Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wagner climbs Bundesliga coaching ladder

It's rare that Americans get to coach in Europe, but former U.S. international David Wagner, born to an American GI and German mother, has been named the coach of Borussia Dortmund's under-23 team.

Wagner, who has coached Hoffenheim's under-17 and under-19 teams the last two seasons, says the under-23 level is a key stepping stone in German soccer. His job will to prepare young players for the first team of the Bundesliga leader. "That is the most important thing for me to do now," he said. "I am very happy with my new job."

Wagner is one of a new generation of Bundesliga coaches who have been given responsibility for player development. Germany's emphasis on youth development has paid off with an exceptional generation of young stars.

"After I finished playing, I studied sports science and biology and I finished it in 2007 and I use that in coaching a lot," he said. "All the things a fitness coach or trainer will tell me, I can speak with them on a same level. I also finished in 2007 the highest FIFA coaching license. These were the best things for me that have allowed me to become a coach and move step by step to a high level."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Relationship between Olsen & Wolff are key to DC success

Having players and coaches around you that you can trust is critical for a team's success. Ben Olsen is working on putting together a winning formula with DC United in Major League Soccer, and a key piece in that equation is Josh Wolff.

Josh Wolff and Ben Olsen had been teammates on the youth national scene, at the 2000 Olympics and 2006 World Cup. They’d been MLS adversaries since entering the league in 1998, Olsen with D.C. United and Wolff with the Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wizards. In December, old friends reconnected: Wolff, 34, a sleek forward with 13 years of pro experience, and Olsen, 33, newly promoted as D.C. United’s head coach after serving as caretaker late last season. Olsen needed a seasoned forward with leadership traits, explains Steven Goff.

“I needed someone like Josh, a guy I was familiar with, someone who could help me with a young team but also help me as a coach,” Olsen said of Wolff, who scored in D.C United's season opener. “We’ve been through a lot together. He knows me very well and he knows the game very well.”

“I’m not here to be camp counselor, but I am certainly here to help guys as well,” said Wolff. “I understand my role at this point in my career.”

Said Olsen, “If I am out of line, he’s one of the guys that can maybe pull me aside and say, ‘What do you think about this?’
He’s never going to overstep his boundaries in that relationship, but as a coach, you need guys like that. I trust him as a person and I trust him as a player.”

Agoos joins league office

Hall of Famer Jeff Agoos, one of only two players to have won five MLS titles, has left the New York Red Bulls, where he served as technical director and then sporting director, to join MLS's league office as technical director for competition matters.

Agoos, a nine-time all-star in his 10-year career with D.C. United, the San Jose Earthquakes and MetroStars), will report to Nelson Rodriguez, executive vice president of competition and game operations on the planning and implementation of on-and-off field competition strategies.

“We consider ourselves fortunate to be adding a person of Jeff's caliber to our team,” Rodriguez said. “His vast playing experience and recent time in the front office of an MLS club make him the ideal person to help us plan and execute the next stage of development for the League's competition."

Agoos will oversee an annual league-wide technical assessment that includes suggestions for improving the league play.

"I am honored and privileged to be able to give back to the sport that gave me so much,” Agoos said. “I am looking forward to contributing to the continued growth of the sport in this country and am thrilled to be working alongside so many dedicated and professional people in MLS."

Gansler voted into National Soccer Hall of Fame

Fittingly, Bob Gansler was lecturing at a coaching clinic in Florida when he heard the news on Tuesday.

Gansler, who coached the Kansas City Wizards (now known as Sporting Kansas City) to their only two MLS Cup appearances — winning the championship 2000 — was elected Tuesday to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Gansler spent 1989-91 as coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, including guiding the 1990 side to its first World Cup final since 1950. He was selected MLS Coach of the Year in 2000 and led the Wizards to MLS Cup in 2004 and to the Lamar Hunt Open championship in 2004.

Gansler was joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 2011 by players Cobi Jones, Earnie Stewart, Eddie Pope and Bruce Murray.

“It’s always satisfying when folks think you held up your end of the bargain,” said Gansler, 69. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to be of help, and I would think I sometimes have succeeded.

“As with most jobs, after they’re done, people like to say, ‘Did I leave it a little better than when I started?’ and if the answer is yes… then you feel OK, and most situations, I came out that way.”

US Under-20's take great start into CONCACAF qualification

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America reports on the United States Under-20 national team's 4-0 victory over Suriname in the opening match of the CONCACAF qualification.

The team scored 4 times, and hit the wood work on 3 other occasions in their debut match of the tournament for qualification for the FIFA Under-20 World Championships.

Click here for video highlights of the match.

The USA opened play at the Concacaf Under-20 Championship with a 4-0 win over Suriname Tuesday in Guatemala City but it could have been a lot worse. The Americans hit the post twice in the first half and once in the second and finished with a 27-2 edge in shots.

Bobby Wood, Joe Gyau and Conor Doyle -- all based in Europe -- scored in the first half, and UCLA's Kelyn Rowe completed the scoring after the break.

Suriname finished with 10 men after second-half substitute Biorn Eduards was ejected in the 74th minute for a nasty tackle on Greg Garza.

The USA will round out play in the three-team Group B against Panama on Saturday (TV: ESPN Deportes, ESPN3, 8 pm ET).

“The first game of a tournament where there is a lot at stake is never an easy one,” said U.S. coach Thomas Rongen. “I think we applied ourselves quite well under the circumstances and there are still areas of improvement. Three points was important so that was our aim and within that we tried to accomplish a few other things. We wanted to keep the shutout, which we did obviously. We tried to find the rhythm and I was very pleased with the way we started. We’re not necessarily pleased in some areas of the game where we took the foot off the pedal a little bit and relaxed a little bit too much and didn’t play to the level that I think we’re capable of playing.”

US falls to Paraguay in Nashville

I was in Nashville the past two days with the US National team to watch them train and visit with their coaching staff, and the trip culminated with watching their 1-0 defeat versus Paraguay.

I know that this cliche is used a lot in the game, but it certainly was not a fair result - the US carried the game in regards to possession and scoring chances, and did everything but score.

Below is the recap by Mike Woitalla from Soccer America, as well as a link to the game highlights-

Three days after Argentina barely let them touch it, the Americans got reacquainted with the soccer ball when they hosted Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. But they still lost, 1-0, to drop their post-2010 World Cup record to 1-2-4. Here’s what we liked and didn’t like about Tuesday’s game …

Didn’t like …
The USA had much more possession than it did against the Argentines, which is to be expected against a notoriously defensive team such as Paraguay. And the Americans got to spend some time in the opponent’s half. But the U.S. game remains too hectic, too impatient. A couple passes before storming forward is simply too predictable, as the futility of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan’s efforts demonstrated.

Liked …
Juan Agudelo, the 18-year-old who scored the goal that gave the USA the flattering 1-1 result against Argentina on Saturday, got his first U.S. start after three appearances off the bench. He didn’t score or create a goal as he’s done in his previous three appearances, but hunted for the ball and did some clever things when he got it. His future continues to look bright.

Didn’t like …
Referee Jose Benigno called 18 fouls on the visitors, who repeatedly chopped down Dempsey, but the Honduran official showed only one yellow card – to Paraguay’s Enrique Vera in the 29th minute – despite the persistent fouling.

Liked …
Tim Ream’s crisp passes out of the back were a welcome relief from the usual tendency of U.S. central backs to boot it at the first sign of any pressure.

Didn’t like …
There’s nothing wrong with the U.S. national team fielding players who grew up abroad. Any U.S. citizens who are best at their positions deserve to wear the jersey and should be welcomed. But what does fielding three German-raised players -- outside back Timmy Chandler, defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones and goalkeeper David Yelldell -- say about U.S. player development?

Liked …
They weren’t as effective as one would have hoped, but both wide defenders -- Chandler and Jonathan Bornstein -- launched forays out of the back, as did late sub Jonathan Spector.

Didn’t like …
The USA has played seven games since the 2010 World Cup and won once while mustering five goals. On Tuesday, Bob Bradley's team got shut out at home in front of nearly 30,000 fans to a team that Mexico trounced, 3-1, three days earlier. We wait for signs of the "good plan and vision" that Bradley spoke of when he was rehired to take the USA "further in the next four years."

March 29 in Nashville, Tenn.
USA 0 Paraguay 1. Goal: Cardozo 18.
USA -- Hahnemann (Yelldell, 46), Chandler (Spector, 80), DeMerit (Bocanegra, 41), Ream, Bornstein (Kljestan, 77), Dempsey, Edu (Jones, 46), Bradley, Donovan, Altidore (Lichaj, 60), Agudelo.
Paraguay – Villar, Caceres, Mareco, Da Silva, Samudio, Vera (Veron, 79), Molinas (Riveros, 63), Riveros, Perez (Martinez, 68), Cardozo (Barrios, 79), Estigarribia (Torres, 90).
Referee: Jose Benigno (Honduras).
Att.: 29,059

Monday, March 28, 2011

To Create a Winner, You Have to Find the Winners

As both a fan of UNC coach Anson Dorrance and the New York Yankees, I was really intrigued when I read this article from Mike Tully of the New York Times, who referenced Dorrance's competitive caldron in relation to Major League Baseball.

Anson Dorrance has coached the North Carolina women’s soccer team to 21 national titles since 1979, and he has been more than happy to reveal his secret to success. In his 1996 book, “Training Soccer Champions,” Dorrance described what he calls the jewel of his program: the competitive caldron. U.N.C. soccer players compete in every aspect of the sport, including the weight room, sprints and drills. Coaches then look for the players with a knack for being on the winning side.

The consistent winner is not always the fastest runner or the hardest shot. It’s the person who can read the subtleties of the game and knows when certain actions can make a difference. It’s the person who involves and inspires teammates, creating emotion or a sense of mission. Coaches have a special name for such a player: starter.

Major league baseball is not college soccer. And baseball players cannot compete in practice the way the Tar Heels do. So as the season begins this week, the time might be right to ask, How much value do baseball managers place on the team’s record when a given player is in the lineup?

David Eckstein is one player whose contribution far exceeded his talent. A walk-on in college and a 19th-round draft pick, he still managed to make the postseason in 4 of his 10 major league seasons, played on two championship teams and was the most valuable player of the 2006 World Series.

On the other end of the spectrum one might find Carlos Beltran, a four-time All-Star with the Mets. While he recovered from knee surgery last year, they won 48 of their first 88 games, and were only four games out of the National League East lead at the All-Star break. Then Beltran rejoined the team. The Mets went 31-43 (.419) the rest of the way and finished 18 games out of first place.

Their decline cannot be attributed solely to Beltran, but the Mets did not improve with him in the lineup.

RSL, Philly and Seattle pace MLS attendance in Week 2

Mike Woitalla of Soccer America keeps us posted on the strong MLS attendance figures after week 2.

Cold weather was a factor as Week 2's attendance average was nearly 4,000 lower than the opening week's 21,046 average, but another huge crowd cheered on the Sounders, Real Salt Lake set a record, and Philadelphia had a sellout for its opener.

* In front of a
Rio Tinto Stadium record crowd of 20,507, Real Salt Lake routed the Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-1.

* Second-year club Philadelphia had a sellout (
18,591) for its home opener, a 1-0 win over Vancouver.

* Attendance leader Seattle again broke the 36,000 mark in its second home game of the season but remains winless after mustering only a 1-1 tie with Houston.

* Toronto FC's announced attendance of 20,086 in
sub-zero temperatures (for a 2-0 win over Portland) marked the first time in the club's 5-year history that it failed to sell out a home opener.

* A stiff breeze and 32-degree temperature kept Chicago's home opener crowd down to 12,157 as the Fire beat Kansas City, 3-2.

* Also disappointing
-- 10,306 for the Columbus Crew's home opener, a scoreless tie with the New York Red Bulls.

Weir would welcome offer from Moyes

Veteran Rangers captain David Weir says he would love to take up any offer from Everton manager David Moyes to join the coaching team at Goodison Park.

But the 40-year-old says he will not decide on whether to continue playing until the end of the season.

Moyes told BBC Scotland that he would love Weir to join his backroom staff.

"Why wouldn't you be interested in something like that? It's something that a lot of people would cut their right arm off for," responded Weir.

"I go into Everton regularly. I am still based in this area and still got a lot of friends there and have a lot of ties there and I've got a great relationship with the manager there."

Weir, who played under Moyes at Goodison before his switch to Rangers in 2007, is out of contract in the summer but could be offered a new deal, especially with the Ibrox club's ability to sign new players being restricted by their bankers.

"Like I have said for the last few years, I will just wait until the end of the season and make a decision then," Weir told BBC Scotland.

"I am enjoying what I am doing just now and take it day by day."

Weir had come in for some criticism after recent defeats by Celtic in the Scottish Cup and Scottish Premier League.

However, he lifted the Co-operative Insurance Cup on Sunday having turned in an assured display throughout a gruelling 120 minutes as Rangers beat their Old Firm rivals 2-1 after extra time.

"You don't enjoy when people write you off and there are plenty of people who have written me off and plenty of people who have written other players in the team off, but that goes with the territory," said Weir.

"You can throw your toys out the pram or you can go and try to answer them in the right manner and I think the team have done that."

Moyes named Weir his man of the match while working as a pundit during BBC One Scotland's live television coverage of the Hampden final.

"I would love to have him back at Everton as part of my staff in the future, if he's interested," said the Everton boss.

"He's a great professional and someone who all the players at Everton and Rangers should look up to.

"I thought last year he would probably call it a day. He may only have 10 or 12 weeks to go as a player.

Everton manager David Moyes

"But, on that performance, he's doing great and I think Davie will know best when the time comes."

Gardner might have lost the plot in US - Argentina analysis

I was a little shocked in Paul Gardner's post-match analysis of the friendly between the United States and Argentina. Not because he bashed Bob Bradley and the US team, but because of how much he was off the plot in his analysis.

Gardner's points:

* Frustration in the US relying in their goalkeeper against the top world powers - my guess is that any team up against the likes of Messi and Di Maria would need to have solid goalkeeping to get a result. Just ask Arsenal in the Champions League in dealing with the brilliance of Barcelona. Tim Howard had an outstanding match for the US, and needed to be up to the task against the attacking arsenal of Argentina. That is less a knock on the US, and more a commentary of how dangerous Messi and Di Maria were. Both created numerous scoring chances, with Howard snuffing out most of them.

* "Bradley has now had more than six months in charge in his second spell. That’s ample time to show evidence of a new approach, something fresh, some new and different players, at least an attempt to change the pattern of his college-game thinking." - I think the alignment that the US played- implementing a 4-2-3-1 from his traditional 4-4-2 - was an attempt at a new approach. That same system is utilized by most of the top teams in the world, and was very different from how the team had played in the past summer's World Cup.

* "Of course, Bradley denied that. In his well-orchestrated, coach-friendly post-game press conference, he said it wasn’t the USA’s intention to play defensively in the first half, but that Argentina had found its rhythm so quickly that the USA had been forced into a defensive mode." - Argentina had certainly pushed the US team back into their own third of the field quite a bit during the first half, dictating the tempo of the match as well as to what third of the field the game would be played in. Soccer is a game of field position, and sometimes one team can push another back into their own half of the field - again, Barcelona was able to do that to Arsenal in both Champions League matches, dictating where the game was played and who was in possession.

* "Oh, really. A team that takes the field with one guy up front, that abjectly retreats into its own half en masse whenever the opponents get the ball, that is so obviously looking for the quick counter, right from the start ... a team with the evident intention of getting through to halftime with a 0-0 scoreline -- this is not a team with a defensive mindset?" - Regardless as to whether you saw it as a lone central striker or as Altidore playing with two wingers flanking him, it would be hard to say that an alignment that has both Donovan and Dempsey deployed would be a team 'with one guy up front'. Donovan and Dempsey's jobs were clearly to join up with Altidore, and if they weren't pushed back so far at times, probably would have found more opportunities to do so. Saying that, Dempsey did have two shots in the first half - which wouldn't sound like a team in a 'defensive mindset'.

I thought Bradley made some great moves, including switching back to a more attacking-oriented 4-4-2 at halftime and the inclusion of Juan Agudelo and Timothy Chandler. Each of those moves - both in the alignment and in the substitutions - appeared to be added boosts to the game. The US did claw a goal back and make the match fairly even in the second half.

As for added youth to the team, the second half featured 5 players under the age of 25: Chandler, Bradley, Edu, Agudelo and Altidore. Maybe Altidore, Edu and Bradley are holdovers from the previous World Cup, but they were all very young players there who have now gained solid experience. Coach Bradley has added some youth to his nucleus, and is attempting to do so at a pace that will allow those players to acclimate themselves to the nucleus.

Gardner can slag off Bob Bradley all he wants, but for me, BRADLEY was the man of the match for me!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

College Soccer presence felt in MLS

College soccer has once again had a solid presence in Major League Soccer in 2011.

After the first two weeks, there have been 11 different players who have received starts who were playing in college soccer last season.


C.J. Sapong, Sporting KC (James Madison)2-2 180 1 0 2
Jalil Anibaba, Chicago (North Carolina) 2-2 180 0 0 0
Rich Balchan, Columbus (Indiana) 2-2 180 0 0 0
Stephen McCarthy, New England (N Carolina)2-2 180 0 0 0
AJ Soares, New England (California) 2-2 180 0 0 0
Will Bruin, Houston (Indiana) 2-2 136 0 0 0
Kofi Sarkodie, Houston (Akron) 1-1 90 0 0 0
Zarek Valentin, Chivas USA (Akron) 1-1 90 0 0 0
Perry Kitchen, DC United (Akron) 1-1 90 0 0 0
Chris Korb, DC United (Akron) 1-1 90 0 0 0
Michael Boxall, Vancouver (UCSB) 1-1 90 0 0 0
Anthony Ampaipitakwong, SJ (Akron) 1-0 9 0 0 0
Corey Hertzog, New York (Penn State) 1-0 6 0 0 0
Ryan Kinne, New England (Monmouth) 1-0 1 0 0 0

A large majority of players who are currently on Major League Soccer rosters had once plied their trade at the collegiate level. With a strong showing from rookies already in this 2011 season, expect the collegiate game to continue to have a strong presence.

MLS on verge of replacing NHL among US big four sports

A second consecutive successful weekend by Major League Soccer at the gates and with television ratings sees the game continue to climb into the hearts of American sports fans.

Total Soccer Blog writes of how soccer is growing to the point where it might leap frog hockey among the US 'big four sports' of baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Major League Soccer’s surge in gate attendance and television ratings last season put the league in a position to replace the NHL as the fourth most popular sports organization in North America.

According to the 2010 U.S Census, Americans are beginning to like the free-flowing, technique-oriented nature of soccer over the physical and fast-paced sport of hockey.

Reports indicated Major League Soccer achieved a spike in gate attendance and television ratings.

MLS experienced a four percent increase in average attendance (16, 675 fans per game), while the NHL had a three percent fall with an average attendance of 17,072 fans.

Seattle Sounders remain the biggest draw for Major League Soccer, recording an average attendance of 36,173 fans per game in 2010.

The Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup champions, drew an average attendance of 21,353 fans – 84 spectators short of Los Angeles Galaxy’s average gate attendance (21,437).

In fact, 9 of 15 returning MLS clubs have achieved significant growth in their market as expansion continues for these franchises.

Meanwhile, 20 of the 30 NHL teams recorded lower attendance results in the 2009-2010 season than previous seasons.

MLS is also beginning to be an attractive commodity for cable subscribers, as the Galaxy-Sounders season-opener on ESPN posted 129 percent hike in ratings and 112 percent in viewership.

The match drew around 604,000 English-language viewers and 79,000 viewers Spanish-speaking audiences – up by about 84 percent.

Marketing executive Dallas Eduardo Carvacho believes MLS’ surge was greatly attributed to the growing population of Hispanics in the country.

“As the Hispanic community continues to grow and becomes the largest minority group in America, I believe we [at MLS] have the opportunity to leapfrog No. 4 U.S. sports league and are poised to become that No. 3,” Carvacho told Fox News Latino Thursday.

The United States’ emergence as a soccer power is another factor that helped MLS to be more appealing to American sports market.

Lessons learned at the Aces Soccer Camp - Spring Break Camp

From the Evansville Courier Press, March 27, 2011

After a great week of hosting a Spring Break Camp at the University of Evansville, there were a lot of positive lessons on and off the field to draw from.

For many of these elementary school students who were on holiday vacation, it served as an initial experience in soccer; for others, it was an opportunity to hone their technique through skill-related games and instruction.

What each of our coaches did a great job of during the course of the week was stressing core values that transcend sport, often offering life lessons to aspiring athletes that are larger than whether they win or lose games.

One lesson we stress at each of our camps is ‘early is on time, and on time is late’ – meaning that the most serious players will not arrive right at the start of camp or the start of a session. The player who is early is also the player who will be most prepared, whether it is to start a soccer practice, or to start their day at school.

Another lesson we stress at our camps is about practice being permanent, and not perfect. What is put into practice, and how hard it is worked on, is what will be retained. I have seen a lot of players over the years that didn’t practice perfectly, and players should aspire to work hard at the lessons they learn from their coaches or teachers.

Our best campers were the ones who didn’t make excuses when things didn’t go their way. The special players do not look at roadblocks as obstacles, but rather as unique opportunities to become stronger or better. They also don’t point fingers at someone else when things don’t go their way.

A great article on The All Pro Dad website recently summed up this idea with an article titled “The Top 10 Excuses Children Make”. Some of the most commonly heard excuses that were referenced in the article included-

“I’m Not Big Enough” – “I’m too small to be a goalie” is one I have heard on different occasions, and had to be encouraged by a parent or coach who opted to limit a player’s aspirations rather than fuel their ability to dream. “I can’t play against the bigger/older kids” is another one. Child development stages are case-by-case for each young player. Do not allow complacency to a lesser standard be acceptable. Children skip grade levels. Small kids excel at sports. It happens, but not with excuses.

One of the best ways to take a player out of their comfort level and aid in their development is to have them play at a higher standard than they are used to, be it by putting them in different positions or having them play against players that are older or bigger. The analogy of playing against older players might be like a baseball batter using a weighted donut on their bat prior to stepping in the batter’s box – it might be heavier swinging the bat at first, but after taking the donut off the bat, it would be lighter and easier to swing. The more your player(s) are placed with heavier weights on their game, the lighter and easier it will become when they return to their natural state – like returning to playing soccer with other kids their own age.

We had some very good 9-year olds practicing with 11 and 12-year olds at camp this week, and have seen tremendous gains when those same boys have returned to play against opposition their own age or size.

“I can’t do it by myself” – one of the greatest attributes you can teach your children is self-reliance. It is important for a coach to be able to motivate and discipline their athletes, but the best athletes are the ones who are self-motivated and self-disciplined. I have always thought a great example of someone’s character is how you behave when you think no one is watching; a great example of someone’s integrity is whether you will do the right thing without having to be asked to do so. Both of those important aspects relate to not only being taught strong values, but how to apply them without having someone hold your hand.

I believe that 9 out of 10 times, when kids come to camp lacking those skills, that they probably are influenced by a lack of encouragement in those areas at home. It all goes back to ‘practice makes permanent’ – to become strong and independent, it needs to be encouraged at home, too – not just at practice or at school.

“It’s too hard” – It is certainly natural to seek the route that is easiest and will keep us in our comfort zone. The best parents and coaches will help their children rise to the challenge and overcome the obstacles in front of them, and encourage and motivate during these tough times.

We saw young players make great strides in learning soccer skills this week, but hopefully had players leave with some valuable life lessons as well.

Agudelo leads second half surge for US vs. Argentina

An exciting night in New Jersey last night as an inspired second half performance led the United States to come back and draw versus Lionel Messi and Argentina, 1-1.

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America recaps the action.

After being totally dominated in the first half, the USA earned a 1-1 tie against Argentina on the goal by teenager Juan Agudelo before his hometown fans at the New Meadowlands Stadium. It was a game of two halves: total domination by Lionel Messi and Co., in the first and a much-improved U.S. effort after the insertion of Agudelo and Timothy Chandler, making his U.S. debut. Here's what we liked and didn't like about the U.S. performance ...

Three things we liked about the U.S. performance ...

-- After being badly outplayed in the first half, the USA played Argentina pretty even in the second half. Its approach changed as it brought Juan Agudelo in for Jermaine Jones and its 4-5-1 formation become a 4-4-2. Agudelo rewarded the confidence Bob Bradley has in him with the tying goal. And the 18-year-old forward had several other chances later in the game to put the USA ahead. Agudelo's insertion up front also brought Jozy Altidore to life and he played much better after a rather miserable time up front as the lone attacked in the first half.

-- Timothy Chandler's U.S. debut began with a yellow card just three minutes into the second half when he came on for Jonathan Spector, but the German product soon found his rhythm and contributed several dangerous crosses from the right wing. He should get a start against Paraguay on Tuesday -- his 21st birthday.

-- Tim Howard's performances for the USA and Everton have been up and down in the last year, but there was nothing to fault about his effort against Argentina. He blocked Angel Di Maria's close-in shot with his foot but had no chance on the rebound put away by Esteban Cambiasso. Howard made several stops on Di Maria and Lionel Messi from short range.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tommy Howe on player development

Tom Howe is at the forefront of player development of youth soccer players in the United States, and Mike Woitalla of Soccer America caught up with him recently to discuss his thoughts on developing players.

SOCCER AMERICA: If you had a magic wand, how would you use it to improve youth soccer in America?

I wish everybody would try and play like Barcelona. If all the clubs across the country did that you’d have some pretty smart players when they hit the ages of 18, 19, 20.

And there’d be more people wanting to watch soccer in this country. Barcelona’s the best team I’ve ever seen. They’re just fun to watch.

Another thing about Barcelona -- they don’t have a lot of these gigantic athletes who everybody wants to get these days.

SA: What’s the key to playing like Barcelona?

The ability to play in tight spaces. You spend tons of time in playing in small, tight areas, and then when you get on the big field it’s not a big deal.

I think more teams need work on the possession game. All the best teams in the world over the years have been great technical teams – like Spain, Barcelona. Teams like that play the best soccer.

At the youth level, too many people play more to win. My point is, if you teach your kids to play like Barcelona you’re eventually going to win.

SA: But while you’re learning to play like that you might not win …

That’s exactly right. Learning to play like that takes a long time, but once you get it, you’re going to be good. The problem is a lot of people don’t have the patience.

You tell your young players don’t boot it no matter how much pressure you’re under. We want you to get good at this. And at a certain age, you know what, they learn how to deal with it.

Look at how many players we have in this country. At this stage we should be a lot better than we are.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Enochs named coach of Osnabrueck

Soccer America reports that Joe Enochs, whose playing career spanned 376 games and 12 seasons in Germany, has been named interim coach of Bundesliga 2 club VfB Osnabrueck.

Enochs is one of the most popular players in Osnabrueck's history -- he had a testimonial game in his honor when he retired -- and he has been coaching the club's under-23 team.

He replaced Karsten Baumann following its 3-1 home loss to Alemannia Aachen.

Osnabrueck is 16th in the 18-team league. The bottom two teams go down and the 16th-place team meets the third-place team in the third-level Regionalliga in a playoff.

Enochs, 40, was one of many Americans to try their luck in the lower levels of German soccer and hooked on at Osnabrueck, which has bounced back and forth between the second and third levels.

The Californian even earned one cap for the USA in 2001 and won the "goal of the month" in September 2004 for a goal against Bayern Munich in the German Cup.

He settled in Osnabrueck, where he owns a restaurant.