“When are we going to play the ‘real’ game?!”

Important lessons here.

The Coaching Journey

“When are we going to play the real game?”

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The “real game” can be substituted for “big game” or any other term your young players use to mean large number scrimmages, many times 8v8-11v11. Even worse, have you heard that question from an exasperated parent?

From U6 (and even younger, an extremely scary proposition) through to U10 and above in cases, the expectation from many parents and observers is that their children are playing the “real soccer game” at the end of practice in order to ensure “proper development”


Here’s why it’s not only wrong, but one of the scariest propositions within youth soccer.

First let’s understand why the misconception occurs, in order to then help explain why small sided games are a necessity at organized training. The two main reasons are parent/coach education, and youth clubs that knowingly profit from this misinformation.


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‘That’s Football’


NBC SportsWorld

As I walk down the tiny corridors of the stacked temporary portable buildings that act as Norwegian soccer club Stabæk Fotball’s headquarters, the current Stabæk head coach — and former U.S. men’s national team coach — Bob Bradley spots me from his office. His entire coaching staff is sitting in a circle around him, but he calls my name, gestures to me in a friendly manner, and asks me to join him and his assistants.

Bradley is leaning back in his office chair with his arms folded, occasionally putting his index finger to his lips before speaking. I’m now sitting in on a team meeting as four members of the coaching staff and the sporting director are discussing a number of topics, and it quickly gets heated. Bradley is bringing all the passion you’d expect from a dedicated head coach, and the Norwegian members of his staff are slightly reticent to give definite conclusions. Bradley is…

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Dear Jurgen,

Are you fed up? Is everything going to your liking? Is our pyramid still upside down?

Are you fed up? Is everything going to your liking? Is our pyramid still upside down? Is it worth scouting young talent here? Or more fruitful abroad? Are we broken? If yes, help us.

Dear Jurgen Klinsmann,

I’m writing to ask you to publicly express any concerns you have with the current state of soccer in the United States of America. I’m asking you to do this now because these last few days have offered some tremendous insight into the way this game operates at the highest levels in our country. Your comments should be aimed at Don Garber and Sunil Gulati (and any influential colleagues around them) – and I hope they’ll be done both publicly and privately.

Here’s my list of why NOW is the best time to speak up.

1. Last Tuesday night was the U.S. Open Cup finals. Clint Dempsey scored the game-winning goal in the 101st minute of an entertaining and meaningful match for the teams, cities, managers, and supporters. This should be a bigger deal; accessible on more US TVs, probably played on a different night of the week, and it is wildly underserved in terms of direct marketing from U.S. Soccer and SUM.

2. Negotiations for the latest version of Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement are about to heat up. The gap between the “DP” on the teams and the other professionals on the first team is WAY too big. Everyone knows it. You can speak out against it. Even if you didn’t like Clint and Michael coming home to MLS ahead of Brazil, you can say something about what it should mean to be a professional soccer player in this league.

3. Garber has recently drawn a line in the sand regarding single entity status and promotion/relegation within Major League Soccer. Gulati echoed it. This debate could go on forever, but with MLS teams operating as franchises, the path to becoming “one of the top leagues in the world” is complete bullshit. This is the best league in your country. Is it serving you in the best way possible? They’ve (officially) reached version 3.0 right now, with this most recent rebrand/logo push? What else do you want or need from them? Tell everyone, not just them. I mean, they’re producing crap like THIS on their official website. A wanna-be top league in the world (?!) is posting THAT, on their website, in the middle of their season and playoff push?

4. Chivas USA may fold/go on hiatus/crawl under a rock for a year or two. This goes to #3 above. A team in Major League Soccer – the best league in the United States – is essentially going to step aside until they’re ready to come back. What? Is? That? Shit? You have to be laughing at ol’ Donnie and Sunil on that one. Like, literally laughing at them. To their face.

5. You’d have Bruce Arena on your side. He sees the writing on the wall. He knows the hoops you need to jump through and the stressors you encounter in your current role.

6. Major League Soccer is nearing the end of their regular season and will be heading into the playoffs. DC United is trying to go from worst-to-first. Tell them to get rid of the fifth playoff team in each conference. The head coach of the US Men’s National Team should be on some sort of competition committee within the league. Can you make that happen? Tell them you’d like that to happen. And comment on each of (or some of?) these upcoming top players under 24 years old they’re going to publish. Tell them if they’re actually any good, would you please?

7. What don’t you like about the coaching education in this country? Say it. Say it clearly. Do US Soccer and the NSCAA need to combine efforts? What do young players need to be doing and how often should they be doing it? How important is it for youth clubs in this country to have money from players transferred out get back to them?

8. Landon Donovan is retiring. You left him off the Brazil 2014 roster and surely you saw the public outcry of that decision. I don’t care if you’d do it the same all over again. I want you to acknowledge just how many people noticed, and, as a result, how hungry American soccer fans are for a new star to follow and cheer for. That goes for the die-hards and the casual fans. Tell us EXACTLY what you want that player to be like – skills, fitness, maybe a position on the field or even a current player you admire globally who you hoped were American and could play for you.

9. NASL teams are pretty good, and generally well run. Just say it publicly…see what happens. I’m curious what the response would be.

10. You admitted yourself, prior to taking this job, that our pyramid is upside down. You are from Germany. They just won the World Cup. You’re under contract through Russia 2018. When you talk, people in this country will listen – whether they like you and your coaching or not. You, quite simply, have the most to gain and the least to lose by standing on a soapbox and verbally turning this country’s version of the game upside down.

I think now is the perfect time for you to say something, Jurgen. No one would see it coming. It would echo from Sunil Gulati’s desk all the way to Bob Ley’s beard and, mostly important, youth soccer coaches across this country.



What I’ll Tell My Daughter about La Sele, 2014

This is awesome, especially for a parent of a young person. He watches the games with me with the same truly child-like enthusiasm, because, well, he’s five. Best lunchtime read in a while!
So well written.
See you in a few weeks, Ticos!

Love in Translation

photoMany Costa Ricans and their most fervent fans have been sitting in the eye of a storm for the past few weeks, struck dumb by amazement, watching wide-eyed as accolades all over the world for “the little team that could” have whirled around us in dizzying splendor. But today, as Costa Rica was eliminated, words returned. Here’s why this matters so much to me, what I want to tell my baby daughter someday about everything she’s seen and not understood these past few weeks:

I don’t know what it’s like not to be big. I’m from the United States, a big country in every way – size, population, loudness, impact on the world for better and for worse. I’m also 5’10”, a giant in Costa Rica, hulking and lurching my way through San José. Years ago, a man behind me in line for an ATM said to no one in…

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Reacting to USMNT reactions, eventually

I’m left with more questions than answers as the dust settles on the American’s run at the 2014 FIFA World Cup tonight. As a bit of background, as someone who has worked in sports, loves sports, listens to sports on the radio, and seeks out live sporting events of all types on television – I allow myself to turn into a full fledged fan (short for fanatic) for two or three teams, primarily. The USA men’s soccer team, the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Blackhawks. You can, if you’d like, call me a “Fan Boy” in regards to these teams.

This means I scream at the television during their games, pump my arms when good things happen, and often times set my calendar based on their schedules. I am a Cubs fan as well, but at 162 contests per season, it doesn’t get the same energy from me as the others do. The Chicago Fire get plenty of my energy, and a growing amount of my unbridled fandom. I follow MLS closely, more than most soccer fans I know.

This fandom, combined with my unapologetic fascination with Twitter, means I process things I read from all different directions quickly, while at the same time trying to reserve judgment on most ‘viral’ or trending topics.

I’ve greatly reduced my consumption of pregame shows of all kinds (on purpose, even if I magically find the time) over the last 5-6 years, I didn’t watch the ESPN documentary (or whatever it was) of the USA team over the last month or so, and I think in-game interviews with coaches, managers, and the like are ridiculous. For this reason, I love Greg Popovich’s in-game, on camera efforts.

So on Tuesday night, after watching extra time in the US’s 2-1 loss and training a new young goalkeeper for the first time in a 1-on-1 session, I continue to read the debate about US Soccer’s strengths, weaknesses, and so on. We all seem to know the best way to develop players, the best countries, the worst countries, the best fitness drills, exactly why Messi or Ronaldo is ABSOLUTELY better than the other.

I’m left wondering how these declarations are so definitive.

Major League Soccer sucks. Tiki-taka is dead. MIchael Bradley is awful. Michael Bradley is better than this. Michael Bradley is our best option at that position. James Rodriguez pronounces his name HAHM-ez – and all those clubs missed on him? Alexi Lalas is an idiot. Taylor Twellman says stupid stuff all the time. Jurgen Klinsmann is so smart. Jurgen Klinsmann is an idiot. FIFA is awful. Luis Suarez is a crazy person. Luis Suarez should have been banned for life. Luis Suarez’s suspension is too long. Penalty kicks are awesome. Penalty kicks are cruel.

The ball is round, folks. That’s what we know. Very little beyond that is off limits when debating this great game.

The ESPN bottom line kept reminding us about Messi’s assist tonight. Sure, his effort was spectacular. But the narrative seems more important than the result. I’m getting tired of your approach, Booyah Network.

Here’s what I’m realizing this World Cup finals:

I’m going to apply for an American Outlaws chapter in Dubuque, Iowa.

I will explain this game to anyone who will listen, generally any time, anywhere. If you already know the game, I’ll debate the intricacies of it at length in person (or in the comments), not on Twitter.

We rely more on a country’s past than we do their  present when analyzing teams at the World Cup level. Tell me more about what you see today, in this 90 minutes, not how it compares to what we know about them historically. This tournament happens every four years, not every four weeks.

I believe CONCACAF is gobs better than people give it credit for. Plenty will disagree. I stand by it.

I’m gonna grow a Tim Howard beard this fall. I did the long-haired thing as a graduate assistant. This seems like the 30-something thing to do. Michael Mueller will be happy about this. You are a dirty, dirty man, Michael.

You’re allowed to hate the other team’s goalkeeper, but you better love the hell out of yours. #Howard #Navas #Ochoa

Somewhere in my Twitter timeline you’ll find my early admiration for both Kyle Beckerman (pictured) and DeAndre Yedlin. Klinsmann’s agreement is either a testament to my vision of the game or makes me an idiot. LIke I said, the ball is round.

I’ll gladly take part in a United States Soccer Federation open forum on how to take this game to the next level in our country. Development, marketing, player selection, or whatever. I’ll pull up a chair, listen, and contribute. Call me, Sunil. I can be at the Soccer House in Chicago in about three hours.

I can’t wait to be in Costa Rica in a month with the Duhawks.

Peace, love, and soccer.


Evolution: The American Soccer Snob Cometh

Might need to read this twice. Process it, then read it again and see if it registers differently.

The Shin Guardian

The Soccer Snob is the sports-fan version of that person who corrects others grammar on Twitter.


The influx of American “Soccer Snobs,” while at times detrimental to our sports image and obtusely obnoxious is a positive indicator of the ascent in popularity of our beautiful game at home–represented by MLS.

Identifying the “Snob” type can be tough because they are a sub-group within that hardcore crowd and go relatively unnoticed, walking around right under our noses like ghosts only that weird kid could see.

They are generally characterized as having regal and overly entitled dispositions, as if they come from the same bloodline as Ebenezer Cobb Morley (look it up). You normally hear them before you see them: waxing poetic on the pros and cons of a 4-3-3 vs. a 4-2-3-1.

But don’t be fooled by this alone.

It is only when this behavior is…

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I’m back, baby!

(image courtesy: riseasone.budweiser.com)


George Costanza (Jason Alexander) delivered that line better than I did. There’s no doubt about it.

The technology in the house has been upgraded, I got a new job, and 2014 is off to a great start. I’ve got ideas for some new posts, and I will also be over at onthefire.com to write match previews for Scott and the rest of the crew over there starting with the season opener against (sorta) Chivas USA. In just over a week.

Until then, raise your glasses to envisiontees.com – where all of your apparel and promotional product dreams now come true!