August 19, 2015
'Coaches cannot be set in their ways' (Luchi Gonzalez Q&A)

Interview by Mike Woitalla

After a seven-year professional playing career, Luchi
launched a career in education -- he served as Dean
of Students and algebra teacher at Miami’s Gulliver Academy --
and youth coaching. A full-time coach at FC Dallas’ academy
since 2012, the 2001 Hermann Trophy winner at SMU guided FC Dallas to
the 2015 U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-15/16 title. His FC Dallas
team, which took USSDA Central Conference “Best Style
Play” honors, outscored its six postseason opponents, 20-0.


September 02, 2012
Hope Solo: 'Free and unburdened on the soccer field'

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

Hope Solo's memoir, released days after she helped the USA win gold at the 2012 London Games, debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list. The goalkeeper's propensity for controversy and the promise of revealing details from her battles with coaches, teammates (and even a dance partner) undoubtedly boosted sales. The book also provides a glimpse into the youth soccer days of the world's best female goalkeeper.


August 14, 2012
Relive the U.S. women's golden Olympics

By Mike Woitalla (From Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

The Olympics provided a rare chance for America's soccer-playing girls to see plenty of action from the world's best women players. Fortunately, those who tuned in for the USA's march to their gold medals were treated to high drama, exciting soccer and lots of goals.


July 24, 2011
Keeping faith in the volunteer coach (Q&A: AYSO's George Kuntz)

We spoke to George Kuntz, who was recently named AYSO's Player Development Technical Advisor, about the challenges of creating a soccer environment that suits recreational players and those who have the potential for excelling at the highest levels.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)


July 01, 2011
When They Were Children: World Cup Women

The curb in front her house was an important part of Carli Lloyd's skill development.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)


June 10, 2011
'When you whisper' ... Reflections on a Hall of Fame coach

U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame welcomed Bob Gansler, who has deep roots in the youth game.

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)


July 09, 2010
Xavi: So good you can hear it

Xavi, Spain's 30-year-old midfield maestro, has played with just one club, Barcelona, since age 11. His memory of one youth coach helps explain the smooth passing style of Spain's World Cup team, which is stocked with products of Barca's youth program.

By Mike Woitalla (from SoccerAmericaDaily)


January 14, 2010
Tom Mulroy: soccer promoter extraordinaire

Only once has 53-year-old Tommy Mulroy had a job that wasn’t about soccer. His stint at a New York delicatessen, when he was a sophomore in high school, lasted six weeks. The owner wanted Mulroy to cover an absent stock boy's shift. But Mulroy was on the way to his soccer game 40 miles away at Farcher's Grove in Union, N.J.

By Mike Woitalla (from the January 2010 issue of Soccer America)


February 01, 2009
Wheddon's Camp 'Holiday' Leads To Gold Medals

Phil Wheddon came to the USA from England in 1990 the way many young British players do: To see the nation while working at youth soccer camps.

By Mike Woitalla (from the February issue of Soccer America)


January 11, 2009
Tab Ramos Coaching Youth Ball

By Mike Woitalla (from the January issue of Soccer America)

In 1998, after Tab Ramos played in his last of three World Cups, I asked him if he thought about coaching when his playing career ended.

"I've thought about not coaching," he said, with a chuckle. "It's so difficult. It's not just about knowing the game, but making something out of talent. I think you have to have a gift, and I don't think I have it."


December 16, 2008
Tony Lepore Heads USSF Youth Scouts

By Mike Woitalla (from the December issue of Soccer America)

Tony Lepore spent a decade as an elementary and middle school guidance counselor before dedicating himself full-time to youth soccer.

"I've always come at this with a child development perspective and I think in youth coaching that's important," he says. "It's not just about knowing the game, but knowing kids. I've always come at this with a kids-first perspective."


November 15, 2008
Going Abroad, Risks and Rewards

Talented young Americans often face the choice of moving abroad to pursue their dreams. For Jose Francisco Torres, it seemed like the only option.

By Mike Woitalla (from the November 2008 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

Lisa Torres relishes the part of the weekend when she sits down in her East Texas home to watch Mexican soccer on television, because that's when she gets to see her son, who left home at age 16.


November 13, 2008
The Saga of Subotic

With war on the horizon, Neven Subotic's Serbian family fled Bosnia in 1990 when he was 18 months old and settled in Schoemberg, a small town in Germany's Black Forest. As refugees with few options, the family moved into the clubhouse attic of a local soccer team that his father joined.

By Mike Woitalla (from the November 2008 issue of Soccer America Magazine)


October 05, 2008
Kaz Tambi guides top U.S. girls

"The second issue is we don't see large quantities of soccer brains. That's a product of a local youth soccer environment where there's too much focus on competing in leagues and traveling from tournament to tournament while missing the important elements."

-- Kaz Tambi, coach of the U.S. U-17 girls national team.

Tambi was profiled in the October 2008 issue of Soccer America by Mike Woitalla


March 22, 2008
Michael Bradley's All-Around Rise

It seems natural for the son of a prominent coach to become a savvy player, but young Michael Bradley's achievements have proved truly remarkable.

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


March 09, 2008
Brazilian Nickname Game

Check out what your name would be if you played for Brazil HERE.

February 20, 2008
The New Generation

Top picks in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft include members of Generation adidas, the program that offers tuition grants to players who skip college ball or leave before completing their NCAA eligibility. In the March issue of Soccer America, Mike Woitalla spoke with four of the highly touted MLS newcomers about their youth soccer experience.


December 12, 2007
'Coaching has to be natural'

World Cup vet and former pilot Wilmer Cabrera aims to take U.S. Soccer's U-17 program to new heights.

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


December 10, 2007
U.S. Youth Soccer 'renews focus'

John Ellinger has coached some of the most brilliant young American players in the nation's history and brings vast experience to new USYS Technical Director role.

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


November 18, 2007
From New Mexico to Old Mexico

How a small-town U.S. boy ended up on the Mexican national team.

By Mike Woitalla (Soccer America Magazine)

Even when Edgar Castillo was only 4 years old, he watched soccer games on television.

"He'd come over to our house to play with my boys," says Linda Lara. "If I turned on the television for a soccer game, Edgar would start watching. The other boys would go goof around outside or something, but Edgar would stay glued to the TV. He'd sit there, biting his nails, mesmerized by the game."


November 09, 2007
Josef Schulz Takes Dutch-Brazilian Approach

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

Josef Schulz once spent two years traveling the world scouting young soccer talent. But on this day, nine years ago, he was just taking a walk with his wife, Barbara, in their Boca Raton, Fla., neighborhood.

They stopped to watch a pickup game and Schulz spotted an exceptional 8-year-old.

"I asked my wife, 'Do I see this right or am I dreaming?'" Schulz recalls.


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)


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:


July 11, 2007
CLUB PROFILE: FC Westchester

FC Westchester, which was founded by Al Pastore in 1984, is among the first 31 clubs accepted to the U.S. Soccer Player Development Academy for its inaugural season this fall. The New York club fields nine boys teams and one girls team (175 players). Its coaches include Boris Bandov, who spent three seasons of his 12-year NASL career with the New York Cosmos and earned 33 caps for the USA in 1976-83. Current MLS players who played for FC Westchester are Stefani Miglioranzi (Columbus) and Edson Buddle (Los Angeles).

Click HERE to read more.

July 09, 2007

In a series for Soccer America Magazine, Mike Woitalla is profiling clubs that will be part of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, in which U-16 and U-18 boys teams will compete in an eight-month season beginning this fall.

Nomads SC of Southern California were founded in 1976 and by the mid-1980s became of the one of the first fully staffed, multi-team elite youth clubs that soon proliferated throughout the nation. San Diego real-estate developer Joe Hollow created the Nomads in 1976 when he formed an all-star team of players from the league in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla.


June 15, 2007
Young U.S. Talent Heads South

Mexican pro clubs and Mexico’s national team program have started plucking talent from the USA.

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

Edgar Castillo is 20 years old and he just bought a house. A year ago, he made his Mexican First Division debut with Santos Laguna. This season, he starts at left back. One day he wants to play in MLS, but for now he’s quite happy playing in front of big crowds in the Mexican league and getting asked for autographs when he walks around Torreon with his girlfriend or his younger brother, Noel, who plays for Santos’ second division team.


May 23, 2007
The rise of 'cascarita' kids

How a story about immigrants in small-town North Carolina turned into a soccer tale.

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

Big-city journalist Paul Cuadros went to North Carolina after receiving a grant in 1999 to report on the dramatic demographic shift in the rural South. He ended up a state championship-winning high school soccer coach.

"I set out to report on the Latino Diaspora to the Southeast and not to write a book about soccer or coach a team," says Cuadros in the introduction to "A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America."

Soon after his arrival, Cuadros started paying close attention to the children of laborers who had been lured to the area to work in the poultry industry in Siler City. They loved playing soccer, which for them took the form of the cascarita - the informal pickup game.


March 24, 2007
'Play first, win later'

By Mike Woitalla
(From the October 2006 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

Claudio Reyna, the veteran of four World Cup teams played top-flight soccer in Europe longer than any American in history.

Born and raised in New Jersey, he was coached first by his father, Miguel, who played pro ball in Argentina.

''My father's coaching philosophy was, 'Learn to play first, learn to win later,''' says Reyna in his book, More Than Goals: The journey from backyard games to World Cup competition. ''He would rather us play well and lose than go out and play ugly and win.''

When he and his teammates were about 10, Claudio says his father encouraged them to string passes together and heaped praise upon them when they were able to keep possession. He didn't mind if they lost to teams that depended on booting the ball to a big boy up front.

''Playing possession soccer would pay off in the long run, even if it doesn't get results at the youth level,'' Reyna says. ''He knew that when players advanced to higher levels, the direct, long-ball approach would become ineffective, because it's a predictable strategy and it becomes especially futile when the team no longer has a size advantage.''

In the pros and for the USA, Reyna has played attacking and defensive midfielder, on both flanks, on the frontline, and as an outside back. That versatility started early.

''My dad had us switch positions all the time,'' Reyna says. ''A lot of star players are only used in the center during their youth career. When they join a team that already has players to fill that role, they can't adjust to another position, and their career comes to an early end.''

March 23, 2007
Landon Donovan: 'Always be with the ball'

By Mike Woitalla
(From the October 2006 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

Landon Donovan didn't win titles when he was a boy, but, by age 23, Landon Donovan lifted three MLS Cups.

He won two in San Jose, scoring once in his first MLS Cup and twice in his second. Last season, he powered Los Angeles to the title with four goals and two assists in postseason play.

''Before my first MLS final, I thought to myself, 'I can't remember ever winning anything with my club teams growing up,'' says Donovan, 24, who has scored 25 goals for the USA and has played in two World Cups, U-17 and U-20 world championships, and the Olympics.

''It's amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn't matter when you're 12 years old,'' Donovan says. ''It's sad. That's something that's going to have to change if we want soccer in this country to develop.''

The Southern Californian credits his skill development on playing youth ball with a team comprised mostly of Latino kids coached by a man, Clint Greenwood, who ''was always focused on a lot of ball contact.''

Says Donovan: ''His theory was absolutely perfect: As a kid you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it's spinning, how it's coming at you, the speed it's coming at you, anything.

''You can learn the tactical side of the game later. We're Americans, we're athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it's just useless.''

March 19, 2007
Manny Schellscheidt: A coach for all seasons

Manfred Schellscheidt, who has collected pro, amateur and youth national championships and now heads U.S. Soccer's U-14 boys development program, lets the game do the teaching.

By Mike Woitalla
(From the March 21, 2005 issue of Soccer America Magazine)

It was 34 years ago when Manfred ''Manny'' Schellscheidt became the first coach granted an ''A'' license by the U.S. Soccer Federation. He has since coached at every level of the U.S. men's national team program and is now thoroughly enjoying his role as technical director of U.S. Soccer's U-14 boys development program.

''These are the babies,'' he says. ''Most of them are only 13. They are so enthusiastic and excited. Our goal is to create a stress-free, comfortable soccer environment. It's all about playing, not about results or suffocating them with tactics and systems. It's just one step away from the playground.''

Schellscheidt welcomes more than 100 boys from around the country into camp each year, and from that group chooses about 36 to form two teams for a trip to Mexico to give them their first taste of international competition.

''There's plenty of room for the little guys, the late bloomers,'' he says. ''There's always a few who are physically ahead, but we look for the guys who have something going on upstairs, and that you can tell at any age or size.''

Schellscheidt looks for players with ''soccer brains'' and ''good feet.'' When it comes to coaching, he believes less is more.

''The coach is really a substitute voice,'' he says. ''We want the players to hear the silent voice, the game. The game is actually talking to you.''

Schellscheidt, who considers 5-v-5 games a key component to training sessions, has had a major influence on some of America's most accomplished coaches, such as Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Dave Sarachan.

''I think everybody who runs across Manfred learns something,'' says U.S. coach Arena. ''He provokes a lot of thought on how players think and the role coaches play. He is very good at trying to keep things simple and not making a meal of things. He doesn't make a big deal about the influence coaches have on players. He believes in making sure players are in a good soccer environment and that they learn from the game.''

Chicago Fire coach Sarachan says, ''He showed me constantly that it's an art, not a science.''

Schellscheidt, a native of Germany, came to visit his aunt in New Jersey at age 23 and hooked up with Elizabeth SC of the German-American League.

''I arrived in the country on a Monday, went to practice at Farcher's Grove on a Wednesday, and they gave me a player's pass in time for the Saturday game,'' says Schellscheidt, 64. ''Only in America!''

Schellscheidt returned to Germany, but was enticed back by the club, which provided him an immigration sponsor and a tool-making job, which he held for 18 years while playing and coaching before taking his first full-time soccer position, Seton Hall head coach, in 1988. He won two U.S. Open Cups with Elizabeth SC. As player/assistant coach, he won the 1973 NASL title with the Philadelphia Atoms. He was player/coach of the 1974 ASL-winning Rhode Island Oceaneers and coached the 1977 ASL-winning New Jersey Americans. He coached the Union Lancers to McGuire Cup (U-19) titles in 1987 and 1988.

''Our training sessions were basically just playing,'' says Richie Williams, a member of the McGuire Cup winners, who won two NCAA titles at Virginia and three MLS titles with D.C. United. ''I always looked forward to playing for Manny, because I always knew it would be fun. We enjoyed and we learned, and we played good, attacking soccer.''

Schellscheidt's resume includes a stint as U.S. head coach in the 1970s and as an assistant with the U-20s. He was the Olympic coach until the eve of the 1984 games when the Federation disbanded his team of amateurs and replaced them with pros. He coached the U.S. team at two Pan American Games and coached the U-17s in the early 1990s. He was inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1990.

While Schellscheidt hails the progress American soccer has made -- the national team he headed in 1975 didn't even train before meeting in Mexico City -- he's not happy with all the changes.

''Paying $5,000 to $10,000 to play youth soccer, that's not good,'' says Schellscheidt. ''And because a player at some super club shows up for every practice, plays in every big tournament and has a boatload of trophies doesn't tell me anything. What matters is the skill level of the player, which doesn't come from organized soccer. It comes from a love affair with the ball and playing games with and against players of all ages.''

March 18, 2007
Claudio Reyna: Home At Last

After nearly 13 years abroad, Claudio Reyna comes full circle back to New Jersey.

By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America Magazine

Claudio Reyna played his youth ball in a New Jersey environment that bridged eras of American soccer and an array of cultures.

The center of the activity was a German-American social club in the town of Union called Farcher's Grove, which had a bar, a catering hall, a picnic grove and a lighted soccer field.