Wednesday, August 13, 2008

USA Men's Olympic Team is Done

As you read in Potomac Soccer Wire, the US men's team is out of the Olympics, falling to Nigeria 2-1 in a game they couldn't afford to lose.

Of course, a red card in the third minute will do that to you! Mr. Orozco, what were you thinking?

The good news is that the US team beat Japan and tied Netherlands, the latter being no small accomplishment. But it seems Peter Nowak's team never developed a rhythm. And I remain disappointed in the overall technical quality of the players. Far too often first touches are poor, the crossing is adequate at best, and the lack of build up from the back is disturbing.

This highlights the importance of the American youth coach. We need to make sure the players that we coach have the individual technical skill to play the game quickly, skillfully and with passion. And we need to create players, not just "defenders" or "forwards." The 11-year-old we have now as a center back may or may not play that position three years from now. We need to teach the kids how to play the game, not just one spot on the field. Then the national teams will get the players it needs to play at a higher level and, perhaps one day, earn gold.

That's the men's team, of course. Our women's team has long enjoyed success, and it appears a spot in the semifinals is promising. No surprise there! Except for Greg Ryan's tenure, the women's team has played attractive soccer for years. And while the Brazilians, Chinese and others have caught up, that will only push the women's team toward progressing. That's a good thing. "The Competitive Cauldron," I believe is what Anson Dorrance called the pressure that's needed to get better. At Division III powerhouse Messiah College, it's "As Iron Sharpens Iron."

So if you're a rec or travel soccer coach, remember that the wins and losses of today are not remembered down the road. But the skills you teach will be with your players for a lifetime.

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