February 22, 2011

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Lingenfelter: Claudio Reyna charts course for U.S. Soccer (page 2)

18 Jan, 2011

By Michael Lingenfelter

[ + Click here for Page 1 ]

Reyna made clear that the official system to be coordinated and taught by U.S. Soccer is the 1-4-3-3 system (his tactical alignments included the goalie). This can mean a number of approaches: a 1-4-1-2-3, where one defensive midfielder sits in front of the defense and two offensive center midfielders play in front of him/her, or a 1-4-2-1-3, where the central midfield set up is flipped. It can offer a 1-4-5-1 on defense, where the outside midfielders play further back to mind the opponent’s wing-backs.

Reyna explained that this system encourages our outside fullbacks to get forward and move into space in front of them, which is vacated by the wide attackers pushing high. Playing a back four at an early age is important for player development, he argued, because ultimately that is the system used most at the highest level today.

Playing with a four-man defense, players should learn to possess and build out of the back, get wing-backs forward into the attack to create numerical advantages, and cover on defense to ensure that they are never really “flat.” He noted the importance of playing the ball around quickly, and in and out of the central players, to keep possession. Players move out of their original positions to create space for each other and respond to the movement of the play, but, like an elastic band, quickly return to their formation.

USSF identifies three tiers of development: ages 5-12, 13-18 and 18+. Each tier needs better coordination, Reyna argued, as each has distinct attributes which deserve specific approaches and methods.

At the youngest ages, coaches are encouraged to just let players play and figure out the basics for themselves – teach the rules and create an environment where they can learn through their own experiences and mistakes. Do not try to teach tactics – even encourage mistakes, which mean trying new things, but underline the importance of learning from them. Technical demonstrations are also key, so that players can learn how to strike a ball, how to dribble, and so on. Interestingly, finishing is a top-three priority at all ages.

Finally, Reyna highlighted the “psychosocial” aspect of the game. Having played at multiple clubs abroad, he found that having the right attitude, being a good teammate, respecting the coach and remaining humble are all extremely important to success.

At the world’s top clubs, a player will only get one or two real chances to make an impression and get selected to play. Preparing oneself to seize that opportunity when it comes along, through proper training, nutrition, lifestyle and mentality, means the difference between a career like Reyna’s and one of unfulfilled promise like Freddy Adu’s.

“The three players up for world player of the year – [Lionel] Messi, [Andres] Iniesta, Xavi [Hernandez] – are the most humble people you will meet. I saw it, they come in and they shake everyone’s hand. That’s saying a lot with the ego-centric mentality we have around the world in sports,” Reyna noted. “At Barcelona, with the training academy, all they talk about is camaraderie, the club, and friendship. They feel that is the key.

“It’s a process, though. Sometimes you have to break kids down. I had to learn that. Whether it’s going to college, or going pro, or whatever the next level is, coaches look at that. As coaches, you can’t let your star player do whatever he wants – you’re not helping him get to the next level unless you’re teaching these principles.”

Reyna’s remarks made me think back to my own playing stint in Holland. I was encouraged to say hello and shake hands with each teammate upon arriving in the clubhouse for training, and similarly saying goodbye to each upon leaving. It is just part of the culture there, and went a long way with them.

For me to make the starting 11, I had to push out a popular veteran who had been with the club for quite some time. Initially, this didn’t go over so well. At the professional level, this might even mean affecting a player’s ability to put food on his family’s table. But at the end of the day, what your teammates want more than anything is to win, so if you help them do that and are respectful and humble, they will accept you. This is the way to make the most of one’s potential, and something we must work hard to improve upon in the U.S.


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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