Is USA Soccer Good, or Faking it?

Discussion in 'RayGator's Swamp Gas' started by gatorchamps0607, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. OaktownGator
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    OaktownGator Well-Known Member

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    gtj31 - I don't disagree with you that numerically, we should be able to compete at a consistently high level.

    But the fact still remains that in many countries around the world, you'll see kids playing pick up soccer when they're not in school... while our kids (including the kids that play club soccer) are playing basketball or football or video games, or just hanging out at the mall.

    Until/unless we have kids playing hours a day for the fun of it, like kids in other countries, we won't have athletes developing the same skills, touch, footwork and accuracy of players in many other countries.

    That's the main constraining factor, IMO.

    If we ever get a significant number of kids doing that, we'll be unstoppable.
  2. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    I think your numbers are a little off. The 30% foreign born MLB players is close, as it stands around 28%. But in the minors, it goes down a bit. And there are 240 minor league teams affiliated with a franchise, and a handful of non-affiliated teams. That means Over 6,000 players right there. The NBA does have the D-league, but many American players go overseas to play professionally. In fact, there are over 650 American currently playing in Germany.

    Last but not least is college sports. There is no real equivalent in Europe. Players often play on developmental squads when they are young in the hopes of catching on with the parent club. Doesn't happen here in the states. Instead, we have rules to when a player can sign his first professional contract. Take the top 60 college football teams, 85 scholarship players, and there's another 5,000+ Americans that if they were living in Europe, would potentially be playing soccer in some professional capacity. And that doesn't include the other sports.

    It's true we'll never know just how good a soccer player Jordan might have been. But he was, perhaps, the most dedicated basketball professional ever to play, which made him the best player in the world. Easy to imagine that someone that athletically gifted wouldn't have made one hell of a soccer player if he chose to kick the ball millions of times, instead of shoot it.
  3. gtj31
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    gtj31 Well-Known Member

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    Fair enough, let's claim 15000, almost double what I said. Then Croatia has a robust 220 people to choose from and they need 20 to form a team (with 15 or so always playing, 11 starters plus 4 regular subs since 3 are allowed per game). That means 1 in 11 makes the squad assuming 100% participation in soccer and no other sports. You can add college though I would argue it is completely unfair. There are many players that play college knowing they won't make it to the bigs. They dream just like every business school undergrad dreams of being Bill Gates but you can't count all business school undergrads as high level businessmen simply because they dream.

    Let's pick UF football only. 85 scholarships and the average year produces what, 5 draft picks give or take. So even at UF only 25% have a shot to play in the pros. The kids know this. While they are not rocket scientists the numbers are pretty simple and quick. I think lumping college in is unfair. It is late playground stuff. The odds are poor even at UF. It is the inner city kid playing at his local concrete field still hoping to get noticed at 15 in Zagreb (I don't know that that story exists, just trying for a parallel).

    I agree with your premise that we don't have Cristiano Ronaldo talents growing up with a ball attached to their feet. We don't train them at 8 years old. I agree it puts us at a distinct disadvantage. No doubt. I think Jozy Altidore is a perfect example. He was talented at 18 but his touch was harder than granite. He has improved dramatically and that is late for Europeans. I agree with you.

    I still think our sheer numbers of people mean we should be better than 20. We shouldn't be in the final four of the WC every cycle and we probably won't ever be in the final four every cycle but knock out rounds should be expected with quarterfinals every 2-3 cycles as a minimum. It shouldn't be cause for jubilation like the Algeria game was in 2010. I shouldn't have been drinking beer at 9AM and then jumping up and down like we won a trophy because we beat Algeria 1-0 in stunning fashion to allow us to lose to Ghana in the knockout rounds. I should have be doing that against Germany in 2002 if the score was reversed (I would have been and a bunch of German bikers in Berchtesgaden would have stared at me like I was even more nuts than they already were). That is all I am saying. Let's raise the bar. Let's pretend we should be top 12 and do what it takes to get there. We are improving. I am not down on the team. I just don't like excuses and the notion that we should be happy we aren't sordid sewer filth any longer.
  4. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    We're very close to where you think we should be. 1994, knockout round. 1998, disaster. 2002, Quarterfinals, 2006, quick exit, and 2010, knockout round. That's 3 for 5 making it to the knockout round, and 1 quarterfinal. I think it's fair to say, with these results, that puts us easily as a top 20 soccer nation. The next steps is to eliminate disasters like '98, and win a few more knockout games. Do that, and we're top 12.

    And I believe that's that path we are on, especially with Klinnsman. But we must also accept that what the US has done in the past 25 years is remarkable, going from an also-ran CONCACAF team, to a team not to be trifled with. And taking this last step and maintaining it will be the hardest part in the process.
  5. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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    We're on the right path and further notoriety will only increase soccer participation and following. These things take time and a successful MLS can only help.

    As for the notion that someone like Jordan would make an extraordinary player, I'm baffled. That is a simplistic notion that I can't help but think is tied to the notion of soccer being a kids game and easy. Players tend to self select based on where their talents lie. Steve Nash was a good soccer player but better at basketball. Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates were decent college basketball players but are hall of fame football players. These guys all grew up playing both sports too.

    Even dual sport players, while absolute freaks in Bo and Deion were barely above average at their second sports. Neither were great batters and Bo really only had two good years despite being one of the all time greatest athletes.

    With further popularity I could see elite players that may have been WRs, DBs, PGs, SGs, etc. becoming great soccer players. Not because they would have been great at the traditional US sports but because their natural talents more closely align with soccer's skill requirements.
  6. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    There incredibly rare athlete can compete at the top levels in any sport they put their mind to it. Bo and Deion are actually great examples. They were successful in two major sports. Bo averaged a HR every 5 games, which translates into 30+/year had he played 150+ games/year. And that was with a split focus. Deion only played 100+ baseball games a year, and during that year, he hit .273 and stole over 50 bases. Had both Deion and Bo concentrated on baseball only, they'd both be in the HOF conversation.

    What separates the best is the drive and determination. Iverson was talkin' about practice while Jordan was going 100%+ in every practice. Who has six rings, and who has none? Jordan probably could have had more had his focus not been taken away with the death of his father and trip into AA baseball land. And while being a career .202 hitter in AA baseball is nothing to write home about, how many people off the street could accomplish that over an entire AA baseball season? How many could do that without picking up a bat in a competitive sense in over a decade? Jordan did.

    The elite athletes that have the dedication of a Jordan or a Jerry Rice become all-time greats not just because they are elite athletes. But because they refuse to be #2 in anything they do. Had either Rice or Jordan chose to play soccer and dedicate the amount of hours they did learning the beautiful game versus playing football and basketball, they would have been successful.

    It has nothing to do with thinking soccer is a child's game and easy. It's not, especially at the top level. And to produce the best players, you need the combination of elite athlete with laser focus and hours upon hours of practice. The US has the athletes, yes, but their focus is rarely on soccer, and their practice time is often split. Big contrast to the rest of the world, where kids are kicking something in their spare time every day.
  7. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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    I think you still miss actual examples of players whose talents are more naturally suited for one sport over another. And it isn't even close.

    I could see Rice over Jordan. There's a reason tall players don't populate the elite ranks of soccer players. They are confined almost exclusively to striker and keeper but the only truly elite tall players are keepers. People love to watch Peter Crouch but he's a utility player.
  8. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    There's a reason why I didn't list 7 footers, or 300 pound lineman. They are naturally suited for basketball and football, respectively. But top athletes under 6' 5" can certainly play soccer. (Jordan is listed at 6' 6", but I've heard his actual height is closer to 6' 4"). Onyewu is listed at 6' 4", and when healthy, has played at a very high level. Same height as Tebow. Crouch is 6' 7" and Fernando Llorente is 6' 5", and is an accomplished striker. See Jordan, or Rice.

    I'd also argue that some of the best, bigger athletes honed their body to their profession. Lawrence Taylor is 6' 3" and his playing weight was around 235. Perfect body for a linebacker, but not so great for a soccer player that has to be moving for 90+ minutes instead of more quick bursts of speed for 50 plays a game. But how difficult is it to imagine a more slimmed down LT at around 210 pounds. Probably look a lot like Gooch.
  9. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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    The Onyewu that couldn't get on the field for Milan? Don't get me wrong, I like the guy and wish he had beat down Ibrahimovic but I don't think he really furthers your point (yes, I know about his injuries). Yes, there are a smattering of tall players in soccer but they aren't really elite, as I said. And greatness at one sport doesn't necessarily translate to others (see Gonzalez, Gates, Graham, Nash, or even Jordan). There is a vast gap between being OK due to your talent level and a great player with the natural instincts and abilities suited to the sport.
  10. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    We could go a few more rounds, but let me put it this way. Out of the thousands of professional American athletes, how good could our MNT be if we cloned a select few hundred and raised them like a budding Euro soccer star? Would we still be lingering around the top 20, or would we be a dominant force in soccer? I say dominant force. But our best athletes aren't raised like Euros.
  11. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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    I agree. We just disagree about who the great players would be.
  12. OaktownGator
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    OaktownGator Well-Known Member

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    I agree that greatness in one sport doesn't necessarily transfer to other sports.

    And tall players excelling in soccer are rare.

    But my take is that anyone who is a great 1v1 defensive player in basketball, or great cover guy in football, has the feet to translate to soccer.

    That would include guys like Jordan, Wade, Kobe and LeBron for that matter.

    A guy like LeBron you'd like to see as a keeper as well as a striker. His vision and communication skills as well as athleticism would make him absolutely elite as a keeper. He'd cover the whole goal relatively easily, direct the defense and the offense. He's perfect.

    But I'm not sure how you'd stop him as a striker either. Any team with a player who can chip it in the box reasonably accurately is going to score non-stop with him (once he learned timing and technique on headers). And he's going to run right by most backs on breaks. It would change the game for what type of players you'd have to have as backs to even think about controlling him.

    To some degree you could say similar things about guys like Wade and Jordan, but you could still body them to help keep them in check in the box. LeBron? I can't think of anyone in the game that could slow him down (assuming he put into soccer what he put into hoops).

    That's my take.
  13. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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    There is no doubt they have the genetic basics required. I know Kobe really likes soccer from growing up in Italy. I would be curious to get his take on it.
  14. demosthenes
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    demosthenes Well-Known Member

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  15. OaktownGator
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  16. gatorios24
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    This is the best that US soccer has ever been...I grew up playing soccer in the streets and pitches of Sevilla , Spain. My father, a US serviceman (2nd lieutenant USAF) met my beautiful mother, a Spanish senorita in Sevilla, Spain. While my father served in Vietnam, S. Korea and the Philippines, I grew up in Sevilla, played soccer all day and cheered my home team, Sevilla FC. Their stadium was a mere 200 meters from my apartment (most of my family were Betis fans). I was able to see several Real Madrid vs Barcelona matches live in the late 1960s (my great uncle was on the board of Real Madrid) and meet several soccer superstars: Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Destefano and Lev Yashin. I played high school soccer in the Panama Canal Zone (Balboa HS) in the 1970s. Most of the players on the team were foreigners. I toured Central America and Mexico with a Panamanian soccer club (only American on the team) while in high school. Played one year of college soccer until an ankle fracture ended it all.

    I feel capable enough to judge soccer talent...this is the best the US has ever been. There are at least a dozen American players who could start on mid-level Premier league teams. Even the MLS is much better than it was a decade ago. Several MLS teams are equal of lower tier first division European teams. What the US lacks is quality youth soccer coaches. The MLS has taken the first major step in the development of US soccer talent with the establishment of team youth academies. The best young American players need to be identified while in early middle school or late elementary school and enrolled in youth developmental academies like do in Europe (the best American talent should be sent to European academies... for the first time ever the Real Madrid youth academy has an American player in its ranks). Hispanic immigration and population growth has fueled the recent surge in the number talented young American players (many are coveted by European clubs). The future has never looked brighter!!!!!:grin:
  17. gatorev12
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    gatorev12 Well-Known Member

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    Statistics aren't as useful a predicator in soccer as they are in other sports like football or basketball, which is why relying on population only isn't a very useful method in looking at what makes a soccer power. Croatia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Uruguay are all solid world powers who consistently do well in international competitions...despite having smaller populations than most of the nations they play against.

    Those countries have established playing styles and identities and stick to the formulas that have brought them by success rather than waiting for "golden generations" to come around.

    But back to statistics: a team could have 80% of the possession and chances and still lose 3-2 (see KC vs NY this past weekend in MLS). Why? Because NY (I refuse to call them by their corporate sellout name) brilliantly executed counter-attacking play and converted their few chances, whereas KC did not.

    Refereeing decisions also play a big part. One PK call can change an entire game. US soccer has not gotten the benefit of the doubt from the referees as much as other nations have. Established teams in soccer tend to get the benefit of the doubt in soccer (as they do in every sport) and any fan of the USNT can spout off a litany of questionable calls over the years in big games (especially within our region, where US and MLS teams get blown for cards/fouls at ridiculous rates well beyond the margin of what you'd think would be the margin of error).

    With scoring being at a premium, any off finishing day (or a GK having a blinder, as they say) is magnified at the top levels and can be the ultimate difference.
  18. gtj31
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    gtj31 Well-Known Member

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    3 out of 5 isn't consistent. It is every other. The US hasn't made 2 knockout rounds in a row. That is clearly not where I think the US should be.

    The US is top 20 and yes if we make more knockout rounds we are top 12. I am saying top 12 should be expected. Again, the US has improved. No one denies that. I also agree with gatorrev that the US is as good today as ever, even 2002. I am simply saying I am not satisfied. We should be better and I think we will get there. The youth academies are a very big deal. The US has needed such things for years if thet want to play with the big boys. Now we need our U17, U20, and U23 teams to make big tournaments consistently and then start looking competent. Then we get a pipeline of talent and the rest becomes history.
  19. gatorchamps0607
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    We are looking pretty terrible against Bosnia right now. Its just a friendly but they are leaving A LOT to be desired.
  20. AzCatFan
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    AzCatFan Well-Known Member

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    Different story in the second half so far.

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