It’s time for a column on soccer.
Where do you go with this?
International? National? Local? Club vs. high school?
A few thoughts, in no particular order:
It’s a World Cup year ... but, annoyingly, the American team isn’t in the field. Kind of outrageous, isn’t it?
Team USA’s women, meanwhile, are among the globe’s most dangerous teams any time they show up on the pitch.
Where do parents take their kids to play club?
Is that “club” teaching them the sport?
Or are team directors just throwing a ball out and saying “score.” Or “play hard.” Or “we have to win the 50-50 balls.”
Parents want something for their time, money and mileage.
Once your kids master the AYSO thing, what’s next?
Searching for just the right “club” can be an unnatural move in life.
Mark July 26 on your calendar. It’s not USC vs. UCLA, or Dodgers-Angels, or Chargers-Rams, but the L.A. Galaxy will play Major League Soccer rival Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) at the Banc of California Stadium (near the L.A. Coliseum).
This Battle of L.A. is part of the 105th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. For American soccer fans, while World Cup is taking place, it’s all they have left.
Pro soccer has a growing foothold in Southern California. Lots of investors. Lots of media. Lots of fans filling those stadiums.
Both clubs, Galaxy and LAFC, have youth Academy teams.
Academy teams are what SoCal youth should be shooting for. It’s the best of the best.
By the way, good game officials are hard to come by. Very hard. If you’ve got the strength, stamina, rules knowledge, strong judgment, experience and a feel for the sport, get on board.
An “average” official can ruin high level soccer matches.
Sure is comical, though, to watch an average parent shout down an official — club, college or high school. Part of the game, I suppose, to try and “win” a call from a ref by screaming at everything, every whistle, every bump, every corner, every attack.
No soccer column from this area is worth anything unless the name of Landon Donovan is mentioned. Donovan played on USA’s World Cup, its Olympic team, winning multiple Major League Soccer Honda Player of the Year awards.
During his MVP frosh season at Redlands High, Donovan was part of a brilliant soccer prep quarterfinals match in 1995 against visiting Alta Loma. On that Braves’ team was a senior named Carlos Bocanegra.
End result: Redlands prevailed on penalty kicks on that day.
Ten years later, Bocanegra and Donovan wound up teammates on Team USA’s World Cup roster.
Then there’s Rob Becerra, a high school product from Aquinas and San Gorgonio. As coach at the University of Redlands, his plan lifted the Bulldogs to the NCAA Division 3 championship game back in 2001. That was no small achievement, folks.
A couple years back, Bulldog coach Ralph Perez landed Redlands in the Division 3 Final Four.
Donovan, for his part, was asked by national talk radio host Dan Patrick a couple weeks back about a possible national coach to attack this nation’s problem.
“A bunch of guys you don’t know,” was his reply, perhaps side-stepping the answer.
Good news for Team USA, though. By 2026, which will be jointly hosted by the Canadians, Mexicans and the United States, the Cup field will increase from 32 to 48 teams.
Team USA has two ways of qualifying. They get an “automatic” berth merely by hosting. With 48 nations in the field, few can see any way of not qualifying.
Right now, we’re worried about 2022.
The Americans are in plenty of trouble, trying to land a spot among the Germans and Brazilians, Italians and Englanders, plus Argentina, Mexico and a few other nations normally known as Cup contenders.
It’s just never been the case for America, which owns just about every major sport on the international horizon.
That World Cup count of 32 nations, incidentally, doesn’t always include the best 32 teams. Americans can feel good about that. Team USA’s better than some of those nations. We’re just not sure which ones.
When Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann controversially cut Donovan from the World Cup team in 2014, it likely sealed his fate. During his playing days for Germany, Klinsmann played himself to No. 6 in all-time World Cup scoring.
I heard nothing but screams coming from American soccer followers after that move. I wonder what Klinsmann saw that he cut Donovan?
Is it possible that Donovan could be part of Team USA’s solution?
I’ve called for Becerra to be part of the national team committee before.
He turned it around at Redlands. He recruited top-playing athletes to a spot that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. That’s not just coaching talent. That’s organizational skills.
Donovan’s among the top Team USA scorers while playing international matches.
Donovan? Becerra? Can those guys be the answer?