Our Problems Aren’t New, Solutions Need to Be

By Tim Nash

Ok. Here are two quotes to consider. A little later on, you will find out who said them. They both deal with a couple of the hot player-development topics.

This first one relates to the heavily organized way young soccer players are trained in the U.S., the coach-centered structure that many believes gets in the way of players learning to be instinctive, creative and dynamic.

“Kids today think there has to be a coach present in order to play. They don’t just go out and play. We, as coaches, need to replicate free play in training.”

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Gianluca Busio Makes Early Move Toward Future Success

By Tim Nash

Darren Powell has made a career out of recognizing soccer talent, and he knew there was something special about Gianluca Busio when he first saw him.

Even if Busio was just five years old at the time.

“Gianluca and my son Caleb are the same age and played on the same team when they were little,” says Powell, the former coach at Elon University, former Academy Director at Orlando FC, and now the head coach of the USL’s San Antonio FC.

“Even as a five-year-old, he stood out on the field with exceptional technical ability,” says Powell. “He had the ability to run with a soccer ball with coordination and balance. It’s just looked very natural.”

So, Powell was among the people completely unsurprised on Aug. 24 when Gianluca Busio (jahn-LOOKA BOO-see-o), a quick, creative and versatile forward, became the second-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract at 15 years and 89 days. His signing came on the heels of a five-goals-in-five-game performance with the U.S. U15 National team at the CONCACAF Championships earlier this month.

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At 30, McCall Zerboni Having Best Year Yet

By Tim Nash

“McCall Zerboni was brilliant again tonight.”

That’s what North Carolina Courage coach said after his veteran midfielder set up the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Reign on July 8 in Cary, N.C.

But it’s not the first time Riley has uttered that sentence. He has coached Zerboni for three straight seasons now and has come to expect brilliance from the 30-year-old, nine-year.

“She just gets in great areas, her distribution is great, and she leads the league in winning duels and tackles,” said Riley. “But it’s her reading of the game that probably the most important thing for us. She picks off so many passes that are going into pockets. She starts the attack and she is very much on the end of the attack as well.”

The skills Riley describes – winning tackles, reading the game, covering group –come from years of experience and dedication to fitness. Zerboni’s professional career dates back to 2009 when she was drafted out of UCLA with the 48th pick of the old WPS draft. Since then, she’s played for six professional teams in three U.S.-based leagues.

“For me, it doesn’t get easier,” she says. “It’s gets harder so it requires more focus, more dedication and more sacrifice.”

The dedication and sacrifice have paid off. She says she is the fittest she’s ever been. But that doesn’t stop Riley from closely monitoring her. Continue reading

Abby Dahlkemper Takes BIg Steps in 2017

By Tim Nash

On Aug 19, for the 10th time in 18 games this season, the North Carolina Courage looked at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see a zero under their opponent’s name.

Ten shutouts have helped the Courage, who have allowed a league-low 14 goals through 18 games, secure a place atop the NWSL standings for most of the 2017 season.

The stingy defense can be credited to a number of different factors – a high-pressing defense starting athletic forwards, like Ashley Hatch, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams, an organized and aggressive midfield led by Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni, and backline that features a veteran from New Zealand, Abby Erceg, and three players who have caught the eye of U.S. National team coach Jill Ellis – Jaelene Hinkle, Taylor Smith and Abby Dahlkemper. In goal, both Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo have shared the duties. Continue reading

Life After the PK for Brandi Chastain

Aren’t You the One Who… ?

The following is an excerpt from the book “It’s Not the Glory, the Remarkable First 30 Years of U.S. women’s Soccer.” Click here to purchase a copy

They keep looking over here. By now it’s clear they recognize someone. There are three of them. One guy holds a pole in place while he not-so-secretly glances over at the table in the shade. Another guy connects another pole. It drops on the cement, clangs, rolls, and rattles. They begin again. The third guy is arranging the canopy-thing that will go on top of the poles, that is, if they ever get in place. Can’t really blame them, though. It’s probably not often their day is interrupted by three extremely fit, attractive women—two blondes and a brunette—and one unfit, unattractive guy, lounging around their work site.

Wait, is he coming over here? Really? Is it his break time already? Yep, here he comes. His buddies are trailing behind, letting pole-holder guy take the lead. What’s he thinking? “Three of them, three of us… let’s go boys.” This should be good. What happens next explains it all, everything being talked about at the table in the shade, everything they have accomplished, everything that caught the country by surprise in the summer of 1999. Continue reading

What I Hope Soccer Parents Understand

champs

By Tim Nash

I’ve coached girls youth soccer for a long time. And one of the reasons I still enjoy it is that every year I learn a lot.

Most years, I discover new ways to reach players, or figure out the pros and cons of certain styles of play. I learn different ways to teach technique and how to adapt to new twists in the game.

This year, I coached two teams — 04s (players born in 2004) and 03s (born in 2003). For those of you who don’t like math, the 04s were 12 or about to turn 13; the 03 were 13 or 14. Once again, I learned a lot, but the main takeaway from this year has to do with parents.

The other night, I was at a function that included my girls as well as some 10-, 11- and 12-year-old players and their families. While the girls played in the pool, I watched the parents from the younger teams interact with each other, the ones just getting started. They were having a great time reminiscing about the year. They talked about certain games, tournaments, hotels, team dinners, what a fantastic team they had, other teams they played. They spent nine months together and formed friendships that will go on for years. Continue reading

Is Academy Soccer on the Right Track?

 

By Paul Oliu

Something has gone awry with the Academy system.  Whatever the original intent as

Paul Oliu 2016

Paul Oliu is a former ex-writer, coach and dad. His articles appear from time to time on the 56th Minute

designed by US Soccer, I find the reality a bit troubling.  We were told that Academies are there to develop players.  We were told it is intended to elevate the quality of play.  We were told playing with an Academy IS the way to be the best soccer player.  Sadly, the difference between intention and reality could not be starker.  For the Academy system has become just another Ponzi scheme in the lexicon of US Soccer organizations.  I realize I may be in the minority here, but we should not be surprised by it in the least.

 

What has struck me the most over the past few years is the sad quality of coaching that is currently on the sidelines.  Having logged hours watching practices, I will say that our development of players are in the hands of coaches and trainers who lack experience, guidance, expertise, or all three.  The lack of quality is by and large accepted or ignored, and little organizational guidance is provided.  The lack of a coherent and structured curriculum creates a year’s worth of training into a hodgepodge of exercises without purpose.  The end result is players that individually may be very technical, but have the tactical awareness of a rock. Continue reading