Only one thing matters now !

The only thing that matters in the next 8 months , is not who the new coach is , not  necessarily who the next President is , but how the USA maintains the impetus , goodwill and momentum it has in securing the rights to host the 2026 World Cup: nothing  is more  important at this time to the future of the game in the USA and we must not let the crushing loss in Trinidad to get in the way.

us soccer trinidad

I was in Trinidad 28 years ago when Paul Caliguiri’s volley sent a bunch of College and Semi Pro kids to the Italia ’90 World Cup. There were about 50 USA fans there that day.  Frankly, you could not compare the fight and mental strength of that team  with what we all witnessed Tuesday night, Sadly it was a devastatingly poor and depressing display: with the  impact on  USA’ s soccer reputation, crushing.

In the USA the knives are out , the critics circling, and the US Soccer Team and Program under vitriolic scrutiny. Of course Bruce had to go , no manager withstands such a loss (he had the dignity to do it quickly and with frank honesty. He knows he failed, he knows his players let him down on the night) As for Sunil , he should suffer neither the praise for South Africa and Brazil , nor the full responsibility for our failure on Russia. Players win and lose games and should have beat a Trinidad 2nd Team.

The fact is the USA is not a particularly talented team and hasn’t been for a decade. It would  take a brave man to say any team in that period  was better than the 1994 or 2002 Teams. Qualifying out of the Hex has always been an easy formality and in fairness they have traditionally battled hard and punched above their weight in the Group stage,  until the real pressure of the last 16 devours them.  This time it came early!

Blame who you want , but I don’t remember Pulisic waiting around to be discovered , bemoaning poor coaching or complaining about not making a travel team. The best make it happen themselves , or die trying. The one’s that win you World Cups certainly do.

I still believe the future is bright , but big changes are needed.  We have some great talent on playing fields and streets throughout the country. We have some of our brightest prospects  playing all over Europe. We have a vibrant MLS and an increasingly impressive slate of 2nd Division teams. We have a soccer infrastructure in place that should allow us to have a brutally tough self examination period but come out the better for it. We all want the same thing: the USA to develop 16 super talented mentally tough soccer players that can help us win a World Cup. Frankly,  I don’t care if that happens under the tutelage of FC Dallas , NYCFC, FC Shalke or Borussia Dortmund nor do the fans and neither should USA Soccer. (One things seems clear handing out 4m participation medals isn’t working ) A returning World Cup in 26 will go a long way to focusing on this.

Equally, lets make sure we appreciate how far soccer in the US has come in the past 30 years , lick our wounds and use it to “kick on” to the next level from a base infinitely  stronger than we were in 1990 and let’s make sure the soccer voting world hears this. 

Today , only securing the ’26 World Cup matters.

Gary

 

Viva Mexico ! (Trump take note)

2015-10-10 16.20.56

This post I made last year seems even more relevant today !!!!

Gary

———————————————————————————

Let me first state I am a USA fan. It matters when they lose and I have followed them through 7 World Cups. My wife and kids are also USA fans, Men’s and Women’s of course.

Equally though, I am a soccer fan and want to see the sport grow in the USA. For that to happen we have to applaud, recognize and support the Mexican team and their incredible fans.

Mexico is without doubt the USA’s biggest rival, both on and off the field. In fairness, they gave us a good spanking on Saturday night (despite the 3-2 score line) and if we don’t improve we may have to get used to it.

There could be a new Sheriff in the region and, my friends, it is not the USA.

So why Viva Mexico?

Because like a constant thorn in the side, losing to Mexico is instantly painful and until reversed, continually festering. It’s the one game you just have to win and as such the better Mexico becomes the less complacent the US can be.

I have to admit though that I love watching Mexico play, and admire their passion, their commitment and their skill.

Their fans also always amaze me. Sure, you might get some beer tossed your way but they bleed the green, live every kick, and every sense of their cultural identity is wrapped up in the team wearing the jersey. You get a true sense the players know they are playing for their country and their fans. It shows in every extra run, every last minute tackle and of course every last minute winner.

I am not saying the USA team do not individually feel the same and that Red White and Blue does not run through their veins, I am sure it does. So we were either technically not good enough or had a “bad day at the office”. I’m no coach so I will leave it the “experts” to dissect and in reality we have had Mexico’s number for the past few years.

Unfortunately, the US team did not perform anywhere nearly as well as their fans.

Sure, in an incredible crowd of 93,000 it was still probably 70% Mexican but the packed throngs of the “America-end” were fantastic. A seething cauldron of “USA USA” every bit as passionate and intense. In all my 25 years of watching the USA this was most fanatical and inspiring fan support against Mexico I have ever witnessed. This in a stadium in LA that basically represented home territory for the boys in green.

Mexico is indeed our arch nemesis on the soccer field, with a rivalry every bit as vitriolic and passionate as you would want. They are also an amazing part of the USA soccer fabric and have played and continue to play, an incredible role in soccer’s past , present and future.: they also represent a constant barometer to the skill and heart of the USA Team and the passion of its fans.

A great Mexico Team is exactly what soccer in the USA needs.

Note to Trump.

Come to a USA v Mexico game and see Mexican families wearing both the El Tri and the Stars and Stripes. Witness the respect for their own and the USA national anthem. Enjoy the tailgating parties where you will see both USA and Mexican flags billowing alongside each other , with both burgers and burritos aplenty !

This is Soccer in America and it represents the very best of a multicultural inclusive United States.

Viva Mexico!

Regards,

Gary

Viva Mexico ! (Trump take note)

2015-10-10 16.20.56

Let me first state I am a USA fan. It matters when they lose and I have followed them through 7 World Cups. My wife and kids are also USA fans, Men’s and Women’s of course.

Equally though, I am a soccer fan and want to see the sport grow in the USA. For that to happen we have to applaud, recognize and support the Mexican team and their incredible fans.

Mexico is without doubt the USA’s biggest rival, both on and off the field. In fairness, they gave us a good spanking on Saturday night (despite the 3-2 score line) and if we don’t improve we may have to get used to it.

There could be a new Sheriff in the region and, my friends, it is not the USA.

So why Viva Mexico?

Because like a constant thorn in the side, losing to Mexico is instantly painful and until reversed, continually festering. It’s the one game you just have to win and as such the better Mexico becomes the less complacent the US can be.

I have to admit though that I love watching Mexico play, and admire their passion, their commitment and their skill.

Their fans also always amaze me. Sure, you might get some beer tossed your way but they bleed the green, live every kick, and every sense of their cultural identity is wrapped up in the team wearing the jersey. You get a true sense the players know they are playing for their country and their fans. It shows in every extra run, every last minute tackle and of course every last minute winner.

I am not saying the USA team do not individually feel the same and that Red White and Blue does not run through their veins, I am sure it does. So we were either technically not good enough or had a “bad day at the office”. I’m no coach so I will leave it the “experts” to dissect and in reality we have had Mexico’s number for the past few years.

Unfortunately, the US team did not perform anywhere nearly as well as their fans.

Sure, in an incredible crowd of 93,000 it was still probably 70% Mexican but the packed throngs of the “America-end” were fantastic. A seething cauldron of “USA USA” every bit as passionate and intense. In all my 25 years of watching the USA this was most fanatical and inspiring fan support against Mexico I have ever witnessed. This in a stadium in LA that basically represented home territory for the boys in green.

Mexico is indeed our arch nemesis on the soccer field, with a rivalry every bit as vitriolic and passionate as you would want. They are also an amazing part of the USA soccer fabric and have played and continue to play, an incredible role in soccer’s past , present and future.: they also represent a constant barometer to the skill and heart of the USA Team and the passion of its fans.

A great Mexico Team is exactly what soccer in the USA needs.

Note to Trump.

Come to a USA v Mexico game and see Mexican families wearing both the El Tri and the Stars and Stripes. Witness the respect for their own and the USA national anthem. Enjoy the tailgating parties where you will see both USA and Mexican flags billowing alongside each other , with both burgers and burritos aplenty !

This is Soccer in America and it represents the very best of a multicultural inclusive United States.

Viva Mexico!

Regards,

Gary

There should be no “Women” in Soccer !

This from a father of 2 Daughters

Because the World Cup Final played on Sunday July 5th in Vancouver was not a condescending  “aahh ..How nice the girl’s get to play” match. It just might have been the savior of a sport , the press are portraying as: mired in controversy; full of financial shenanigans and with a credibility lower than a Greek Banker.

Firstly , for the soccer dinosaurs out there, let’s destroy the myth that this was “just” a Women’s World Cup Final.

  • Tell me the first 15 minutes were not as exciting as any we have seen in years.
  • Tell me Carli Lloyd’s 50 yard goal was not as good as any witnessed recently.
  • Tell me the exquisite “execution” of Holiday’s volley was not soccer perfection.
  • Tell me the tackling,ferocity,and commitment of both teams lacked anything.
  • When they got knocked down…they got back up again (quickly!)
  • When they got “cut” they were patched up and came back on.
  • When they were inconsolable their teammates (and country) picked them up.

If you did not watch this World Cup Tournament you missed out on games full of excitement,entertainment,honesty (sure there were a few dives here and there!) with a freshness, intensity and dare i say it “purity” that seems to be slipping away in the modern game.

This was soccer at its best ..not “Women’s” Soccer..just Soccer (or futbol,football if that’s your preference)

The legacy of this tournament is not about “girl power” or “entitlement”: no, the true legacy is one of recognizing the tremendous technical skill,lung-busting fitness,tactical smarts and a relentless commitment to the only cause that mattered: winning the World Cup.

These players did the soccer world proud and as a tournament it now stands alongside Brazil 2014 and all
other major tournaments to follow.

Gary

The Enigma Code : How a 300 Year old theory predicts the future of US Soccer

When the facts change , I change my opinion . What do you do, sir ?  

John Maynard Keynes

So what do you do when the facts change ?

enigma snag

How you react when facts change is a critical element to problem solving , particularly when faced with imperfect information , unpredictability or the problem is just too large in scope to make sense of.

 

Fortunately there is a 300 year old mathematical theory that just might help!

 

It is simple, (but controversial)  and is called Bayes’ Rule. I received a book on it for Christmas  . (You might well ask “why?”)

 

Do I understand it all ?  Not a chance !  (but that’s my mental shortfall not Bayes’s). I figure however that if Alan Turing used it crack the enigma code and defeat Hitler then it can’t be all bad.

 

Conceptually the rule is simple , we modify our opinions with objective information:

 

               “Initial beliefs (our guesses) + recent objective information = A new and improved belief “.

Of course, the clever guys could not leave well alone and they gave it scientific terminology.

 

Prior to: the probability of the initial belief
Likelihood: probability of other hypothesis once new data arrives
Posterior: probability of the newly revised belief

Bayes Equation

Bayes Rule Use
Each time new information is found the equation is “reset”,  with the posterior becoming the new prior (starting point) It is an ever evolving system with every new piece of information getting you ever closer to certainty.

 

As said, the methodology was not only used to crack the Enigma Code , it also allowed the British Navy to find and destroy German U-Boats . In modern days it helped Kennedy change US Nuclear security policy and Air France to find its lost plane at the bottom of the Atlantic and a lot lot more.

 

What the heck has this got to do with soccer you might rightly ask ?

Well it’s simple really.  Let us try to use a 300 year theory to answer the perennial naysayer question “When will Soccer ever Make it in America? (not exactly rescuing the free world but hey!)

 

Over the past 25 years the facts for soccer have been changing and changing fast. Soccer in the USA in 1990 bears little resemblance to what we now have in 2015. What was once thought about the game is now not so. We have new objective data , new information , new landscapes and as such a new hypothesis for the probability of what will happen to soccer over the next 10 years.

 

Let’s try and be a bit “Turing” here.

 

Naysayer Question 1990:  “When will soccer ever make it in America ?”

turing 1990

Naysayer Question 2015:  When will soccer make it in America ?

Turing 2015

The equation has changed and changed dramatically.

 

The new starting point in 2015 (prior) is one of great strength and completely different to 1990.  Obviously therefore you have to change the probability for success over the next 10 years and change it significantly higher.

 

When do we declare we have “cracked” the soccer enigma code in the USA ? I would have said 2022 , when (if the voting had gone as it should ) the USA would have played host to the most successful World Cup in history. Without this I would say 2026 , when the correct decision is made.

 

It’s a mathematical certainty and Turing would have agreed!

Gary

 

I have of course dumbed down the theory and done a complete disservice to the memory of Alan Turing , for which I apologize. He solved a a problem with 180m x million x million x million permutations : that changed daily. I know soccer is often perceived as complicated in the USA but….

 

He truly was a great British Hero and was treated appallingly. The brilliant film : “The Imitation Game” will tell you all.

 

The book, by the way,  is called “The Theory that would not die” by Sharon Bartsch. If you have a spare month to read it and then another to try and understand what it actually said, go ahead and read it.

A Coal Mine ! $160m in Transfer Fees and the reason Germany Keeps winning

Schalke Player Tunnel

Coal Mine : Schalke04 Player Tunnel

No,  it’s not a ride at Universal Studios !

It is the Player Tunnel at German Bundesliga Team Schalke04 . It’s also not a gimmick…it is a constant reminder to their  players that the club lives in the industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley , and draws its fan base from tough hardworking industrial families who believe in graft , loyalty and effort. (The teams nickname by the way is “De Knappen”: the miners )

The 100,000 fans (yes 100,000) who turned up to this seasons “open day” are not impressed by a Rolex and Ferrari, meaning  90% of modern-day football players will never pull on a Schalke04 shirt. But so what?  Schalke produced 3 of the winning Germany World Cup Team in Brazil , including Nuere, Howeder and Ozil while a 4th ,Draxler,  sat on the bench. These players were also worth  over $160m in transfer fees. Where did they find such talent ? Interestingly within 20 miles of their stadium. No scouting for that Brazilian wonder kid or Argentinian prodigy. It’s not a game they play. So how did they do it ?. It can’t be luck…you don’t “bump” into 4 prodigious talents like the above by luck (and according to Schalke04 they have better ones on the way , which is scary. So what’s the secret…

Here it is : Ever noticed how there is always a steely determination and mental strength about German Team ?..well it’s not from hours on a psychiatrist couch or cold water baths at 4am each morning.

(1) The first things Schalke look for in young players (under 13) is mentality . How do they act when losing ?, How do his team mates react with him? .

(2)They then look at technical skills .

(3) They educate them (with  school on site) not just books but also instill in them the history, fabric and DNA of the club.

(4) They also make sure they are exposed to playing in front of crowds early on. (they provide free beer and Brats (hotdogs) to those that show up. Nothing like a drunk , fanatical German screaming abuse to ensure you pass it to the right player, take that “halve  chance”, or run that extra 10 yards.  Might not be pretty at 13 but you can bet your almost “immune”  at 22 when its the 2nd period of overtime in a World Cup Final and a billion+  people are watching you try to execute an impossible volley to win a World Cup !!

Sure you need talent , but how many “talented” kids never make it. It’s mentality + talent in that order. ! It’s also closer than you think. Say maybe 20 miles from you stadium!.  As with all things German , it’s rarely luck.

No, I am not suggesting we start berating our kids and hurling abuse across the field.quite the opposite in fact. But young players  need to be exposed to crowds (not just parents telling them they are great) , develop the mental strength to handle pressure , and taught a respect for the history of the club/Team  and for “The Game.”   From the fire will emerge “real” players…

Best

Gary

Kudos also to the Philadelphia Union who have launched their own school and seem to “get” all of this. .

Daily Mail Article

The above uses as a reference and quotes details from a great article in the British Paper the Daily Mail: Here is a link to the full article.It is well worth a read.

http://dailym.ai/1qB8OLl

$1.45b “Talent Gap” that sank the USA in Brazil

 

$1.45b Talent Gap Final 816

You can’t put a price on the effort and heart of the USA Team in Brazil or indeed the never- say- die attitude that impressed and amazed the  soccer world and excited millions of fans in the USA.

You can however put a number on WHY they lost: and it’s about $1.45 billion.

Why so sure ? Well that’s the difference in “talent”  between the USA and the rest of the teams they faced in Brazil. How do we measure talent? In the only way the soccer world does: Transfer value.  Of course some players aren’t worth what is spent on them but universally it’s the financial benchmark against which all players are measured.

So how did the USA Team stack up in the “talent stakes” ? And just how good was the escape from the “Group of Death”?  The short answers to both are “not good” and “exceptional ” in that order.

Let’s take a look at transfer value of the starting line-ups for each of the USA Games

Team Value Brazil Blog

(source: transfermarket.co.uk)

On paper the Germans were 13 times better than the USA, (at times they played like it) , Portugal 6x and Belgium 7x . It gives you an idea of what the USA faced and explains why (at times) Howard stood alone. Ghana was dispatched early on: but at only 1.6x better they were easy “statistical prey”. Klinsmann got the very best out of a group of committed , willing and brave players, who produced results that belied their “perceived value” .

The above though only relates to the actual “starting” team:  it is squads not teams that win World Cups.  So how did the USA’s 23 squad match up with the rest?

Squad Values Brazil

When the game is not going your way you need “fresh legs”.  The USA’s opponents were able to draw upon legs $1.45b more “talented” to change the game and squeeze out a result.   Lukaku for Belgium did just that , and the USA were out.

Of course there is a ton of subjectivity around the premise that the most valuable teams (or squads) automatically win, Spain being the prime example. In reality however if they don’t the coach should go (and usually does) .

It’s fantastic for the game in the USA that the team gained the respect of the watching world and the hearts of the media and fans at home , but until we close the talent gap we have no chance of winning it.

However anyone questioning Klinsman as a coach needs to wake up !

Regards

Gary

Postscript.

The next decade will bring forward the most technically gifted, culturally diverse and physically capable generation of players this country has ever produced. We have the possibility of developing players worth $10s of millions

I have said this for years; there is more raw talent (and more of them) on our youth fields than almost any country in the World.  Belgium (population 11.4m) was boringly average a decade ago perfecting the art of a 0-2 loss when it mattered most. They will however be one of the favorites at both the Euros in France and World Cup in Russia 2018. Why and How ?

England beat Germany 5-1 in a World Cup Qualifier 13 years ago . A blistering wake up call !  Germany’s reaction was to  set fire to their manuals and start again. No need to explain what happened next!

Matches anyone !