Keeping in line with recent January tradition, the U.S. Men’s National Team rounded out a three-week training camp at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center with a match against Honduras on Jan. 23 at The Home Depot Center. During the training camp, head coach Bob Bradley led 30 players through the rigors of the international level, and last week, he opened a training session to 26 Development Academy coaches from across the West Conference.
During the exclusive access, technical advisor and FIFA World Cup veteran Hugo Perez talked the Academy coaches through the exercises and philosophies of the national team programs.
Following training, Bradley addressed the group of coaches for more than 30 minutes, discussing everything from his training techniques to the strengths and weaknesses of the current American player.
"As a starting point, we feel that all coaches - from the national team through the youth levels - are part of the coaching community in this country and that we are all essentially in this together," said Bradley. "It's important that we talk about plans, share ideas, and have discussions about how to move the game forward in the United States. In this case, we tried to give the Academy coaches a picture of what characteristics a player for the national team would possess, and discuss ideas on how to help their players progress on a daily basis. Coaches at these stages of development are a critical component of producing elite players capable of competing at the international level."
LAFC Chelsea’s Josh Henderson was in attendance at The Home Depot Center, and reveled in the experience to see some of the nation’s top players up close.
“Anytime you get to watch players at that level train in that kind of environment, under the top coaches in the country, it’s a lesson for us and a great experience,” said Henderson. “We got to have a 30 to 40 minute conversation with Bob Bradley and his staff, sharing ideas and getting an idea of the type of players he has and the type he wants within the national team program.”
LAFC Chelsea was one of 14 different clubs represented at the symposium. Henderson, the U-17/18 head coach, and his colleagues have already shared what they learned during the session with their players.
“We got to explain our experience with Bob [Bradley] and tell them, basically verbatim, what he had to say,” Henderson said. “We explained what he and other national team coaches want from their players. It really helps to be able to say to the guys, ‘it’s not just us saying these things, it’s the higher ups.’ A majority of our players want to be at this level some day and we all feel like they have a better understanding of what it takes to get there.”
Making a connection from the club level to the national team level is one of the priorities of the Development Academy, and expanding coaching education that involves national team coaches, like the symposium, is a key to bridging that gap.
“Part of the process is trying to get the coaches more involved with the national teams, and understanding what the national team programs are all about,” said Perez. “We want them to know the expectations, get them more information, so they know what U.S. Soccer is doing at different levels. That way we can hope they’ll have something tangible to strive for as far as player development.”
Some of the characteristics that national team coaches at every level are trying to improve include technical ability, vision, improved fitness and physicality on the ball. After recent youth national team training camps, coaches stressed the need for American players to develop in these areas in line with other countries. These needs were reinforced on conference calls with every Academy club during the past week.
The club coaches also had the opportunity to discuss key Development Academy topics during a two-hour session led by Perez. The group took advantage of the rare opportunity to all be in one place and tackle everything from the state of the Academy to scouting to development.
“We all talked to together, and had a video session that I put together with clips of national team games, some professional teams and some Academy games,” explained Perez. “I showed them the type of qualities that Bob [Bradley] mentioned, and then we had an open discussion. It’s not easy to have everyone together in one room so to speak, so we wanted to take full advantage of our day.”
The next coaching symposium is scheduled to take place surrounding the Men’s National Team friendly in Tampa, Fla.