June 19, 2009
With the unwhelming performance so far in the Confederations Cup, some people are blaming Bob Bradley,some people are blaming the US Soccer Federation , and some of the players are getting blamed as well and in one case, a player is taking responsibility for his bad play.
But with the technical skill of the Brazilians on display yesterday, it got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule.
To me, the US's issue isn't athleticism. There is a reason why the most successful Americans abroad over the years have been goalkeepers. That is the one position that relies more on athleticism than the on the ball skills that are honed by hours and hours of having a ball at your feet.
So, how many touches on a soccer ball did Lionel Messi have by the time he turned 14? How about Kaka or Cristiano Ronaldo or Steven Gerrard? My guess is that it is a lot more than most of the members of the US Men's National Team.
And while many will say that Youth Academies are the answer to this issue, I will go another direction. I will look to a sport that is similiar to soccer in many respects and it's a sport that the US has dominated over the years.
How many times did Pete Maravich dribble, pass, and shoot a basketball by the time that he was 14 years old? Or LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson or Dwayne Wade? One of the main reasons that the US has dominated at basketball over the years is that there is this culture of pick up basketball has thrived for years and even spawned companies like And1.
What US Soccer needs is to develop a similiar culture of pick up soccer if it wants to try and make the dream of being an elite footballing nation a reality.
Forget coaches. Forget speed camps. Forget youth academies. Forget about trying to get paid. What needs to happen is that all over this country, pick up soccer parks sprout up like playground basketball courts, such as the famous Rucker Park in NY City, have.
Times are tough. How many parents would love to be able to drop their children off to a park with a half dozen 3 on 3 soccer courts where kids can play games to 5 all day long?
The theory that the US Men's National Team would be great if LeBron and Kobe played soccer instead of basketball is flawed simply because the culture of player development in the US doesn't cultivate the skills needed to compete on a global scale.
This is what US soccer needs.
Maybe if that happens, the value of the US Starting XI will get close to Brazil's.
News & Notes:
- Could St. Louis look to the USL after not getting an MLS franchise? That would be cool!
- I like this piece complaining about noise polution at the Confederations Cup.
- If you want to relive the ugly 3-0 loss to Brazil, here are a bunch of post-game reaction links.
- Barca and Chivas will play a friendly at Candlestick Park in San Francisco this summer.
- I like some of the thoughts behind the perfect US Men's National Team coach. But, does the US have the horses to compete with the Italy's and Brazil's?
- With Frankie Hejduk not looking like he'll play tomorrow, I wouldn't expect him to be in the Crew lineup a week from Tuesday at MAS in the Open Cup match versus the Rhinos.
- If the DC United - Ocean City Barons match gets moved, that would leave the New England Revolution as the only MLS team playing a "home" match in the 3rd round of the Open Cup. And it's merely a "home" game and not a home game as the match will be played at Willowbrook Park in New Britain, Conn and not their normal home stadium of Gillette Field.
- It looks like Portland could kick their baseball team out of town to make their MLS dream a reality. Awesome!
- Survivor's Ethan Zohn is fighting cancer.
- The EPL has cancelled it's contract with Setanta Sports. I wonder if that means more games on FSC or if say ESPN might pick up some EPL matches given how well the Champions League did?
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.