Too Big To Fail by Bob Ryan

 Ok….losing is one thing….but losing to a country 1/100 our size is ridiculous… some thoughts…

 First of all….I’m not a soccer guy…never played soccer a second in my life…but as an Athletic Director & announcer, I’ve seen many soccer matches….I’m not claiming that type of experience makes me an expert but….we all have our thoughts..soooo…..

 

The USA loss to Trinidad/Tobago in soccer is totally unbelievable to me. Decades ago, Americans claimed that our kids don’t start young enough…now,  “herd ball” begins around 6 years of age….then it was we don’t have enough quality coaching…so….amateur soccer …in our area called CYC (Catholic Youth Council)..was shoved aside for “select” teams…and then “academy” teams…we have all that in place and NOTHING has changed in the results…please don’t give me the “it’s too soon to tell”…we’ve been traveling down this road for decades… here’s a list of random thoughts that may …or may not…change things but I feel should be discussed by the “leaders” of the sport”…

 

This is walk on thin ice ….but here we go…

1) The training academy’s have become places for the middle to above middle class families to send their kids.  From my understanding, some of the overall leaders of these academies are making nice…very nice… incomes from these multiple “select teams”.  Make them FREE…as they were for years under the CYC format…or let the USA Committee pay the coaches, evaluators, scouts, administrators.

2) Find highly qualified evaluators who can determine…as much as possible.. potential vs “skill level”….everyone has a ceiling in their skill level…USA needs to find the kids with the world class potential…not necessarily.. the best 14 year old players.

3) Sort kids by ability not age….the age limit was devised to help teams compete.. the USA wants the kids to improve…who cares who wins these intramural games.. let the best players compete by ability…move some players up or down as their play continues to improve or levels off in performance.

4) Find ways to have kids play on their own without adults hovering over them….let them develop, practice their individual skills, moves, shots with their own creativity.

5) The traveling, select team concept has FAR too many teams….I mean are there really 500-1000 kids at every age level that “might” some day might be on the USA soccer team?…no way…. Who are we kidding?…I’m sure that all those players are good players…but being a world class player is a different animal… there are very few… Weed out the good players…develop the high potential players. Some…probably many .. parents feel that if their child plays traveling select ball…at a high cost…the payback will be that their child will “make” the HS or college team of their choice. That should NOT be the goal…the goal is to develop world class players.

6) Maybe the teams are started too early…throw the ball out there…let the kids play in small groups…6 year olds who can’t read yet are being instructed to spread out, pass the ball, kick it OOB if you’re on defense…..yada-yada-yada…you don’t see 6 year olds playing on basketball teams but we’re the best in the world.

7) A way must be found to incorporate the poor kids into these pay-to-play systems.

8) High Level Coaches from all levels—High School, College, Professional… should be holding clinics, seminars for themselves to help “grow” and share ideas about the development of players & teams.

8) Let these USA teams play more games…let them compete against professional teams or the best college teams…sure it isn’t World Cup but it seems to me that scrimmaging all the time against your teammates gets stale…play someone else.. if you lose…you have the wrong players…or coach(es). Don’t wait until Trinidad/Tobago beats you 2-1…ugh…it wasn’t even just one lucky goal.

Something has to change in the USA Soccer program….losing to large nations is one thing but…losing to tiny countries about the size of one  metropolitan city in the USA is not acceptable….We aren’t TOO big to Fail!…we are failing! Your thoughts…

 

Post Season baseball has been wild…

…managers have ditched their usual methods of the regular season…starting pitchers are relieving… relief pitchers are going longer…this makes it very exciting for the fans but…you could never use this style for 6 months of  play

….the teams that have advanced do have a strong 1-2 punch in the starting rotation

…more teams swing at the 1st pitch in the post-season

…game go too long….way too ..long…4.5 hours for 9 innings (that’s a ½ hour for every 2 innings..ugh) is NOT entertainment..at least to me…the Pearl harbor attack didn’t go that long 

…Jose Altuve is THE most exciting MLB player…he has over 200 hits for 4 straight years, has stolen over 30 bases/year for 6 straight years, has 24 HR in each of the last 2 years….he is the complete hitter…his dash around the bases from 1B with the winning run against NYY was …to me…really exciting…I’d prefer that type of action as to watching a HR sail..time & time again per game.. into the seats and the batter jogging around the bases. The excitement of the HR stems from the days when it was a rare occurrence…it’s become far too common now.

….teams that have been eliminated have to be watching the way that these post-season batters are being pitched….I would think that Aaron Judge will now see trillions of low breaking balls on the outside of the plate 

…the Cubs ability to come-from-behind wins with big, quick innings has surfaced again as they’ve won their 4th consecutive win or be eliminated series. Their “bat around” inning against Washington was a classic example of quick explosion at the plate and speed on the bases.

…Dusty Baker has now lost 14 straight series-final games and the 4th time in 6 years that the Nats won the NL East division and were bounced out in the 1st round of the playoffs…sorry…Dusty…I like you but….winning teams have to WIN a post season series once in a while…so… C U later…

..don’t be surprised if Cincinnati jumps into the free-agent waters to snatch a quality starting pitcher or two…they can hit…have some arms in the pen…now they need to get to the 7th inning. When “We’d like to get the most talented player we can get,” said Reds general manager Dick Williams. “We’ll just have to see what that money level is. I think we’d rather concentrate our resources on fewer players that have a chance to be more impactful for us than we do going out and getting a bunch of low-dollar guys.” Sounds like a pitcher to me….top candidates to me for them are Alex Cobb & Lance Lynn..both are on the lower end of the pitching pay scales…I’m choking as I write low end…I mean it is $16-$18m per year for multiple years…. and yet would be improvements for them.

 

A College Football fly-over….

…2 weeks ago, LSU was ready to fire their Coach, Ed Orgeron. Last week the Tigers upended Florida and this week they rallied from a 20 point deficit to beat #10 ranked, Auburn 27-23…now they luv him  …..the love of college football coaches by their fans reminds me of teenage romances…easy come..easy go 

….Mizzou has found an offensive threat…the deep HR ball…but the Tiger defense was toothless as Georgia played ol’ time smash mouth football all night long. At the same time, there were some inexcusable breakdowns in outside run coverage for Mizzou. Georgia turned those egregious alignments into TD runs. That type of scheming error should never happen …much less at the collegiate level.

…Five of the 13 unbeaten teams tasted their 1st defeat this weekend

…a couple special upsets…. #5 Washington fell to Arizona State 13-7…coming into the A-State game, Washington was a 17.5 point favorite due largely to the fact that Arizona State was ranked #119 in the country in team defense..the Sun Devils had surrendered more than 30 points in 11 straight games…please note the score again..13-7….Washington didn’t help their cause…their FG kicker missed FT attempts from 27 and 21 yards..generally “gimme’s” for any college and most HS kickers….the “karma” of the game manifested itself very late in the game … a 4th & 3..with all expecting a punt…A-State went for it…the Sun Devils completed a 30 yard pass that inexplicably floated  past 5 players ..2 ASU and 3 Wash players … seemingly guided by someone’s guardian angel, and was caught by the TE..it was as one writer said, “the 4th down version of a blackjack player hitting on 19 and then drawing two consecutive aces” With Washington’s cream puff schedule….their college football playoffs bubble has probably burst with the upset loss.

..then there was #2 ranked Clemson (last year’s national champs) being shocked by Syracuse 27-24… sure losing your QB,Kelly Bryant in 2nd qtr, hurt but the Tigers just made too many mistakes, personal fouls, a fake punt that failed, and a “makeable” FG missed. Further, failing to convert on only 2 of 11 3rd downs doesn’t add to offensive continuity. The defense let them down also… after pinning ‘Cuse inside the 10 yard line twice with punts, the Orangeman were able to move it out of this area with substantial drives (one helped by a Clemson 15 yd personal foul)..but Syracuse didn’t win on luck or just good fortune…they outgained Clemson 440-317 yards in the game.

…#8 Washington State was crushed by unranked California 37-3…footnote…I can’t remember both Washington teams being in the top 10 at the same time…well, this week both of them were upset.. Cal didn’t out gain Wash St by much 365-337 in total yards….it was the 7 turnovers by the Cougars that sent them wheeling  out of the unbeaten waters.

 

New Twist on Protests during National Anthem…

In Hong Kong, IT’s the FANS who are protesting during national Anthem. Those fans are very unhappy with the Chinese control in this semiautonomous city.  So Fans are booing, giving the 1 finger salute and generally making their displeasure known.  China’s authorities are already planning tough measures for these protesters..they are approving a law that prohibits disrespect of the anthem, barring the songs’ use in commercials or parodies and outlining the punishments for fans who “do not stand with respect” and “maintain a dignified bearing” when the national anthem is played.

 

Losing the “Way”…

…we’ve heard a great deal about the Cardinal way…how George Kissell & Dave Ricketts particularly…formed the ideas that should be taught at all levels….it was updated by Kissell with the Tony LaRusso staff… now farm director John Vuch keeps an updated version on his desk. Cards fans have moaned about the lack of fundamentals…Cardinal way…in the past couple years…but we aren’t the only ones who have lost “the way”…the Atlanta Braves are also “looking back” at their way that has been tarnished…they’ve been branded as cheaters and seen their organization crumble. This once proud franchise went to 15 post-season appearances in 16 years from 1991-2005.Bobby Cox was a terrific manager who was criticized for not winning the World Series often enough (he won 1 series and lost 4 others). GM  John Schuerholz & Cox worked hard, followed their scouts recommendations, played fundamental baseball…they were so good…that the Braves fans got spoiled and stopped attending regular season games….after all…there WOULD BE post-season games. Now the Braves are entangled in a real mess….sure last place team last year….the newer management (Frank Wren, John Coppolella, John Hart) didn’t follow their scouts recommendations, if you disagreed with them…you were gone…this trio had all the answers…well maybe it was all the answers on how to follow the Titanic in the baseball world….now….inappropriate signings of international players and other signings are ushering in another sad episode and the hierarchy of the Braves is in disarray…maybe .. we Cardinal fans should be grateful ..we may not agree with it all…you know that I don’t….but … our issues are solved much simplier…a couple talented players at the right times of their career and in the right spots …put us right back into the playoffs. We may be lost but the trail isn’t far away.

 

High School Focus…

…this week the Missouri high school teams open up their District competition. Using a point system through the first 9 weeks based on wins, margin of win (up to 14 pts), size of schools, record of opponents..and probably a few other areas..this point system is used to seed the teams from #1 though 8.  Then the usual 1 vs 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5 tournament schedule is established. Any loss for a team from this point onward concludes their season. There are 6 classes of teams based on size of school… not skill level.

 

Well…I’m not failing to get too big…or too long 

Comments

  1. I don’t think I could have written this any better – you nailed my key points.
    Soccer, the world over, has always been the ‘working-man’s’ sport. It has always been available to everyone – age, social class, money – not withstanding. For many it has always a release from more dire conditions and a hope for better.
    Soccer must be inclusive NOT exclusive- which it has become.
    Unfortunately, with the staggering numbers of registered participants, we still have not produced world-class players. Additionally, kids drop out at a high rate beginning around age 13, escalating at 16-18. Parents spend time and money and kids are quitting – lost interest – tired of it – no more opportunities.
    Club soccer is all about money –
    US soccer is all about money.
    Soccer needs sponsorship so the highest level players need not pay to play

    There are plenty of wonderful, successful developmental models available, but arrogance and complacency always seem to get on the way.

    St Louis soccer is really running g parallel to US soccer – we were better than we are today.

    Soccer in the US is a recreational sport – with the ultimate goal – hope of a college scholarship. We do not foster a professional mentality in our soccer process – unlike the rest of the world. On the one hand – we should have no complaints because we reap what we sow. Our complaints come from not achieving what we would like, not what we deserve.

    Soccer needs a major overhaul from top to bottom and from bottom to top. Maybe the most recent debacle might be the best thing to happen to US soccer – although with the recent comments by the out-going coach and the stubborn president of US soccer – I have my serious doubts.

    As time goes on, not much will change, mostly because it is difficult and time-consuming to change culture. Our soccer culture is firming rooted in a non-working foundation with too many ‘kool-aid’ drinkers.

    Without a doubt, it’s time for change. Time will tell – I’m not holding my breath.

  2. Joe Parisi says:

    In response to soccer in the International arena…
    US kids play multiple sports… which is good! Our world class competitors have young kids playing/ training year round. Sure, many US kids are exclusively soccer players, but many suffer burnout/ their bodies breakdown.
    The US women remain very competitive on the main stage…. perhaps the men could learn HOW they do it!

    MLB playoffs…. Houston & LA seemed poised for Fall Classic

    Mizzou… homecoming football game at 11 am, with basketball showcase following the game?
    Looks hyping fans for rounball is their priority?

  3. Bryan Rausch says:

    Go Dodgers and if they lose then Go AL in the world series!

  4. Dave Lange says:

    You made many good points in your column regarding youth soccer. The Dallas News had a good take on this at https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/soccer/soccer/2017/10/12/us-mens-national-team-fc-dallas-academy-problem
    In addition to the points you made, the Dallas News item points out that U.S. youth clubs do not receive any payment from pro clubs when a youth player signs with a pro team. In the rest of the world, a club that develops a youth player who turns pro receives a small cut from the pro team that signs him. This follows throughout the player’s career. Let’s say a kid signs with Manchester United. ManU also pays the youth club that developed him. If the player later joins another team . . . let’s say, the player goes to Fulham from ManU . . . Part of the fee Fulham pays for the player goes back to the youth club.
    This doesn’t happen in the U.S. So, when Josh Sargent from St. Louis signed with Werder Bremen in Germany a couple weeks ago, St. Louis Scott-Gallagher, which developed him in its academy program, got nothing from Werder Bremen, as far as I know.
    Imagine if the St. Louis youth clubs who have developed legions of pro soccer players over the years had been compensated for those players. This could significantly reduce, or eliminate, the pay-for-play system and allow disadvantaged kids to play.
    There is a chance that this can change. See the story in Soccer America at https://www.socceramerica.com/publications/article/75310/is-compensation-from-pros-to-us-youth-clubs-on-t.html
    Thanks again for your column.

  5. Boss, couldn’t agree with you more about long boring HE laden MLB games. Most exciting play in baseball is a triple. Love stolen bases, hit and run, squeeze plays. Those are practically gone while base runners wait to be driven home with a home run.
    On the soccer front, I took your words as a plug for CYC, thanks. I do agree burn out is a problem and select soccer has become a multi-million dollar business that many athletes can’t afford. Not sure what the answer is, but we gotta be better than this.

  6. Kevin Niewoehner says:

    Bob,

    Regarding “Too Big to Fail” you were spot on as usual. One thing that you failed to talk about is national team selection process. There seems to be a bias towards picking MLS players as opposed to selecting Americans who play for the top European clubs. Week in and week out, our foreign club players are getting better competition across the pond than in MLS. Also, why didn’t USA soccer fire our national team president? Clearly whatever he is doing is not working

  7. Bob there are a few “select” teams out there but I call them “Collect Soccer”. I have 7 grand kids playing both CYC and Collect. Collect soccer is very expensive. I try to go the games. The parents think it’s the world cup. I hear all the time… “Great Ball Jimmy” when the kid just kicks it hard and far. These clubs all have turf fields and lights and they are popping up everywhere now.
    Then there is ODP (Olympic Development Program) soccer which again is pay for soccer. Personally another scam for cash.
    Select soccer used to have a place now its anyone that can write a check. I will bet Lou Fusz makes more money in soccer that they do selling cars.

  8. Jim Leible says:

    Couldn’t be stated any better concerning USA soccer. Poorly run and doesn’t truly develop and focus on elite talent. Yet the power people make big time moolah.
    …..Take note each time Mizzou signs a football recruit. They are always 2-3 star recruits and are wanted by Tennessee State or Idaho. Pinkel mixed in enough 4 stars and coached them up way better. Odom is in over his head.
    …..If I started an mlb team my first round pick is Correa. Size, speed, power and shortstop. ….LA and Houston would be a fun series. Yet NY just won’t go away. However it would be cool to see Matt Holiday get another ring.

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