CoachesNet Insider Part 2 of 2: Coach Lopez answers a series of Insider questions.
Part I: CoachesNet caught up with U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach Roberto Lopez during a recent training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. For this CoachesNet Insider edition Coach Lopez shows us the training journal the team used for the week long camp.
The mini-camp was a mixture of training and games that allowed the staff to evaluate individual players within a competitive group setting. Coach Keith Fulk and his staff held each player to a very high standard and the players were constantly held accountable for their performance. The volume and intensity of training was designed and monitored so that the players would always show at their best.
U.S. U-17 Menâ€™s National Team Mini-Camp
IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Keith Fulk (Head Coach)
Roberto Lopez (Assistant Coach)
Rene Miramontes (Assistant Coach)
Peter Mellor (Assistant Coach, Goalkeeping)
CoachesNet: Was there anything in particular you did to prepare for this camp?
Roberto Lopez: â€œTechnically everything was prepared in advance by the U-17 staff. The daily schedule, activities and goals for the camp had been planned in advance of our arrival. Our biggest focus prior to the mini-camp was scouting and identification.â€
CoachesNet: What roles were you given during the week?
RL: â€œCoach Miramontes and I were each given a group of players to work with during training, while Coach Fulk oversaw the whole session and Coach Peter Mellor trained the goalkeepers. We were responsibleÂ for carrying out the training activities, teaching, coaching during games, evaluating and recommending players to return for future ID Camps.â€
CoachesNet: What goals or objectives did the staff have for the team going into camp?
RL : â€œThis was mainly an ID Camp so our objective was to evaluate the players invited in and compare them to the players who were already in residency. With the current residency players we just wanted to continue with their training cycle, keep them sharp while their teammates were in England and of course compare them to the players invited in.â€
CoachesNet: How were the twenty players identified and chosen for this camp?
RL: â€œThe players came in from all different areas. Some were U-14 and U-15 National Team players, others came in from Player Opportunity Events put together by Rene Miramontes in the west, Juan Carlos Michia in the east and myself in the midwest and others were recommended by coaches from different parts of the country.â€
CoachesNet: Were the players chosen based on positional play?
RL: â€œYes, some players were chosen based on their positional play and on their physical characteristics but their technical capabilities, speed of thought, being able to read the game and soccer intelligence was perhaps the biggest part of the selection. In some cases, we tried playing a few of them in different positions.â€
CoachesNet: Were there differences in play during the week between the twenty players invited and the current residency players? If so, how were they addressed?
RL: â€œCoach Wilmer Cabrera took 20 residency players with him to England to prepare for the 2009 U-17 World Cup (Editor's Note: The tournament is currently being held in Nigeria. Follow the U-17 progress at ussoccer.com). The group of 20 who remained behind was made up of players born in 1994. Three of them had been there for a year and the other 17 had just arrived a month prior.
The mini-camp was only for players born in 1994 and the focus was to identify players who could compete for a residency role and a spot for the 2011 World Cup.
The differences varied but for the most part the invited players were behind in almost every area; technically, tactically, psychologically and physically, with their fitness. Technically, some players could not adjust to the speed of the game. They needed to play with too many touches and the speed of thought and execution was too slow. Tactically, the decision making while under pressure was an issue. Psychologically, having the right mentality, drive and fitness level was not up to par with the players in residency. Coach Keith Fulk spoke to them about it prior to camp and as a staff we ran a tight ship. We were patient but, at the same time, we were very demanding and we held each player (including the ones in residency) accountable for all their actions, both in training and during the games. At the end of camp, we all felt it was a positive learning experience for the group.â€
CoachesNet: Cabrera and his staff place a great deal of emphasis on planning and communication. Can you explain how this is managed?Â
RL: â€œCoach Cabrera and his staff plan daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles of training. There are many different aspects that they want to accomplish when it comes to the goals that are set; improving the playersâ€™ technical ability, quick speed of thought and decision making under pressure, reaching top level fitness to be able to compete internationally, game management, having the personality to deal with adversity and having a winning mentality are some of the goals that want to accomplish. The idea is that the team should peak in all areas during the World Cup competition. Beyond this, they are preparing players to continue playing for the U.S. at the international level.â€
CoachesNet: Can you take us through what a typical day looked like for the players?
RL: â€œAll the days were slightly different but below is what a typical day looked like.â€
8:00 a.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Breakfast
8:15 a.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Treatment / Pick up gear
9:00 a.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Depart for training
9:30 a.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Training
12:00 p.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Lunch
AfternoonÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Rest, regeneration, recovery, tour of facilities, etc.
6:00 p.m.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dinner
10:00 p.m. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Lights out
CoachesNet: What is the next step for the 20 players who were invited into camp? Â
RL: â€œSome of them will be invited back to ID Camps held in the near future, while others will be observed in their own environment for further consideration.â€
CoachesNet: What recommendations did the staff make to the invited players on what they can do improve and receive a call back?
RL: â€œThe players were encouraged to work with the ball on a daily basis. We also emphasized playing quality games over a quantity of games, playing up an age group up in order to be challenged and to maintain top level fitness and taking nothing from granted.â€
CoachesNet: Are there upcoming identification camps?
RL: â€œThereâ€™s one coming up at the end of October and anther during The Development Academy Showcase in Phoenix in early December.â€
For more details on the U.S. U-17 MNT visit http://www.ussoccer.com/Teams/Youth/US-Under17-Men.aspx
Stay tuned for future Insider postings on the U.S. National Teams.
Questions and comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.