Making Mistakes - A Players Perspective

As many of you will know, FIFA films each game from a variety of angles and then breaks down the tape in any number of ways. Someone with a lot of time on their hands decided to study decison making and came up with this statistic - players on average made 3 decisions per second.

Take a moment to reflect on that statistic.

If we apply the same numbers to a high school soccer match and the athletes participating this is what we come up with:

11 soccer players

80 minutes of soccer

14,400 decisions per player

158,400 decisions per team

... wow ... I find it dificult to grasp those numbers ... just, wow...


How many players have you sent on to college?

How many players have you sent on to college?

Last week I was contacted by a coach inquiring about having me work with her team. We were not 3 minutes into the conversation when she asked how many players I had "put into college".

Yeah, there was a pregnant pause there as I thought over how to answer that one.

After quickly collecting my thoughts I replied "none."

Now, there have been quite a few players from my teams, clinics and camps who have gone on to play in college but I take no credit for their success. The players put in the work and reaped the reward. 

That answer wasn't good enough for her and after a few more attempts to have me name players and colleges she exasperatedly asked, "Then what is the purpose of your camps and teams?"

I gave the standard reply to the questions about the club teams I coach - We founded the club to prepare area players to play for their high school teams.

As far as my camps are concerned - After working college camps and ODP, I knew I could offer a similar experience at far less cost and the kids could sleep in their own beds and eat home cooking.

Needless to say, I do not expect to hear back from her. It sounded to me like she was looking for a short cut, a magic bean, that could transform a player into a college recruit. Don't get me wrong, good coaching is always an advantage, but it is not the difference maker and anyone telling you it is, is likely trying to line his /her pockets with your hard earned cash.

No, the difference maker is the player.

More precisely it is the player who always has a ball at his feet.  The player who is constantly working on his game.  The player who goes to sleep thinking about soccer and wearing a new pair of cleats to break them in, the player who awakes from a dream about soccer and whose first thought each morning is about how quickly he can have a ball at his feet.

How the Center Backs and Linking Midfielder interact.

Previous articles in this series:

The Goalkeeper
The Linking Midfielder
The Center Midfielder
The Attacking Midfielder
The Central Midfield Triangle
The Center Backs

Just as we looked at the relationships and interactions of the three central midfielders we need to take a look at how the Linking Midfielder and Center Backs interact on the pitch.

On a professional level, when attacking, the Linking Midfielder will be asked to drop between the two center backs to form a back three.  This allows the outside backs to move forward into the attack.

The other option, and the more common presentation in high school soccer, is for the Linking Midfielder to remain advanced of the Center Backs and push one or the other outside backs forward, but not usually both. We will explore that relationship once we have addressed the outside back positions.

Michael Bradley is a Linking Midfielder supreme. During the transitioning from defending to attack phase he is often found positioned advanced of the two center backs whose split is double of what it would normally be when defending.  They from a triangle with the backs as the base and Bradley taking the point. He plays mainly the way he faces as the team seeks to find the pace and rhythm it wishes to possess and attack with.

At the moment a back (center or outside) wins possession of the ball it is absolutely critical that he has a safe outlet pass to make.  Twenty years ago wing midfielders were taught to get their heels to the touch to provide that safe outlet pass.  As the game has evolved we find that they safe outlet pass, especially for the center backs is often to a central midfielder and especially the Linking Midfielder who will likely be facing the center back.

It may sound dangerous and risky for the Linking Midfielder to utilize a drop pass in this situation but there is strategic value in doing so.  First we must recognize that upon losing the ball the opponents will be seeking to re-establish their defending shape. This might entail pressing the ball carrier but will certainly involve getting numbers behind the ball.  This short, short pattern executed between the backs and the Linking Midfielder slows their ability to press and also addresses the second reason for a short safe pass as a rule of thumb - we need to allow our midfielders and outside back(s) time to move into the attack.  In this sense, the Linking Midfielder is the first target player in the 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1 systems of play.

Once possession is firmly established the Linking midfielder must play sideways on so that he can help advance the ball up the field with his distribution skills.  With the four backs holding in a bowl shape while the attack develops the formation with resemble a 1-2-3-2-3  with the outside midfielders move forward and the Center Midfielder and Attacking Midfielder supporting both lines of three.

The center backs act as the support for the Linking Midfielder once he turns and the attack takes on a more aggressive nature. It is at the moment the team must transition attacking to defending or when neither team has secured possession of the ball that the Linking Midfielder slides back between the center backs.  This is a delaying tactic to allow the outside backs time to recover into their defending position.

While the Linking Midfielder is playing as a center back, one of his fellow central midfield partners must fill his role as being a sweeper in front of the backs. This will usually fall to the Center Midfielder, but it could be the Attacking mid at times as well - whomever is closest to the position when the need arises.

We will stop here for now so we can define the characteristics of the outside backs and outside midfielders next.  When next we discuss the tactical applications of the 1-4-2-3-1  and  1-4-1-4-1 formations we will explore the versatility that allows this system of play to present itself as multiple formations and the value this presents in confusing opponents.

Center Backs, Positions #4 & #5 in the 1-4-2-3-1

Other articles in this series:

The Goalkeeper
The Linking Midfielder
The Center Midfielder
The Attacking Midfielder
The Central Midfield Triangle

We will continue looking at the spine of the 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1 formations by examining the role of the center backs.  The spine of the formation is often where the teams best players are found and certainly where the players who play best together are clustered. Today we look at the center backs, positions #4 and #5.

The technical considerations for the center back positions are a bit more specialized than those of midfielders especially in a zonal defending system of play.  Center backs must be able to head the ball with authority and in congestion. First touch must be excellent in terms of getting a solid touch on the ball. Being able to control the ball with the first touch is, obviously, preferred but clearing the ball by volley or half volley can be equally important for backs.

Tactically center backs must game watchers so they can position themselves and teammates properly. Communication with other backs and midfielders is essential.  Center backs need to be quick, decisive and aggressive decision makers. While it is important to play in a safe and secure manner, this must be done with an aggressive ball winning attitude. Distribution skills are important and highly prized.

Physically we like center backs to be rugged individuals. Height is a plus. Explosiveness in terms of jumping ability and overall power are necessary.  Strength.  These players are the wall in between the ball and goalkeeper / the face of the goal. Not every center back need be a speed demon, but at least one of the two needs to possess above average speed.

Psychologically these players need to have a warrior mentality.  They are defenders of the goal and take great pride in executing their role to perfection by combining physical strength and mental strength. The center backs need to very disciplined in preserving the integrity of the position and especially supportive of the back on either side of him. Being considered trustworthy in the eyes of his fellow backs is mandatory.


You don't have to win physical battles,
if you don't put yourself in situations that create them.
If the ball's always on the ground,
who cares if the kid's not good in the air?
If you're not creating 50/50 balls,
you don't need players whose specialty is winning them.
Johan Cruyff

The central midfield triangle in the 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1 formations

Other articles in this series:

The Goalkeeper
The Linking Midfielder
The Center Midfielder
The Attacking Midfielder

Having just completed the articles on the central midfield positions I thought it would be a good idea to look at the central midfield as a unit and how they compliment and interact with one another.

First and foremost must come a recognition there are three distinct and separate positions and roles that comprise the central midfield triangle. While it is true there must be some overlap in technical, tactical and physical characteristics it is also true there must be differences in the psychological approaches of each player manning these positions.

In a general sense the #6 Linking Midfielder is defensive oriented, disciplined, and a link between lines or positional unit groups.  The #8 Center Midfielder is a versatile player that moves easily between defending and attacking postures. He must be a work horse.  The #10 Attacking Midfielder is a creative attacking player. A great passer with the ability to create scoring opportunities for teammates and himself.

If we look at this unit as a whole we will find they define the numerical designation of the formation. When played as a 1 - 2, the Linking midfielder is tasked with protecting the (center) backs and is a primary ball winner and distributor. He is able to make a few calculated runs into the attacking third during the course of a match, but this is not his primary function. In a similar sense he is there in support of the Center Midfielder and the Attacking Midfielder. He watches their backs allowing them to freely attack. He also is tasked with being a pivot player through which his team can switch the point of attack.

When deployed in as a 1-2 triangle, the Center Midfielder plays advanced of the Linking Midfielder but not necessarily along side of the Attacking Midfielder. It is more of a staggered alignment that provides an offset 1-1-1 look with the Attacking Midfielder being ball side and the Center Midfielder being weak side although these roles must be interchangeable. 

When played as a 2-1, the Linking Midfielder and Center Midfielder play side by side as the base of the central midfielder triangle.  This is a more defensive posture in a sense but can also be utilized in an aggressive counter attacking manner as it can serve to draw opposing defending players more forward thereby opening the space between them and their goalkeeper.

The 2-1 alignment is also often used by teams that look to press when they first lose the ball.  It is a rule of thumb that a team has 7 seconds to aggressively press in an attempt to regain possession once they have lost the ball.  During those 7 seconds immediate pressure be brought and support supplied in the forward passing lanes about the ball.  This allows the remaining 7 defenders to track back and establish defensive shape behind the ball. During this transitional moment many teams prefer to establish as a 2-1 central triangle s it is more secure than playing a lone Linking Midfielder.

In the descriptions we can see the primary differences between playing in a 1-4-2-3-1 formation and a 1-4-1-4-1 formation are found in how the central midfield is set up.  In particular the difference is found in where the Center Midfielder deploys.  The shape of the formation is usually 4-2-3-1 when defending and 4-1-4-1 when attacking.

However, the basic 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 are extremely versatile formations. They are merely starting points for further mutations which we will begin exploring as we continue looking at the various positions in the formations.  More on that as we look at the center back and outside back positions.


Be mindful not to confuse excellence with perfection.
Excellence, we can reach for and obtain;
Perfection rests solely in God's domain.

Position #10 in the 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1

Previously articles in this series:

The Goalkeeper
The Linking Midfielder
The Center Midfielder

Today we will take a look at the third point of the central midfield triangle in the 1-4-2-3-1  and 1-4-1-4-1 formations.  Position #10 is the attacking midfielder. 

The technical considerations for the attacking midfielder position are similar yet different from those of the linking midfielder and the center midfielder.  The primary difference being creative problem solving and the ability to take on opponents with the dribble either to engage and create 2 v 1 situations or get in on goal for a shot. Excellent first touch and properly weighted short passes are mandatory components for this position. Cleverness with the ball and an aggressive attitude about taking shots on goal are essential.

From a tactical standpoint the attacking midfielder needs to be a master of creating and taking advantage of 2 v 1 or similar numbers up situations. Excellence in the short passing game is a requirement. Assisting on and scoring goals need to be of equal importance. This is the player that makes thing happen for himself and for teammates in the final third of the field.

Physically he needs to be a master at change of pace.  Straight line speed is always help as is quickness but the ability to effectively use change of pace with and without the ball is essential.  A low center of gravity and strength to combat big physical opposing backs are a must. This is an extremely physical position.

Psychologically this position requires a quick, creative, clever even devious thinker. The attacking midfielder must want the ball and always be actively seeking it. That means on defense as well as on offense.  While we want creativity in attack the position also requires discipline and comes with a lot of responsibility when defending. He will often be the first defender or primary supporting defender when the ball is lost in the middle and final thirds of the pitch. There must be a great willingness to immediately and effectively transition to defense.

Attacking midfielders are the play makers in the final third of the field. They can excite crowds with their flare for the game or in playing the teams finishers in for goal scoring opportunities. Examples of attacking midfielders in today's game would include Iniesta, Gerrard and in the recent World Cup Bradley was moved into that role for the USMNT.


Sometimes we are successful.
Other times we learn.
Learning tends to come before Success.


Position #8 the CM in the 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1

Thus far in this series we have looked at the Goalkeeper and the Linking Midfielder positions.  Keeping with the theme of defining and determining a teams spine we will today look at the #8 position, the Center Midfielder.

The technical considerations for the center midfielder position are similar to those of the linking midfielder. There is a premium placed on playing with an economy and efficiency of touches. A high quality of touch is paramount to maintaining possession and helping to establish his teams rhythm and pace.

Tactically the center midfielder has a blended or dual role in that he must be able to play as both a Linking midfielder and an attacking midfielder - the # 10 position.  He is in fact a linking player between the linking midfielder and the attacking midfielder.  It is the positioning of this player that determines if a teams formation resembles a 1-4-2-3-1 or 1-4-1-4-1.  Ideally, the team's formation will be flexible between the two formations throughout a match. Playing with 2 linking midfielders when defending and two attacking midfielders when in possession of the ball. The center midfielder must be a strong communicator and possess a high soccer IQ to be able to recognize which role his team needs him to fill at any given point in a match.  A high level of quality decision making is a mandatory requirement for the position.

From a physical standpoint the linking midfielder must demonstrate both speed and quickness on and off the ball.  He needs to possess strength on the ball and a willingness to challenge opponents in all three phases of the game. A blended balance of aggressiveness and discipline is essential.

If the linking midfielder is the hub of the team, it is the center midfielder who is the teams engine. He must a 360 degree player.  This player must balance a disciplined approach on defense with being a risk taker on offense. There is a distinct need for this player to be able to cross lines both between the positional units of his team and those of opposing defenses.  It is a unique psychological make up and proper consideration must be given to this trait in identifying the player to man this position.

Planning Practices for Success

One of the questions we are frequently asked is how to train a team for a specific formation and system of play.  In my opinion, this is the king consideration to having a successful season, especially in a high school setting. Ohio limits the number of contact days a coach can have with his players out of season and once regular season play gets under way there is precious little time for instruction between preparing for a match, the actual match and a recovery day following the match.

Establishing continuity in your training while also maintaining skill level and addressing tactical concerns is a balancing act many coaches struggle with.  Mastering this is also the single most important key to a successful season. My approach is to decide on a formation and system of play then analyze the key tactical components of play that will be required to execute successfully within this framework.  Call it reverse engineering of a soccer system of play, if you will.

I then build my season long training themes around these ideas. Using this past spring season as an example I knew the technical components that would be most emphasized in our play were the push pass, crossing the soccer ball and running with the soccer ball.  Therefore all technical training throughout the season was grounded in these three areas.

Some type of sequence of touches work was done daily and incorporated into preparation for matches, pre game warm ups and touches on recovery days. The sequence of touches I am referring to involves 2 touch play. Receive with the right foot and pass with the right foot is considered to be Right / Right or R/R.  The four sequences of touches are therefore R/R,  R/L, L/L and L/R.  Breaking lines and its variations were staples of our training as warm up exercises.

Warming up for what?

Playing soccer utilizing a specific system of play, of course.  So, the tactical application of the techniques we worked on in warm ups took center stage in our play in practice. From small side games through full sided work we emphasized the sequence of touches.  It is critical to receive across the body when utilizing any of the four sequences of touches as this is the basis of combination passing. In fact, the cues for knowing when a specific combination pass is on are often triggered by the receiver's ability to receive the ball across his body.

Combination passing infers the ability to interchange positions so this becomes a central focus in our small-sided and full-side practice play as well. We did a lot of 3 team scrimmaging work to emphasize the four elements of play - Penetration, Depth, Width and Mobility. An example would see 3 teams of 6 players each. Two are active inside an appropriate sized grid with the third team in-waiting around the grid.  Upon a team successfully competing "X" number of passes inside the grid they would play to the team outside. Those two teams then interchange positions - the team inside the grid moving to the outside and the team on the outside moving to the inside of the grid. Play is continuous.

Target play and flank play were two of the main tactical themes of our formation and system of play so we built on the above referenced possession game by dividing the squad into two teams. We utilized a large grid of approximately 44 yards wide by 50 yards long.  On the top or 44 yard ends we positioned target players and along each side we positioned flank players for each side. No defense allowed outside the grid to begin with.  We built this game into allowing targets and wings to interchange (Mobility) with players inside the grid both with and without the ball.  This provided us with a realistic depiction of the sometimes chaotic world of spine play and the importance of target play (Penetration) and flank play (Width) to provide space for and allow the spine players room to maneuver in the middle of the pitch.  Add in goalkeepers or a defender with the targets and you have Depth. covered as well.

There is continuity of technique and tactical emphasis throughout these progressions that all applies directly to the formational alignment and system of play we utilized.  Were there other areas of concern, technical and tactical, that cropped up during the season? Of course, but we incorporated addressing them into the continuity of our practice activities. 

With so much active play in our practices we also address the physical aspects of play. One of the best ways to condition for playing a game is ... to play the game! We used a lot of small-sided and full-side team play to condition us for actually playing and by staying consistent with our practice and playing themes we addressed the psychological (confidence) aspects of play as well.  We had a plan. We stuck to it and as a result as the players improved their confidence grew.  As did the success of our season. 47-8-5 speaks for itself, doesn't it?

There will come a time
when fall will ask,
What have you been doing all summer?


Thank you!

There was a time when I worked various soccer camps - The Soccer School, The University of Michigan and Findlay University among others.  I admit to having sent my sons to these camps as well. Fees for these camps can be rather steep and I often worked in exchange for discounts for my sons participation.  It occurred to me that similar quality experiences could be offered for far less cost and the participants could sleep in their own beds and eat home cooking every night. So that is the path I started down several years ago.

It began by conducting goalkeeper camps as that was my specialty. I hold the NSCAA diplomas, State through National and at one time was the only one in our area to do so. I began to receive requests from area coaches to conduct week long summer camps for their high school teams. I also hold various other NSCAA Diplomas and USSF licenses so this seemed a natural progression. I added a team camp to the goalkeeper training instruction I was providing. Word spread of the work I was doing and gradually more and more requests came in for me to conduct camps.  This summer has been our busiest to date and I wish to thank all of you who have given us an opportunity to conduct camps for you. We are proud that schools we conduct camps for have us back year after year as we take this to be an indication they are happy with the experience we provide.

The camps continue to be a wonderful experience for us and one we are extremely grateful for.  So it is that we thank all who have hosted Conceive Believe Achieve Soccer Camps!  We can only hope you have enjoyed the experience as much as we have! Looking forward to seeing you on the pitch!

Timothy J. Brown
Founder and Director of Conceive Believe Achieve Soccer Camps

Position #6 The Linking Midfielder in the 1-4-2-3-1 or 1-4-1-4-1

You will find two other articles on this site dealing with the #6 position.  This is appropriate and fitting as in today's game this is arguably the most important position on the pitch.  In the past the position has been described as a defensive midfielder or a holding midfielder.  We have begun calling it the Linking Midfielder.

The Linking Midfielder must be technically proficient and capable of playing with an extreme economy and efficiency of touches. One or two touch play is often the norm. The quality of those touches is vitally important as the linking midfielder must be able to distribute the ball with great accuracy.

Tactically the linking midfielder is a screening player in front of the center backs when his team is without the ball. He should be the teams organizer and communicator. There must be a deep understanding of the different types of defending as they apply to each positional unit and when, where and how to apply or direct application of pressure on the ball. 

In the transitional phase of moving from defending to attack it is critical that he possess an understanding of the teams system of play and be a 360 degree player.. He must be able and willing to properly prepare to play the ball at all times while actively seeking the ball. The linking midfielder must possess great game intelligence and a high quality of decision making ability. Creating and changing the rhythm or tempo of the game and understanding when it is necessary to do so are critical weapons for the linking midfielder's repertoire. Distribution or passing skills must be among the very best on the team.

From a physical standpoint the linking midfielder must demonstrate coordination with and without the ball. He should be agile and possess the ability to change pace effectively. He needs to possess strength on the ball and a willingness to challenge opponents in all three phases of the game.

It is the psychological aspects of the linking midfielder that really define the position. Because he is the hub of the team wheel, a 360 degree layer, he must be disciplined, responsible and very poised.  The degree of calmness and confidence that he plays with will go a long ways to determining that of his team as well.  He must be emotionally stable - never to high, never too low - and remain even keeled whether the game be tied or he finds his team winning or losing. Composure is of the utmost importance.  With the goalkeeper, the linking mid is the teams authority on the pitch - an extension of the coach.

Putting it all together.

The primary responsibilities for the linking midfielder are to protect the center backs and to be a link between the backs and the attackers. In this sense he must be a pivot or 360 degree player. Establishing the teams pace and the games rhythm are critical elements of the linking midfielders responsibilities. This occurs on both sides of the ball and in all phases of the game.

Because the linking midfielder will remain centrally located on the pitch and within his teams shape a majority of time he must be able to play competently and confidently facing in any direction. Game intelligence and awareness are essential to his ability to communicate with teammates, organize team shape and direct both the defending and attacking play.

My team refers to the linking midfielder as the Michael Bradley role. Given Bradley's move to an attacking midfielder position in the World Cup this is a bit misleading now, but the idea remains the same.  In defending the LM plays advanced of and between the center backs in a protective screening manner. In the attack he often plays between the center backs presenting a back three and allowing the outside defenders to move into the attack. However, he makes calculated and dangerous runs forward to become directly involved in the attacking phase via his distributions or shots on goal.

For more on the Linking Midfielder and his role in the modern game please see Position #6 the Holding or Defensive Midfielder  and Evolution in Soccer - the Linking Midfielder.  



1-4-2-3-1 The Role of the Goalkeeper.

As promised, I will be writing on the roles for various positions within a 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-1-4-1 formations.  A teaching moment to begin today's writing: the correct way to designate a formation is to begin with the number 1 as the first in the sequence.  Many, perhaps most, times we will see a formation designation that omits the goalkeeper: 4-2-3-1 for instance.  Since I will be referring to positions both by name and the number designation they have traditionally had, I will make it a point of emphasis to refer to the goalkeeper as the #1 position and the formation as either 1-4-2-3-1 or 1-4-1-4-1.

Also a word on the two designations for the formation under discussion. I view them as a single formation that takes on a couple of different looks. Since I believe a formational alignment is nothing more than a starting point this makes perfect sense. In fact, I would caution not to get overly caught  up in numerical descriptions of formations. A teams shape in the run of play is far more important and our team shape will change and shift based in large part on how the center midfielder labeled with #8 is deployed and utilized, but more on that in future writings.

The goalkeeper is these formations and the accompanying systems of play must play as a Sweeper / Keeper.  His is a blended role necessitating the ability to play both with his hands and with his feet. We will look at four man areas sweeper / keepers must be proficient in; technical, tactical, physical and psychological. Each hold equal importance in the role of the sweeper / keeper.

The GK must be technically proficient in playing the ball with both his hands and his feet. The quality of first touch with both hands and feet must be excellent. A ball not fielded cleanly serves a rebound to the opponents.  A misplayed ball with the feet can lead directly to a goal.

Once in possession of the ball the GK becomes the first attacker. He must be able to distribute the ball with both his hands and his feet.  He must be technical excellent, comfortable and confident in each type of distribution; roll, throw, push pass, laces drive, drop kick and punt.

Tactical considerations include playing without and with the ball.  I put those in that specific order because playing without the ball is preparation for playing with the ball.  Being in support of or backing up the backs is the GK's first role. He must be well positioned to field opponents through balls with his feet and hands. Quick decisive decisions making and flawless execution are predicated on being properly positioned based on reading the game accurately. He must command and dominate the penalty area and most especially the goal box. These are his domain and intruders - the ball and opponents - are not welcomed.

From a physical standpoint GK's need to possess strength, explosiveness and quickness. Soccer is a physical game and goalkeepers in particular can find themselves in physical confrontations with opponents where they are susceptible to collisions while focusing on playing the ball with their hands. Strong yet soft sure hands are a must. Explosiveness in changing directions and elevating to play high balls should be a prerequisite.  Quickness is far more important than speed. The best goalkeepers both anticipate (read the game) and possess quick reactions to unexpected clever payer by opponents and deflections.

The true strength of the goalkeeper position is found in psychology necessary to play the position. The Sweeper / Keeper must have a commanding presence exuding confidence and assurance. Courage is extremely important in his role as the last defender. The ability to organize, lead and communicate is vital.  The one trait I prize as highly as any is the ability to give steady consistent emotional performance. A Sweeper / Keeper cannot afford to get too high or too low. He must be the rock that his defense is built on.

Tomorrow we will continue exploring the spine of the formation.  The spine are those players whose starting position designated in a formation are centrally located.  The center backs, the midfielders and the striker. I intend to take these out of order from that which I have just presented them and move straight to the #6 position - the DM or HM or as I have begun referring to it, the linking midfielder.

The United States in World Cup 2014

The United States Men's National Team enter the 2014 World Cup ranked as the 13th team in the world. When the World Cup is finished they should be ranked in the same general area.

I Believe That We Can Win!

The US Naval Academy cheer taken as it's own by the American Outlaws has become a rallying cry if not the soccer anthem for US Soccer.  Reports were the American fans in Brazil far outnumbered those from every other country save Brazil itself.  ESPN and overnight Nielson ratings indicate the US matches were among the most watched sporting events ever with more viewers than the recent NBA playoffs, the Rose bowl and other noteworthy events.

In many ways, it appears the United States has finally arrived as a power on the world soccer scene.  This is well illustrated by the commentary on an English Soccer podcast that has gone viral on social media.


From the loom of the team and the attitude they brought with them, I think they believe they belong as members of the world soccer scene and that is as important as anything else to take from this World Cup. 

Many years ago the notion that America could not only compete with but win the World Cup was conceived.  The belief that we can do so has blossomed before our eyes.  The next step is to achieve that goal.

I do not wish to put a damper on all the great work done by US Soccer and specifically it's players and coaches, but in my opinion the USMNT still has a ways to go before it can realistically threaten to win a World Cup.  We are much improved, good even, but not yet great.

The USMNT entered this World Cup needing great performances from its two best players - Tim Howard and Michael Bradley.  You can make a case for other players importance, but these two gentlemen had to have not good, but great performances if the USMNT were to seriously challenge.  Howard came through with flying colors.  Bradley struggled throughout but played progressively better over the course of the US's 4 matches.

US coach Jurgen Klinsmann made Bradley the center piece of his team.  I Believe Landon Donovan was left off because Klinsmann wanted this to be Bradley's team.  New coach, new culture. I understand that.  However, while I am okay with Donovan being left of the team, I also believe Bradley struggled in part due to Donovan's absence on the pitch.  Simply put, Bradley was not up to the task of carry this team on his shoulders by himself. He needed help, but understand what Klinsmann's intentions were - the USMNT needs a world class star in the worst way.  Bradley was given the opportunity to ascend to that status. Given Donovan's age, it was a clear choice to make.

I think the same reasoning went into the single forward formations employed by the USMNT.  This was to be Jozy Altidore's showcase.  Klinsmann did not even roster a similar player. They were going to ride Altidore until he dropped. Unfortunately, Altidore dropped in the first match and Clint Dempsey was thrust into a role he just isn't suited to fill.

This highlights another area that needs shored up before the US can truly be considered established in the world soccer scene - quality depth.  The USMNT put a quality 11 on the pitch but to say they were 23 men deep would be a stretch of the imagination.  Consider that 5 members of the USMNT were dual nationals - United States and Germany.  Klinsmann quite literally scoured the world to find players to his liking.  Much of the talent we saw on the pitch was not home grown, per se.

And that is the challenge to be answered before qualifying for the 2018 World Cup begins - developing better home grown talent and uncovering the first world class American soccer star. DeAndre Yedlin or Julian Green anyone?

When I watched the USMNT this World Cup I saw a team that had learned to work far more intelligently and effectively than past US teams had. I saw a team that competed to an extent it probably overachieved in most matches. Klinsmann the tactician was brilliant for the most part - formations utilized, personnel deployed and the general systems of play.  The USMNT played to its strengths while hiding its weaknesses fairly well.   Possession play really suffered due to these strategies, but the USMNT was at its best defending and counter attacking. Possession soccer or slow builds to attacking play just is not something the USMNT does well namely because it lacks a world class star gal scorer... unless it's Altidore and we may have to wait another 4 years for that answer.

I don't believe the USMNT can afford to be satisfied with its performance although they played well and perhaps above realistic expectations.  I understand their being disappointed in being knocked out.  I can even appreciate being encouraged by making it through to the knockout round for two consecutive World Cups.  There is still much to do before we can declare ourselves to have arrived though.

I am hopeful Klinsmann remains as coach for the next 4 years.  I believe we will continue to see an infusion of youth into the USMNT as it prepares for 2018 World Cup qualifying.  I think the future is bright.  The next steps are to develop or uncover a world class American player the likes of a Messi or Ronaldo or Suarez while also deepening the overall pool of world class talent here in the states.

 Time to take another step.

I Believe That We Will take that step and finally move from knocking on the door to kicking the door open as only Americans can to grabbed our spot in the world's soccer spotlight... in 2018!
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