February 19, 2011

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Lingenfelter: Claudio Reyna charts course for U.S. Soccer

18 Jan, 2011

By Michael Lingenfelter

With a successful pro career at high-profile European clubs like Bayer Leverkusen, Glasgow Rangers and Manchester City, Claudio Reyna once blazed the trail for top American players to ply their trade at the game’s highest levels. Now the former U.S. men’s national team captain and three-time World Cup participant is guiding the future of the game in this country as U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, with a particular emphasis on the influential sphere of coaching education.

Last weekend Reyna presented his perspectives at the NSCAA convention in Baltimore in a lecture called “State of the Game.” In his current role, he is responsible for developing a coordinated culture and mentality that takes our youth to the next level. Integral to that is developing a particular style of play in America: What will define our game? World soccer’s elite nations have a distinct style of play which permeates every aspect and level of the game in that country.

“I think the most important part of developing coaches and players is deciding how we want to play,” said Reyna in a conversation with the National Soccer Wire after his lecture. “Sometimes coaches are not quite sure how they should play. They’re not given direction. So developing that is the first part. There’s no better example than [Spanish side FC] Barcelona. From all my travels, I’ve seen many different styles and developing your own is key.”

Reyna also presented the current FIFA world rankings, in which the U.S. places no. 18. Certainly, we have a long way to go – and other countries are continuously working to improve their development systems as well and looking for anything, no matter how small, to implement if it yields results.

Reyna highlighted the number of players from leading countries (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Holland, Portugal) playing on a “top-five” club in a “top-five” league. While these countries each had at least 20 such players – and some with as many as 80 – the US boasts only one. How can we possibly win a World Cup when our players are not competing at the highest level on a regular basis?

Even the one American playing for a “top five” club statistic is a bit suspect: Oguchi Onyewu has not been able to break in at Italian side AC Milan, due in part to an injury setback last year, and is now being loaned out to Holland’s FC Twente. Jozy Altidore has been a peripheral figure at CF Villareal in Spain; and Clint Dempsey’s Fulham FC is battling to stay afloat in the English Premier League.

Even our famed goalies, Tim Howard and Brad Friedel, of Everton and Aston Villa respectively, are not competing for trophies right now. Arguably, Stuart Holden at Bolton Wanderers – fighting for a UEFA Europa League spot – is in the best position at the moment.

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About the Author:

Michael Lingenfelter is a Staff Writer for The Soccer Wires, as well as PR & Organizational Development Consultant for The Soccer Wires' publisher and PR firm HummerSport, LLC. Originally from Kensington, CA, he was All American at Marin Academy HS, played club ball with ACC Mavericks, and trained with CA ODP. In 1999 he spent the summer in Santa Cruz, Bolivia training with the famed Tahuichi Academy. Later, Michael played for Tufts University, where he majored in International Relations, and spent the 2004 spring playing for Dutch side Juventas of Den Haag. In 2006, he traveled extensively in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for the World Cup. He holds the USSF “D” and NSCAA Advanced Regional licenses and has coached extensively in Washington, DC, including School Without Walls HS, DC United’s United Soccer Club, and City FC. He still loves to play and is a co-founder of World Bank City FC, whose teams compete in the Washington International Soccer League, Washington Premier League, and various futsal leagues. His experience also includes on-screen work as a soccer analyst with Al Jazeera TV and organization work with the 2008 Gold Cup. Michael can be reached at TheLinguaFelter@gmail.com.

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