Is Nat Borchers Exceptional?

Discussion in 'Youth National Teams' started by Karl K, Oct 10, 2003.

  1. Karl K

    Karl K Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    Suburban Chicago
    The Nat Borchers Phenomenon strikes me as extremely interesting, and leads to the inevitable question:

    Is Nat Borchers Exceptional?

    By "exceptional" I don't mean to say that Nat might be the next Rio Ferdinand. How good he really is now, and how good he becomes over the long term, is still a pretty murky and unpredictable prospect. But there's no doubt we have seen some pretty phenomenal play out of him in a very short period of time.

    No, by "exceptional" I mean this: are there other players, like Borchers, completely and totally off the radar screen, who, if put in the right situation at the right time, can really shine?

    Let's face it. If anybody fits the phrase "come out of nowhere" this kid is the one. Are there other guys in nowhere-land who could replicate this? Is there any way we can rationally and with some precision identify these guys?

    The Jonathan Spector development arc seems to me to be analogous to the Borchers situation. While he was more "on the radar" than Borchers, Spector seemed to be headed for youth national team mediocrity. Then, voila, off to Manchester United.

    I don't have an answer to any of this, but it seems only logical, given how many guys are playing at reasonably high levels, that there exists ANOTHER Nat Borchers out there at least -- and maybe a half-dozen Nat Borchers or more.

    Where are they? How can we find them? CAN we find them??
  2. Sandon Mibut

    Sandon Mibut Member+

    Feb 13, 2001
    No, he is not exceptional.

    There are others out there.

    We only have a ten team first division, no reserve teams and scouting budgets are, obviously, limited.

    It's a big country and there are a LOT of players. A lot fall through the cracks.
  3. gnk

    gnk Member+

    Nov 1, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Despite his lineage, I would say Kenny Cooper came out of nothwere and was signed by ManU, and he is playing in reserve games as opposed to u19 games. I was unaware of Cooper prior to that. I follow the youth national teams (thanks mostly to BS and the US soccer website) and I did not know of him until I heard he was signed by ManU.
  4. Sandon Mibut

    Sandon Mibut Member+

    Feb 13, 2001
    They are at smaller colleges, usually D-I, as well as D-II and NAIA schools.

    They are playing PDL ball.

    And, some are inner city, usually ethnic players in unafilliated leagues.

    Yes, we can, but will we? I don't know.

    To do so, it will take a much greater commitment to scouting. Each team should have guys on staff whose sole job is scouting and they should have regional responsibilites a la baseball and the NFL and NHL. Look at some of the colleges baseball players come from. Yeah, there are the LSUs, Miamis and USCs but there are also a LOT of tiny podunk colleges with players in the Bigs. How were they found? Scouting. Right now, the MLS coaches do the scouting... in their spare time. Changing that, as we all know, takes money.

    And that comes down to the same theories that Karl has explained about why MLS doesn't have youth/reserve teams: no financial incentive.

    Sure, from a soccer perspective, it would be nice to have scouts uncover better players at the above places.

    But, how does that make the league more money? It doesn't.

    Until the league gets in the business of developing and selling players, it doesn't have the need, sad as that is, to go scour under every rock.

    That, and until there are more teams than there are players to fil the rosters, and that's a long way off. Expansion should help that, some, but likely until MLS gets to about 16 teams, the usual sources will likely be enough to provide players for MLS teams.

    MLSNHTOWN Member+

    Oct 27, 1999
    Houston, TX
    I think another part of the equation is that some players are just late bloomers. That is the benefit of having a relegation system in England as well as opposed to not having one in MLS.

    There are players who were never a part of the U- system with the ODP, but who blossom when they hit 18-21. I think college soccer gets several of these players and "finds them". But obviously if we had a relegation system, we might find more.

    Obviously one plus of the relegation system is more clubs so therefore, more players in the pool. But the other side, is occasionally a player will be 18-21 and have not really been a huge prospect, then out of no where he turns it on in Div II or Division III. Through promotion or through transfer, he gets a taste of the next level, exceeds expectations and continues this process until he is about 25 or 26 and has worked his way up through the ranks.

    A good comparison of this in my mind is the NFL. At 18 some players are probable stars in the making. But at 22, you have a much better idea of who has the stuff and who doesn't.
  6. cwhein

    cwhein New Member

    Oct 31, 2002
    When I saw the message header, "Is Nat Borchers Exceptional", I thought the thread was a discussion of Borchers mental incapacities.

    Of course by playing for the Rapids if Borchers was mentally deficient he would hardly be "exceptional" compared to the rest of his teammates. Watching that squad hit the pitch is like watching the Special Ed class take their place in the school dodge ball tournament.
  7. bigdush

    bigdush New Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    Parker, CO

    You're only as good as your last game/play.

    fire 1-1 Rapids.

    Sucks tying a special ed class huh.

    Ask Ante how he liked playing against the "slow" Borchers.
  8. Chester FC

    Chester FC New Member

    Jul 19, 2001

    Karl and Sandon together present a bit of a paradox.

    There are plenty of Nat Borchers out there. Usually guys who physical or mental soccer skills shine later (20s), but who always had talent. They often miss the window of opportunity to be a pro player and move onto stacking boxes or going to law school.

    If Sandon's advice is taken up and a good scouting system get set in place in the U.S., then a Nat Borchers is in the sytems and he is no longer 'expectional' in Karl's sense and 'no longer out of no where' -- creating the paradox.

    So, there will always be player coming from out of nowhere. Guys at the small basketball school who make in the NBA (Stockton, Charles Oakley et al prove the point).
  9. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Nat Borchers

    I thought I was an insider but this is proof that I'm not ...

    Can somebody please explain the shorthand that is going on here. I gather that Nat Borchers is playing very well and that he has a humble background, but further details -- or a link -- would be helpful.
  10. Sandon Mibut

    Sandon Mibut Member+

    Feb 13, 2001

    Borhcers was an undrafted rookie this year and signed a developmental contract. Now he's a starter on one of the top four teams in MLS.

    He had never been on an ODP regional team, let alone a youth national team. Now he's in the U23 pool with a good shot at being an Olympian. His strong play has some, albeit folks on BS and not anyone that actually matters, specualting about him playing for the senior nats.

    Borchers is originally from Pueblo, Co., a fairly small town a couple hours south of Colorado that is not known as a soccer hotbed. He played club ball there but not for a big team.

    He went to the University of Denver which also isn't a traditional soccer hotbed. He had a fairly anonymous first three years but after a strong season of PDL ball with the Boulder Rapids Reserves last summer, he had a very good senior season and was named MPSF Player of the Year. (Previous winners of this award are Ryan Suarez and Duncan Oughton.)

    Despite his strong senior year he didn't get drafted and signed a contract for 800 beans a month.

    So, when we say he came out of nowhere, it's because he wasn't a "known" player who had excelled at a higher profile college or with the youth national teams.

    Another example of this is Dallas rookie Jason Thompson, who played at Eastern Illinois, another fairly anonymous program. He scored a boatload of goals there but it wasn't till he played PDL ball - ironically, with the Rapids Reserves - and excelled there that he made the U23 team and that got him a P40 contract. (Unfortunately, a preseason ACL injury ended his rookie year).

    Karl's question is how many more players like these guys are out there and how do we find them. I guess playing for the Boulder Rapids Reserves might be the answer!
  11. dheck

    dheck Member

    Sep 20, 1999
    Chapel Hill, NC, USA
    Two current Fire defenders kind of came out of nowhere, too.

    Wasn't CJ Brown first "noticed" in the US Open Cup playing for DIII SF Bay?

    And while he was actually drafted straight out of college, Jim Curtin wasn't exactly a well-known name before he became a fixture for the Fire.

    Could it be that the skills and mentality it takes to play professionally as a defender aren't what get noticed at the youth levels?
  12. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    Sandon, thanks for the update. I could guess at the general story, but I didn't know the specific details.

    Steve Ralston would be similar if you ever read his bio. Not a high school star, had to talk his way onto a Division 1 program, then even there I don't think he was spectacular. Basically a guy who looked to be a long shot at cracking an A league team, much less be an MLS All-Star.

    dheck, I'd submit that an alternate theory for these late-blooming defenders is simply that the U.S. youth system does a rotten job of training and recognizing good defenders. I've talked to several veteran ODP coaches who say that, and Karl sent me a quote from John Ellinger once along the same lines. The early results of the '99 and '01 U17 crops aren't all that encouraging either, from what I can tell.
  13. NGV

    NGV Member+

    Sep 14, 1999
    Re: Borchers

    Says here that Borchers was a midfielder in college.

    That could help explain why his potential as a defender didn't get that much notice from MLS coaches.

    But, practically speaking, how would one tell the difference between poor performance by youth defenders due to inadequate development and poor performance by youth defenders due to difficulties in evaluation? Seems plausible that "apparently dominant youth defender" might translate into "dominant pro defender" less directly than is the case for offensive players. If that's true, one would expect to see more top youth prospects failing to pan out, and more late bloomers emerging - even if the youth system was first rate.

    I'd be interested in knowing how the degree of "late blooming" in other countries compares to that of the US.
  14. beineke

    beineke New Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Re: Re: Borchers

    Defenders everywhere develop later. This is obvious from looking at team rosters. It's also common sense, because defensive virtues (reading the game, strength, positioning, consistency) improve with maturity.

    In addition, Nat B.'s position change is also par for the course. Around the world, a lot of defensive players (from Lothar Matthaeus to Sol Campbell to Zak Whitbread) drop back from other positions at some point in their career.

    Now, let's revisit the 1999 U-17's. These kids are still only 21, which is very young for defenders. Nevertheless, the entire starting backline has already gotten first division playing time -- Onyewu, Yi, Akwari, and Trembly. In Belgium, Onyewu has quickly nailed down a starting job; Yi is on the fringe of his team's line-up. In MLS, Akwari isn't a great athlete, but he is an intelligent young defender who showed well in his last appearance. For his own part, Trembly is even less athletic, but he clearly understands how to play soccer.

    Around the world, the vast majority of U-17's fall by the wayside. Viewed in that context, this group of defenders looks mighty impressive. And that's even before I mention that the 1999 team also produced national team left back Bobby Convey.
  15. bigdush

    bigdush New Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    Parker, CO
    Re: Re: Re: Borchers

    If I remember correctly, Borchers played in the back for his first three years at Denver Univ. Then he got pushed to midfield for his final season. Maybe I have it backwards.

    Either way, I think he played both positions in college. He has said before that he feels more comfortable in back.
  16. Crazy_Yank

    Crazy_Yank Member

    Jan 8, 2001
    Matamoros, Mexico
    Chicago Fire
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    It's hard to predict which amatuer player's set of skills will translate to the pro game. These sorts of things happen in all US sports leagues. Yes, I think our scouting system could be better, but efforts are being made to improve it. The Super Y-leauge ODP program will be a huge boost. I think with the number of pro teams we know have in MLS and the A-league we are finding more players like Nat Borchers.

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