Tag Archives: World Cup

Growing: The Brazilian Economoy – Infographic

Today, Brazil represents one of the fastest and most up and coming countries in the world. Their economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, catapulting business and industry. On top of all of that they are set to host the World Cup and the Summer Olympics in the next couple years. Continue reading

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Soccer Is Life!

The Beautiful Game Is the Most Searched Sport In The U.S.

Do Soccer Clubs Need Shrinks To Protect Their Assets? 

Why No Soccer Superstar And No World Cup For U.S. Soccer

Fernando Torres – Mystery? (04/2011)

Cantona: United States can rule the world – News | FOX Sports on MSN

Cantona: United States can rule the world – News | FOX Sports on MSN.

Eric Cantona is right. When you travel the country and you see all the talent, there is no doubt it will happen one day. The talent is there, and was 10 years ago, the clubs are there, the intention is there and the desire is growing. With Juergen Klinsmann the U.S. now has a coach that can bring a few important things on its way. What needs to be done, is changing the structures and adjust to a more competitive system. That will take some time, but in the meantime the young players are growing. If you want to measure it, if we can add 10-15% better performance to what we have, we have a top team. In the long run, the U.S. will be on top of the ranks.

The New York Cosmos have the right idea and they are working hard to make things happen for them and U.S. soccer. The Cosmos coming back, can be the best thing for U.S. soccer.

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.

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

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.

United States – Spain 0 – 4, Review and what to take from the game

The U.S. men’s national team is currently preparing for the Gold Cup and yesterday played Spain in a friendly, before, on Tuesday, the Gold Cup tournament will start. It is questionable, to have a game such as this ahead of an important tournament. On the other hand, it is not easy to get a team such as Spain over to the US for a friendly and “tank” valuable experience. With the right expectations and taking the lesson the right way, the result of the game can still be of help for the US Team.

Reading the news and expert opinions a day later, I am wondering if I have missed some major development in US soccer over the past few days and weeks. It appears, that a lot of people have expected the US to give the Spanish a serious run for their money. Hello, what have you guys been thinking?

Let’s take a look at the circumstances. Three days after the Spain game the Gold Cup starts. This is clearly the event that has the team’s attention. Obviously, the intent was to give some young players an experience of finest international soccer. Looking at the line-up of the US team should serve as sufficient confirmation. For me, as an ex-professional player, it didn’t take that much to understand that the US team is not coming out full speed and trying to land a win, no matter the costs. And if they did, the Spanish would have not played that game. They are coming out of a long season and are all happy that the season comes to a close. They came here to play and give their fans an appearance. Besides that, they have a Euro 2012 qualifier to play, on Tuesday. So, why in the world, would you expect a serious fight from both teams?

Would you seriously expect players like Rogers, Ream, Agudelo and the other talents on the pitch in the first half, would give Spain a serious game even if this would have been, let’s say, a World Cup game? Man, you must be dreaming! These young guys play in the MLS and that league is by far not competitive on an international level. Games such as yesterday’s are supposed to help the kids playing in MLS getting some valuable experience. And that was the purpose of that game, and nothing else. I think we all need to “stay in the pants”, despite our excitement about soccer. The way how things go, we will not be World Champion over night, at least not in soccer.

Sometimes the press has mysterious ways to steer things into a certain direction. The reports about this game could indicate some mind game in the direction of Coach Bradley. If such is the case, this game is not the right way to “dish out”. Wait until important games are played, and lost. Otherwise you are going to create a “British Rainbow Press Environment”, and that we should not do. After all, it is in all our interest that US soccer can take advantage of all the incredible resources available. This should include an informed and knowledgeable press as well.

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V. is an ex-professional Bundesliga player that has learned the game from some of the best. Today, V. is an international soccer and business analyst.

FIFA mess: Blatter MUST go!

Everyone who saw this press conference and Blatter’s “out-of-the-world” presentation can only come to one conclusion: The man lost it and it is time for change. FIFA is not any country-side soccer club, this organization is in the spotlight every day and has responsibilities that need to be treated on a professional level.

Yesterday’s press conference was ridiculous and those that saw things unfolding during the event couldn’t believe their eyes. Blatter might believe he is pulling the strings within FIFA, in the public’s opinion, latest since yesterday, he is considered a fool that lost his sense for reality. This poor show can’t go on.

On whether there is bribery involved in the choices for the next World Cups or not, has to be seen. In my opinion, I can see Russia as a successful World Cup event, when it comes to Qatar, however, I have serious concerns about a real good World Cup event. A World Cup is also a commercial event and requires more than just a few stadiums. In my opinion, again, Qatar should take a look at such an event as a co-host with someone else. The World Cup 2022 should not be played there and the fact that Qatar was chosen has a bitter taste. Considering everything involved, something seems to be wrong. 

Bayern Munich and the difference – Or why Louis van Gaal fell over his own feet

The German record champ is one of the first addresses in world soccer. Ranked number 5 in the“world ranking for revenue”, the club is interesting for top players as well as for the top coaches in the world.

Last week, Louis van Gaal, a commonly considered top coach in soccer, lost his job in Munich. The press and soccer experts around the world are wondering about the reasons. Louis van Gaal made many mistakes, not only in managing the team, but also in managing the club and its grown structures. It is all his fault, clearly!

Lets look at a few details. Last year the Bayern made it into Champions League Final and lost against Inter Milan. At that time already clear, they need to shore up the defense. Both central defenders and the left full back position should have been reinforced. Van Gaal let it go, despite the fact that the Bayern were willing to spend money. After the World Cup, the real trouble started: The entire team was at the World Cup, for Germany, France and the Dutch. A real good preparation for the season was not possible. Van Gaal laid that out, and he was right. Until the team was getting back in some kind of normal form, the half of the season was over. Most important for the club, Bayern was not in the top five and had to struggle to keep up and put themselves  into Champions League qualifying position. At that time, while completely underestimating and disregarding competition and valuable resources, van Gaal got the glorious idea to shape the team for the next season. Butt out of goal and Kraft in. Sold Demichelis, the better of the two central defenders, and let van Bommel go to AC Milan. All  these actions, as expected, went straight into the pants, as the Germans say. Butt, who was mandatory for Bayern’s and van Gaal’s strategy, had to watch from the sideline how the young Kraft was overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. Many mistakes in the traditional goalie game, and hopelessly “under equipped” to support the Bayern strategy of keeping the ball and use the goalie to do so. Letting van Bommel go, with his experience and leadership abilities, comes close to a beginner mistake. If one wants to put numbers to just those two mistakes, those cost the Bayern five to six points at least, since the winter break. Add those to the current points, and van Gaal would still be in charge. You can go on and consider the dynamics that are created by such actions, and you have another 3 or 4 points.

Much more ridiculous, van Gaal managed to p… off the entire management “high society” at Bayern. Unlike other top clubs, were management has no clue about the game and just throws money out to buy players, at Bayern, everyone in charge knows everything about the game on the field and off the field. If, as a coach, you don’t take advantage of such resources, you are either stupid or you lost the ground under your feet. Van Gaal is not stupid.

One can charge management for not putting an end to this earlier, but you can also give them credit for letting the coach do his thing. Considering everything on the table, I find this worth to give them credit. As a coach, where do you find that kind of opportunity? A big club, money to buy players and incredible resources in management that help you do the job.  All you need to do is manage a “rose garden”. Van Gaal failed to do so.