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Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by Andy_B, Oct 20, 2004.
From the unexpurgated version ...
So 50 percent of our soccer players and 75 percent of our soccer talent consists of first generation immigrants, most of whom happen to be Latin American. Our European-oriented coaches choose to ignore these wonderful players for prejudicial reasons. If only they took the blinkers off, three out of four current MLS and national team players would be replaced by these first generation immigrants.
Of course these players aren't in the A-League, they aren't in college, and they aren't in the PDL. I wonder where they are? Competitive rec leagues? Sunday night pick-up games? Where do we find these wunderkind?
He didn't say they were first generation. I think he's referring to youth leagues. Specifically, talented youth level players that are not discovered and refined.
As a quick example, I live in East LA where my wife is from. My family lives on the North western part of LA. I've seen many youth level games in both parts of town (one is Latino, the other white). The style of play is far different. I also notice more kids with better individual skills in East LA.
I think his percentage breakdown of 75% of the good players is over the top, but you must admit its very curious why there aren't more Latinos in the US youth system given the number of players there are. It seems like its gotten better over the last few years though.
Haven't you heard we are all racists.
Funny. I'm sure it just a language deal. Most coaches in the US system and college game are white and watch english soccer b/c they can understand the announcers. So they prefer that style and select kids who are used to it. Dribbling and one-on-one play is seen as being a ball hog.
On many ocaasions the people who oppose Chivas USA are told that they are racists.
People have come out and said the only reason they support Chivas is because all the people who oppose it are racists
People have accused MLS of discriminating against latinos and non english speakers.
When I show them proof to the contrary they find something else to attack soccer in america with.
The valid point he makes is the Youth are underdeveloped across the US.
How does a good soccer player with potential get discovered in a non-major market?
The US system of developing sports talent is VIA college and there aren't nearly enough NCAA sanctioned teams in Men's Soccer. In Utah, I don't think one university is sanctioned (while all of them sanction the women's teams). This is in large part to NCAA rules that say a university has to spend equal money on Mens and Womens sports - never mind the fact that football and basketball generate about 100x's in revenue ALL the other sports combined (men and women)... that's another argument. However, this effectively killed NCAA sanctioned soccer in Utah (probably other smaller markets as well... or places that chose to chop Mens Soccer.
As a sidebar - it was interesting that Mens Soccer at BYU (my alma mater) still draws more fans/$ than any other sport at BYU except men's Football and men's Basketball... both big moneymakers. Mens soccer outdraws baseball, volleyball, wrestling, etc...
Out of my local highschool in my generation graduating in 1990-1992(say include, one year older and one year younger), we had -
1 Goalie try to make a go of it in Scotland (he ran out of money trying)
3 guys played for the APSL ? Sting - the local team in Salt Lake that died... I think 1-2 of them even played for the recently defunct Indoor Soccer team the Freezz...
1 Played in college (out of state) and road the bench for the Crew and Colorado (I think) for a few seasons.
3 Played for In-state college teams but they were the only ones who kept playing because they loved the game enough to have the distraction while going through school (because they're was almost no scholarship money in Utah for it).
Now, maybe things are a little better in the US... but it's still underwhelming. We have lots of talent throughout the US in plenty of underdeveloped markets and I personally don't buy there is a preponderance of latinos (plenty of other races that are good athletes)... No gene that makes them more skilled or whatever.
2 of my brothers played for Regional and State OD teams and even in their time the best 20 players weren't on those teams - some yes, but some weren't for politics or exposure or lack of ability of the coaches to distinguish talent properly.
The US needs a pyramid (whether in the form of colleges or pro farm systems) that give LOTS of developing youth the opportunity to continue developing. Not everyone peaks at 14-18 and some players become world-class later than that... You can't discover these players because they are passed over in the very limited development systems here.
BUT, MLS is making a difference... now kids in at least MLS cities may have a chance to get noticed at the club level, which may in turn mean someone puts in a good word at a coach at one of the few Division 1 NCAA soccer schools... It's getting better - I can't wait to see what it will look like in say 10-15 years!
You're right. I've noticed a lot of accusations of this nature on these boards. In my experience, "soccer people" are quite the opposite of racist or xenophonic. They typically are culturally aware people who are interested in an unpopular sport in their own country. Its a Latin style vs. Euro style thing that explains it all. Personally, I think we should go with just an "adaptive style" according to the opposition. we have the depth and type of player pool to have a team that could play both. but we need to do a better job of tapping into the Latino talent. hopefully chivasUSA, (and americaUSA & pumasUSA) will help us on that front.
When Chivas is 6-8 years old, Gardner is either going to be able to write one of the great "I told you so" columns of all time, or he'll have to find a new topic to write about.
I don't think Gardner's fixation will go away that easily ... after all, I'm a big advocate for hispanic players, and even I think that 75% is a utopian fantasy.
It'll probably be more like the way economic ideologues respond to the failures of things like trickle-down economics or communism. He'll either deny all reality and pretend it was a rousing success, or else he'll protest that it wasn't implemented correctly.
Well actually he said 50% of the players and 75 percent of the talent.
Which is still nonesense.
No, he didn't say "first generation".
But he did say "Most of the talent at the moment is Latin American because that is where the big waves of immigration are coming from."
I believe he could have been more specific and said mostly Mexican with some Central American.
The only question is what period of time does he refer to when talking about "talent at the moment" and "big waves of immigration". It is certainly possible that he is thinking first and second generation. If so, his "moment" probably extends for forty years.
However, by talking about recent immigration trends, he seems to be saying that it is not style of play or heritage but acclimation to higher living standards and the American style of club participation that ruins the skill level of American players. He implys that you can safely ignore players not from recent "big waves of immigration", no matter what their background is.
As for comments about college soccer, I can't believe that an 18 year old player who will be better than three/fourths of our current national team players once he "develops" would not be welcomed by at least one US college team somewhere in the United States. And if he hasn't already "developed" enough to play college soccer by age 18, just how do you expect this golden nugget to be discovered anyway?
Even if for some reason a star player was overlooked for whatever reasons (social, linguistic, or other), don't many schools and club teams regularly hold tryouts? It seems to me a player with speed and skills, if not stamina, would certainly be noticed at one of these tryouts. If that player never bothers to tryout, then perhaps there IS something wrong with the system. If Paul Gardner, or anyone, could provide us with some examples of excellent Hispanic youth players who haven't had their chance to impress, I think they should step up and name them. I suspect some American coach would be willing to take their blinkers off for a few hours to give those kids a look.
The US youth system is setup where it is the player's responsibility to get noticed. There simply isn't an economic incentive for players to be discovered. There aren't small clubs out there who can develop the youth to be professionals, sell their rights and remain in business. Its all paid for by the parents.
In every other country the money flows from the top down. With the current MLS structure which centrally controls which players come into the league and which ones don't, its going to continue to be difficult to tap every resource. MLS needs players who are ready to play right away.
Also the level of coaching at the youth level is pretty bad. There simply isn't a huge population base with real soccer knowledge to draw from.
However, all of this will change over time, with expansion comes more professional opportunity. With reserve teams comes more developmental opportunity. With every generation more knowledge gets into the coaching ranks.
Wait a minute -- so we WOULD get our own style if we suddenly open up the floodgates that are allegedly closed now? But if we suddenly switch to a Latin style, wouldn't we then be ignoring the OTHER 50 percent of the population?
We're a melting pot, and we need to remember that. The goal of U.S. soccer should be nothing less than a fusion of European pace and Latin skill (to dramatically oversimplify the styles, which are becoming less and less distinct as skilled teams like Arsenal, Man U, Porto and Real dominate European soccer). Anything less would deny the advantage of a deep talent base.
Shall we throw DaMarcus Beasley off the national team because he's not "Latin" enough? Should we all hope John O'Brien never recovers his game? Should we dump Keller, Friedel, Howard, Walker, Cannon, Meola, Hartman and Thornton in favor of someone who plays more like Jorge Campos?
Consider the best U.S. players today: Landon Donovan, Beasley, Claudio Reyna, O'Brien, Clint Mathis on a good day, etc. Are they really stuck in a European mindset? For that matter, is Bruce Arena? Not too long ago, IIRC, Gardner praised Arena's teams for their fusion of Latin and European styles -- back when he was at Virginia!
I have a great deal of respect for Gardner -- The Simplest Game, which an ex-girlfriend took from me in the breakup, is essential reading. Ironically, the best writing in it involves seeing Stanley Matthews in the FA Cup. Today, would Matthews be too British?
Gardner does have a point. I can picture plenty of youth coaches teaching kids to play in predictable patterns and stifling the creativity needed to be a Zidane or even an Etcheverry. But I worry that driving the point into the ground actually undermines it.
Got her number handy?
You just want to get the book, right?
Here's what I don't get about Gardner. He's saying that if we could just harness the talent of the Latino immigrant, we'd vastly improve our Nats. The "75%" figure probably means 75% of the elite players...the Popes and Reynas and Landons, not the Hejduks and Twellmans and Zavagnins.
OK. But which country has more Latin Americans, the US, or Mexico? Mexico, by FAR. Who is CONCACAF's top dog right now? The US. So Gardner is saying that if we use more players who are from a soccer culture that can't beat us now, we'll improve.
You know, the fatter you are, the more calories you burn. It's true. So using Gardner's logic, the best way to lose weight is to stuff your face and get as fat as you can.
No doubt, US Soccer needs to tap into the Latino community. Our style will only mature to its full potential when US Soccer becomes more representative of the overall soccer community in the country.
That's not just US Soccer's fault. Many Mexicans in the USA believe they are too good to play with gringos. They think they have nothing to learn about soccer from whites who, to them, are just horses that run and run across the field. (I find this is not as big a problem with other Latinos, who are more likely to respect US Soccer).
But to say the problem robs us of 50-75 percent of our potential talent is so stupid. A hundred million Mexicans in Mexico can't find 11 to beat our best 11. So how many international-caliber players can possibly come from the 20 million Mexicans in the USA?
Not an issue to be disregarded in this converstaion is the cost of youth soccer.
It costs $95 a season for my 6 year old to play - and I coach the team for free. Under 8 Select costs $325. That is a lot of money. Multiply that by 2 or 3 kids and you are eliminating a large portion of kids from participating.
Public elementary schools tyically do not have soccer programs and field teams. If they can't afford to play in these youth leagues, where can they play / train / learn. How many that do not play through age 12 suddenly start playing in Junior High?
Junior high and High schools compete with these older select leagues for the best players. Most of the best players for a select team. When I was in high school, UIL rules were that you could not play for your school AND a select team. It was either one or the other. I do not know if this is still true today. I don't know which side has the best coaching either. But the HS v Select argument is somehwat analagous to the NCAA soccer system which can slow down the development of talented players.
The US youth soccer system is fragmented and often works against itself. Schools compete with private leagues for players. The best players usually play in private leagues. The private leagues price themsleves out of reach from much of the talent they so covet. Many schools have rules preventing dual particpation so kids are forced to choose one over the other. Much like in the NCAA where players play in a small amount of games and cannot play in pro or semi-pro leagues, even if they are not paid.
Its too bad. Gardner is right that the US is sitting on a goldmine of talent, but the self-interest and empire building of youth soccer inhibits much of the improvement we should see. Youth soccer leagues are an end unto themsleves. The USSF is beholden with thes people and does nothing to change the system. I'm not sure they could change it even if they wanted to.
The only thing that I think can change this entire process are professional youth academies with professional teams having their own incentive to develop and profit from their talent - thru sale or on-field peformance.
Maybe I am being too simplistic.
That is probably one of the most fair interviews I have seen from Mr. Gardner.
Cheers to him
Rather than quote Northside Rovers just to say "spot on" I'll just say "spot on."
Exactly! That should be our goal. Right now we're getting by on athleticism. We do need to try and get those immigrant kids playing in leagues that are under the radar of our current system. But there's more than just Hispanic kids. In Chicago you've got a United Nations of ethnicities and I know a lot of those kids will never get to college or whose parents can afford to put them in an ODP team. The same is probably true in NY and LA.
Of course not. But what about Eddie Lewis and Frankie?
Dont the people that oppose Chivas, accuse Chivas of being racist themselves? Support it or oppose it, I guess both are racist.