October 30, 2015
Put Costa Rica high on the list of nations we might learn from

By Mike Woitalla

We're always looking abroad for insight and ideas on how to improve
our player development. The Dutch have long been particularly popular.
MLS sent its youth academy coaches to learn from the French. U.S. Club
Soccer has partnered with Spain.

Many eyes are on the Germans, who won the World Cup after a revamp. Besides, our national team coach and Technical Director is a German. The Belgians too, are en vogue.

Even unsuccessful soccer countries can fill a hall of U.S. coaches. At the last NSCAA Convention, I watched American coaches flock to a lecture by a coach from Scotland, which hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1998, when it went winless.

Here’s an idea. Let’s check out what’s going on in Costa Rica, a nation whose population (4.5 million) is one fourth of the greater Los Angeles area.

Costa Rica, which beat the USA, 1-0, earlier this month, you’ll remember also had a more successful 2014 World Cup than the USA.

The Ticos were drawn with three former world champions, and won the group! Playing impressive soccer, they beat Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (2-0), and having clinched second-round passage, tied 0-0 with England. Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals, where it fell to the Netherlands in a penalty-kick shootout.

Nine members of Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup squad played in a U-17 World Cup.

The current Costa Rica U-17s did something remarkable on Thursday at the U-17 World Cup, beating France in the round of 16, in a penalty kick tiebreaker after a scoreless tie.

Costa Rica-France Highlights:

France was the only team to win all three of its group games, outscoring its three foes, 14-4. It entered the tournament as European champion, having beaten Germany, 4-1 in the final.

The U.S. Soccer Federation spent $14 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year on youth national teams and player development. I’ll bet you Costa Rica spends a fraction of that.

Mexico reaches quarterfinals by routing host

Speaking of U.S. regional rivals who seem to be doing something right at the youth level, Mexico reached the quarterfinals at the U-17 World Cup by beating host Chile, 4-1. (The Chileans had beaten the USA, 4-1, in group play.)

Mexico-Chile Highlights:

Mexico reached the second round with wins over Argentina (2-0) and Germany (2-1), and a scoreless tie with Australia.

Mexico has won the U-17 World Cup twice, in 2005 and 2011. It finished runner-up in 2013, losing, 3-0, to Nigeria in the final after beating Italy, Brazil and Argentina.

Under-17 World Cup: TV Schedule & Results

In the quarterfinals, Mexico faces Ecuador. Costa Rica meets Belgium. Four-time champion Nigeria, which beat the USA, 2-0, in group play, faces three-time champion Brazil. Croatia, which the USA tied, 2-2, meets Mali.

U.S. U-20 women down a pair of Spanish clubs

The Michelle French-coached U.S. U-20 national team, with a young roster because its older players are busy with college ball, beat Spanish women's La Liga first-place team Atletico Madrid, 3-0, and 15th-place Rayo Vallecano, 4-1.

Marley Canales, Ella Stevens and Mallory Pugh scored second-half goals to down Atletico Madrid. Ashley Sanchez, a 16-year-old, scored all four U.S. goals against Rayo Vallecano after coming on as 68th minute sub.

Oct. 27 in Madrid.
Rayo Vallecano 1 USA U-20s 4. Goals: Patri (pen.) 80; Sanchez 68, Sanchez (Pugh) 75, Sanchez 78, Sanchez (Pugh)    82.
Rayo Vallecano -- Ana, Anama, Costa, Ale, Jenni, Codo, Sarray, Estela, Silvi, Marian, Nicole.
USA -- Chandler, Doyle (Pickett, 46), Hiatt (Morse, 46), Otto, Fox, Gorzak (Harr, 46), Bosco, Pinto (Stevens, 46), Torres (6- DeMelo, 46), Redei (Sanchez, 68), Spaanstra (Pugh, 46).

Oct. 23 in Madrid
Atletico Madrid 0 USA U-20s 3. Goals: Canales 57, Stevens 60, Pugh (Canales) 75.
Atlético Madrid Féminas -- Gallardo, Goncalves (K.Robles, 57), V.Robles (Tudela, 61), Garcia (Galvez, 61), Beltran (Cebrian, 57), Sosa, Coronel, Calderon, Rodriguez (Leon, 57),  Gonzelez, Garcia.
USA -- Chandler, Pickett, Morse (Hiatt, 15), Otto, Fox (Doyle, 79), Harr (Bosco, 67), Stevens (Pinto, 61), DeMelo (Torres, 82), Canales, Pugh, Sanchez (16- Spaanstra, 70).

Around the Net

... U.S. Soccer Development Academy players aren't allowed to play high school soccer, but the Chicago Tribune's Jon Kerr reports on three Chicago area players, including two already committed to colleges, who are leaving their Academy teams to play senior year high school ball. The article brings up the arguments from both sides of the high school vs. club battle over young talent. Says one of the players, "I need a break. I needed more freedom to express myself without all the pressure, and high school has helped me with that." A rewarding risk? Area players take a break from club soccer

... Fargo Soccer Club president Matt Noah says discrimination is behind North Dakota State University not allowing his teams to participate in a new youth tournament it is hosting. Noah says his club is about half the price of others, and has close to 1,000 players, many of them new Americans. "It's an unrestricted, open tournament, unsanctioned, they're supposed to let everybody in," says Noah. Fargo Soccer Club claims discrimination as NDSU bans them from tournament