“That is a fluffy piece meant to stroke the egos of Americans...” Or so I wrote in response to Phil Schoen posting an article entitled, “Why aren’t American players taken seriously in Europe?” by ESPN’S and Men In Blazers’s Roger Bennett. Actually much of this post is lifted from my response.
The piece’s contention is that basically anti-American bigotry is the reason for Americans’ poor performances with European clubs. That is such silly, make everyone feel warm and cozy BS. “They just do not like us, so they are mean to us,” whining is nonsense. It is business and they want to make first money and win things helps in that. If they could get an American that helped them, they would be all over it, especially with the marketing potential of the US.
Herculez Gomez, US and Liga MX’s Club Tijuana Striker, offers some very insightful comments on why top players are leaving Europe. Real life enters into decisions for players.. it is still just the day job, no matter how much they love playing it.
It is parallel to my point on that players want to play in the UEFA Champions’ League (and all the bonuses that come with it) but if that is not an option, getting super paid is the next best thing. I would never begrudge a player making the best living they can. Their careers are too short to be altruistic.
Players making the best living is a red herring in this, however. It has nothing to do with anything but the admission if our players were better developed they wouldn’t have to make the choice between the best competition and the best paycheck.. they would go hand-in-hand.
He also makes the point, players can make it in other places besides Europe and MLS. There are many American players in Liga MX, and almost every one of them is Mexican-American. I can only think of Damarcus Beesley who is not. [Sorry – Forgot Jonathan Bornstein as well]
The reason American players are not coveted is that they are as technically skilled as their foreign counterparts.
The main technical deficiency is the brain. We are not raising players who have soccer brains. The closest we have is Bradley and he bounced around 6 leagues in 7 years or something like that then came home. They do not see the game as a chess match, where you need to see the three plays ahead. The core concept of passing the ball into space the attacker runs into is simply lost on most American players.
[NYRB GM Jerome] De Bontin reinforced his point with a depressing hypothetical. “If I took two identically skilled players in the same position, one from Chicago and one from Ivory Coast, I guarantee the African will get a spot and the American won’t, just because of the condescension of the European coach.” – From Bennett’s article
That example of the American kid and the Ivorian kid has little to do with condescension and more to do with American players’ lack of technical abilities… So we are clear, I LOVE American soccer and I would pick the Ivorian kid too. Most likely he grew up with a ball at his feet, playing without structure or bad coaching. He is just playing for the love of the game and thereby developing his understanding and skills his way in the rough and tumble chaos.
The game is still not organic to American kids in anywhere near the same way. American players are/have been developed in a rigid structural organization where they maybe had a good coach along the way with a lot of bad, probably changing coaches every year.
The entire US system is bad. AYSO to traveling teams tethered to nothing philosophically and with little consistency. There are no real academies which is fine because there are no standards in this rigid system and yet there is no freedom to develop creativity or flair.
AYSO conformists crush kids who have natural talent that does not fit their mold. They seem to want to stamp out that which is different than they are used to or than their kid can do. Look how long it took American fans/establishment to finally appreciate Dempsey’s talents. Bruce Arena said, “he tries shit,” was Clint Dempsey’s biggest talent, but AYSO/Establishment poster child Donovan is still seen as the America’s gold boy.
There needs to be a full, overhaul of the US system that develops creative and technical skills along with soccer brains. It should be noted that US women don’t have these problems ironically.
It also needs an economic overhaul. Only in America, is it expensive to grow up playing soccer. Kids with means play soccer in America: registration fees, uniform fees, equipment, traveling team costs, private coaches (usually bad), all cost money. The rest of the world learns to play with a whatever they have and without rules. That is why we are not exporting players that succeed at the highest levels.
If you doubt that article of ego stroking BS to make America feel better.. ask yourself why US Soccer is finding players from around the globe to cap instead of guys born and bread into the US system?