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Thomas Dooley Helping Complete U-20 MNT’s Defensive Picture

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos brought in 2010 National Soccer Hall of Famer Thomas Dooley from time to time to help the U-20s with scouting and match analysis, and to work extensively with the defensive group.

So with the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship and a FIFA U-20 World Cup berth on the line, Dooley’s expertise on the defensive side of the ball have been a vital element for a group that booked its spot in Turkey and continues to improve in the back.

“When you’re a defender and you’ve played for so many years like [assistant coach] Brian Bliss did or I did, we can tell the players how to react in certain situations, and they take it better than from somebody else,” Dooley said. “We give them confidence about playing simple and doing their job, and they will stand out in the team.”

One aspect of the defense that has solidified itself through the CONCACAF U-20 Championship is the center back combination of Caleb Stanko and Shane O’Neill. Even though neither player had been paired together in international competition, nor has had a long-running stint at center back, the back line showed improvement through the two group stage matches and quarterfinal victory against Canada.

Dooley credits both players’ midfield experience as being a primary reason for them adapting to the center back role.

“A good defensive midfield player will be a great center back,” Dooley said. “The reason is if you play in a team at center midfield, the No. 6, you have to face your own goal, you have to get the ball, you have to turn and you have to be a playmaker. You have to make good passes. You need to have those types of strengths and distribute the ball and read the game well. We talked about it months ago about Caleb Stanko, who plays hard, is a leader because he’s talking and he’s the kind of guy who can pass the ball. Then we found Shane O’Neill, who’s incredibly strong in the air and very strong on the ground, so he can play out of the back. Those two guys both play a No. 6, so I think that’s why at center back we are set.”

The U.S. U-20s rose up on the defensive side when they shut out Costa Rica 1-0 to win Group A of the tournament, and much of that success can be directed toward the defense’s ability to shut down John Jairo Ruiz, whose goal ousted Haiti from the group stage and led the team into the quarterfinal stage.

“Ruiz is one of the best players in the tournament, but you didn’t see him against us,” Dooley said. “He’s running his butt off in the midfield, but he can run 90 minutes over there. He didn’t have a chance to score and didn’t assist a chance to score. We did an excellent job of shutting him down. A soccer player who is knowledgeable about the game knows that even if you don’t touch the ball defensively, the more important thing is that your opponent doesn’t touch the ball.”

Anticipation and Visualization
Defensive players are regularly asked to defend some of the fastest players in the world. As a player, Dooley initially thought that you needed to match speed for speed to have success. But during his professional career in Germany, he understood that quickness actually is not the most important intangible.

“After we won a German championship in Kaiserslautern, I wanted to get a little bit faster,” Dooley said. “I had an opportunity to play in the U.S. because they found me over there, so I told myself that I needed to get faster for the first four or five yards. My coach explained to me that some of the fastest players in the league don’t anticipate – they react when something happens. He taught me to react to something that will happen in the next two or three seconds. So that’s what I’m trying to get this team to do. I’ve played against some of the fastest players, but if you slow down the motion and anticipate where the ball will be in a space or look at a player’s body language, you know what he wants to do, you can take off and you’ll be several yards in front of him.”

Dooley is also preaching to this U-20 MNT team that the ability to visualize situations and your opponent will put you steps ahead in a game.

“Eighty percent of a player’s focus is generally looking at the ball and 20 percent is looking at the space,” Dooley said. “It actually should be the opposite: 80 percent should be scanning the field and 20 percent you’re looking at the ball. You need to ask yourself what you are doing next. That is something you need to develop and visualize – how you’ll tackle a player, how you react if he’s running toward the near post. We have everything on video, every single touch of every single player. If you analyze a player and know he makes two or three moves like he does on the video, he will probably do the same thing. And I guarantee you that if that happens in the game, your reaction is 10 times quicker than if you’re playing somebody you’ve never seen before.”

Strong Soccer IQ
In working with the U-20 MNT, Dooley has been impressed with the players’ soccer intelligence and in picking up the aspects of his teaching.

“Some players can figure it out on their own and some you have to tell them, but it’s coming naturally with this team,” Dooley said. “Shane, for example, is one of those guys who says he wants to get better and is willing to do everything he needs to do. You can see that in the way he plays, such as when he goes up in the air and he’s already taking a look at his options, where other kids might just go up and want to get the ball.”

The defensive midfield also has impressed in its ability in limiting the opponents in the final third.

“We have a defensive midfield that thinks well defensively, whether it’s Benji Joya, Wil Trapp or Mikey Lopez,” Dooley said. “Those guys know how to defend, get behind the ball and put pressure on the opponent. I think everybody on defense understands the game, and we were lacking a little bit in the defensive part months ago. I think we’ve found the right players who understand what they need to do to win games.”

Team Unity
The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran with 81 caps under his belt with the U.S. MNT has been on his fair share of teams over the years – some that have meshed well and others that haven’t.

Dooley is confident in this current U-20 group and defense that there is a profound team chemistry forming during this CONCACAF U-20 Championship and beyond heading into the U-20 World Cup in Turkey.

“I’ve been on teams like the ’94 World Cup that were a true team and others where we had 22 individuals, and I think we have a true team forming with this U-20 group,” Dooley said. “They have a team spirit where they want to work for each other. I think Tab has formed a good group where no individuals want to stand out – they want to stand out as a team.”

Born in Germany to an American father and German mother, Thomas Dooley is one of just five players that started every game in consecutive FIFA World Cups for the U.S. (1994, 1998) in the modern era. The 1993 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year, he captained the U.S. team in France 1998 and closed his eight-year U.S. career with 81 caps and seven goals.

After a long professional career in Germany, Dooley joined the Columbus Crew in 1997 after winning the UEFA Cup that spring with Schalke 04. In MLS he was a two-time All-Star and a two-time Best XI selection in three years with the Crew before playing a final season with the MetroStars in 2000 at age 39.

Dooley started his professional career in Germany with FC Homburg in 1984, helping the small club rise up from the third division into the Bundesliga. After two seasons in the Bundesliga with FC Homburg, he moved to FC Kaiserslautern, where he was part of a Bundesliga-winning team in 1991 and the German Cup title in 1990.

It was with FC Kaiserslautern in December of 1991 that U.S. Soccer found out about Dooley’s dual citizenship, and in 1992 he came to Chicago to secure the U.S. passport required for him to become eligible for the U.S. National Team. He had missed on chances with Germany’s national team due to age and injury and didn’t speak much English, but he had dreamed of coming to USA, exemplified in his favor of American music, blue jeans and the Corvette. He sacrificed his Bundesliga salary to join the U.S. team prior to the 1994 FIFA World Cup, although he returned to Germany to continue his career with Schalke 04 for three seasons from 1994-1997, with the UEFA Cup title coming in his final season in Europe.

Dooley’s first cap for the U.S. on came May 30, 1992, a 3-1 win against Ireland in Washington, D.C. He jumped into the starting lineup almost instantly, playing well enough to garner U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year honors in 1993 when he played 17 matches, starting all of them and scoring four goals with two assists. He scored three goals in the 1993 U.S. Cup, including a goal in the famous 2-0 win against England in Foxborough. His other two goals came in Chicago against his homeland in the only multi-goal game of his career just more than a year after his U.S. debut.

The strong defender started and played every minute of the U.S.’ four matches in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where the United States advanced out of the group stage for the first time since 1930. His play in the ensuing years earned him the armband for the 1998 World Cup, where as the team’s senior member he started all three matches.

Some of his other goals also came in big matches for the U.S., including the second score for the U.S. in the 4-0 win against Mexico in 1995, a 90th minute game-tying goal against Mexico in the 1996 U.S. Cup, and the game-winner in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago in 1996.

Following his retirement, Dooley started a soccer school, the Dooley Soccer University, in California and was also the head coach of FC Saarbrücken in Germany in 2002-2003. Dooley currently runs the OC Kings Soccer Academy and in 2006 founded the American Soccer Tennis Organization. 


Awards and Honors
• U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year: 1993
• Captain of U.S. Men’s National Team in 1998 FIFA World Cup
• MLS Best XI: 1997, 1998
• MLS Fair Play Award Winner: 1998
• UEFA Cup Championship: 1997 with FC Schalke 04
• Bundesliga Title: 1991 with FC Kaiserslautern
• German Cup: 1990 with FC Kaiserslautern

 U.S. Men's National Team

 Year

 GP/GS 

  MIN

 G 

  A 

  Pts 

 Y 

 R 

    W-L-T 

 1992

 5/5

 450

 0

 1

 1

 0

 0

 2-2-1

 1993

 17/17

 1437

 4

 2

 10

 1

 0

 8-7-2

 1994

 22/21

 1829

 0

 0

 0

 1

 0

4-7-11

 1995

 9/9

 786

 1

 0

 2

 1

 0

 4-3-2

 1996

 9/8

 589

 2

 0

 4

 2

 0

 6-2-1

 1997

 10/10

 887

 0

 0

 0

 0

 0

 4-2-4

 1998

 8/7

 659

 0

 0

 0

 0

 0

 3-3-2

 1999

 1/1

 90

 0

 0

 0

 0

 0

 1-0-0

 8-Year Totals

 81/76

 5840

 7

 3

 17

 5

 0

 32-26-23

 MLS Career: Regular Season
 Year  Club  GP/GS   MIN    G  A   Pts. 
 1997  Columbus Crew  15/15  1310  4  1  9
 1998  Columbus Crew  23/23  2008  1  2  4
 1999  Columbus Crew  25/19  1697  0  1  1
 2000  Metrostars  20/17  1318  0  2  2
 4-Year Totals    83/74  6,333  5  6  16

 MLS Career: Playoffs
 Year

Club 

GP/GS 

 MIN   

 G 

 A 

 Pts. 

 1997

 Columbus Crew

 4/4

 360

 1

 1

 3

 1998

 Columbus Crew

 5/5

 450

 1

 0

 2

 1999

 Columbus Crew

 1/0

 6

 0

 0

 0

 2000

 Metrostars

 2/1

 77

 0

 0

 0

 4-Year Totals  

 12/10

 893

 2

 1

 5


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