Aug 31, 2010

The Emma Hayes Effect? Washington Freedom's Amazing Turnaround

The Washington Freedom has found a new focus and have gone from 10 straight win less games to 5 games without a loss and battling for the 4th and final playoff spot.

Emma Hayes

At home on August 28 versus Sky Blue FC the Freedom came away with a very important 2-1 win in a battle for the final playoff spot as the WPS season winds down.

So, can we assume Emma Hayes the missing link?

In response to the question: "Was Emma Hayes the missing link for the Washington Freedom?" Hayes said:
It's nice to feel useful and helping the team get organized but Jim [Gabarra] and the girls deserve all the credit. Spirit and character is what they have in abundance.
The Washington Freedom added former Chicago Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes to the coaching staff as a "soccer consultant" following a ten game win less streak earlier this season. To learn about her coaching philosophy and influence check out these videos:

After watching the USMNT vs. Brazil game a few weeks back, I can appreciate her using the Brazilian style of play as an influence. It works for Marta, Cristian, and the other Brazilian women so maybe it has changed the style of play on the field with the Freedom over the last five games. Hopefully Hayes has brought enough to the staff to help the team keep their spot in the top four WPS playoff teams.

Whether or not Emma Hayes is directly responsible for the Freedom's turnaround, there is no denying we have seen an entirely new team over the last month during this amazing push towards the playoffs.

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 7 of 7 - In Retrospect

In Retrospect

Soccer in the 1940's and 1950's was basically a big-city sport, particularly in the ethnic enclaves, in direct contrast to the growth of the soccer phenomenon after Pele arrived in the mid-1970's. This later growth period, triggered by the North American Soccer League’s success, the play of Pele, Beckenbauer, and Chinaglia, among others, had its greatest successes in America’s suburbs. By this time, many of the ethnic groups had abandoned the cities. Their kids, along with other suburban kids whose parents had never seen a game of soccer, became the basis for our recent soccer explosion of the last 20 years.

new york cosmos players

The sole exception is the young Hispanic and Caribbean player living in the inner-city, often without a youth team, soccer shoes, or good soccer balls. These kids are on the urban, inner-city playgrounds going 1 v 1 like their counterparts from Kensington half a century ago. What they need is a Lighthouse Boys Club, fields to play on, and organized soccer when they are ready so they can make their mark on the game and enjoy it.

The future of soccer in America’s white, suburban areas and small towns, a recent phenomenon, seems assured. The game has attracted millions of youngsters and their parents new to soccer. It can only grow. But the future of soccer in America is also in America’s cities, with predominantly African-American youths untouched by soccer and Hispanic kids seeking outlets for their talents. Their future in the sport is more problematic.

Ironically, our nation’s inner cities, just as they were when we were playing on the streets of Kensington, are once again America’s future in soccer. We played because we saw something in the game we liked. As urban, low-income kids, we mastered a skill, we worked together on teams, we traveled to other cities, and we grew with the sport. We left the neighborhood, primarily because of the exposure from soccer to a larger world, but the neighborhood never left us. If we can instill this same spirit in today’s urban youth, our future as a soccer-playing nation holds great promise.

To read the entire piece written by Len Oliver of DC Stoddert select the links for parts 1 - 7.
Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Has U.S. Soccer Bought Future Success or Mediocrity with Bob Bradley Extension? announced Monday, August 30, that Bob BradleyBob Bradley Photo has signed a four-year contract extension to remain the coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Bob Bradley
Following the 2010 World Cup there had been a lot of talk on soccer message boards and around the Internet regarding rumors of Bradley coaching a European team (i.e. Fulham, Aston Villa). There was also plenty "experts" debating whether or not Bradley was the right coach for the USMNT moving forward and was he solely responsible for their performance and the US teams results in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup?

soccer t-shirt
In my opinion Bob Bradley did the best he could have done with a very small talent pool (most soccer fans would agree the US is still having trouble producing international level talent with exception of Goalkeepers). Add to the limited availability of quality players the fact that Oguchi Onyewu, the defenses anchor, was still recovering from his ruptured patellae tendon injury and Charlie Davies did not fully recover from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in October 2009 causing him to not even be selected for the World Cup roster. Bradley was forced to fill his roster with unproven players in Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez. Neither of whom made much of an impact.

Some may say that the coaches that have come before Bradley like Bruce Arena (1998–2006), Steve Sampson (1995–1998), and Bora Milutinović (1991–1995) had even less talent to draw from. I agree that the level of US soccer talent has grown over the last 20 years but so has the rest of the world which means Bob Bradley's teams faced tougher international competition. Bradley led the US team to an excellent performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup with a win over Spain who is playing in the World Cup Final. So I say lets recognize the excellent job done by Bob Bradley (51.92% of poll voters agree) and hope that the US Men's team can continue to develop a deeper and more talented roster for future international competitions so that soccer/football/futbol will finally get some respect here in America.
  • Bradley coached U.S. to First Place in Group C at 2010 FIFA World Cup, Captured 2007 Gold Cup and First Place in CONCACAF Qualifying
  • Holds Career Record of 38-21-8; Led U.S. to First FIFA Tournament in Final at 2009 Confederations Cup


Aug 30, 2010

Interview with former MLS All-Star and DC United Goalkeeper, Mike Ammann

The following interview was conducted by Glenn Robertson owner of academyGK. Glenn recently spent time chatting with Mike Amman, former MLS All-Star and DC United goalkeeper. Currently Ammann runs 24/7 goalkeeper academy in Northern Virginia.

Glenn was chosen to interview Mike due to their similar backgrounds as keepers at high levels and experience in training goalkeepers. Glenn Robertson is a true soccer entrepreneur, his is involved in soccer is as follows:

  • Goalkeeper Coach
  • Owner academyGK
  • Inventor of the RESPONSEBALL
  • Semi-Professional Goalkeeper

Mike Ammann

Glenn Robertson for VASoccerNews:
So what are you up to today Mike? Coaching?

Mike Ammann:
No I wish, the goalkeeper academy is out of love for the game and the desire to get my oldest son the coaching he needs.

And when did you stop playing?

I retired from playing pro through injury in 2001, contract was up end of 2002.

At what age? Where had you played?

Retired in 2002, age 30.
  • Charlton Athletic, (94-96)
  • Kansas City Wizards (96-98)
  • New York MetroStars (99-2000)
  • DC United (2001/2002)
So what was your story from school, high school, college; how you came to England and then why you returned to USA?

I played in college at Cal State Fullerton. We played in the college final four my last year and was spotted by a director for Charlton. I went on trial for two weeks in the spring of 1994. I played versus Luton and QPR for reserves at Charlton and was offered two year deal. MLS started in 1996 and I was asked to come back and start the league. Looking back now I should have stayed with Charlton but at the time I thought it was the right thing to do.

So why come back to USA? Some might say England Premiership is the place to be.

Some might say? Call me an immature kid at the time that didn't realize the opportunity that was presented to me in the UK.

Indeed yes. So you regret the move?

I learned more about the game in those two years than in my entire career. I think I should’ve stayed in the UK, but I don't regret anything I've ever done.

Good, no regrets!

I wish I could have gone back at a older age to truly appreciate it.

What did you learn in the UK?

I learned that the game means so much more to people. Folks in the UK eat, sleep, and breath the game.

And they don’t in the USA? Not even some places now with it being the most played game in the USA?

We have too many other sports that pay a lot of money to attract the best athletes in the US. We have great participation at the youth level because the sport is a healthy option. We end up losing kids to other sports as they reach high school.

OK interesting. And what about your goalkeeping experience specifically, how do you compare your playing in the Us to the UK?

In the UK you best be strong in the air. The game is played at a faster level and your decision making is forced to be much quicker. In the MLS, which has grown leaps and bounds in talent since 1996, the game is still played at a quick pace but possession is preferred over say the English first division.

Strong in the air? Do you get left alone more in the US, but in the UK there is more contact?

Goalkeepers in England are constantly involved and it's a great place for a goalkeeper. I would say there is more contact due to the referees allowing it to happen.

O.K., so what about how you were coached in the US at high school and college? Then in the UK and back in the MLS?

I grew up with an English coach, then in college my brother was my coach as well as Zac Abdel (current US Soccer goalkeeper coach. In MLS I had 3 great but different goalkeeper coaches. Alan Mayer was old school, focused on handling which was great. In the UK I only was able to work one day a week with Bob Bolder, sometimes not even that often. But you learned more because of the pressure of your teammates and the environment.

Wow, the rest of the time you were involved in the team training?

You played for your spot every single day in the UK. Having 3 pros that could all get a game at any time kept you on top of your game. In the US, you typically have a starter and your backup knows his role and typically doesn't play that often. Yes involved with team training a ton. Things have changed now with more and more goalkeeper coaches that are dedicated to the team.

Indeed! So, tell us about your own motivation to start coaching. When did you start? Who for and then why into 24/7?

I've coached since I was in school and have always enjoyed helping goalkeepers learn.

My son started playing in goal and I realized there was a lack of quality goalkeeper coaches in our area.
I always coached for club teams and did personal training but I wanted to have more reach. There is so much competition within each club that most clubs don't want you training other gk's from other clubs.

I wanted to help with as many young players that are motivated to reach the next level as possible. In a short time we have already worked with some quality gk's. One just left today for England and West Ham's academy. He's 14 and has some great potential.

I wanted something consistent and this is why I opened 24/7. Too many goalkeepers are neglected during their team training sessions and I wanted to focus on this specific position. Currently there are 3 coaches but we are expanding.

Excellent, how many nights a week do you coach and what programs do you offer?

I am looking at quality and not quantity at this stage. Too many folks have programs that lose that personal feel and I don't want to be a part of that. Right now we are doing two nights a week but we will look to add to that. I am working on a facility right now that will allow us indoor space so we can avoid weather issues.

That is exactly the right approach, in my opinion, too many goalkeeper 'coaches' are looking to pack kids in and make a few bucks. BUT by doing that you are not giving the keepers the attention they deserve right?

I have some friends around the country that we might expand to as well. I feel that kids are learning much more in small groups where I can work on their strengths and weaknesses.

I like to focus on the little things, anyone can set up flags, hurdles and a goal and run a session, but can you actually point out mistakes that are made or how to fine tune what the keeper is doing. That is where I feel I add a value.

I have always been a student of the game and the position so I think I have a great understanding on what a keeper needs.

Yes for me its about repetition and habit forming for good technique, understanding the role of the goalkeeper and most important is enjoyment!

I talk with my goalkeepers about my time in New York. Tim Howard was my backup for two years when he was young. He was five times that athlete I was so I needed to work on my footwork and positioning and truly understand the game. I constantly worked on my communication and organizing the back four.

If I had Timmy's athleticism combined with my knowledge of the game, I might have been a world class keeper.

Yes. I have the same thoughts about my own goalkeeping 'career'!

True, I am hard on my keepers but also find that line where you are encouraging them and rewarding them all while putting them through a challenging session.

Too many times goalkeeper coaches are too easy and then young keepers don't know how to step their level up when they reach a higher level. Attention to details is critical in my mind.

OK so what does the future hold Mike Ammann?

Well I am hopeful that I can help develop the next crop of American goalkeepers, my son being one of them. He will be 14 in October and has ambitions of being a pro. Hopefully I can build 24/7 into something that I am proud of and the goalkeepers that are a part of it take pride in.

For MLS, I hope that public continues to take to it. The game means so much to me and to see it become a major sport in the US would be unreal.

It's great to see US goalkeepers doing well, we seem to continue to produce them as I think we have great athletes in this country.

When I was in the US coaching in 2001, seeing the talent there, I predicted that the US would win the World Cup before England! We're on target for that at the moment!

The future is bright for the Nat's and I think if we can focus on the youth structure, I think we will get there. We have some great young players coming up through the system, I just hope the system can keep up with them.

OK, so now for the fun stuff, what was your favorite glove brand growing up and now?

Reusch growing up was always tops in my mind and still is. In England I endorsed Umbro, then Reebok and Adidas in MLS. Currently with 24/7 we have Under Armour apparel and Reusch gloves.

Favorite boots?

Boots I was always a fan of Adidas World Cups, simple and reliable. Now I obviously am a big fan of Under Armour!

Of course! Family?

Wife, Gina, 3 kids. Boys are Arie (13), Nico (10) and my daughter Dylann (8). Dog Deuce (Weimeraner), thinks he's our kid as well.

Favorite goalkeeper now and idol growing up?

Peter Shilton then Schmeichel. Now it's kind of a toss up between Buffon and Van Der Sar. Hopefully Hart can continue his form, he's got a great future ahead if so.

What team do you follow?

Charlton is always the first score I check. Hope they can get back up a few levels soon. Chelsea are my other fave, I'll get plenty of boos for this but you can blame Scott Minto for that. We met while I was on trial with Charlton and then he got sold to Chelsea. I spent a lot of time at the Bridge.

Favorite food?

My wife's pasta and a cold beer or margarita.

Favorite Holiday location?

Vacation spot would be any lake that we can take our motorhome to.

Any words of wisdom on the people reading this...goalkeeping or otherwise?

If they are serious about goalkeeping they need to come see me. I'll be hosting more camps in the near future and we will be in more areas. I'd also like to come over to England and see what folks are up to over there.

Always looking to learn!

VASoccerNews would like to thank both Glenn Robertson of academygk in th UK as well as Mike Ammann of 24/7 goalkeeper Acadamy here in Northern Virginia.

Aug 25, 2010

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 6 of 7 - The Pro Game in the Early 1950s

The Pro Game in the Early 1950's

Philadelphia Pro Soccer

As young players in the ‘40s, we often watched the Philadelphia Americans and the Philadelphia Nationals—our local pro teams in the old American Soccer League. Eventually we trained with the pros as we moved up the soccer ladder. By the time we signed with the pros in the mid-’50s, Bahr, McLaughlin, Hynes, and our heroes from our junior days were well-established stars. For Americans, Bahr and McLaughlin had no equals. We learned from both--Bahr with his end-to-end hustle, his ball control, his long accurate passes, his 40-yard throws, his take-charge leadership, and his powerful shots on goal. The smaller McLaughlin inspired us with his finesse, dribbling opponents one-on-one throughout the game--lithe, snaking through defenses, setting up other attackers with deadly through passes, a little guy taking on the biggest defenders, bouncing up from bruising tackles, and also possessing a devastating shot.

I joined the Philadelphia Uhrik Truckers, named after owner Tony Uhrik, a Philadelphia trucking magnate, in 1955. The “Truckers” had taken the old Philadelphia Americans’ franchise, and won back-to-back American Soccer League titles in 1955 and 1956. Jimmy Mills, the ageless Haverford University coach who recently passed away at 96, coached the Uhriks. I’ll always remember Jimmy’s Scottish accent booming out, “Give it a bit more ginger, lads.”

The ASL was semi-pro, the only recognized professional league In the U.S. at the time. Players were also in the old German-American League (GAL) in New York “under the table,” but the “pros” were in the ASL.

The “modern ASL,” formed in 1933 with exclusive rights from the USSF to operate professional soccer on the Eastern seaboard, by mid-1950 was on reasonably solid footing. The ASL had initiated its foreign tours in 1946, earning money from the games. Dominated by New York and Philadelphia teams, the ASL represented with the GAL, the peak of soccer in the eastern U.S. at the time. Ethnic teams like New York Hakoah. Brooklyn Hispano, Newark Portuguese, Newark Ukrainians, and Ludlow Luisitano competed along¬side American-grown talent from the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas. In the mid-‘50s, there was nowhere else to go to play top-level soccer in the U.S.--at least on the East coast. The other top amateur leagues in the country were the National Soccer League of Chicago, St. Louis Major League, and the Greater Los Angeles League. All of these except for the ASL and St. Louis Leagues remain active to this day.

The ASL contributed to the growth of U.S. soccer by keeping the pro game alive until the upsurge in pro teams in the late ‘60s, bringing foreign teams to play the ASL All-Stars and each other, and providing players for the U.S. National Teams. The ASL attracted hundreds of coaches, referees, administrators, and spectators who later would become the basis for the growth of pro soccer.

The Philadelphia pro teams often attracted several thousand spectators in this soccer-hungry town, whereas away games were often played before sparse crowds with little media attention in dusty ovals. For example, the Brooklyn Hispano played on a cinder field which served as a parking lot during the week, with the tire tracks often making the path of the ball unpredictable. Metropolitan Oval in New York’s Bronx was often our destination after a three-hour drive where we played rain or shine before several hundred standing and often hostile spectators. Being on the touch line, the fans could yell at both opposing players and officials indiscriminately. After these games, we often had to exit in a circle, fists at the ready, as fans tried to get at us, forgoing the single shower to jump in our cars for the long ride home. The referee disappeared equally as fast.

Whatever criticisms have been leveled at the ASL, thousands of youngsters had heroes to emulate and exciting soccer to watch. We could shoot for a pro spot after college, as some of us did, to continue our playing. We could watch world-class foreign teams, marveling at their skills and speed. It was the best soccer around for the period, and American-born players more than held their own. The ASL also kept pro soccer alive until the mid-’60s arrival of the new professional leagues--the United Soccer Association (1967), the National Professional Soccer League (1967), and then the North American Soccer League (1968).

To read the entire piece written by Len Oliver of DC Stoddert select the links for parts 1 - 7 or click here for the entire piece.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Aug 23, 2010

Where are they now? Big Names in Virginia Soccer History - Claudio Reyna

Claudio Reyna

Many U.S. and University of Virginia soccer fans remember former US National team, New York Red Bull, and UVA player Claudio Reyna.

Back before Landon Donovan was the biggest name in US soccer, Claudio Reyna was widely considered one of the greatest players from the United States. Reyna played on three U.S. world cup squads in 1998, 2002, and 2006 as well as two Olympic teams in 1992 and 1996.

While on the men’s soccer team at the University of Virginia from 1991-1994 Reyna played for head coach Bruce Arena, who of course went on to coach the men’s national team. They combined to win three national championships at UVA.

After his amazing college career Reyna went to Europe and played for Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City before returning in 2007 to join MLS side New York Red Bulls.
Currently Claudio Reyna is busy running the Claudio Reyna Foundation whose mission statement is “to Invest, Instill, and Inspire underprivileged youth in urban communities by providing positive experiences through Education, Community Involvement, and Soccer that grow healthy bodies, minds, and spirits. He was also named US Youth Soccer Technical Director by USSF in April 2010. Reyna is married, has three sons and one daughter, and now lives in Bedford, N.Y.

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 5 of 7 High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs

High School and College Soccer: Products of the Clubs

Philadelphia High School Soccer

Just as today, high school soccer in Philadelphia in the ‘40s and early ‘50s reflected club soccer. All the public schools and many of the private schools had soccer teams, but the schools in the neighborhoods with ethnic strongholds dominated the high school scene. At Northeast H.S., for example, where most of the Lighthouse products went, including Bahr and other pros of the day, we ran the school’s unbeaten string to 96 games, with 63 straight shutouts--a run that lasted over 10 years. City titles, All-Scholastic representatives, All-Star games--all came to the street-smart youngsters who came out of the Lighthouse Boys Club. The annual All-Star match with New York’s high school stars would draw 3,000 spectators, with the teams playing for the Oldtimers’ “Old Shoe” Award. No girls played club soccer, and no high schools had girls teams. We would have to wait 30 years for the high schools to adopt girls’ soccer, when in a different age more and more club players and their parents demanded equality with boys’ soccer, spurred by Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972.

Soccer was a sport dominated by the club structure. You cannot develop a player in high school, you can only further talents already developed and raise a player’s awareness of the game. This fact was often lost on the media, so accustomed to focusing on high school and college games while ignoring where the real soccer is played. The same holds true today. Our high school games would draw 500 fans, and over 5,000 came out for the City Title Game, usually pitting Northeast against Girard College, a school for orphans known for its soccer talents.

The College Game

Philadelphia liked its soccer, and the college game reflected the strength of Philadelphia youth soccer. All the local colleges fielded strong teams--Temple, University of Pennsylvania, LaSalle, and Drexel leading the way. Many of the Lighthouse-Northeast H.S. contingent received full scholarships to Temple, one of approximately 90 varsity programs around the country in the early ‘50s. The strongest teams, like Temple, the University of San Francisco, Queens College, and Penn State University were fed by the influence of urban youngsters, while in the Ivy League, New England’s prep schools provided the talent. No women’s varsity soccer programs existed.

On New Years Day in 1950, the nation witnessed the First College Soccer Bowl, bringing perennial powers Penn State and USF to St. Louis in a game that ended in a 2-2 tie. The schools were declared Co-Champions. Cross-sectional rivalry had become a reality, giving a great boost to college soccer.

College soccer history was made in 1951 when our Temple Owls met USF in the Second Soccer Bowl in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium before 10,000 fans--the largest crowd to see a college soccer game in the U.S. The game attracted outstanding media coverage, accounting for the attendance. We flew cross-country on a 24-hour flight. Coach Pete Leaness asked me to captain the team from my center half position, an honor for a freshman. We defeated USF 2-0 with Ed Tatoian scoring both goals, and Temple was named National Champions. No more Soccer Bowls were held until 1959 when the NCAA began its formal playoff system.

The kids from the streets of Kensington and the playing fields of Lighthouse transferred their skills and competitiveness to college soccer, with Temple losing only three games in the four years I played. Some of the local teams such as Drexel and Penn were very strong, bolstered by the ethnic neighborhood players, but Temple dominated Philadelphia college soccer. We were again declared National Champions in 1953, after an unbeaten season.

During my freshman year at Temple, we played the traditional 2-3-5, but moved in subsequent years to the W-M. We essentially put ourselves on the field, ran the practices, and rarely played less than the full 90 minutes. Each year, we watched as new varsity teams sprang up across the country, so by 1955 when I graduated from Temple there were 125 college soccer programs in 31 states. One year later, there were 171 college teams, with another 100 playing club soccer. The college game was on its way, fueled by American-born youngsters.

The early ‘50s were also a time of experimentation in college soccer. Up to this time, college soccer had followed FIFA’s Laws. In 1951, the colleges introduced the “kick-in” to replace the throw-in, a change benefiting the inferior teams. They essentially received a free kick instead of the normal throw-in, thereby taking a restart tactic out of the college game.

Other experiments, short-lived, included an arc 18 yards out instead of the penalty area. Free substitution was the norm, allowing less skilled but fit “runners” to come in off the bench and affect the game. Colleges also played 22-minute quarters, and referees employed the two-man system, enabling older referees--and there were many--to remain in the game a few years longer. For example, my neighbor and dear friend, Jimmy Walder, refereed high school and college games well into his 80s.

The college referees came basically from the amateur ranks, all former players, who tolerated no abuse, but who let the players play and work out their differences on the field--where they belong. In one memorable, hard-fought game between traditional rivals Temple and Penn State for the National Championship in 1953, play became so heated that one Temple player broke his leg and several others were carted off. The referees, Walder and Harry Rogers, both from Philadelphia, called time and brought both teams to mid-field. “You’re getting our first warning--all of you,” said Walder sternly. “Next time you’re gone.” Players settled down, just as intense, but fair and the teams belted it out in a 2-0 Temple victory without any more trouble. It was the only time in my career that all 22 players had received what amounted to a “yellow card” in today’s language.

When we left Temple, we finally split up the “Lighthouse connection,” some of us going into the Armed Forces, some to the pros, some back to the amateur leagues, and some coaching. Almost all of us stayed in the game into our 30s, often competing with and occasionally against each other.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Tourney Could Help Save Lives

Although VASoccerNews mainly focuses on soccer, I needed to share something that is very important to me. An amazing friend of mine, Alyson Pollard, has a brother that has battled bravely and proudly against a tough opponent - neuroblastoma.

The following article discuses his battle and how you can easily help support Nicks' battle just by golfing. Thanks for reading the article below and to Alyson, Nick and their family please know that you are always with us in our thoughts and you all are amazing people!

Re-Poster with permission of
By Bonnie Hobbs
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Original article: CLICK HERE

A bright, well-rounded young man, 20-year-old Nick Franca appears to have a bright future ahead of him. The 2009 graduate of Centreville High has a warm, close-knit family, a steady girlfriend and a semester of college under his belt.

He also has neuroblastoma – the same, incurable childhood cancer that 3-year-old Chantilly toddler Rachel D'Andrea is battling. And just like Rachel, he's currently hospitalized in New York and receiving treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The families of both Rachel and Nick – as well as other local families in the same situation – hope doctors can get their children's cancers under control enough so they can receive a course of treatment with a particular antibody that has the potential to help them. But it's extremely expensive to produce, so the families have joined together to raise the money they need.

Toward that end, they're holding the Band of Parents Charity Golf Tournament, Monday, Sept. 20, at Bristow Manor Golf Club in Bristow. Registration is at 11 a.m., with the shotgun start at noon, followed by dinner, awards and a raffle. The cost is $150/player and includes golf, cart and food.

Although the event has so far received a good response, sponsors and foursomes are still urgently needed. Band of Parents ( is a nonprofit, so all donations are tax-deductible.

Participants must sign up by Friday, Sept. 10. For sponsorship information, plus registration forms for the tournament, contact Amber Yost at or 703-594-2031.

FRIENDLY AND outgoing, Nick was an active teen who enjoyed golfing, himself, as well as fishing and water skiing. But in August 2005, doctors discovered a malignant neuroblastoma on his spine. "The average age of diagnosis for this is 2," said his mom, Caryn. "So no one could imagine a 15 1/2-year-old would have it."

Her son had no symptoms, at all, yet there it was, turning his world upside down. Suddenly, said Franca, "This handsome, vigorous boy with a gentle nature was plunged into the nightmare of a lethal, childhood cancer."

Nick, who'd never even had a serious illness, was in Stage 4 cancer that had invaded his bones, bone marrow and lymph nodes. His parents had learned from friend Meg Crossett — whose daughter Rachel died of neuroblastoma in 2001 at age 6 — that the most advanced treatment for it is at Sloan-Kettering.

"So Nick and I lived in a Ronald McDonald House in New York from August 2005 to May 2006 so he could be treated there," said Caryn Franca. "We gave up everything to save his life, and he endured chemotherapy, radiation and another surgery."

Once in remission, Nick participated in a clinical trial unique to Sloan Kettering, using a 3F8 mouse antibody to teach his body to fight any microscopic disease left behind. Nick had 11 rounds of it, from April 2006 to May 2007, and it enabled him to stay cancer-free for a year.

But his disease came back in May 2007, and Sloan's lead researcher, Dr. Nai-Kong Cheung, told parents of neuroblastoma patients that, if the antibody could instead come from human sources, treatment with it might be more successful and could be made available to more children. That way, explained Franca, doctors might be able to genetically alter this antibody to match the DNA of Nick and other children.

The problem, she said, is that neuroblastoma is considered an "orphan" cancer, so it receives little funding. "There are fewer than 600 cases a year in the U.S.," said Franca. "But the Washington, D.C., area seems to have a larger-than-normal diagnosis rate. Right now, there are over 30 children here in active treatment."

So when the parents asked what they could do, Cheung told them to try to raise money. About $3 million is needed to get the improved antibody into production.

"But we don't have years to wait," said Franca. "So about 60 families formed a group called Band of Parents to raise the money."

FOR AWHILE, Nick was able to keep his disease at bay and happily go on with his life. After high-school graduation, he attended Lynchburg College for a semester, met his girlfriend Kelly Embley, of Virginia Run – and then relapsed again.

Now, once more, he finds himself in a hospital far from home. His parents and Westfield High grad Kelly have stayed by his side, and friends from Centreville and Clifton – where the Francas have lived for more than 30 years – have traveled to New York to donate the platelets and white blood cells that Nick needs.

He's currently receiving chemotherapy – which also takes a toll on his body, and it's been wrenching for his loved ones to see him so ill. Kelly went home to Radford for a couple days to pack up her apartment and, when she returned, Nick was in the throes of a fever.

Last Monday, Aug. 9, Franca wrote in her son's CaringBridge journal: "Kelly has had a rough few days adjusting to seeing Nick so weak. This is hard for all of us, but to have found the love of your life and then to watch him suffer so is just too much to take in, sometimes. When you go home and come back, the drastic contrast of the two worlds is just so hard. She is so young to be walking this unbelievable path, and yet she does, as hard as it is. Nick squeezes her hand and says, ‘You are my medicine.’"

Still, each new day brings a new battle and a new problem or complication for him to overcome. Yet Nick does his best to stay positive and upbeat. Franca does, too, although sometimes her frustration – coupled with a mother’s desperate yearning for her child to get better – spills out.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, she wrote, "I need Nick to gain weight, get strong, get this damn cancer under control. We need miracles!" But always aware that others are also waging this same fight, she added, "Many other warriors besides us are in need of miracles. New treatments are the only hope for many of us."

And that's where the upcoming golf tournament comes in. Franca hopes it’ll yield $20,000 to $30,000 toward the cause. "I am blown away by the people stepping up to sponsor that don't even really know Nick," she said. "Now we need the players to send in their forms."

"I can't tell you where my head would be if I didn’t believe that the treatment Band of Parents is funding is actually going to be available to Nick, as an option, in the next six months," continued Franca. "From here to there is very tough, but so is Nick. He shows us every day just how much he wants to live his life. May everyone have Nick's desire to fight just to have a life. Thanks to everyone for everything – it keeps us going."

Aug 20, 2010

PUMA & VASoccerNews Project Pink Photo Contest


puma project pink

Puma Football together with VASoccerNews announce the project pink photo contest! Winner gets a pair of PUMA soccer boots as well as one of the PUMA Project Pink "Official" Match Balls (unused). These match balls aren't available for purchase -- very exclusive. Plus PUMA will send them to the stadium to support the Washington Freedom.

  • PUMA PowerCat 2.10 Women's Soccer Cleats or PUMA PowerCat 1.10 Men's Soccer Cleats
  • Official PUMA Project Pink Match Ball
To enter, simply submit your best photo of you in your "pink gear". Three semi-finalist will be selected and our readers will vote for one winner.

To support PUMA Project Pink join VASoccerNews and Washington Freedom fans on August 28th vs. Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

The Boston Breakers, Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC, FC Gold Pride, Washington Freedom, and Chicago Red Stars Women's Professional Soccer Teams have all nominated their favorite charities…now it's YOUR turn!

Tell us which 501(c)3 non-profit you think deserves to win the PUMA Project Pink profits and why. Check out the gallery to see what charities have already been nominated!  

to enter the contest email your pictures to:


The Revolution Has Begun (American Soccer Revolution)

This is a guest post by J. Palmer. He is the Philanthropist of the American Game and is promoting an American Soccer Revolution.

Twitter: @thebeauTfulgame

The United States is 2 or 3 World Cups away from being serious contenders, if we change the way we play the game, now. We need to bring America to the beautiful game. Our country has always made its own way, but when it comes to soccer we are trying to find our place within the world’s game. Not only will we not win like this. It will continue to be difficult to bring in better athletes and new fans.

Soccer is one of the first sports our youth play. Where are we losing them and why? I believe it has to do with the way it is presented. Soccer is the game you play when you first decide to play organized sports. It gives the kids a chance to run around but, no one really takes it seriously. When children are first introduced to football, basketball, baseball etc., it is intense from the word go. We have to do the same with soccer.
In a country where football is the game of choice, we can’t have players diving; rolling on the ground when the replay shows they weren’t even touched. It goes back to the old American sayings “rub some dirt on it” or “walk it off.” This is what is meant by bringing America to the beautiful game.

The Philanthropist of the American Game (P.A.G.) is committed to doing this, giving the American game an identity. Every sport in America has had some sort of innovation. It’s time to innovate soccer. I refuse to believe that our play in the 2010 World Cup is the best we can do. We can play with skill on the ball; have dangerous free kick takers, beautiful passes and the toughness we as Americans are known for. We just don’t teach it that way, until now.

How do I plan on spreading the message? I will spread the message through websites such as VaSoccerNews, FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube commercials if I have to. The style of play and mentality that will be presented is one that entices “athletes” to come play the sport, not just soccer players. What is the style? The style will be fast, physical, athletic and smart. Soon you will have the mind of Peyton Manning commanding the Midfield, the athleticism of Dwayne Wade at the Striker position and the range and leadership of Derek Jeter at Center Back. And they will play and stay in America.

The long term goal for P.A.G. is to be a symbol of American soccer. By wearing it either on your uniforms or just your day to day attire, it will mean you believe in a better brand of soccer. A brand only we as Americans are capable of playing.

The long term goal for me is to coach. I will teach the game. I am a firm believer of leading by example. If I want my team in shape, I will be in shape. If I want them to remain calm under adversity, I must do the same.

The 2010 World Cup showed us we are ready to compete. It’s time to take the next step.

I am the Philanthropist of the American Game. You can be too.

The Revolution Has Begun

Aug 19, 2010

Upcoming Soccer Coaching Education Opportunities near Virginia, D.C., and Maryland

With the upcoming Fall Soccer Season upon us there are sure to be many parents that will be coaching soccer for the first time.

If you have volunteered or been volunteered to coach a youth soccer team and are looking for training and education options here is a list of usefull courses you can sign up to take in the Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland area.


Youth Level I - Severna Park, MD

Special Topics Diploma - College Park, MD
Special Topics Diploma - Baltimore, MD


"E" Certification Course - Virginia Beach,VA
"E" Certification Course - Alexandria, VA
"F" Certification Course - Norfolk, VA
"F" Certification Course - Virginia Beach, VA
"F" Certification Course - Danville, VA

"E" Certification Course - Haymarket, VA
"F" Certification Course - Washington, D.C.
"F" Certification Course - Vienna, VA
"F" Certification Course - McLean, VA
"F" Certification Course - Mechanicsville, VA
"F" Certification Course - Virginia Beach, VA

"E" Certification Course - Washington, D.C.

Aug 18, 2010

New Nike Soccer Ad - 'Play like an American'

It's about time!

Youth soccer player helps to give hope to her opponents.

Before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa took over the soccer news landscape there was the story of the Haiti U-17 girls National Soccer Team.

ESPN had done an amazing story about the struggles and adversity these young women on the Haitian U-17 National Soccer Team faced. They explored their effort to qualify for the U-17 CONCACAF competition, how the players were coping with the loss of their head coach, and most importantly what would come of these young ladies once they returned home to Haiti. Many of the players were homeless and without a family due to the destruction caused to their country from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010 just 15 miles outside of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

In the end the girls from Haiti gave their very best but did not qualify and returned home. I wondered along with my wife "What had happened to them" over the last 5 months since their return? As you may well know the recovery in Haiti has been extremely slow, some may say non existent.

Bryane Heaberlin

So as I browsed through ESPN.COM about a week ago I came across the answer to my question. Well a partial answer and I was amazed to learn how not only a 16 year old American soccer player but the same girl who had played against that very team from Haiti would eventually provide an opportunity of hope to her former opponents. Her name is Bryane Heaberlin and she is an amazing young lady who decided to use soccer as an opportunity for hope. Hope that was and most likely still is very needed to a group of teenage soccer players from Haiti. Bryane proves that both young people and soccer can be very powerful, positive forces.

See Bryane Heaberlins' amazing story:

Lets Go Shopping! VASoccerNews T-Shirt now For Sale.

Official VASoccerNews wants YOU! t-shirt

soccer t-shirt

Show your support for VASoccerNews:
 be one of the first to wear the NEW VASoccerNews T-Shirt.

Aug 17, 2010

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 4 of 7 Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950s

Playing with the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's

Moving Up

Club teams normally moved up to the Second and First Division amateur ranks in Philadelphia. Our Lighthouse Junior team took a different path. We left the Lighthouse Club to play under the banner of the professional Philadelphia Nationals. We played as the Fairhlll S.C., kids playing against seasoned veterans, many who had learned soccer in their native lands. Whenever l am asked today by anxious parents if their kids should “play up,” I give the Fairhlll S.C. example. Some of us were only 16 years old playing against 30-year old men. We won the Second Division and then went on to win the citywide, prestigious Palmer Cup, symbolic of soccer supremacy in amateur soccer in Philadelphia.

Systems of Play

We often trained with the Philadelphia Nationals, observing and emulating the pros, and our skills and sense of the game grew apace. We never discussed tactics. By this time we had adopted the stopper or “Third Back,” known as the “W-M” system, a change introduced by Charlie Buchan, skipper of the great Arsenal teams in England in the early ‘30s. The W-M was designed to counteract the new Offside Law, and lasted for three decades until the Brazilians introduced the world to the 4-2-4 in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. As a young GI, I saw Brazil play in that World Cup in Gothenburg, marveling at their skills with the ball, their dexterity, and their unusual formation with only two halfbacks.

Without coaching schools, soccer newsletters, papers like Soccer America and the NSCAA’s Soccer Journal, and almost all volunteer coaches--ex-players who coached from intuition, innovations took a long time to become reality. Soccer traditions die slowly, as we see even today as FIFA tinkers with the laws to increase scoring.

The Philadelphia Club Structure

Just as today, whole families involved themselves with soccer, but it was still a male-dominated sport. When the Fairhill S.C. met the First Division champion Kensington Bluebells in the Palmer Cup Final in 1950, we were the kids playing against the team of our fathers and uncles. The final, played at old Holmes Stadium went into double overtime when the younger legs prevailed 5-3. Our fathers and uncles talked about that game for years.

It eased the pain when some of us first-generation Scots-Americans played for the Bluebells the following year. The Bluebells discarded their veterans and filled the ranks with the kids. My brother and I were finally united with our father, the Bluebells’ trainer. We had taken another step up the soccer ladder--all within the Philadelphia club structure.

With the Bluebells in our first year, 1950-51, we were thrown into competition with seasoned players of Italian, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Armenian, and German descent. Just a few years removed from the end of World War II, soccer in Philadelphia took on an even more ethnic flavor as European immigrants flowed into the city. Many of the players had played top-level competition in “the old country” and immediately raised the caliber of play in Philadelphia’s amateur ranks. We now signed USSF forms, but with no cards and no photos, registration showed a more casual approach to the game than found today.

The Philadelphia First Division clubs had their share of characters in those days, seemingly missing from our do-it-by-the-book soccer of today. We seem unable to tolerate strong individualism, with players like “Cocky” O’Kane, whose crossed eyes became disconcerting to defenders trying to predict the direction of his passes. But call him “Cocky’ and you had an immediate brawl. There was “Chippy” McLaren, known for the deadly accuracy of his chipped passes, or “Sox” Flynn whose socks never stayed up, and “Dutch” from Germany. Even the team names had an international flavor--Juventus, Pulaski, Inter, Celtics, and the Polish Falcons.

The Foreign Touring Teams

This was a time in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s when the American Soccer League sponsored foreign touring teams, so we could see Liverpool F.C with the great Billy Liddell in 1948 and his long, weaving runs down the wing. But our real heroes were Bahr and McLaughlin who led the Philadelphia Nationals to three titles in four years, Hynes of the New York Americans, another Hall of Famer, and Ray McFaul and Gil Schuerholz of the old Baltimore Americans. Just a few years later in the mid-’50s, we were playing with Bahr and McLaughlin, the best players of their day. We were playing against the likes of Johnny Carey, great right half of the touring Manchester United and Max Morlock, German international with Nuremberg F.C. Nuremberg defeated the Philadelphia All-Stars in 1955 before 5,000 spectators by an 8-5 score, with Morlock scoring 4 goals against me. As youngsters, like the players on our U-23s and our US National Team today, playing against this level of competition gave us the confidence to take on anyone.

Trying Out for the Olympics

Some of us were selected to compete in the 1952 Olympic tryouts in New York and St. Louis for the team to go to Helsinki. National teams in those days were selected by a USSF National Selection Committee which conducted the tryouts. No ODP programs, no state or regional select teams, no U-17 or U-20 teams, no women’s teams--just a Committee with all the major regions, the colleges, and the Armed Forces represented. The Committee members selected players for the tryouts from their knowledge of the players’ innate talents and the Committee’s awareness of the need for geographic representation. Politics also played a role--”You put my player on and we’ll take care of yours.”

In the ’52 Olympic final tryouts in St. Louis, I played with Jack Dunn and Lefty Didriksen from our original Lighthouse team in a tough, two-game series representing the East squad. We played on the same team with John and Eddie Sousa, players I had watched in awe as a youngster when Ponta Delgada came to town. They impressed me with their willingness to share the ball, their soccer smarts with “the kids” in the tryouts, and their encouraging play. I made alternate-and felt proud to be there.

Throughout my youth career in soccer, I had played only two systems, either the 2-3-5 or the W-M with the stopper back. The 4-2-4, the 4-4-2. and the 4-3-3 were still to be invented. Coaches were ex-players, and coaching meant putting a team on the field. We always knew what we had to do. We never discussed systems of play or tactical play. With the amateurs we received spending money and even with the pros, we never received more than $35 a game. We were fit, technically adept, and competitive. We loved to play and most of us continued in long careers into our 30s. Cub soccer honed our skills, but school and college soccer brought us glory, brought out the spectators, and provided us with the education we needed to have a life beyond soccer.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Aug 16, 2010

Is MLS a Soccer Farm System?

mls logo
When it comes to retaining young talent within the MLS many argue that they should instead allow players to be signed by European teams and reap the financial rewards?

I wonder though if this attitude is actually perpetuating the image of the MLS as a lesser league when compared to European leagues.

If the MLS seriously intends on becoming a competitive soccer league then not only will they need to increase revenue and players salaries but they will have to fight off the poaching of their own homegrown talent.

The best example I can provide would be one of MLB small market teams that scout, draft, and then develop players only to see them sign with big market clubs such as the Yankees, Angels, or Red Sox.

By constantly losing young talent a team or league in the instance of MLS, is unable to build their brand and is therefore seen as a farm system to the bigger teams or leagues.

What can MLS do to bring the necessary revenue to be able to both keep its own talented youth players as well as compete for European players that are in the prime of their careers instead of promoting farewell tours of former soccer greats?

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 3 of 7 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940s

Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's

Neighborhood Teams

We didn’t call them “travel” or select teams then, just Lighthouse Juniors playing in the 20-team, two-tiered Philadelphia Third Division, or Junior League. We played a full season, non-stop, from September to June, with few games called for inclement weather--a schedule that gave us close to 4O games a year, equivalent to any European youth program.

Since Philadelphia was a neighborhood city, populated by ethnic groups attracted by job opportunities, particularly in the textile mills, along with plentiful housing, organized soccer in the city reflected the city’s ethnic/neighborhood mix. Teams came from Cardington in West Philadelphia, Nicetown in the North Philadelphia area, Germantown in the Northwest, and numerous neighborhoods like Kensington and Harrogate in the hotbed of soccer, Northeast Philadelphia, with its large concentration of immigrants. As the ethnics moved out of the city to the suburbs north of the city, teams like the Erzgebirge Club for the Germans and the Ukrainian Cub grew up to serve their youngsters.

Playing “Junior Soccer”

Unlike our modern youth soccer breakdown of U-l9, U-17, U-16, and so on, the Philadelphia Third Division simply went up to 18 years old; anyone younger could play whatever his age. The League was affiliated with the Philadelphia Soccer League composed of three divisions--Juniors, Second Division, and the First Division--the top amateur grouping. No USYSA, no AYSO, no state youth soccer associations unlinked with the top-level amateur clubs. Once you started with the Juniors, you were expected to move up the ladder--there were always older teams to play for. The Eastern Pennsylvania District was affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation, founded in 1913 to oversee soccer in the US and the FIFA-sanctioned body for soccer in our country.

Our team was coached by my cousin, Tom Oliver, a star with the Philadelphia Nationals pro team. We received little instruction, no overlapping or diagonal off-the-ball runs, no “numbers’ down” games, no Coerver moves. We built these features into our game by instinct, without instruction. We had only one system of play--the old 2-3-5, with a great workload falling on the inside forwards and the halfbacks, specially the center half. Our practices were simply a continuation of street soccer--we played, practiced moves, and played some more. No stretching, no drills, no warmups, no cones, no manuals, no pennies-just play, experiment, and always go for goal. We were rugged, urban kids who wanted to win and had the skills to back up our cockiness. We won two straight Philadelphia Junior League titles, going on to win two consecutive National Junior Cup titles in 1948 and 1949, running up a string of 36 straight victories.

In those days, the referees, all former players, let us play. No cards, just occasional verbal warnings to “Hold it down” to keep control or to ensure fairness. But you had to be tough. There was a lot of intimidation, occasional fights, lots of heckling from the sidelines. But the referees knew us and knew the dynamic of the game--we settled matters on the field with our feet. Some of the refs had colorful names like “Offsides Smitty,” known in his playing days as the forward who couldn’t stay onside. Since we didn’t have registration cards with photos, we would tell a ref new to us that the first scorer’s name was “Bill Zook,” who incidentally came in second in League scoring one year--and didn’t exist!

Toughness on the field and backing down from no one helped me later when I was playing against international teams, or playing overseas, taking the bruising tackles and giving it back--knowing the fouls would not be called. Today, our kids seem surprised when they go overseas where fouls that would be called in the U.S. are overlooked in the course of play overseas.

The National Junior Cup competition pitted city against city in one-game knockout competitions. We hosted the Schumacher Club of St. Louis in 1948, winning 1-0 on a direct corner kick before 2,000 fans at Holmes Stadium, and then defended our title the following year by defeating the Windsor S.C. 2-1 in a rain swept night game before 250 fans at St. Louis’ Public Schools Stadium. This game stands out as a lasting soccer memory. Windsor scored with two minutes remaining. Somehow we came back with two goals in one minute in the mud, forcing our way into the box to win our second title--a truly memorable soccer moment for a 14-year old player. After two years in the Junior Division, we were ready to move up to the next level of competition. That’s the way it was done--when you were ready, you played up.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Aug 13, 2010

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part 2 of 7 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club

Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club

The Lighthouse Experience

Lighthouse was founded in 1897 by Mrs. Robert Bradford, a Philadelphia socialite. This was a time when Jane Addams and other social reformers were establishing their settlement houses and neighborhood centers to help the wave of European immigrants and their youngsters cope with urban life. Lighthouse capitalized on its Scottish, Irish, and English neighbors’ passion for soccer and early on created a soccer foothold in the Kensington community. Most boys started with the Club at 9-10 years of age, often staying with the Lighthouse teams until they were ready for play in Philadelphia’s top First Division or the pros. For years Lighthouse had provided the senior amateur teams and the pros with top class, home-grown American talent. For example, the 1936 Olympic Soccer Team had four former Lighthouse players in its ranks, a tradition that went back to the 1912 Olympics.
Lighthouse offered us age divisions, a club for practices, a large field complex, and retired English and Scottish players to coach “the lads.” My first coach, Ozzie Lynn, a wrinkled, stolid Englishman who could still drive a ball 60 yards, appeared every Saturday morning, rain or shine, in the same old, patched green sweater to put us on the field. By this time, we had mastered the basic techniques from our years of intense street soccer, so Ozzie’s task was to instruct us: “Don’t hold on to the ball,” “Get it up the field,” or “Put it in the net.” We did this with regularity, often ignoring his exhortations to play “the English game.”

Coach Ozzie told us where to play, still in the traditional 2-3-5, and we did it. We changed in a one-room, timbered clubhouse with no showers or heat, often shivering until we moved onto the field and started running. We always walked the three miles to the field, arriving ready to play without warmup or stretching, and walking home afterwards, our boots over our shoulders. Raw, tough, hard soccer where we honed our skills, applying what we had learned in the streets to real, full-sided games. We now started to learn positions, heading (seldom done in street soccer), and gaining a tactical sense of the game.

We were low-income kids, so our equipment consisted of the hand-me-down high top Mansfields or Hotspurs--the only shoes available, colored sweatshirts for uniforms, and usually Popular Mechanics or some other pulp magazine for shin guards. They made good reading at half time. The Club supplied one ball per game and an older player to referee. We came with a love of the game and good technique and skills, but we had to learn to play on the larger field with a full team
But the street soccer moves paid off.

What We Learned About the Game

Just a few years later we were playing against some of the best players in the country, and I made it to the U.S. Olympic Team final tryouts in St Louis in 1952 at the age of 18. When I think of our years in the streets, unsupervised, I wonder if we would have been better players with trained coaches, as many youngsters, both boys and girls, have today? Probably. Would we have faced the twin dangers of being overcoached while being discouraged from taking risks and working on new moves on the field? Possibly. Did we gain an appreciation for the game, confidence in our skills, and a competitive drive that would last a lifetime? Absolutely.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect

Aug 12, 2010

Jim Gabarra stays on as Washington Freedom head coach; changes made as team eye playoffs

This Article is reposted with permission of the author, Kat Galsim

After days of evaluation, the Washington Freedom announced Tuesday through a statement by President and General Manager Mark Washo that head coach Jim Gabarra will stay on for the remainder of the season.

Former Chicago Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes has been brought in as a consultant, while Clyde Watson, the Freedom's long-time assistant head coach, has stepped down.

Gabarra, in Somerset, New Jersey for tomorrow night's game against Sky Blue FC, took some time to talk about the recent developments and how he plans to approach the rest of the regular season as the Freedom eye the playoffs.

How long have you known about the decision to retain you as head coach?

"I think the final decision was made last night. Obviously it's been something that's ongoing for about a week now, but I had the final answer from Mark last night."

Steve Goff of the Washington Post reported that you had a presentation to the executives Monday. How was it?

"Well, part of the process was Mark wanted me to present to him a plan, moving forward, that would give us the best chance to win. That plan was worked on and I presented that to him yesterday afternoon and basically spent the better part of the week on it.

It was basically to assure him that I have the right ideas and I have the ability to guide the team to the rest of the season, and to where we need to be to get us into the playoffs."

What's your plan for the rest of the season?

"Just some adjustments in some of the things I do. And I wanted to bring in kind of a consultant, a different voice and perspective to both evaluate and offer a different sounding board for both players and for myself.

Emma Hayes was coming in on a trial basis irregardless of what happened with other situations, and that was something that was part of my plan. And as you go through these situations there has to be some changes, and I thought that would be a good change.

We made the moves to add another player in Anita Asante and I think that also helps anytime a new player, a new personality, comes into the team. It changes things up a bit to have another experienced person both for players to talk to but also to kind of help me out. It was something that was part of that plan."

I noticed in the game against Philadelphia Independence last week that you put some players back in their original positions. Was that part of your plan?

"Yeah, I mean, the best way to get out of the situation we were in was to win. And that was to put our best players out there. We looked back at the season and the times we were playing well and getting results. That coincided with that group of players and the system that we played when we were doing well. I think it was the best thing to do and will give us the best chance to get a win, which was really what we needed.

We needed to get a win, we needed to get some bounces, and we needed the team to provide the energy level and the intensity level that they showed against Philadelphia at home. It worked out and that's exactly what we needed.

But it's just a starting point, it's one game, and we've got to continue to find ways to play that way and I'm confident we can."

Having Emma Hayes in as a consultant to give an outside voice…

"Well initially it's just her overall evaluation of our players individually, and small groups, and collectively as a team. And, you know, even players and coaches, we get so caught up and micro-focused that it's hard to have a real fresh look at it.

She provides that fresh look and she and I will basically, over the next three days, just kind of consult and chat and talk about a number of things. You know, what makes us successful, how are we hard to beat, how are we easy to beat, if there are any subtle adjustments that can be made, and we'll talk that over.

Personnel-wise, since it is the last week of any possible trades, we'll discuss that over the next few days. This trip from [New Jersey] to California has always been me and (goalkeeper coach) Nicci Wright, for budget reasons. Emma won't travel with us there and Clyde [Watson] wasn't gonna travel with us either. She's got a couple of days just to check out some training sessions and watch a game and then we'll be in close contact and evaluate everything as we go forward.

And if it's a fit for her to stay on as a consultant, starting when we return home, then we'll move in that direction. Integrate her. Even though it's a tight timeline and a short time to move forward, we'll do what's best for the team."

Was the Chicago Red Stars' defensive record during her time as head coach part of the reason why you got her on board?

"I think it was an overall analysis and evaluation. I think, certainly, you look at our defending and it needs some work. And we have worked on it for the last couple of weeks, and we have made strides. It just seems like, in that five-game losing streak, it's just something different every game.

In Atlanta we gave up three breakaways or open chances and left our young goalkeeper to dry. We addressed the backline and I thought they did a much better job against Boston. They didn't get in behind us but we let ourselves down on set plays. We were really attacking the ball and didn't have the energy and intensity that was required, and that cost us that match.

This past game, we still made some mistakes. But, again, we got the bounces and Philly didn't punish us for the mistakes that we made or the couple of chances that they've created. We capitalized on our opportunities and we had the intensity level and the energy that really made the difference."

How confident are you that you will retain that level coming into tomorrow night's game?

"I think the team's in a very good place right now. We've come through a very difficult time individually and as a club. And what I saw today from the team there, it's, 'What do we have to do?'

And then my message to them is, 'What do we have to do moving forward, irregardless of what's happened in the past?' Win games. Get to where we all want to be which is winning games and getting in the playoffs and winning the championship.

I thought they had very good spirits today and I think this is certainly something very important to build on. I think they realize how good and how hard and intense the energy level that they can bring to a game.

We did have a rough schedule both being in a lot of road games and a lot of games in a row, but every team goes through that. We had three or four games there where if the results were different we'd be in a completely different place.

But, again, we can't look back. We just have to look at what we can do and we still have control over things here. We gotta take one game at a time and this is a big game with huge playoff implications."

About the Author:

Based in Washington, D.C., Kat is the Director of New Media for Connect World Football (CWF), a company dedicated to women's soccer players. She is also part of CWF's Our Game Magazine staff.

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American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Part I of 7 - “Street Soccer” Memories

American Soccer Didn't Start with Pele: Philadelphia Soccer in the 1940s and 1950s
by Len Oliver:

This paper was originally published in the Journal of Ethno-Development by the Michigan Ethnic Heritage Studies Center in 1992 and is reproduced with the author’s permission. Len Oliver is Director of Coaching for the DC Stoddert Soccer League, is a staff member with VYSA, and a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame (1996)

“Street Soccer” Memories

In a recent article in USYSA NETWORK. the writer stated that “the first generation of true American players has grown up, and is beginning to take over the grassroots coaching reins.” For young Americans who began playing soccer in the 1940s in urban America, these words ring hollow. People writing about soccer seem to forget the generation of young Americans exposed to the game from their immigrant fathers three decades before Pele’s debut in the North American Soccer League in the mid-’70s. This paper is written to remind us that American soccer didn’t start with Pele.

Earliest Memories

My earliest soccer memories were watching my father play in the late ‘30s and kicking a ball in the streets with my twin brother, Jim. I remember above all the pungent smell of liniment in the changing rooms for my father’s teams--they had no locker rooms, just places to change--and hang around with Jim as our father prepared for a match with his German-Hungarian Club. The “Hunkies,” an outstanding amateur soccer team in late ‘30s in Philadelphia, were no different than the other ethnic clubs that dotted the Philadelphia landscape in this period. They were the immigrant Scots on the Bluebells. the Germans with the German-Hungarians, the Irish playing with the Celtics, along with trade union-backed teams like the Bricklayers and Hosiery Local, or corporate teams such as Bethlehem Steel and Fleischer Yarn. Ethnics dominated Philadelphia soccer, although Philadelphia nurtured a sizable number of home-grown talent.

My father was a blur in his red and black jersey--running, passing. tackling, yelling-a 5’7” pesty Scottish center half moving up and down the field under the traditional 2-3-5, soccer’s mainstay system since the 1870s. And he seemed to be always full of mud.

Jim and I shared oranges with the players at halftime, sometimes kicking a ball with a sympathetic player. These early experiences created an accepting, pleasant soccer environment for us. But beyond the liniment, the ethnic clubs, and the post-game parties where someone was always good for a soda, we had the streets of Philadelphia’s Kensington area where we grew up in a working-class neighborhood of red-brick row houses on a tight little street. Helen Street was our playground, a garage door our goal. Streetlights and curbs were merely additional obstacles to be overcome. We went I v 1 for hours on that street, joined occasionally by cousins and neighbor kids for 2 v I or 3 v 2 games. Time skipped by and 25-20 was not an uncommon score.

We always kept score in ”street soccer,” building in an early and not-to-be-forgotten competitiveness. We invented ways to take each other on without instruction, now called “self-teaching” by the licensed coaches. We also fought with each other and with neighbor kids. Our father, a former amateur boxer in Scotland, had taught us to use our fists when we were five years old: “If you’re going to play this game, you have to know how to fight,” words reminiscent of an earlier era of rough-and-tumble ethnic soccer. But whatever we did with the ball on Helen Street, we learned the rudiments of soccer techniques and tactics with tough, challenging opponents, inventing moves as we needed them. We shielded, overlapped, changed pace and direction, jockeyed, executed wall passes, and nutmegged each other without ever hearing the terms.

Occasionally our father would join us, but the long hours of work during World War II took him away most of the time. He did find time to train the Bluebells, and our joys came in getting a used ‘T-Ball,” as they were called then, a bloated leather, misshapen bladder-filled ball that rolled in curious and unpredictable directions. We could depend on a hand-me-down pair of Hotspurs or Mansfields once a season, soccer shoes with high tops, steel toes, and replaceable nail-in leather studs. When our father brought home a torn Bluebell white-and-blue striped jersey, we fought over it to decide who would be “the big player” that day. This wasn’t used equipment--it was new for us and helped us to identify with the older players.

How difficult it is to explain to young players today, including my daughters who were good players, how we felt about these clunky old shoes when they thought nothing of paying out $100 or more because they liked the purple and yellow stripes on the shoes, or $60 for a slick, imitation leather ball that never loses its shape.

We loved the game in the streets. Adults were not around to teach us the Coerver techniques or tell us to “Lock your ankle.” And when we wore those clumsy Mansfields we moved our 1 v 1 to the 100-year-old abandoned Franklin Cemetery down the street where tombstones became our goal posts and the winos our spectators. We especially looked forward to seeing the pros, usually at Cambria Stadium at Torresdale and Kensington Avenues as it was on the trolley line and we could see the Philadelphia Americans take on the Brooklyn Hispano or Ponta Delgada of Fall River. Our heroes were “Lefty” Mervine, Philly’s superb left halfback, or “Dutch” Christian, a sturdy right fullback and a great sportsman, or “Duke” Nanoski, the peppy center forward now in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Our Earliest Heroes

The name that sent murmurs through the crowd and excited the kids was Billy Gonsalves of Brooklyn Hispano. Gonsalves, often called the “Babe Ruth” of American soccer, was a dominating center-halfback who stood at 6’2 and came in at 210 pounds. After watching the imposing Gonsalves direct traffic in the midfield or drive powerful shots from 35 yards out, we returned to Helen Street to imitate his moves. Later on it was Walter Bahr and Bennie McLaughlin of the Philadelphia Nationals who became our idols, two of the best American-born players of the era.

Opposing players who stayed with us were Jackie Hynes with the New York Americans and John “Clarkie” Souza of Fall River. I recall watching the balding Souza dribble three opponents on the Philadelphia Nationals’ old home field at Holmes Stadium on Erie Avenue, go for goal and suddenly step over the ball, heel it to change direction, and completely befuddle his mark as he drove the ball into the far corner. I worked on that move for weeks until it became part of my own repertoire of dribbling moves. Always emulating, acting out what we had seen--something so desperately needed on the pro scene in soccer today for the youngsters coming up and seeking their own heroes.

Learning the Game

Coaches today do not structure a youth player’s formative years in this manner. They teach by books and tapes, drills and “freeze situations,” and dribbling through cones. The streets are dangerous, cemeteries are off limits and no substitute for playgrounds, teams are organized for four-year olds. Coaches have formal training, too much individualism is suspect, and kids are coached, or at time over-coached, in the “proper techniques.” We were left alone to develop, with lopsided, worn leather balls and an instinct to go 1 v 1 or 3 v 2 without adult supervision or “coachable moments.”

By the time we were nine years old, in 1942, we were ready for formal teams, which in the Kensington neighborhood meant the Lighthouse Boys Cub soccer program, the famed incubator of youth soccer in Philadelphia since the turn of the century. We also played American football and baseball, as good American kids, but given our choice, we were always drawn to the streets and our soccer ball--our natural element.

Part 1 - “Street Soccer” Memories
Part 2 - Youth Soccer with the Lighthouse Boys Club
Part 3 - Philadelphia Junior Soccer in the 1940's
Part 4 - Playing With the Big Guys: Amateur Soccer in the Early 1950's
Part 5 - High School and College Soccer--Products of the Clubs
Part 6 - The Pro Game in the Early 50's
Part 7 - In Retrospect