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September 28, 2007
Brilliant Brazil exposes inconvenient truth

By Mike Woitalla (from Sept. 28 SoccerAmericaDaily)

Regardless of which keeper stood between the U.S. posts, what mistakes Coach Greg Ryan made or the red card to Shannon Boxx, the difference between the teams in Brazil's 4-0 rout of the USA was skill. Dribbling, trapping, shooting, passing. Brazil topped each category. And Brazil entertained.

Midway through the tournament, Ryan defended his team's bang-it-up-to-Abby Wambach playing style. He told FIFA.com, "If you spend all your time trying to look pretty, you're going to end up with big problems the other way."

Not that anyone was asking for a full 90 minutes of the Beautiful Game, but the nation with the richest history in the women's game should serve up something more sophisticated than kick-and-run survival soccer.

Usually, coaches who opt for Route 1 and a reliance on athleticism over a possession game rationalize their crude tactics by claiming they haven't the talent to outplay rather than outmuscle their foes.

Of course you wouldn't expect Ryan to say such a thing - to disparage his players' talent -- in the middle of a tournament. But regardless of the game plan, the performance against Brazil revealed the skill gap.

The Brazilian players used trickery and guile to evade the Americans. U.S. players, in one-on-one situations, tried mainly to sprint around defenders, and that didn't work.

Referee Nicole Petignat demonstrated she goes quickly to the cards. Had American players been able to dribble past Brazilians and draw fouls, they may have gotten a makeup call to even the numbers. But the Americans failed to put the Brazilians in desperate situations because they couldn't beat them on the dribble.

The Brazilians were comfortable on the ball. The U.S. players weren't.

The Brazilians could keep possession while under pressure. The Americans couldn't.

Hopefully the convenient criticism of Coach Ryan doesn't overshadow the inconvenient truth that the Americans players were technically inferior.

Click HERE for video highlights of the USA's loss to Brazil

September 25, 2007
U.S. Team Winning Games, Not Style Points

Click HERE to read my column in the New York Sun on the USA's performance at the Women's World Cup.

September 21, 2007
The New Landscape

The U.S. Soccer Federation has integrated the country''s top youth clubs into the national team program.

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

This fall marks the launch of a youth league in which every game will be an audition for the national team program. By creating the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, for U-16 and U-18 boys, the Federation is in effect cutting out the middle man when it comes to identifying talent for its national team program.

Sixty-three clubs and the U.S. national team will field teams in each age group. The players will not participate in the traditional player identification scheme - the U.S. Youth Soccer-run Olympic Development Program - because they'll be scouted by Federation staff coaches in their Academy league play.

The Federation began accepting applications from clubs for the Academy on June 4 with an Aug. 1 deadline.

"I don't like to use the word overwhelming, but the response was overwhelming," says U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati. "We received over 150 applications. I'm very pleased with that.

"It was a program that was thought about for a long time, but from the start to finish on the application process it was very quick. It shows there was a demand for it."

Seventeen of the clubs in Soccer America's 2007 Top 20 Boys club rankings are among the teams accepted into the academy.

"Many of the who's who of top clubs are in the Academy and a very large percentage of clubs and programs that have produced many of our national team players," Gulati says. "That's all very good."

The most conspicuous absentee is the Dallas Texans, the only club in Soccer America's Top 10 Boys Clubs of 2007 that didn't enter the Academy.

Texans director Hassan Nazari says that upon the announcement of the Academy launch he met with officials of the Dallas area's Classic League and his state association and promised he wouldn't enter his club in Academy for its first season.

"The Academy league is a great concept," Nazari says. "The country is ready for it. At this moment, nobody has all the answers and there are unknowns. But it's going to be successful because the people involved are successful people with a lot of knowledge.

"At the same time, the Classic League here in North Texas, the people that we have been involved with, have done a tremendous job creating a very competitive environment. We didn't just want to pack and leave them hanging."

While Nazari says the Texans will consider applying in the future, their North Texas rival Solar SC has come aboard. It is the only team from the soccer hotbed state of Texas in the Academy.

Solar SC will continue fielding teams in each age group of the Classic League while forming new teams for its U-16 and U-18 Academy squads. Players for those teams can come from within Solar or join from other clubs. North Texas restrictions on player movement between clubs will not apply to Solar SC's Academy teams for the fall season, says Solar SC chairman David Ringer.

"We thought about it long and hard," Ringer says. "We made a very deliberate decision on the basis that the Federation was behind this, was going to push it. Although it might be awkward for us in how it fell in our time calendar, we wanted to be a part of this type of competition."

Solar SC director of coaching Kevin Smith says, "We have something special here in North Texas with the Classic League. League games can be as competitive as a semifinal in a showcase tournament.

"We've been producing pretty good players here with the way we've had it. But maybe this will take it up another level. We're giving players a choice to try this. We'll be training them with the curriculum the Federation wants us to use. It's always been my aim to develop players and this is another opportunity."

Academy teams are not permitted to take part in state cup play, which leads to US Youth Soccer National Championships. And their participation in showcase tournaments will be restricted. Those restrictions and others that include skipping ODP events will cut down on travel and expenses for players, but in Academy regions where clubs are spread out, travel demands will be significant.

Clubs are awaiting details from the Federation on how, and to what extent it will subsidize the Academy.

Each of the Academy's eight conferences comprise eight teams. The winner of each conference advances to the Academy Finals at the Home Depot Center.

The inaugural season kicks off in October. Teams will play about 30 games during an eight-month season. Weekend games will consist of "individual conference games, travel partner weekends and showcase weekends to provide them with the optimum balance of playing rhythm, economy of travel and exposure to scouts."

The Academy clubs represent 24 states and the District of Columbus. D.C. United is one of seven MLS teams fielding teams. More MLS teams are expected to come on aboard next season.

California fields the most clubs, with 10, followed by Florida and New York, with five each.

The ultimate aim is to include 80 clubs in the program.

"We decided to limit it to 64 the first season," Gulati says, "because it allows for additions for next year. And also to make sure we get our arms fully around the operational issues."


THE ACADEMY CLUBS

Sixty-four clubs are fielding teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-16 and U-18 boys leagues. After an eight-month season, winners of each conference meet in the Academy Finals at The Home Depot Center.

Northeast Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
Oakwood SC (Conn.) David Farrell
South Central Premier (Conn.) Bob Dikranian
Greater Boston Bolts (Mass.) John Kerr Jr.
Seacoast United (N.H.) Karl Edmonds
Albertson SC (N.Y.) Paul Riley
Blau Weiss Gottschee (N.Y.) Ben Boehm
FC Westchester (N.Y.) Sean Kenny
Met Oval (N.Y.) Giuseppe Balsamo

Mid-Atlantic Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
DC United (D.C.) John Maessner
Baltimore Bays (Md.) Steve Nichols
Potomac Soccer (Md.) Dave Kelley
Match Fit Academy (N.J.) Malcolm Murphy
New York Red Bulls (N.J.) Bob Montgomery
PDA (N.J.) Gerry McKeown
FC Delco (Pa.) Alan Mezger
PA Classics (Pa.) Steve Klein

Atlantic Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
CASL (N.C.) Jay Howell
South Charlotte SA (N.C.) Brad Wylde
Bridge FA (S.C.) Clark Brisson
Greensboro Youth SC (S.C.) Steve Allison
North Meck SC (N.C.) Bryan Thorp
Richmond Kickers (Va.) Leigh Cowlishaw
Richmond Strikers (Va.) Carlos Martinoli
VA Rush SC (Va.) Dave Dengerink

Southeast Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
Birmingham United (Ala.) Eric Dade
Clearwater Chargers (Fla.) Peter Mannino
IMG SA (Fla.) Tom Durkin
Kendall Soccer Coalition (Fla.) Victor Pastora
Schulz Academy (Fla.) Josef Schulz
AFC Lightning (Ga.) Bob Moullin
Atlanta Fire United (Ga.) Massoud Roushandel
Concorde Fire (Ga.) Gregg Blasingame

Great Lakes Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
Carmel United (Ind.) Russell Gee
Michigan Wolves (Mich.) Brian Doyle
Vardar (Mich.) Morris Lupenec
Empire United (N.Y.) Chris Apple
Cleveland Alliance (Ohio) Ali Kazemaini
Columbus Crew (Ohio) Sigi Schmid
Internationals SC (Ohio) George &
Louis Nanchoff
Ohio Elite (Ohio) Tim Lesiak

Mid-America Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
U.S. national team (Fla.) John Hackworth
Chicago Fire (Ill.) Louis S. Mateus
Chicago Magic (Ill.) Mike Matkovich
Metro United (Ill.) Dale Schilly
Sockers FC Chicago (Ill.) David Richardson
Scott Gallagher (Mo.) Kevin Kalish
Solar SC (Texas) Kevin Smith
FC Milwaukee (Wisc.) Peter Knezic

SoCal Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
Arsenal SC (Calif.) PJ Brown
Chivas USA (Calif.) Dennis te Kloese
Irvine Strikers (Calif.) Don Ebert
L.A. Galaxy (Calif.) Trevor James
Nomads SC (Calif.) Derek Armstrong
Pateadores SC (Calif.) Mike Gartlan
Real So Cal (Calif.) Marwan Ass'ad
San Diego Surf (Calif.) Colin Chesters

West Conference
Club (State) Director of Coaching
Colorado Rapids (Colo.) John Murphy
Colorado Rush (Colo.) Tim Schulz
Real Colorado (Colo.) Lorne Donaldson
FC Portland (Ore.) Steve Elliott
De Anza Force (Calif.) Jeff Baicher
Mustang FC (Calif.) John Doyle
Crossfire Premier SC (Wash.) Bernie James
Washington Premier (Wash.) Reece Olney

(This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Soccer America magazine.)

September 20, 2007
Why the Academy?

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

Whether to pursue entry into U.S. Soccer's Player Development Academy wasn't an easy choice for many of the nation's top clubs, particularly in areas like North Texas and Southern California, where clubs are already entrenched in highly competitive leagues. Don Ebert, Director of Coaching of the Irvine Strikers, explained why his club decided to enter the U.S. Soccer league for U-16 and U-18 boys.

“The biggest benefit is we will let players rest and stop killing players like we were killing them,” Ebert says. “I was getting really concerned. We were spiraling out of control.”

Academy players will not participate in ODP nor State Cups. And teams will be limited in participating in showcase tournaments and simultaneously competing in different leagues.

“I'm as guilty as any one else,” Ebert says. “We were all chasing the same race and feeling we'll be left behind if we don't do every showcase and if we don't go here, and we don't do that, and throw in a trip overseas. And throw in ODP, and they want them to do five-hour training sessions. We had lost control.”

If the swift Academy launch left details unanswered, especially regarding the amount of travel required and costs, Ebert appreciates that the Federation has taken the initiative.

“You gotta start somewhere,” he says. “And you know, they did. If we can figure out how to fund it properly and make it viable for all the kids, rich and poor, then we really got something going. I'm willing to put some faith in that they'll get there.”

Circumventing ODP for national team player identification appeals greatly.

“I have been totally anti-ODP for the elite, elite players,” says Ebert, citing the fact that even his players who had already been chosen for the national pool were forced to attend more and more state and regional ODP events. “I've never liked the system of how our players got to the national teams."

“If they get after it and look at the players in the Academy and see them first hand -- I like that. I don't think we'll miss as many players as we have in the past.”

September 17, 2007
WORDS OF WISDOM: Rinus Michels

"Good coaches use the basic criteria of street soccer for their vision of grassroots development; they realize that these elements produce a natural process that gives the most efficient training for young kids."

-- Rinus Michels, who coached the "total soccer" Dutch national team of the early 1970s.

September 14, 2007
Soccer Smoothes the Path

Soccer helped cure homesickness and eased the challenge of adjusting to a new land for a group of young stars we met at this summer's adidas ESP scouting and development camp for the nation's top teen players.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America Magazine, May 2007 issue)

Enzo Martinez (Rock Hill, S.C.)
'HOW LUCKY I AM'


When Uruguay played Australia for a spot in the 2006 World Cup, Enzo Martinez got out of bed in his South Carolina house at 4 a.m. to watch on TV. Uruguay lost on penalty kicks.

"I went into the shower and cried for an hour," says Martinez. "I didn't think I'd be able to go to school."

But he did go. By then Martinez had become an enthusiastic student. That wasn't the case when he first arrived from Uruguay at age 10.

His father had left the family shortly after they immigrated, and Enzo was homesick for his soccer-mad native land.

"I didn't care about school or learning English," Martinez said.

His mood changed after he and his younger brother, Alex, discovered that there was soccer in Rock Hill. They went to Kmart and bought the cheapest pair of cleats they could find - an $11 pair of baseball cleats. They shared the pair of cleats for the first month until the coach told them he wanted to see both boys on the field at the same time. So they returned to Kmart for another pair of the baseball cleats.

Enzo, named after the great Uruguayan playmaker Enzo Francescoli, joined the Discoveries Soccer Club, where his coach told him he needed to learn English and do well in school.

"I thought nothing else mattered if you were a good player," says Enzo, who wants to play college soccer. "But now I understand how important studying is."

The 16-year-old uses "yes, sir" like a punctuation mark. After being told he needn't be so formal, he says, "yes, sir." At the ESP camp in Pomona, Calif., he says he can't believe he's playing soccer with "so many good players in such beautiful place with so many great coaches."

"When I first came to the United States," he says. "It was very, very hard. Playing soccer helped me make friends and learn English. Now I can't believe how lucky I am. Yes, sir."

Kaoru Forbess (Garland, Texas)
GOING TO GREAT LENGTHS


Kaoru Forbess says Japanese restaurants in the USA offer him no antidote for homesickness.

"They're expensive and the food doesn't taste real," says Forbess, who left his native Japan at age 13.

The move from Japan was tough on Forbess, who felt confident that he would become a professional player in the J-League. He was thriving in the youth program of J-League club Yokohama F Marinos.

But Forbess' father, Michael, was ready to return to his homeland, and his Japanese mother, Chiyuki, agreed to the move. Michael Forbess had settled in Japan after retiring from the Navy and taught English in a Japanese junior high school.

The family settled in Arkansas. Kaoru joined Little Rock FC, playing up two age groups, and was eager for a more competitive environment. So last year he joined North Texas power Solar FC.

He lives at the home of Solar star Cameron Brown.

The move to Texas meant giving up his mother's Japanese cooking, but Kaoro has always been willing to make sacrifices for his sport. In Japan, he rode the train an hour each way to attend practices in Yokohama.

A high-scoring, creative midfielder who plans on playing at the University of Maryland when he graduates from high school in 2008, Forbess earned a spot on the U.S. U-18 national team - an accomplishment that was rewarded with a trip "home."

"It was a great time," says Forbess, who played in a 1-0 win over Japan at the SBS Cup in Shizuoka. "I got to see family and old friends."

Gale Agbossoumonde (Syracuse, N.Y.)
FINDING SANCTUARY ON THE FIELD


After seven years of living in a Benin refugee camp, 8-year-old Gale Agbossoumonde was excited about moving to the USA. But he was shocked when he got off the plane in New York City.

"I thought I was going to die," says Agbossoumonde, now 15. "Oh my God, it was so cold. I was wearing sandals."

Representatives from Catholic Charities, which had orchestrated the Agbossoumonde family's relocation, quickly took them on a shopping spree for sneakers and winter clothes.

Those sneakers would also become Gale's first soccer shoes. At the refugee camp, soccer was played barefoot, and Gale says he played on sandy lots with children of all ages whenever he wasn't at school.

"We wore T-shirts and drew numbers on them," says Gale. "I was always No. 17, for the Brazilian Denilson. You played whatever position you wanted and I was always a forward."

The Agbossoumonde family arrived at the Benin refugee camp in 1993, the year that 280,000 Togolese fled political violence in their homeland.

Gale's father died a year before Gale, his mother, and six siblings resettled in Syracuse. The French-speaking Gale spoke no English when he enrolled in elementary school.

"Some of the kids made fun of me," he said. "But some helped me a lot."

Gale and his brothers were recruited by Syracuse Blitz SC after being spotted playing ball at Barry Park on Syracuse's East Side.

Gale, now a defender, joined the U-17 residency camp in Bradenton, Fla., last January.

Walter Hines (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
REDISCOVERING THE GAME


He had just become a teenager and received an invitation to join Costa Rica's youth national team program when his father, William, made an announcement that did not please Walter Hines.

"All of a sudden my dad said he wanted to move to New York," says Walter, who arrived in Brooklyn at age 13 and is now 17. "I was settled. I was going to join the national team. Then everything changed. I had to learn a new language and face many challenges."

William went to work as a butler in a Manhattan mansion while Walter pined for his happier soccer-playing days. In the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, Walter played ball since he can remember, in the streets and on concrete courts. He first played on grass when he joined a team at age 9.

His new life in New York brightened when his father told him he met a man who arranged a tryout for Walter with a youth team. He joined the Brooklyn Patriots and soon his career was back on track. He starred at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, earned Parade Magazine High School All-American honors, and climbed the ODP ranks to the U.S. U-15 national team. He now plays in the New York Red Bulls' youth program, and although his aim while in Costa Rica was to go straight to the pros, he's eying college soccer.

"I want to get an education," he says, "then see if there are pro opportunities."

(This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Soccer America magazine.)

September 08, 2007
Buying the Right Cleat for Your Foot

In Soccer America's "Youth Insider" Dr. Dev Mishra provides a detailed guidefor finding the right cleats.

Click HERE to read "Buying the Right Cleat for Your Foot."

September 07, 2007
General Principles in Cleat Selection

Howard Liebeskind, podiatrist for the U.S. national teams, the L.A. Galaxy and CD Chivas USA, provides all the info you need on soccer cleats in his piece for Soccer America's Youth Insider.

Click HERE to read, "General Principles in Cleat Selection."

September 06, 2007
Ben Boehm: 'The big lie in coaching'

Out of New York City youth club BW Gottschee have come a U.S. World Cup captain, U-20 World Cup players and a slew of pros and collegians -- but its director of coaching, Ben Boehm, says:

"The big lie in coaching is we produce players. I can honestly tell you, our club has never produced any player. The players have developed on their own.

"It doesn't mean we haven't created a little bit of an environment, but 95 to 99 percent of what that kid has done comes from within. And if you don't recognize that, you've got a major problem."

I wrote about Ben Boehm and Gottschee in the August issue of Soccer America Magazine:

Gottschee Embraces New Era

Members of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for its inaugural 2007-08 season are mainly suburban clubs that grew out of the late 20th century's youth soccer boom. But New York City's BW Gottschee has been fielding youth teams for 50 years.

By Mike Woitalla

Ben Boehm isn't your typical Director of Coaching. He doesn't earn tens of thousands of dollars a year. In fact, he's never earned a penny from Blau-Weiss Gottschee since he arrived at the New York City club four decades ago.


He doesn't have a coaching license. And he won't brag about all the players his club has produced.


"The big lie in coaching is we produce players," says Boehm. "I can honestly tell you, our club has never produced any player. The players have developed on their own.


"It doesn't mean we haven't created a little bit of an environment, but 95 to 99 percent of what that kid has done comes from within. And if you don't recognize that, you've got a major problem."


Out of the Gottschee environment have come a U.S. World Cup captain, U-20 World Cup players, a slew of pros and collegians - and even Pele's son Edinho wore the blue and white when dad was playing with the New York Cosmos.


BW Gottschee is the oldest of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. It was founded in 1951 in Ridgewood when that neighborhood in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs was heavily populated by German immigrants and Gottscheers, who hail from a German-speaking area in what is now Slovenia.


"It was primarily known for its knitting mills and its bars," says Boehm, a retired junior high teacher. "There was a bar on almost every corner. It's where people went to congregate in those days."


Another major social activity revolved around soccer. The ethnic social clubs fielded teams in the German-American Soccer League and paid their top players.


Boehm, whose parents had emigrated from Germany's Pflaz region, was born in Brooklyn in 1938. At 14 he started playing for Pfaelzer SC in the German-American Junior League, which later became the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League. By 17, he was on the club's senior team.


Boehm and friends - including Dietrich Albrecht, who played in the NASL in the late 1960s - would also spend summers playing pickup soccer at Highland Park.


"We'd walk about a mile and a half to save the bus money so we could buy ice cream or something," he remembers. "We'd play from 9 in the morning until it got too hot at about 1 p.m. Then we'd go back at 4 p.m."


On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, for a few dollars they'd rent a classroom on the fifth floor of Ridgewood's Public School 77 that had been converted into a mini-gym and play small-sided games.


"It'd be like 3-on-3," he says. "The whole wall would be the goal, but you couldn't score unless you were a half yard from the wall."


At Pfaelzer SC, when he was 15, Boehm started assisting his father coaching the club's youth teams.


"My father was never a guy who told the players, 'Do this! Do that!," says Boehm. "The key thing I learned from him is he was never overbearing on the players."


When Boehm, now 68, began coaching the Gottschee youth in 1967, the club still filled its teams mainly with players from the German immigrant community. But that source eventually dried up and a new wave of immigrants came from Latin America.


"I credit Ben for breaking the ethnic barrier," says longtime Gottschee coach Milton Espinoza Sr., an Ecuadoran immigrant whose sons joined the club in the early 1970s. Espinoza and his son Milton Jr. now serve Gottschee in administrative capacities.


"It wasn't a super big issue," says Boehm, "but there's always some sort of grumbling when things start to change."


Espinoza Sr., however, recalls being turned down flatly when he approached another club about giving his kids a look. And the Espinozas credit Boehm for Gottschee's ability to evolve from an ethnic club into a mainstream youth club that welcomed American children who emerged from the youth soccer boom and kids from new immigrant groups.


Other ethnic clubs that didn't make the transition faded away when immigration patterns changed.


"Ben is the reason this remains a true club," says Espinoza Jr. "He's always on the field. He's why everyone on every team knows that we're all connected."


Espinoza Sr., who became a volunteer coach when his boys joined Gottschee, remembers the early influence Boehm had on his coaching approach.


"We had a young team that couldn't get the ball out of its own half," he said. "We had a sweeper with a big kick and I was about to have him start booting the ball down field. Ben said, 'Be patient. Be patient.'


"He explained that we wanted our kids to get comfortable with the ball, to emphasize ball control. It didn't matter if they were stuck in their own half or if they lost at that young age, because we were giving them a chance to figure things out on their own, which is how great players develop.


"Sure enough, it wasn't long before they turned into an excellent team."


Gottschee won the 1985 USYS U-16 national championship with a team coached by Boehm and Martin Petschauer.


Players from Gottschee's youth ranks include 1990 U.S. World Cup captain Mike Windischmann, Dario Brose, a member of the USA's 1989 U-20 World Cup fourth-place team, and U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame goalkeeper Arnie Mausser.


Gabriel Ferrari, a member of the 2007 U-20 World Cup team who plays for Italian Serie A club Sampdoria, played for Gottschee, as did Matthew Uy, who's in the U-17 residency camp in Bradenton.


When Boehm looks back on a half century of American players, he says: "We see many, many, many more good players. But you don't see as many players with flair, with soccer brains."


That the USA doesn't produce more exceptionally skilled, creative players despite the enormous popularity of youth soccer is something Boehm blames on overcoaching, the fact that youngsters spend little time playing soccer on their own, and the emphasis on winning at a young age.


"Kids are overcoached," he says. "We try to stop that. What we tell our coaches in the early ages is, 'You're never going to make a player. Chances are you're going to harm a player. Let them play.'"


Boehm sees the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, the new national league for U-16 and U-18 boys' teams, as an important step in putting the emphasis at youth clubs back on player development.


"You see creative players, and then within a two-, three-year period the kid fades away and you wonder why," Boehm says. "And the answer is simple. There's too much pressure from age 9 or 10 - whether you win, did you score, this type of nonsense."


The idea is that by fielding Academy teams at the older age groups, a club's younger teams will focus on skill development rather than trophy-collecting.


"The theory behind the Academy is good," says Boehm. "To a certain extent youth soccer has become dysfunctional and the Academy is set up to bring it back into balance.


"But I'm still worried about the winning angle. Of course, it should be competitive, but the clubs shouldn't be judged on how many games they win. They should be judged on whether there is a kid who can handle the ball, who can handle the pressure. Is he more than just a hard-fighting digger? Can he play with flair and he can he play at a higher level?"


(This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Soccer America magazine.)


September 05, 2007
English youth development 'falling apart"?

Of the starters during the first weekend of this season's English Premier League, only 37 percent were English, compared to 76 percent in 1992. That figure, and other stats -- nearly 70 percent of EPL goals this season have been scored by non-English players -- have renewed criticism of the nation's academy system, which Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson says is "falling apart."

The Guardian's report, "Academies go from substandard to ridiculous" looks at flaws in the English player development -- "Foreign players are technically better than us," says Middlesbrough's head of recruitment, Ron Bone.

And The Times of London quotes former English Premier League stars Patrick Vieira and Ruud Gullit on the topic.

"There are not so many good young English players at many of the clubs and I really believe that the academies are not good enough for the young players between 12 and 15," says Frenchman Vieira, the former Arsenal captain.

The Dutchman Gullit, who played for and coached Chelsea, says: "Not many English youngsters are coming through. They spend fortunes on academies, but the bigger clubs don't use them because they can buy any star they want."

September 03, 2007
Beckham's First U.S. Experience

David Beckham's first visit to the USA came two decades before he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy. He talked about his trip to the Dallas Cup as a 13-year-old in a recent Observer Sport Monthly article:

"The Dallas Cup was one of my first trips abroad, maybe my first trip away with a team, which is probably why I remember it so well. As a team, we were close, a bunch of good mates, really. We each boarded with a family. The rest of the lads seemed to be staying with wealthier people: staying in big, big houses and getting ferried around in flash cars. They were all happy enough.

"But I stayed with a Mexican family. Their house definitely wasn't a mansion! They had a couple of boys, one older than me and one younger, who were in the tournament as well. The whole family collected me from the airport in a pick-up truck and, right from the off, they were so friendly. Every morning we'd be off down McDonald's for coffee and pancakes and syrup. I had the best time.

"Back then, there wasn't a professional league, obviously, but the standard at kids' level was very high, just like it is now. It was one of the toughest junior tournaments I played in. The chance for a kid my age to just go to America was amazing. To actually play in a tournament there was a great experience. When I was young, I used to get quite homesick, even just being away for a weekend in Manchester. Maybe all kids feel like that. But that week in Dallas was different. I loved it: the football, of course, but the people and the country as well. I just loved being in America."

Read the entire article HERE.



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