“I still think that with all the players that we have in this country, we could play great football. Not good – great football.” - Hugo Perez
Hugo Perez spoke with Charles Boehm of FourFourTwo about U.S. Soccer development. As one of the best technical players in USMNT history and a former U15 youth national team coach, Perez knows more than most about the capabilities of the American player. Sadly, there are not enough people in influential positions in U.S. Soccer who think like Hugo Perez.
Far too often, the mentality within U.S. soccer at the federation and club level is that the players are not good enough to play good soccer. Jurgen Klinsmann did not believe that the U.S. player was good enough, as you saw his teams get more and more defensive throughout his tenure. It happens at the club level as well, where coaches and administrators opt for a “not to lose” mentality or even outright negative approach in order to try to achieve results.
This is garbage. It hurts both the product and player development.
Fans are more interested to see their team try to win rather than try not to lose. Let’s not be unrealistic either. There are times that call for a team to be more conservative, more defensive, and to protect what they already have. This is not a bad thing at all. It is just not require to play that way for 90 minutes in every game at this stage of U.S. soccer development.
I remember a club owner saying that his players were not as good as Barcelona’s, so they should not even try to play a similar style. That owner did not have an answer when it was pointed out that his team would not be playing Barcelona, they would be playing teams with a similar level of player. His teams played some of the negative soccer, by choice, that I have ever seen in person.
The American player pool is better, especially in its depth, than it has been at any point in the sport’s history in this country. There are more professional clubs investing in developing their own players than ever before. Coaching education is dramatically different than it was even 20 years ago. Is there still room for improvement? Absolutely. However, to say that the player pool is not as good as 1994 or 2002 is just not true.
As Hugo Perez said, there is nothing stopping the U.S. players from playing good soccer. His run with the U15’s from 2012-2014 showed what is possible when a coach commits to a style. More coaches and clubs who choose to play an entertaining style of soccer. More people in the game need to believe in the American player and what he or she is capable of doing.
The inferiority complex that stifles American soccer sometimes prevents us from believing that our players are capable of playing good soccer. Is the American player pool on a par with the top countries in the world? No. That does not mean that we are forced to play a park the bus, kick and run, negative style of soccer. We need more coaches and administrators like Hugo Perez in the game saying, “No, we can do more.”