Increased Roles: Development Academy Technical Advisors Enhance Development of Youth National Teams
With an increased role in the youth national team programs, U.S. Soccer Development Academy Technical Advisors now have a greater ability to help scout and cultivate elite talent at the youngest level while also preparing themselves to take future roles head coaches.
All nine Technical Advisors will have the opportunity to coach the U-14 Boys National Team in camps and matches, and the U-15 Boys National Team is being coached by U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. Since the TA’s are evaluating the player pool on a daily basis in their role with the Development Academy and conducting training centers across the country, they bring a full understanding of the player pool available to the youth national teams. Additionally, using the TAs as coaches helps U.S. Soccer not only to develop talent at a youth level but also to develop coaches.
“By having the Technical Advisors involved with the Youth National Teams, we’re also developing coaches in U.S. Soccer,” said U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna. “They get the ability to go in and run training sessions and do everything a coach has to do. I think that the ability to develop our own coaches in-house at U.S. Soccer is very important, and this allows that.”
Northwest Division Technical Advisor Hugo Perez thinks that having TAs run training centers and coach the U-14 BNT allows them to get a better sense of which players belong in the national team programs.
“It just defines better for me what type of players we need to pick for our National Teams,” Perez said. “What we do in the training centers all over the country reflects what the mentality is now with the new program in the national team.”
One of the main goals of the Technical Advisors is to help guide Academy coaches to ensure that players being prepared for the U.S. national teams are given a strong technical foundation.
“We want to make sure that from the U-14s to all the Youth National Teams, they have a very strong base technically, because we feel that technically is where we lack right now in our country,” Perez said. “We want to make sure that we put that in the program so that way when [the players] grow up, if they come to the senior national team and they have a different style of play, they always have a good technical foundation.”
The TAs also incorporate some of the same content from the U-14 training camps in their Development Academy regional training centers, which can give the players an advantage when called into a national team camp.
“For instance, a player would attend six to eight training centers in Dallas and will have received that content six to eight times prior to being considered for the U-14 National Team,” said Texas Division Technical Advisor Anthony Latronica. “It certainly gives them an advantage and an opportunity to learn what the environment’s all about and what the content’s all about before they get the opportunity to be in with the national team.”
Learning about the National Team programs and building a solid technical foundation is part of Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plan to align all of the national team programs into a similar style of play.
“The best part is everything’s getting vertically aligned now with the Youth National Teams and the same type of curriculum, the same type of content so that a young player at the U-14 level can experience the technical foundation and the small group tactics that will later experience with the older national teams.” Latronica said.
Perez and Richie Williams, now head coach of the Under-18 Men’s National Team, are among the Technical Advisors who have played for the Men’s National Team, and Reyna thinks their experience is key in influencing young players.
“Younger players are often times going to listen to a player who has played,” Reyna said. “It’s not always the case, but I think when you have guys who have represented the National Team and have been around U.S. Soccer for many years, you can see that the players listen that little bit more and pay attention.”
U.S. Soccer is tapping into its own resources to coach, and the opportunity to be a part of the Youth National Teams gives the TA’s even more credibility in their regions.
“We just feel that they’re good soccer guys, and now they’re in a stronger position to continue to influence the Academy clubs since the teams know the messages are coming straight from the national teams. The Technical Advisors leave the national team camps with a clear picture of the needs for each team, and can then seek those players from amongst the Academy teams and the training centers.” Reyna said.
As the connection between the Technical Advisors, the National Teams and the Development Academy continues to grow, the prospects of developing elite players at a younger age for the national teams expands every year.