or like in this case, many players will turn their back to college and chose a soccer career. Some will make it big and at one point the U.S. will have a superstar or more. The sheer number of quality youth players will also give the U.S. a shot at every World Cup. One day, the number of quality players and improved coaching will break the structures that held the U.S. back longer than necessary.