08 May, 2011

The Future of US Soccer

I got my hands on the USSF's Coaching Curriculum for youth soccer today... and I found some interesting stuff in it:

1) Apparently, we overplay the 4-4-2 formation
2) We dribble too much
3) We don't attack out of the backfield enough
4) Our passing sucks

Well, no real surprises there, but what they are suggesting is that we should run the 4-3-3 (or 4-2-3-1) exclusively until the U15 bracket at which point, we can "introduce" the 4-4-2 diamond formation. Now, surprisingly, this is how I grew up playing... at least until the U12 bracket at which point we started toying with the 3-5-2 and somehow that was overtaken by the man crush that developed across the country with the 4-4-2.

The rationale seems reasonable. But are we developing a unique style of play because we want to be different from say European teams and Brazil, or are we doing this because of innate ability to not be able to develop good/consistent strikers? I'll let you argue that one out later...

Now the full Curriculum is available here but I warn you, it's 93MB so it may take a while to download in PDF.

So how are they going to implement this? Well, for one, coaches are going to be recommend touch maximums 1,2, or 3 touches before the pass. This should help develop vision and keep the play moving and fluid. It also helps us avoid the familiar English boot ball style that we've all come to hate and loathe. 1 v 1 should be kept simple. Stop overcomplicating things for players, take it to the defender, push to a side, then continue. No turning, fancy moves, etc. Also, you should look to switch fields and use the full width of the field to create space. Now remember, since there is a limitation in touches, that means you should see a lot of overlapping runs, through balls, and in general, a lot of movement which means players need to be physically fit and the defense should tire pretty quickly.

The general consensus from the coaches I've talked to is, another change in technical director another change in tactics and this will change again in 8 years and we'll make another move in another direction. While I'm not sad to see the 4-4-2 fall by the wayside, and the move towards some more effective playing styles that are readily seen on the big club level, let's hope it can be properly implemented and we don't go wasting the talent we've developed to this point on a style of play that may be pushed aside in 5-10 years.

Photo: USSoccer

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