Somewhere Along The Way, American Soccer Knocked The Hustle

The @BestSoccerShow’s Jared Dubois says American soccer went pop when it should have went hip-hop.

If you are lucky to live long enough, you get the scary gift of watching the decades go by before your eyes.

Green Day went saccharin in a hurry...as did US Soccer says Jared DuBois....

Your tastes move from the frenetic sounds of electric guitars being punished by dudes with purple mohawks on to things that you can only describe as “more easily approachable” even without a glass of wine.

You either look at yourself years later and think one of two things, “What the fuck was I thinking?” or “Who the fuck have I become?”  And each proposition comes with it’s own frightening existential conclusions.

It is with this realization in mind, that I recently looked at the progression of the US Soccer system I grew up with as a teenager in the 90′s in comparison with what it has evolved into currently today.

You see US Soccer in the 90′s reflected its decade very well. A decade free of war and blessed with opportunity due to record-setting economic prosperity.  Think about the things people fought for in the 90′s… Saving whales? Rain forests? The right to wear your sideburns as long as you liked?  This was a “Why the fuck not?” generation.

In 1989, Paul Caligiuri scored the goal that sent the US National Team back to the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.  It was US Soccer’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit Moment.” Perfectly timed.

[Paul goes T&T on T&T..]

No one knew what it meant for the future of soccer in this country, but what you did know was that things would never be the same again.

US Soccer continued down this grungy path all through the 90′s–are you listening Alexi–fueled by a bunch of young kids trying to find a way to make a buck doing what they loved.  Many signing with the indie label (US Soccer) touring state-side to stay in shape and attempting to start a movement here at home.  Others signed with larger labels (Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry City, Real Betis even) and chose to Tour Europe instead, in hopes of making it big. 90′s soccer was just like college radio, unrefined, directionless and uninhibited.  More over it was one of the few sports that was yet to be ruined by corporate greed.

But just like all great scenes, once someone hits it big A&R douchebags start flocking to it to try and see how they can sell it to the masses.

Selling to the masses isn’t a bad thing though.  Everyone’s dream for soccer in the 90′s was to get it established and create a league that could be there for decades to come. However the danger with soccer–much like music–is that as a scene starts to gain in popularity the people that finance its success tend not to be people that came up through it.

Thus the direction it takes tends to lose the original message.

And this is where I feel US Soccer has failed in it’s most recent decade.

Isn't it....ironic?

Everyone knew soccer couldn’t stay grunge. It couldn’t remain like Nirvana drummer and now Foo Fighters’ front man Dave Grohl issuing a big bird salute….wait he did that on the cover of Rolling Stone. Moving on…

Like it’s musical counterpart, it was perfect for it’s short brief encapsulation of a time period that was always going to pass. It was going to have to pull a Madonna, reinvent itself and go a different direction.

It should have gone hip hop.

Instead it went pop.

Soccer, at it’s very core, is an urban language.  Something felt in the bones, not fabricated for artificial purposes.  America’s best athletes, like the rest of the world’s, often come from poor neighborhoods and kids looking to break free from their natural born environments.

The pay-to-play nature of youth soccer now in America deprives us of the natural free flowing talent that comes from neighborhoods that don’t have the money to play on club teams.

I like to liken it to *NSYNC versus Wu Tang Clan.

*NSYNC was formed by some rich white producer grabbing five young kids and pigeon holing them into roles that would sell (The Shy One, The Bad Boy, The Heart Throb, etc.).  You have them rehearse the same moves over and over again and teach them how to sing songs that are written by other people.  Yes, it is their voices singing, but what about that sound is personal or unique?

Then you look at a group like Wu Tang Clan that formed in the boroughs of New York, and honed their craft freestyling on the streets.  There a group of guys that knew their own voices and personalities and naturally found other guys that had the same skill sets and fascinations.  And they honed it.  Every day.  It’s organic, despite some forcing of martial arts themes…

(BTW, is there a better poaching forward in music than original Wu Tang Clanner Ol’Dirty Bastard? Guy was like the Chicharito of hip-top. Dirty was wanted in what seemed like 40 states and used to run on stage for one song and then buzz off faster than the cops could appear. Smash-and-grab at its finest.)

Brooklyn Zoo!: Ol’ Dirty Bastard in his prime

Whether you like Wun Tang, or not, is not the point.  The point is, you can manufacture a thousand *NSYNC’s–and we have–or you can catch lightning in a bottle if you look hard enough for it.  And if you do find it, you have something different than everyone else has.  You have style, you have bravado, you have a initial skill set to build off of that no one else in your system already has.

Mazinho, Bebeto and Romario celebrate for Bebeto's newborn son after he knocks one home against the Dutch in WC 1994....

When you think about it, a country like Brazil went hip hop decades ago.  How are dudes with names like Pele, Ronaldinho, Juninho, Zito, and Bebeto any different than names like RZA, Ad Rock, 2Pac, and Common?  It’s an expression of self.  One that is woefully lacking in US Soccer.

American soccer doesn’t respect The Hustle.

We tend to identify talent and push it into a cookie cutter mold until it fits.  The Hustle is what makes a player unique.  Think about how you learned of many of your favorite bands, rappers or singers.  In the 80′s or 90′s you probably had a friend pass a mix tape or mix CD your way.  And on it was a sound you had never heard before and changed everything about the way you saw music.

Today The Hustle is still there and it’s easier than ever to spread around.  YouTube is full of kids trying to get their Hustle on.  Dudes from around the world are posting their best freestyle tricks, their sickest nutmegs and their best goals up for the world to take notice.  The Hustle is still there, like a dude selling his CD on the street for a dollar outside of a Jay-Z show.

This is the way the world is going.

There will always be a place for natural talent scouting of club teams.  It works for a reason.  But America’s biggest problem has always been, “How do you scout a country our size?”

We need to find a way to make The Hustle work for us.

If US Soccer doesn’t have one guy getting paid to search the internet everyday for the next big thing, then we are already failing to keep up with a new generation.  To quote Too Short, “There’s money in the ghetto.”  People may struggle financially in a number of ways, but everyone always seems to have money for a camera phone.  And libraries have free internet.  You combine those two ingredients with a desire to escape, and you have fuel for a fire.  There is a kid with talent right now figuring out how to upload a a video of himself and a soccer ball somewhere in America.  I guarantee it.

But are US Soccer’s A&R guys even watching?

I dig role playing games, so let me assume the role of an MLS talent scout.  Here is the future: You make your website, Social Media and parents do the work for you.  You announce on your team’s official website that you are doing a YouTube Challenge.  “We want to see what your kids have to offer.”  Tell them to put together their kid’s best mixtape and upload it to YouTube.  Then you Tweet out a link to the video with the hashtag #IAmTheFuture (or some stupid shit like that).  You tell these kids that you guarantee every video will be reviewed by a scout from your team.  Best case scenario, you identify great young prospects for your development academies.  Worst case scenario, you just got these kids and their families interested in your club at a young age and tied them to your social media branding. It’s a win win for MLS teams.

Adapt or die.  The next generation of great footballers in America won’t be from the suburbs or colleges like those great players from the 90′s. They will be from the streets.  But how has US Soccer chosen to access these players?  My advice is, “Let the Internet do some of the work for you.”

And to the soccer playing kids of a hip hop generation, I say, “Keep Hustling.”

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32 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by duder on 2012/01/31 at 11:14 PM

    chandler hoffman got his career going with the “hustle” as you say… posting youtube videos and sending them to college coaches

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jake C on 2012/01/31 at 11:22 PM

    In dissing college players and suburbanites you’ve effectively cut off most of the current soccer-playing population in America. Probably not your goal, but point is there’s no need to “pigeonhole” where the next great talent will come from. The best option is to provide equal opportunity, and to encourage youth to develop technically while still being able to express themselves as individuals on the field.

    I agree that the pay to play system is ridiculous. I’m from Alabama, and the soccer company I work for is currently trying to figure out what the heck we’re going to do with our potential partnerships; all of the clubs here are immensely competitive– they cherry pick players from other clubs, are entirely win/loss based, and charge parents about $5000 a year to keep their kid in the program. I’ve also seen ONE of those kids make it to the professional level in my lifetime, and that kid made it to UCLA by posting YouTube videos of himself. That’s despicable to me, but I see no way that MLS clubs will effectively scout here when the nearest club is a few hundred miles away.

    I have a buddy that trialed at Celtic after he sent them some videos, so I’ve also heard of the tactic working internationally. Still, I’m not quite sold that this is the most effective scouting method. The two I’ve mentioned were 16-17 when they posted those videos, and if I’m an MLS academy I want to start developing prospects at age 12–14 at the latest.

    So 1)clubs I’ve had experience with aren’t effective at developing or marketing their players, and 2) professional clubs aren’t anywhere near the region. That’s not touching on the problems MLS clubs have closer to home (which are many), but I don’t see how the situation can improve without a massive investment by the league into youth soccer.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jake C on 2012/01/31 at 11:23 PM

      And that one kid was Chandler Hoffman, as duder notes above :)

      Reply

    • Posted by Gregorio on 2012/02/01 at 9:45 AM

      Not to go off topic here but if I remember the producer oF NYSNC Lou Pearlman was sent to jail for 25 yrs for racketeering, money laudering,* sexual misconduct. So maybe pigeonhole should be “Cornholed”

      Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2012/01/31 at 11:31 PM

    Not speaking for Jared, but there are few players actually posting video, running Web sites etc.

    Also, little in the way of tech is used to date by USSF to unearth talent.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jake C on 2012/01/31 at 11:39 PM

    A final thought I had Jared–isn’t a YouTube competition the very sort of thing that would marginalize players in the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum? Technology is an assumed skillset these days, as is its availability, but those growing up in poor neighborhoods and schools don’t necessarily have access to these things, regardless of how good they may or may not be at soccer.

    Don’t mean to bash on your writing–it’s a very thought provoking piece–just a thought I had.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jrodius on 2012/01/31 at 11:57 PM

      Not a problem Jake.

      I can tell you as a person that sits on the Board of Trustees for my local library MANY libraries have all the technology tools kids need, at no cost to them. Many even have courses that teach you how to edit your product as well. Also free.

      The point is, if the kid wants it bad enough, he’ll find The Hustle.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jake C on 2012/02/01 at 6:36 AM

        Still not completely sold, but I’ll agree that the biggest problem by far is the effort and money being put forth by academies and clubs.

        Reply

    • Posted by pino on 2012/02/01 at 3:17 AM

      Dude even people on welfare have iphones these days… even a dumb phone that you can get for free (or close too it) can capture video to be uploaded.

      Reply

  5. Posted by kaya on 2012/02/01 at 12:11 AM

    I see your point. Deuce is the closest thing to hustle we’ve got. Of course, his parents shuttled him around to the club games of his youth, but he always kept some hustle with him. It’s a little hard to say how much of it got him where he is and how much of it held him back.
    When I think of hustlers like Ronaldhinho and Robinho, I also think of guys who couldn’t wrap their brains around their talent and prodigious by-products of a national obsession, so I don’t know how ready I am to see US soccer go there.
    I do tend to agree the Bradenton effect swung the pendulum to far in one direction.
    I hadn’t seen that Caliguiri goal before. Man, it’s pretty terrible!

    Reply

  6. I think this is what Klinsy means by ‘The American Style’? America needs more Dempsey-esque young punks who cut their teeth playing street ball in a dirt patch on the side of the road with the immigrant kids. When I drift off in class I sometimes wonder what the Yanks would look like if LeBron and Kobe grew up on soccer instead of basketball. Screw the Next Messi – I want soccer’s first Michael Jordan instead.

    Soccer will have finally arrived when kids in the ghettos show up at the basketball courts with PVC goals to play futsal or get suspended from school for having the most epic game of keepsy-ups known to history with a size 3 ball at lunch. Maybe in a generation or two we can even get an “And1″ tour on ESPN for 7-a-side soccer…now wouldn’t that be something.

    Reply

    • Posted by E=MC2 on 2012/02/01 at 6:31 AM

      No, we DON’T need more Dempseys or Donovans. We need to develop Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldo, Kaka and so on. Why settle for America’s best when they are far from best in the world? Shoot for the stars. If we hit the moon, that’s better than shooting for the clouds and hitting the ceiling!

      USSF, ODP, Academy, id2 and any other scouting network needs to look for true ballers. The 12 or 13 year old who can really play. I’m soooo tired of seeing 5’10″ 13-year olds get selected by ODP who lack skill, speed, agility — and can only win headers and throw their weight around. This is the problem. Hello, earth calling ODP!

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/02/04 at 6:06 AM

        It is easy to say that but hard to implement – you’ve mentioned once in a generation type players. Have you heard of something called ‘logical incrementation’?

        I agree that the issue lies within the youth game, and the quality of coaching that they receive. When I watch my 11yo nephew play, and compare his team to my old U11 team [25+ years ago], even though they’re mostly bigger than we were, we would have run rings around them. They have zero intensity in their game, don’t drive their passes [many are falling short], shite first touch and control, and little passing and moving. Essentially the basics of the game. Yet they’re top of their [WIldwood, MI] league…

        Until there is a shift away from winning at such an early age, I don’t see too much changing – and also a change in parents seeing their kids in winning teams.

        And when Klinsmann was talking about more “street” football, I think he was talking about that just because kids don’t play enough compared to the rest of the world, and that even playing “street” football was more preferable than no football.
        Heck he even said that the off-season in MLS was too long.

        And regarding the poverty thing – isn’t it because middle-class parents actually “parent” their kids more and their kids have an expectation to do well at school and go to college, therefore cutting into time they can devote to playing football, street or otherwise?

        Reply

  7. Posted by Chris Z on 2012/02/01 at 4:21 AM

    I like the post however, I do and I don’t get it. I’m late 30′s so grew up in NASL hey day where you would have 40-60,000 people watching soccer in person…in the US… regularly…in Tampa not NY( Tampa was not big, just getting an NFL team, no hockey, no superbowls hosted yet). What is your hope for soccer with this mentality? Is it to have some super stud player to hang your hat on, is it to have a successful league, is it to win a world cup? I think if you want street ball players (and1 basketball parallel), you have a niche and an espn3 product but it’s not getting you an NBA player or championship. The thing that bothers me most is that for all the soccer clubs and camps that our system has players go through from the age of 5, our fundamentals are still terrible. How can our players first touch always be so bad that we give it away so easily and our spacing and off the ball running be so bad? As much as I’d love to have some brazilianesque scoring stud, I think Dempsey, Donovan, Shea types have skill and physiques to succeed up front but we need to develop better defense and midfield products to have winning teams. Look at all those brazil championships and look at the quality of their left and right backs…those guys have the skill, speed, and size to defend and then also confidently carry the ball up and pressure the other team so it looked like they could score from anywhere at anytime. I agree that soccer still needs to have that counter culture and hustle mentality but you also have to be able to mature it and somewhat mass produce it effectively to sustain a league.

    Reply

  8. Posted by E=MC2 on 2012/02/01 at 6:25 AM

    I live in SoCal. Many Mexican kids go to Mexican League since (1) they are better at identifying promising players than MLS and USSF and ODP; (2) paid way more than MLS; (3) get better developed in a “B” team to help them towards a solid career.

    ODP and USSF and MLS don’t know what or how to identify “ballers”. Until they solve that, we get shit. Internet Hustle or not!

    MLS needs to invest heavily and do more in creating partnerships with Academy Clubs. But MLS doesn’t have that cash to splash. They need more big names like Becks to bring in Marketing and Advertising dollars. Then they can re-invest in promising players. That’s the egg that will hatch the golden chicken.

    Stop pointing to Chandler Hoffman. He’s the one antidote to he typical. Paying someone full-time to watch YouTube is 100% overhead. Not sure if the hit rate is worth the investment? Given less than 1% make it to pro, not a good ROI.

    And finally, it is true USA is more enamored with size and strength over skill, creativity, and vision. We don’t find Xavi becasue we don’t look for them. We prefer Altidore, Ream, Wynne, and other physical specimens. Smaller skillful tiki-taka types need not apply. USSF needs infusion of new blood. A visionary CEO to stir the pot. Exactly why Apple kicks butt over stodgy IBM. I have hope for Klinsmann and crew, but they need to stir harder. Garber over at MLS is an ogre and stuck under his beloved bridge.

    Reply

    • “MLS needs to invest heavily and do more in creating partnerships with Academy Clubs. But MLS doesn’t have that cash to splash.”

      Actually they DO have academies and they are creating partnerships… Toronto FC has one, so does Portland, Seattle, LA, Colorado, RSL, Quakes, Chivas, Dallas, Vancouver, New England, Red Bull, Sporting KC, DC, Chicago, Houston and Colombus.

      You can see end of year evaluations here, in PDF form, for academies.
      http://www.ussoccer.com/~/media/F6AFF980EC804D5980011C71E16FC2D4.ashx

      Reply

  9. [...] THE ONLY PLACE YOU’LL EVER SEE ODB COMPARED TO CHICHARITO. The how’s and why’s of American soccer going down the wrong cultural path. Soccer needs the Hustle. // The Shin Guardian [...]

    Reply

  10. Posted by Excellency on 2012/02/01 at 7:07 AM

    I am curious about something. Certain people keep harping on the “lower socio economic order” or the “ghettos” or the “poor neighborhoods”, etc.

    what exactly does that have to do with anything? I just don’t get it. What is it that we are looking for there exactly? Is there a magic about poverty that produces athletes like pixie dust?

    I don’t think it could be athletic talent we are looking for. Maybe it is style. But the most successful sport in ad terms is golf. Style? How about football where everybody hides under pads and helmets and uniforms that all look alike and play in stadiums that all look alike. Somebody once said that if you want to know what style looked like 10 years ago you should go watch what the NFL players are wearing in their free time. (True).

    For starters I’d like to see USA soccer develop a sense of place in towns like Seattle and Portland and San Jose, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philly rather than Pizza hut on channel xyz. Anybody notice that Henry dropped the comment last year before the MLS cup that “everybody wants to see NY-LA”. That sounds familiar. Hopefully we can get others into the mix. It would help a lot if we could get English commentators over here to comment on the game instead of the America sports announcer who spends hours talking about statistics that don’t actually make any sense. Example: Wynalda on Mcity/Everton: Mcity are the team that have scored the most points in the first half and given up the most in the second half. The English announcer (and me at home) let out a big groan.

    Reply

    • Posted by Anna on 2012/02/01 at 9:32 AM

      “I am curious about something. Certain people keep harping…”

      A lot of players from lower socio-economic backgrounds have played football or basketball, and in nations like Brazil, a lot of the players come from that same type of background. People see that and think that since some of those people come from poor backgrounds, then all our soccer players should come from those backgrounds too if we want to be an elite nation. To me, our biggest problem seems to be the way we’re training our players, not whether they come from a ghetto or a suburb. I look at nations like Spain, Netherlands, Germany, etc. and I see plenty of middle class players that are beyond anything we’re producing. Even Brazil has produced better middle class players.

      Reply

    • Posted by Gregorio on 2012/02/01 at 9:52 AM

      I agree there is nothing magical about poverty. I think a lot waht happens is that kids in poverty stricken areas are unsupervised for hours upon end and don’t have resources to occupy their time like play dates, music lessions, karate, tennis club, etc.. so all the kids do is play at whatever sport they have available that doesn’t take a lot of resources,like one hoop and 1 ball. It is here where they play constantly, hours & days upon end. All the time honing their skills mostly of the creative kind. These raw talents are those we hear about when they get refined (the raw talented Hustle + rules/higher level concepts of the game or good coaching.
      What about Devan Yao? for example.

      Reply

  11. Unfortunately, “hustle” means something entirely different in American sports lingo already.

    Work rate (“hustle”) trumps technical skill because American youth coaches aren’t technically savvy. The average youth basketball coach is teaching your kid about the 1-3-1 trap and the pick-and-roll, while the average youth soccer coach is yelling at your kid to hustle and boot the ball up the field. Which one is more appealing to a kid with actual ball skills?

    Reply

  12. Posted by Zito on 2012/02/01 at 8:33 AM

    Well the answer is quite easy, it’s all the poor kids have. Where those from a richer background and this is not in all situations, have more hobbies and ability to buy more toys or do more things, those from a poor background single in on the little they have for fun, which is football. It’s not shock that a lot of US kids don’t start taking it seriously till their teens while the poor ones usually spend their free time in the fields playing football. It’s basically about making the most out of what you have and when you have a lot, you concentrate your time towards all the different things.

    Reply

  13. I can’t express in words how awesome everything is about this post. I could run the Boston Marathon with this metaphor.

    Reply

  14. Posted by E=MC2 on 2012/02/01 at 2:11 PM

    Yes, I’m well aware of MLS and Academy. Several SoCal teams now have “partnerships”, but that doesn’t translate into lower or no club fees. My son has practiced with the Galaxy and other than free boots, backpacks, kits — they are no differrent than any other non-MLS affiliated youth club.

    When I say “invest” i’m talking about MLS (say the Galaxy) funding the affiliate youth club to buy them equipment, pay for tournaments, sponsor them in national or international tournaments so they get the higher level competition. Last I checked, that ain’t happening!

    Agree with others that being poor doesn’t gift you with talent. An urban legend! Poor kids having more motivation to suceed to get out of their situation: now that is true. I’m an immigrant to USA. I see so many lazy bums wanting uncle sam to feed them. Not so in Argentina, Brazil, Africa, Caribbean. But in Europe they have universal medical and free college in many places. Yet Europe develops world-class soccer talent. So can’t all be about being poor. The other part is player identification. This is something the USA does poorly. Like I said earlier, we aren’t producing Xavi, Iniesta, Messi becasue we’re not looking for them. Not part of the recipe.

    Reply

  15. Posted by E=MC2 on 2012/02/01 at 2:20 PM

    South America, Caribbean, Asia, and Africa don’t provide welfare like the USA. So they have that inner drive to be successful. Go the extra mile. Something that is perfect for a promising footballing star. Speed, skills, and ability are only piece of the pie. Committment, determination, motivation plays a major role. I think this is where poor USA kids may have the one-up on middle to upper-middle class kids. But even a poor boy from the ghetto has cellphones, cars, food. So how much motivation is there?

    Reply

  16. [...] American soccer in the 90′s being grunge, but turning pop in the new millennium when it should have gone hip hop. (The Shin [...]

    Reply

  17. Posted by ASO on 2012/02/01 at 3:58 PM

    Beautiful article and great comments, I’d like to add my perspective as a literal soccer mom whose child just entered the premier/select “pay for play” soccer world. There are other downstream effects to the limited access for poorer kids to select soccer beyond missing that one brilliant player. There is incredible homogeneity in the kids on the select teams; they all listen to the coaches and do exactly as they say. No matter how good their ball skills they are victims of the fear of failure beaten into most middle/upper middle class kids. Their goal is to win the game, please the coach, please their parents who are paying all the money for them to play.

    Mixing in kids with nothing to lose can be of enormous benefit to improving every kid’s level of play. Our coach has brought in one of these players. It is enormous work for him, the kid is a great player but unfocused and a bit unpredictable. That said, all the kids have benefited from seeing and emulating his risk taking attitude in games. You don’t find these kids on youtube videos, though. You find them by scouting the rec games. That is why I believe that raising soccer to a higher level in this country will require grassroots efforts of local clubs who can identify and develop the 6-12 year olds with promise. This includes getting the better-off parents to fund raise for the scholarship kids with the realization that their kids will benefit from expanding the player pool.

    Reply

    • Excellent point about the maverick player who’ll try things with no fear of failure. I used to send my U-13s out there and tell them to keep in mind the things we’d worked on in practice during the game, BUT don’t be afraid to try things, don’t be afraid to fail. Most players loved hearing that but you could tell they couldn’t quite get past their ingrained fear of failing.

      Reply

  18. It’s interesting how difficult it is for USSF and MLS to scout in the US. For some reason we look at “how do we scout a country as big as the US?” as our biggest problem rather than our biggest asset. Uruguay has 3.2 million people and has become a dominant force internationally; the US has over 300 million people. Iowa alone has as many people as Uruguay. Scouting isn’t a cakewalk and the soccer climate in Uruguay is better than ours, but that still doesn’t make up for the potential we are sitting on. USSF should be making massive investments in ghetto soccer programs. Why is it that we are all so familiar with the Bradenton Academy? One (expensive) program in Florida? Yet there are pockets all over the country that are ripe with talent.
    How do you scout a country as big as the US? Get financially savvy programs in these pockets where there is talent and establish networks in places that have been ignored. We’ve gotta make it clear that soccer is a sport of the streets, not the suburbs where we can’t gain the popularity to make inroads. Our current system is counter-intuitive to a sport that starts with a pop can in an alley way.

    Reply

  19. I love the analogy and all the commentary about this topic, but I think one mantra keeps getting repeated that we should avoid. “Soccer is a sport of the streets/ghetto vs. the suburbs].”

    Soccer is a game of ‘the people,’ and every country around the world has different groups ‘people’ who make up the primary population: England – working class people, Brazil – poor street kids, the US – suburbanites. There’s different reasons each nation trends towards a certain population and for some it’s working and for some it’s not.

    I agree that we need to cast a wider net in our search for talent and need more organically grown talent instead of the formulaic drones that suburbanite soccer clubs typically produce. However, I think the root of the problem comes back to how US Clubs, Coaches, National Programs, etc. perceive “talent” in a player, especially at the younger ages. It bothers me that kids who aren’t fully grown (physically or mentally) are adjudged primarily based on their physical attributes; the old adage “we can teach soccer but we can’t teach speed” haunts me 4 years after I first heard it uttered from a youth club president (I was a coach not a player at the time).

    In reality it’s probably easier to increase a player’s speed, strength, and jumping ability than it is to teach them Bergkamp/Cantona-ian like pomp, Messi-like feel for dribbling, or Xavi(insert midfield maestro of the day) like vision and passing.

    Reply

  20. Posted by dikranovich on 2012/02/02 at 10:23 AM

    soccer is definately a game of the streets and it is part of the reason messi can dribble the ball like it is on a yo-yo. the truth is, the typical kid in the american ghetto looks at soccer as a sport for girls or, whats the idea. i dont know, but in the american ghetto, soccer is for p#%^@s. if you can change this perception, and i think it might be happening, then we will have something special, like jazz. they value speed and size in brasil also, dont be fooled into thinking otherwise.

    Reply

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