Are youth players being put in ‘positions’ to succeed?

As we approach the end of the youth soccer season for many who aren’t lucky enough to spend their summers in West Virginia playing Regionals and other tournaments/leagues going through June and July, I wanted to take some time to write about something I’ve noticed a lot of over the last few seasons, which is player positions.

A good coach, a good team, and a good club are able to create a consistent environment where youth players are able to excel. The players are put in a position to succeed. They have consistent and quality training facilities, a consistent message from their youth coach(es) who have hopefully been able to keep the same core team together through multiple age groups, and they have parents who don’t put too much pressure on them to obtain college scholarships. They are put in positions to develop at their own pace, learn the importance of competing, and are ready to do whatever to help the team succeed, even if that means giving up playing time so others can get a chance on the pitch.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that this sounds like a wonderful land of unicorns and rainbows where 100% of youth soccer players have every opportunity to develop and excel, then I would probably agree with you.

The honest fact, from my past year of coaching two teams in EDP (one in National League, another in EDP D3 under National League), is that this consistent development path is hardly ever followed by the majority of youth soccer players.

By creating multiple leagues which are seen by many as the “pinnacle” of youth soccer, it’s my opinion that development in this country may be taking a step backward, due to the lack of consistent coaching at young ages, and a constantly changing youth soccer landscape. But for anyone who follows us on Twitter, this is hardly a revelation. We’ve expressed these opinions on multiple occasions. Once the Development Academy was torn down, there are now two major leagues for “elite” youth soccer players: MLSNext, and ECNL (which is expanding their regional leagues as well). I won’t get into specifics in regards to leagues, but what I will say is that this change in the overall youth soccer landscape has encouraged parents and players, more than ever, to take a detour from their development plan and look for greener pastures, in an attempt to gain more “visibility” by college coaches, with leagues promising they provide a “proven pathway” to collegiate soccer.

For the first few years of my coaching career, I spent time as an assistant coach in US Soccer Development Academy. I then spent 3 seasons as an assistant coach with a USYS/EDP (and later ECNL) club team which was already competing for State Cups and making appearances at National Championships. For these combined 6 or 7 seasons, we never had a problem with players wanting to leave, because we were either already at the top of the pyramid, or a strong enough team that players knew they were developing.

Fast forward to this season, my first season as a head coach at a smaller lesser-known youth soccer club in Washington, DC were I could get more experience as a head coach. I grew up in PG County and wanted to challenge myself to coach in an environment in “The DMV” which was different from normal pay-to-play models, where it was a given that parents could afford to spend thousands of dollars every season on travel, and sacrifice their entire weekends for out-of-state matches and tournaments.

What did I take for granted in those early years in the higher echelon of Baltimore youth soccer? The fact that access to consistent training facilities is important. The fact that parents don’t actually tend to stick around at the same youth clubs unless those clubs are included in the ECNL/MLSNext roadmaps. The fact that most of those kids in Baltimore were well coached in their earlier youth days, learned to play specific positions, and weren’t just allowed to only focus on the part of their game which they could watch replays of on Instagram.

The number of players I have come across over this past year who have told me they want to stay on the wing and only dribble at players 1v1 has been a bit of an eye-opener, and the number of youth players who haven’t actually been coached to specialize in one or two specific positions has also been a huge surprise. I’ve had multiple kids quit because they weren’t being played in their favorite positions, and a number of kids who have openly tried out for other clubs as they attempt to find the “magic bullet” to help them be seen by more college coaches.

Unfortunately this is the youth soccer landscape which we all, as coaches, have to abide by. There are those players and families spending thousands of dollars to be in ECNL and MLSNext, giving up their weekends to play in a college showcase down in NC or traveling out of state for a basic league match, all while promising that this is where the NCAA coaches are looking for their next commit.

But how are we not expecting players to fall through the cracks when we have a landscape that encourages players to switch clubs every season? How do we expect players to develop when they have so many inconsistent experiences and guidance throughout their youth careers? We really expect to keep developing diamonds in the rough, raw talent, overlooked players, and others when most major MLSNext and ECNL clubs have 100-200 players at their tryouts? What are the odds that a player moves to a new club team, has played 3 or 4 different positions at their past club, and are asked to learn a new position with their new team?

How many youth clubs, realistically, are able to employ youth soccer coaches who are put in a position where they can keep the same team together for multiple seasons, vs looking to make a move to greener pastures themselves? How many youth clubs over the last few seasons, and in seasons moving forward, will struggle to continue to exist as a result of being unable to attract quality players as a result of the current “elite vs everyone else” landscape? Are we really expecting everyone to drive an hour or 2 hours 2-4 times a week for training, spend the majority of their weekends at out-of-state matches, and spend thousands of dollars on hotel rooms, gas, flights, and other travel expenses in order to compete, based on the fact that those clubs on the outside looking in are leaking players and coaches every other week?

Not to mention the fact that some players who move onto other teams may not have ever actually learned and specialized in a particular position, either because their coach now needs them to fill in for one of the better players who have left for ECNL/MLSNext teams, or because the coach allows the player to basically do whatever he/she wants in order to try to keep them around. I can’t tell you how many players I have coached this season who simply want to play the wing, dribble at players 1v1 in space, serve balls into the box. At 41 years old I’m pretty sure I could spend 20 minutes on the pitch standing out wide in space, playing no defense, and my only responsibility is to try to beat a guy 1v1 in space and kick the ball blindly into the box hoping someone can get onto it.

I would say that a number of youth players who go onto college are asked to play a new position, but it’s hard to believe that this current inconsistent landscape where 100% of the players’ attention is spent trying to reach the “elite” promised land with college coaches everywhere is developing players on teams who are outside of the top echelon. Because literally everyone is climbing over each other to try to get to “the top”. I miss the days when, if you were good enough to play in college, you would play in college. Instead lately it seems like all kids care about is “more visibility” all while there are less college spots available than ever before, more programs folding, more International players coming over to play NCAA soccer. It’s almost impossible to believe that players aren’t falling through the cracks, as we continue to focus almost all of our attention on the top 10% of teams, players, and clubs, and everyone outside of that upper echelon is every man/woman for themselves.


How the changing youth soccer landscape is affecting DMV youth soccer

A lot has changed since our last post in early 2020. To bring you up to speed on the constantly “evolving” youth soccer landscape, the US Soccer Development Academy was officially disbanded in April 2020. The reason that was given was Covid-19 and the complications that come with operating a youth soccer league during a pandemic, but anyone who has followed USSF over the years have heard plenty of rumors that this was a long time coming.

In its place, MLS launched an “MLS Next” youth league, but good luck finding any recent standings or results. One of the beneficial resources of the USSDA were the up-to-date results and player stats that college coaches could access on the USSDA website when scouting players. Most of the teams included in the new MLS Next league also weren’t necessarily past Development Academy teams. Instead, most local clubs have made the transition to ECNL, with the exception of DC United, Baltimore Armour, and Bethesda.

Instead of USYS and USSDA battling for youth soccer “supremacy”, now USYS will be basically split in half…those who participate in ECNL, and those who participate in EDP, National league, and other USYS leagues…all while trying to keep kids from switching to local MLS youth sides.

If you’re having a hard time following along with all of the acronyms, trust me, you’re not alone. I was an assistant coach for 3 seasons in USSDA, and am in middle of third season as an assistant coach in USYS, and I still feel like I have basically no idea what I’m talking about.

Here in the DMV, to make things even more complicated, the area’s only MLS side, DC United, are in the process of relocating youth teams and operations to Loudoun County. So for kids in Southern Maryland, PG County, Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, and basically all of Maryland outside of Baltimore, your options are basically to catch on with a local ECNL side like Maryland United, or make the drive all the way to Bethesda or Baltimore in a search for higher-level competition. Not exactly ideal, in an area like the DMV which traditionally possesses a fair amount of talent. In Virginia, past development clubs like VDA, Arlington, Loudoun, and others were converted to ECNL sides, while Alexandria and Springfield were added to the new MLS Next league, along with a few less traditional DC sides like Achilles FC.

Still following along?

Here in Baltimore, if there’s one thing you’re not short on, it’s options. Baltimore Armour, who were previously made up of SAC, Pipeline, Bays Academy, and one other club during time of their merger, are basically now SAC but are called Baltimore Armour. Their program trains out of Columbia and are made up primarily of past SAC club staff and coaches, with a few exceptions. Pipeline is now an ECNL club for boys and girls, competing with Baltimore Celtic Union. Basically, Celtic’s long time face of the club, Brandon Quaranta, head coach of Mcdonogh HSleft the club for Pipeline, Celtic’s local rival club. Celtic is now collaborative partners with Baltimore Union in ECNL efforts, who up until a couple of seasons ago were Perry Hall White Marsh Soccer Club, to form Baltimore Celtic Union as both BCU and Pipeline attempt to secure local college and high school facilities to access some of the more skilled players in the area.

Just a few seasons ago, parents were told that their kids shouldn’t play high school soccer because “serious” competitive soccer players need to focus on playing in the US Soccer Development Academy. 4 sessions a night were required, along with A License coaches and top notch facilities. Then the number of weekly training sessions were scaled back, weekly scouting by US Soccer started to fade away, and other expenses were cut all while parents basically paid thousands per season hoping their kids would get a college scholarship. Did 4 sessions a week help? Absolutely, there is no question. Did US Soccer coming out to help scout players during matches and sessions help to hold coaches and clubs more accountable? Absolutely. But USSDA was expensive, and basically drew a huge line down the middle of US Youth Soccer with local High School coaches, the same coaches traditionally involved in USYS, on the outside looking in.

Fast forward to 2021 and enter the era of club rebrands, more USYS league competitions, and MLS doing everything they can to cash in on the next Pulisic, including starting their own youth league so they can rake in training compensation and solidarity payments when MLS Next league players are sold to European leagues later down the line.

As a result of all of this, the product on the field, and the overall understanding and trust in the landscape of US youth soccer, has taken a hit. Covid has affected participation, coaches have moved around clubs like musical chairs, and clubs who were basically forced to pay for the expensive privilege of having the ‘Proud member of the US Soccer Development Academy” logo on their websites are now navigating the brand new and evolving landscape of ECNL, the next “great youth soccer league”.

This isn’t meant to take shots at any particular league or club. Instead, to try to describe what local youth players and coaches are attempting to navigate. High school seniors this season already missed out on their state cups and regionals last season due to Covid, as well as multiple opportunities to be scouted during the extended recruiting dead period. Instead of a consistent environment for players to develop in following the initial wave of Covid, coaches and players are left trying to keep those who run youth soccer leagues happy by participating in their college showcases and regional events, smiling for the multiple camera phones constantly taking their pictures and videos in an ongoing marketing attempt to prove that they’re the best option.

So here in the DMV, we have 1 MLS team for the entire area. That MLS club is moving to Northern VA, while the rest of us are left battling it out in USYS leagues like ECNL, EDP, National League, NCSL, there are other acronyms out there for youth regional leagues but you get the point. Instead of US Soccer stepping in and recognizing the amount of talent the DMV has, the number of traditional youth clubs, and helping to identify more players who could be eligible to develop, they’ll take their usual hands off approach and let the leagues call the shots. Local coaches and club admins will continue to battle for superiority to try to access the best players for their clubs and, usually at the same time, the high school programs that they coach. Money and politics, would it really be youth soccer without it?

Op-Ed: Why MLS Is Ruining American Soccer

I was in Orlando covering the USSF Presidential Election in February 2018, and the obvious public relationship between USSF and MLS was a little disheartening. The seemingly unlimited “conflicts of interest” topics that came up publicly throughout the process- from Kathy Carter offering a position to one of the biggest soccer agents in the country (who represents a large majority of MLS elite players) if she were elected, to the weird huddle off to the side during the election of MLS and USSF brain trusts after the second round of voting which resulted in a 27 PERCENT jump in favor of Carlos Cordeiro (and a 23% decrease from Kathy Carter’s votes):

The constant questions and speculation about the Athlete’s Council and their votes, a number of soccer reporters seemingly ignoring certain stories, the numerous common financial interests between MLS, SUM, USSF and major TV Networks Fox and ESPN, the fact that Eric Wynalda was suddenly no longer with Fox following his Presidential Campaign, Hope Solo receiving a standing ovation following a speech that basically said USSF was completely corrupt. The list goes on, during an election process that featured public mud-slinging and political bashing following the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Then came Jermaine Jones, who said that the blind draw orchestrated by MLS between the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire which was supposed to decide where he would play following his move from Europe never actually happened, and insisted that his agent (the same agent who Kathy Carter promised a position to) came and told him he would be playing in New England.

Leading up to the United States’ must-win match with Trinidad and Tobago, US Manager Bruce Arena- who has coached in MLS for a number of years and who many were skeptical of from the time he was announced- also started making some rather strange comments and decisions. The day before the critical qualifying match, he went on a rant about how he would love to see some of the “European Hotshots” try to qualify in CONCACAF, a statement that came off as either a) so naive that top European teams like Spain or France couldn’t qualify in arguably the easiest qualifying region in the world that maybe he was losing it, or b) so pro-American (and, honestly, pro-MLS) that his loyalty to his country was maybe a bit blinding.

Then you realize that Arena didn’t call Europe-based Fabian Johnson into camp for those important last few qualifying matches (resulting in Kellyn Acosta having to spend time at left back vs T&T). He left Geoff Cameron (a regular starter in the EPL for the past few seasons and one of our best defenders) on the bench in favor of Matt Besler. And then, out comes Danny Williams with this gem of a quote:

Obviously I spoke to the boys when I was in Portugal. Everybody has a different view. I heard from a few people that they tried to ‘market the MLS’ a bit more in the [World Cup] qualifying games and get a name for the MLS. At the end of the day it shouldn’t be about that. It should be about quality and bringing the best players and having a plan. That is it. It is not only the U.S. that failed. Holland failed. Italy. Chile. This is unbelievable. Something is obviously going wrong because other smaller nations, they are speeding up their process. When I look at Iceland, they are a small country but they are actually playing at the World Cup.

Then Paul Arriola signs a massive deal with MLS side DC United (the most expensive deal in the club’s history), and come to find out it was actually (former DC United manager) Bruce Arena himself who told Arriola he should make the move.

Maybe this is all a collection of events that MLS felt was necessary as damage control, following the constant damning criticism of the overall quality of MLS from previous USMNT manager (and one of the all-time greatest strikers in the world)  Jurgen Klinnsman. Whatever accounts for all of these coincidences, one thing seemed certain during qualifying: MLS had some influence over what players were selected and showcased, and those selections were usually pro-MLS.

This all makes today’s news that MLS will offer financial compensation to MLS clubs for the purchase and development of INTERNATIONAL youth players even more frustrating. Throughout the USSF Presidential Election, youth development was one of the hottest topics out there. Everyone became an expert on what we need to do better to help develop more quality US Soccer players. The “college vs Europe” debate continued to heat up. Training compensation and solidarity payments both became common knowledge as we debated how we can help US Youth Clubs develop more domestic talent. During Qualifying, the “pro-MLS” bias and obvious favoritism towards the selection of certain US-based players was to the point where Arena himself could have been wearing a MAGA hat and nobody would have noticed. Now the league is going to put a financial compensation structure in place to help purchase and develop INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS?! It baffles the mind.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the US Soccer Development Academy, you have MLS clubs and non-MLS clubs competing with each other, but it’s not exactly a level playing field. Non-MLS (and USYSA clubs) are basically out there on their own in terms of their clubs’ financial earnings. They’re responsible for improving facilities, paying for field rentals, and covering the numerous costs associated with being a USSDA club, resulting in some parents investing THOUSANDS of dollars each year on club fees, travel costs on weekends for matches, getting their kids to 3-4 training sessions per week. MLS Clubs typically have more resources at their disposal, but as someone who spent a few years as an assistant in USSDA, I’m familiar with the multiple sacrifices that both parents and kids (can’t play for their high school teams, having to do their homework in the car every night, etc.) make while playing at such a competitive level (USSDA and USYSA) and it’s EXTREMELY disheartening to hear that, instead of MLS stepping in and offering financial incentives to improve youth development efforts for our own players, they’ve decided to help every MLS franchise owner who paid the $150million franchise fee with another source of revenue by providing them with the funds (and, likely, resources) to go out, buy a few youth international players, bring them to the States, and sell them for a profit a few seasons later.

This will obviously be taking away even more opportunities from US-based players, during a time when more Division 1 NCAA programs are offering scholarships to International players, there are more International players getting first-team minutes in MLS than in the past, forcing top young American talent to spend a few seasons in USL before hopefully breaking into the first team in MLS (which continues to look less and less likely as each year passes). The MLS Draft has basically become irrelevant over the past few seasons, and today’s news is yet another reminder why MLS is limiting the overall potential for soccer in the United States.

I don’t even need to go into the MLS and SUM partnership which obviously plays a big part in the growing number of people who don’t trust MLS’ true intentions, which always seems to be about one thing: money. This is no different. The constant over-exaggeration of attendance numbers at every MLS match at the beginning of the season, the league forcing individual MLS clubs to tweet out and promote matches which feature two different teams (which DC United called MLS out on a few months ago), and this season they seemed to be stooping to a new low- Tweeting out transfer rumors like Balotelli and Wayne Rooney to DC United before the transfers ever even materialized.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on promotion and relegation. MLS (together with USSF) continue their desperate efforts to ignore the general public’s outcries to recognize a second division in order to introduce pro/rel, but instead of looking at the expansion that comes along with pro/rel as a way to add more teams and actually improve overall development opportunities for United States players, they are more focused on the $150 million franchise fees that they can collect each time a new team is added.

Right now there are 23 MLS teams, let’s say 28 players on each team’s roster. Once the league gets to, lets say 26 teams, that is a total of 728 roster spots that are available.

If the league were, instead, able to evolve into two divisions with, say 20 teams in each division, that’s a total of 1,120 roster spots that are available. And on top of it, the league is now able to introduce teams in smaller markets and in markets where they have no presence at all, allowing the sport to flourish in more markets and introducing the passion that comes with a promotion/relegation battle to the players, fans, and next generation of youth players. Instead, a short-term money grab of $150 million for each MLS franchise, similar to the short-term solution that was announced today that will see MLS clubs purchase young International players and sell them for a profit in a few years.

If MLS actually cared more about youth development in our country and less about short-term ideas on how they can make more money for their team owners, they would not have introduced a “youth transfer fee” system which will limit the number of first team opportunities for our domestic youth players.

The league is clearly more concerned with Tweets which will result in more clicks, commercials which try to brainwash people into believing “this is OUR soccer”, fake attendance numbers so they can show their 2% increase to the TV Networks every season, and trying to sell the fake promises to the general American public that MLS has the quality on the field and overall infrastructure to compete with other top leagues in the world.

It’s all based on lies and money, and if you think it will be HELPING our US Men’s National Team over the next 4-8-12 years, I hate to say it but you’re drinking the Kool-Aid.


3 Annoying Soccer Misconceptions

My apologies for taking so long to write a new piece. As some of you may be aware, we recently launched a podcast series which we’ve been focusing some time and attention on, which you can find on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or by clicking here.

I’m not claiming to be a soccer genius or expert coach by any means, but it can just be frustrating getting a pick-up or match in, and the same players who think they’re the reincarnation of Cristiano Ronaldo and are quick to brag about their playing careers when they were young just don’t understand basis principles of the game.

Here are 3 common soccer misconceptions that I notice on regular basis which drive me absolutely crazy.

1. Defending vs Playing Defense

Soccer is like a game of chess, whether your team is attacking or defending. When your team has the ball, how can you eliminate as many players from the opposing team, and manipulate numbers in attacking situations to your advantage?

If you’re building out of the back, your center backs are probably wide and opening up the space for the 6 to drop in and find it, your outside backs are up the field, and you’re trying to stretch the opposing team in an attempt to open up passing lanes and eliminate defending players.

building out from the back

We’ll use Manchester City last season as an example.

Following the 2016-17 season, Pep Guardiola surprised everyone in the summer by spending a total of £155.3 million on 3 outside backs- Kyle Walker (£45 million), Benjamin Mendy (£49.1 million), and Danilo (£26.5 million)- and a Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson (£34.7 million) who can play with his feet.

Manchester City went on to win the EPL title in 2017-18 in convincing fashion, finishing with only 2 losses and 19 points above second place team Manchester United. They built out, Ederson was a genius with the ball at his feet, and for as good as City’s attacking players like Aguero and De Bruyne and Silva are, the reason why City are dominant is the offensive play from their back line and Fernandinho.

This season, Manchester City are once again on the top of the table, and a few of the usual suspects are among the top passers in England:

Manchester City passing 2018

City have 4 players in the top 15 for EPL passing stats, and none of them are offensive players. Stones and Laporte (two center backs), Fernandinho (CDM) and Walker (right back) have combined to complete a total of 7,320 passes so far this season, which is 231 more than Cardiff City have completed as a team.

So back to the main point- defending vs playing defense.

If you’re defending against a team like Manchester City or Liverpool who you know have smart players in the back who can handle the ball, and who will be patient and pick out the right pass, and you’re one of the front 2 or 3 in charge of trying to disrupt their build up, your focus is to keep everything in front of you and try to cut off distribution between the CB’s and the 6, or between CB’s. You probably don’t want to be running around at full speed, chasing the ball, diving in to try to make every tackle, flying around like a madman, tiring yourself out and basically taking yourself out of the play every time you don’t win the ball.

If you’re a midfielder, your job is to keep everything in front of you, read the game, don’t over commit and take yourself out of the play because you’re running around like a madman trying to make 20 tackles.

If you’re a defender, and the forwards and midfielders have failed at this and have taken themselves completely out of the play because they’re running around like maniacs, chasing the ball and trying to make every tackle, you’re going to have your work cut out for you and you should be upset at your teammates. Unfortunately, and this comes from 32 years of playing soccer, a lot of defenders are probably going to be more upset at a forward or midfield player if they’re not running around “hustling”, blind pressuring the other team’s CB’s at full speed and basically eliminating themselves on every possession.

Playing defense isn’t about making a tackle. If you’re 1v1 in space as a defender, you don’t just have to worry about the attacking player going front, back, side to side. That player can go literally anywhere within a 360 radius, and once you go diving in the first chance you get, the attacking player knows they have you beat, and is gone and past you before you even realize it.

Again, I’m not claiming to be Ronaldo on the pitch or Guardiola on the sideline, this is just from my experience. The number of players who don’t understand the basic concept of proper defensive body shape – feet not square, staying low and waiting for the attacking player to commit to a direction and defending accordingly, moving your feet to keep them in front of you, versus diving in at the first chance and completely taking themselves out of the play- combined with the number of players who think that running full speed at an attacking player 100% of the time to “show hustle” and dive into every possible tackle, versus tactically cutting the field in half by cutting off a passing lane, is overwhelming in my opinion.

Go play a pick-up match sometime, indoor 5v5. Play up front, let the opposing 2 defenders knock the ball deep, drop in and keep everything in front of you, stay around midfield and connect with your teammates, play proper defense, and watch how many of your teammates are like “come on bro! run! go play defense! go get the ball! hustle!”.

2. Running Is How You Get Your Fitness In! Let’s Go Running!

Soccer is not cross country. To think that the movements that your body needs to be prepared to make on a soccer field can be replicated by running around in a circle on a track, or by going for a 10-mile cross country run around the city, is one of the most frustrating misconception on this list in my opinion, because there are actually Division 1 NCAA programs out there who spend the majority of their Spring and Fall off-seasons doing zero ball work and 100% “fitness” work.

I’m not saying that strength and conditioning isn’t important.

But when you’re actually playing soccer, you’re not just running. For anyone who has played, especially into your late 30’s and beyond, you are more likely to realize how many different muscles you use, and how many different movements you make, the next morning when muscles that you don’t even know you had are aching and you can’t walk for 2 days.

The change of pace, change of direction, movement with the ball, balance, and overall fitness involved in playing soccer can’t be prepared for by simply running. Yes, you might end up in better cardiovascular shape, but you’re not getting ANY repetition in the hundreds of different movements that you should be working on getting stronger at by not using a ball.

If your team spends 60% of sessions running laps, doing suicide drills and beep tests, and you come up against a team which spends 100% of their time in a structured 4-part training session where players are getting touches in and knocking the ball, you’re going to be in big trouble. I wish I could share some examples, but if you know of a coach who makes his or her players run without the ball for a majority (or even portion) of their training sessions, go watch how they look when they play against a team that focuses on touches, knocking the ball, movement, and getting fitness work in with the ball at their feet, and see how they look.

3. Speed Kills

The common perception when it comes to the collegiate game is that college coaches are only looking for fast, strong, athletic players. There was a Tweet this week that said how important speed was to make it in collegiate soccer, which I personally took exception to because of the amount of coaching and work that has gone into developing youth players to be ready for the Division 1 collegiate level, and at NO point have I ever said to a player “you’re really fast, you’re going to excel at the collegiate level”. Once again, not to make this about me, but I grew up playing soccer in the area. I’m 6’2″, had decent  technical ability, good shot, etc. but pace was definitely not my strong suit. Some of the worst coaches I’ve ever played for or met judged me immediately based on how fast I moved. Some made comments about it, some belittled me over it. I will never tell a youth player that he or she is going to make it because they’re fast, because it’s just not true. Yes, you need to have pace, but it’s not a difference maker.

I’ve watched some of the fastest players you can imagine at the collegiate and professional level, I’ve played with guys with pace who went on to play for DC United and for various USL teams, and here’s what I would say about being fast- when was the last time you saw a guy (or girl) just completely blow by a defender on a run, leave him (or her) in the dust, and go score a goal? At the collegiate or professional level?

It might happen once in a while, but what you see a lot more often are players who have the awareness and experience to get the ball, go at a defender, and hit them with a CHANGE of pace, versus the predictable route of running at them at full speed, allowing the defender to judge where he or she is going because they’re completely predictable.

The game moves so fast at the collegiate and professional level that pace might be a factor for outside backs who need to cover ground in transition, but very rarely are you watching a match and a player with tons of pace and above average technical ability is making the type of impact that equates to the amount of attention some coaches (and others) give when it comes to evaluating ability and potential.




 NCAA Rankings for 9/25-10/17

In our last NCAA team rankings post, we ranked each DMV-area NCAA Men’s Soccer program for the 2018 season up until September 25, 2018. In our newest NCAA rankings, we’ve decided to take a look at how teams have performed since then, as opposed to ranking each program based on season long performance (which we will compile an in-depth spreadsheet for heading into tournament time).

Most Improved Teams

For every DMV NCAA team, we compiled a fairly in-depth spreadsheet that included the result and RPI of every opponent since 9/25. We calculated a point value for each result:

  • 1 point for a draw
  • 2 points for an away draw
  • 3 points for a win
  • 4 points for an away win

We calculated a total number of points earned for each team through the 4-7 matches (depending on each team’s schedule) that they’ve played since 9/25, and came up with an average number of points earned for that time span. We also calculated the number of points that each team earned in the matches prior to 9/25 when, came up with the average, and compared the change in points that each team earned from 9/25-10/17 vs prior.

One thing worth noting- if a team is already earning 2.5-2.8 points per match, Virginia for example, then obviously they’re not going to be towards the top of the list. We just thought it would make sense to recognize the teams which have really come into form since our latest rankings came out.

Average Points + Average RPI

In addition to calculating each team’s average points earned, we also wanted to take into account the RPI of each team’s opponent during the same time frame. So we came up with the average RPI rating for each team’s opponent, in addition to the average number of points earned:

Opponents’ RPI and Points Earned Rankings

We then took each team’s average opponent RPI and average number of points earned during that timeframe, we then ranked each team on both categories.

Final DMV Rankings for 9/25-10/17

Once we came up with each team’s opponents’ RPI and points earned rankings, we also factored in each team’s current RPI ranking, took an average of all three:

Overall ranking based on points per game + Overall ranking based on opponent’s RPI + Current RPI rating / 3 = average ranking

and that’s how we came up with our latest DMV NCAA team rankings for 9/25-10/17.

Full Spreadsheet:

Below is the entire master spreadsheet that we compiled which includes each team’s result, opponent RPI rankings, and more:


DMV College Soccer Rankings Through Week 2

As we’ve previously mentioned on Twitter, this season we are going to try to put together DMV college soccer rankings for DMV-area college programs on an ongoing basis. The goal is to increase awareness of what college programs in DC, MD, and VA are doing throughout the season. We will take into account all major polls, including United Soccer Coaches’, CollegeSoccerNews, TDS, NCAA, and others.

As of Tuesday, August 28th, here are our current DMV NCAA college rankings through week

1 University of Virginia – 1-0

ACC powerhouse UVA, coached by George Gelnovatch, defeated #19 New Hampshire 1-0 in their first match of the season thanks to a last-minute goal from sophomore midfielder Joe Bell. We will know more about this Cavaliers side in the coming weeks, with Maryland and VA Tech on the schedule for next week after they take on Elon on Thursday.

2. Virginia Tech – 2-0 – First Place in ACC Coastal Divison

Coach Brizendine’s Hokies went through preseason undefeated, beating quality opponents like WVU, Villanova, and ODU. They’ve started the regular season 2-0 and on top of their ACC division, beating Air Force 2-1 and Gardner-Webb. Junior Forward James Kasak has assisted 3 of Va Tech’s 4 goals thus far. The team heads to Florida for away matches vs South Florida and UCF, before traveling to Charlottesville where they take on UVA. We should know more about Virginia Tech’s squad in the coming weeks.

3. Georgetown – 1-1

Picked by many as a National Top 10 powerhouse, The Hoyas won their first match of the season at South Carolina but then picked up an away loss against a tough Coastal Carolina side. They take on Radford this Friday, followed by Stanford next Monday which will be a tough matchup for Coach Wiese’s side. Freshman goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis, the replacement for J.T. Marcinkowski, was named Big East Goalkeeper of the week. Senior defender Brendan McDonough was named to the preseason Mac Hermann Trophy Watch List, and with Achara already opening his scoring account this season vs South Carolina, it’s hard to believe that the Hoyas won’t string together some results in the coming weeks.

4. University of Maryland – 0-1

Coach Cirovski’s Terps program will see a lot of new faces stepping in this season, with the team losing starters Eryk Williamson, Jake Rozhansky, Gordon Wild, and George Campbell after last season, among others. Long-time assistant coach Brian Rowland took the head coaching job at Temple, so the Terps are getting a fresh start this season. In their first match of the season, they traveled to Washington State where they lost 2-0 to a National Top 10 program in University of Washington. However, the Terps had an impressive offseason, heading across the pond to take on English clubs Queen Park Rangers and others. This Friday night, they’ll take on Stanford at home, followed by Virginia on Monday at Audi Field, and UCLA at home on Friday. Coach Cirovski will know more about his squad in the coming weeks, with a defense anchored by standout junior defender Donovon Pines, returning players Sebastian Elney, Omar Sedic, Paul Bin, and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair looking to avenge last season’s early NCAA tournament defeat. Newcomers Brett St. Martin and Justin Gielen will also look to contribute off of the bench.

5. William and Mary – 1-1

Led by senior standout forwards Antonio Bustamante and Ryder Bell, William and Mary started the season 1-1 after defeating Saint Joseph’s 2-0 and dropping a tough overtime defeat to Villanova. Bell has started the season with 2 goals and 1 assist, while Bustamante (named to preseason Mcc Hermann Watch List) has 3 assists thus far. Head Coach Chris Norris will know a lot more about his team this season in the coming couple of weeks, as they travel to Chapel Hill to take on UNC this Friday, followed by away matches vs NC State and Loyola.

6. Loyola – 2-0 – First Place in Patriot League

United Soccer Coaches, TDS, and College Soccer News all have ODU as the next best DMV-area team in terms of their National Rankings, however I’m a firm believer in this Loyola side based on their season last year, and pieces they’ve added this offseason. Standout sophomore goalkeeper Chase Vosvick, who had an impressive offseason down in Florida with Montverde Academy’s PDL side, will look to improve on his Freshman season, already allowing only 1 goal in 2 matches for Steve Nichol’s Greyhounds. In their first 2 matches, they defeated Rutgers at home 3-0, and Mount St Mary’s at home 3-1. Junior standout forward Brian Saramago, aka Saramagoal, was named to Mac Hermann Trophy Watch List and registered a hat trick in the second match vs Mount. Senior CB Mickey Watson has a new partner in crime in transfer Jake Dengler, who scored his first goal of the season vs Rutgers, and with an impressive and deep midfield highlighted by senior Gabriel Carlsson and junior Barry Sharifi, combined with an impressive front 3 of Saramagoal, Josh Fawole, Sam Brown, and Nico Brown back in the mix this season, this Loyola side has the necessary pieces in place to compete for an NCAA Tourney spot. We’ll know more after the Greyhounds travel to Villanova this Friday, followed by William and Mary at home a week later.

7. Old Dominion University – 1-0-1

Head Coach Alan Dawson’s Monarchs started the season with a 1-0 home victory vs Radford, followed by a 2-2 overtime draw vs Georgia Southern. Senior forward Max Wilschrey from Germany leads the team with 3 goals thus far. ODU will take on Santa Clara at home this Friday, followed by another home match vs Temple on Sunday. We will see where ODU ranks once they’ve played a few more matches, as GW and UMBC who have both started the season undefeated will look to continue their winning ways.

8. George Washington University – 2-0 – First place in Atlantic 10

The hardest part of our first DMV college soccer rankings was not putting GW higher up in the rankings, after the Colonials have started the season 2-0 and in first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Head coach Craig Jones spent some time across the pond this offseason recruiting replacements for departing seniors Koby Osei-Wusu, Alex Conning, Christian Lawal and Oliver Curry. Freshman Jordan St. Louis left early last season to pursue a professional contract in Switzerland, and Simon Fitch transferred to VCU. However, Coach Jones seems to have found some players who can step in and contribute immediately, including grad student Haukur Hilmarsson from Iceland. Junior midfielder Drini Redzepi and sophomore defender Joshua Yurasits lead the team in assists with three a piece, and Max Holdsworth a Junior midfield transfer from American adds more depth to the Colonials’ midfield. Senior goalkeeper Thor Arne Höfs looks impressive thus far this season after a standout junior season and spending time training at DC United this offseason. But the story of the season thus far in the DMV area? Sophomore striker Osca Haynes-Brown, who notched a second half hat trick in GW’s first match vs Stony Brook, followed by four goals at home vs American. GW takes on Lehigh at home on Saturday, followed by Brown next Friday.

9. UMBC – 2-0 – First place in America East

Coach Pete Caringi’s Retrievers lost senior starters Tom Paul, Gregg Hauck, Cormac Noel and leading scorer Sammy Kahsai this offseason, but seem to have reloaded with incoming transfers Cesare Marconi who scored two goals in their 3-2 home victory over Rutgers last night, and Jackson Becher who scored the game winner vs Temple to help the Retrievers start the season 2-0 and on top of their conference. Freshman goalkeeper Quantrell Jones, who has participated in the USYNT Residency Program, came in as what many believed to be the sure starter, by sophomore goalkeeper Ciaran O’Loughlin has been able to retain his starting spot in the net. There may still be some questions in terms of depth in UMBC’s back line, but the Retrievers will look to continue their winning ways at home on Friday night as they take on College of Charleston, followed by a home match Sunday night vs Air Force.

10. VCU – 1-1

VCU had the type of season last year that should probably see them higher up our list, however through only 2 matches we have them at #10 with the potential to move up in coming weeks. They’ve started the season with a 3-0 win over Radford and a 2-0 loss to Georgia Southern, and with upcoming matches against Temple and Santa Clara, we should know more about where this VCU side belongs in the rankings throughout the season as they look to push for an NCAA tournament appearance.

11-16 (in no particular order) – American, Howard, George Mason, JMU, Navy, Radford

The goal of our poll isn’t to make any teams or players feel down on themselves themselves by picking them last in our rankings, so we’ve decided it would be better to group some of the programs together. Also, through one 1 or 2 matches, we expect our list to completely change over the next week weeks.

In the 11-16 spots, we have American University, Howard, George Mason, James Madison, Navy, and Radford.

American got off to a hot start, beating George Mason at home 2-1 with midfielder Fabio Massaro earning Patriot League midfielder of the week. However, in their second match against GW, American dropped a tough 6-0 result with only 10 men. They’ll look to rebound on Friday against a very tough WVU side at home.

Coach Phillip Gyau’s Howard side won their season opening against Bryant 2-1 on Friday night behind goals from Andres Gomez and Victor Guirma. Howard will look to continue their winning ways tonight at 7pm as they travel to Philadelphia to take on La Salle.

George Mason and head coach Greg Andrulis have a lot of new faces this season, highlighted by Sophomore transfer Colin Brezniak. The Patriots dropped their first match of the season vs American 2-1 with a goal from Grant Robinson. They’ll look to rebound on Friday night as they take on an undefeated Drexel (2-0) side at home.

James Madison has started the season 1-1 after defeating Gardner-Webb 4-0 and losing to Air Force 1-0. They aren’t in action again until next Friday when they take on Cal State Fullerton, followed by UC Irvine, before returning to Virginia to take on Radford at home. JMU is a team which could put together a string of results and move into the top 10, but it will depend on how they perform in the coming weeks.

Radford has started the season 0-2 after losses to competitive programs ODU and VCU. Things don’t get any easier for head coach Bryheem Hancock and squad as they travel to Georgetown this Friday, followed by matches against James Madison and Coastal Carolina.

And last but not least, I spent some time out at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis last week taking in a training session from Navy Head Coach Tim O’Donohue and staff. It’s no secret that Coach OD is attempting to rebuild the program, bringing in 10 freshmen this season with outside back Ben Huynh from Seattle Sounders Academy, forward Jacob Williams from Baltimore Armour, center backs Tyler Collins from Mount Saint Joe’s and Baltimore Celtic and 6’6″ freshman Matt Nocita from Porter Ranch, California stepping in as the immediate backbone of the team. Sophomore Wyatt Millard has the pace and ability to get in behind opposing back lines, and with junior Diego Manrique anchoring the midfield, Coach OD and staff have some good pieces in place. Sophomore goalkeeper Ian Bramblett has gotten the start thus far for the Midshipemen, but following a 1-0 opening night loss to Manhattan followed by a 2-0 loss to NJIT, the “trust the process” motto in Annapolis will be in full effect during the season as their coaching staff continues to make changes. One of the biggest question marks will be up front, with freshmen Bayne Bentley and sophomores Phillip Gustafson and Nicko West battling for the starting spot. West scored Navy’s only goal thus far off of a Jacob Williams shot on goal. Williams leads the team in shots and almost scored vs Manhattan. Navy take on Air Force this Friday night at home, followed by College of Charlerston on Sunday and then Howard on Wednesday night.


XI Underrated Players Looking to Impress in World Cup

I’ve been struck with the same World Cup fever that many of you are likely ill from over the past couple of weeks, so I decided to put together a new blog post. My “Underrated for club, but looking to introduce their names on the world stage” all XI for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. I’ve read the same posts and articles about the “top young players to watch this World Cup” with the same names…Fekir, Mbappe, Guedes, Fred…” it’s all the same. But how about some players who have under-performed for club or who you’ve forgotten about who could make an impact for their teams in this summer’s World Cup? Because, it isn’t always the players on everyone’s radar who turns up the best performances every four years.


Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark

While he may seem like a household name to those familiar with his father’s work at Manchester United and in between the pipes for Denmark, Peter’s son went overlooked by many in the EPL this season after superb performances by David De Gea, Ederson, Courtois, and Hugo Lloris. Add in the fact that Pope was selected by England and Jack Butland led the league in both saves and shots against, and you could easily overlook Schmeichel as one of the best in England. However, when it comes to the World Cup, club performances, stats, and results don’t always tell the story. Look for Kasper to help remind the world that he’s more than a legend’s son.


Pepe, Portugal

What league does Pepe play in? Go ahead and Google, I’ll wait.

That’s right, the Turkish league. After falling out of favor at Real Madrid for Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, it would be easy for someone to say “pffft, he plays in the Turkish League and averages a red card every other game, who cares?”. But let’s not forget Portugal’s performance in the 2016 Euros where he was hands down the team’s best player not named Ronaldo. In a World Cup that will feature CB’s like Thiago Silva, Ramos, Pique, Umtiti, Hummels, Varane, literally the list goes on…look for this established vet to remind everyone of his quality in defense.

Dejan Lovren, Croatia

If you’re still reading this after seeing Lovren’s name brought up in an article about underrated players, I applaud you. Maybe your mouse ran out of batteries at this very moment and you’re forced to keep reading, so here’s my argument.

Was Lovren questionable for Liverpool all season? Of course.

Is he easily the butt of everyone’s jokes? On a daily basis.

But in a talented Croatia side which could include a midfield 3 that goes Real Madrid – Barcelona – Real Madrid (Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic) and some firepower up front and on the wing in Perisic  and Mandzukic, Croatia’s defense needs to step up. Lovren may just be forced to completely confuse everyone and turn in a solid World Cup performance, or he could just be terrible and I’m pulling this all out of my backside. Who knows….

Adil Rami, France

You’re probably looking at France’s World Cup roster and assuming that Umtiti and Varane are the starting pairing at CB, but Varane is only 25 and Umtiti only 24. Part of me wonders if, in an inexperienced France squad, Rami steals a starting spot from Umtiti. To be honest, I’m only including him because I can’t put out a starting XI with only 2 defenders so this one is a bit of a wild card.


Mateo Kovacic, Croatia

For those who follow us on Twitter, my appreciation for Kovacic’s game is no secret. Deployed by Zidane earlier this season in El Clasico to man mark Messi the entire match, Kovacic can play both ways, is strong on the ball and reads the game extremely well. The problem with him in this Croatia side is that the manager liked to play with a 6, which Modric and Rakitic are not. However, if Kovacic starts and is given a chance along with Rakitic and his idol Modric, look for him to prove to the world how good he really is this summer.

Sami Khedira, Germany

While Khedira might not seem like such a “sleeper pick” to many after his performance this season with Juventus, I still feel like the big man goes unappreciated by many due to his lack of pace. With a rocket of a shot, close ball control and excellent vision, he may be one of the most underrated CDM’s in this year’s World Cup yet when everyone praises the talent on Germany’s roster he is hardly ever the main focus. With rumors that he’s looking to make a move to England this summer, look for Khedira to put in a strong showing this summer.

Axel Witsel, Belgium

Possibly the most underrated player on this list, Witsel almost always goes overlooked due to the fact that he plays in Russia. However, this rangy and lanky midfield talent could be the key to Roberto Martinez’s success as he is better defensively than Dembele (Tottenham) in a 3-5-2 system where De Bruyne will have the freedom to get forward and join the attack.

Joao Mario, Portugal

After earning a huge transfer to Inter Milan after his performance for Portugal in the 2016 Euros, Mario fell out of favor with the Serie A side and was sold to West Ham this past January. It’s obvious to anyone who has seen him play for country that he has the quality, as West Ham fans quickly found out in his impressive half of a season with the Hammers as they missed out on relegation. The London club are trying to secure Mario’s services on a permanent basis, but look for him to impress this summer in a deep and talented Portugal side full of guys like Queresma and Moutinho who always remind everyone of their quality when they put on the Portugal maroon.


M’Baye Niang, Senegal

The second I saw Niang play for AC Milan the first time, I couldn’t believe it. A tall and lenky forward with pace, touch, and creativity, Niang was able to show Watford supporters last season a bit of what’s in his game before returning to Italy at Torino this season (on load from Milan). With Balde Keita and Sadio Mane on either wing, whoever starts at the 9 for Senegal will likely see service into the box from the pacy wingers. While Niang has been played primarily on the LW, if he starts at striker  this summer it could be an extremely exciting front 3 in Group H which also includes Poland, Colombia, and Japan.

Jefferson Farfán, Peru

After tearing it up for Schalke in the Bundesliga from 2008-2015, the 33-year-old has since been playing in Abu Dhabi and Russia. However, scoring recently against Scotland for a Peru team which will be missing striker Paolo Guerrero this summer do to a drug ban, look for Farfan to help lead Peru in a group which includes France, Denmark, and Australia with the second place spot seemingly up for grabs.

Joel Campbell, Costa Rica

He’s now twenty-five and has yet to break into Arsenal’s first team. This past season he was on loan at Real Betis where he only made 8 appearances, and last season at Sporting Lisbon he only scored 3 goals in 19 matches (following a prior season at Villareal where he only scored 1 goal in 16 matches, and before that at Olympiacos in 2013-14 8 goals in 32 matches). But you can throw all of that out the window, because whatever you thought you knew about a player based on club performances almost always gets tossed once it comes World Cup time. Campbell’s performances for Costa Rica in the past have been strong, and he should have every chance to earn a potential move this summer.


Joe Gyau Discusses 2017-18 Season with SG Sonnenhof Großaspach & Transfer to MSV Duisburg

This past season in Bundesliga 3 with Aspach, Germany side SG Sonnenhof Großaspach, DMV Local Joe Gyau was able to string together a successful season during which he was able to stay fit and contribute to the first team on a regular basis. Staying injury free and being a first-team regular for an entire season in Bundesliga 3 might not sound like a big deal for the majority of US Soccer supporters, but for Joe Gyau it’s different.

Being forced to sit out for nearly 2 seasons after he tore his ACL during his time with Borussia Dortmund back in December 2014, Joe has relied on the work ethic and mentorship that his father, Howard University Men’s Soccer Coach Phillip Gyau, instilled in Joe at a very young age. Through his hard work and relentless dedication to succeed, Joe was able to recover from his knee injury and shine this season in Bundesliga 3, scoring 5 goals and adding four assists but, more importantly….finishing the 2017-18 season as Sonnenhof Großaspach’s 6th leading man as it relates to match minutes (2,548 minutes in 30 matches).

One thing that is obvious to anyone who has seen his match highlights throughout the season on Twitter (or you can follow Joe on Instagram at @JoeGyau36) is that the past has not seemed to slow Joe down one bit. Earning the reputation of a speedster during his time with Hoffenheim and St Pauli, Joe could be seen regularly this season blowing by people with the ball, going at defenders with pace, and looking to put the opposition on their heels anytime he found the ball in open space.

But he wasn’t just a speedy winger who his manager hoped would become a 1v1 nightmare if he found space on the wing. This past season Joe’s game seemed to mature, regularly finding himself making runs in central positions and earning a reputation as a versatile player who can play in a number of positions, in addition to a counter-attack nightmare who can pick out his teammates with either foot. Taken from who covers Bundesliga 2 news and transfers:

“The 25-year-old American, who came from his home country in 2010 to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim but failed to make his breakthrough at FC St. Pauli and Borussia Dortmund, drew attention in the current season. In 29 league games the two-footed offensive man reached five goals and four assists. Gyau, who can also play central as a second striker, would be a versatile alternative for the offense…”

Today, it was announced that Joe has signed with Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg.

Joe Gyau to MSV Duisburg

I ran into an excited and proud Phillip Gyau earlier this year at the United Soccer Coaches’ Convention in Philadelphia, who told me a deal was done and his son would be on the move but wouldn’t give me the name of the club. Judging by his excitement, I thought it may have been Dortmund who were interested in coming back for Joe, but when I found out Joe was signing for Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg I instantly understood Coach Gyau’s excitement. He knew that the best thing for his son’s development was to go to a club where he will play and continue to earn match minutes, taking it one game (and Bundesliga Division) at a time.

Joe was nice enough to answer XI questions about this past season, his transfer to MSV Duisburg, his US Men’s National Team ambitions, his sister Mia (who herself is quite a player at Duke), and more.

1. 2017-18 Season: Staying Healthy

Q: Joe in 2017 you were able to put together a season where you played the 6th most minutes at Sonnenhof Großaspach. You were able to stay healthy, and get a ton of matches in. At the end of the season, how does it feel in terms of being in match shape, and staying healthy throughout the season? Must be a good feeling?

Joe: “It’s definitely a great feeling. After sitting on the sidelines for so long, I’m happy to be out there playing and doing what I love and performing at a high level. It feels good to be back in shape as well. And then staying healthy on top of all the work, it feels even better be to be able to rely on my body. I feel stronger than before from all the work I put in!”

2. Transfer to MSV Duisburg

Q: You’ve completed a transfer to MSV Duisburg in Bundesliga 2. I believe this is a move that has been in the works as early as this past winter. How did the move come together?

Joe: “Yes, I’ve just completed a move with Duisburg and I’m very excited about it! I’ve been in contact with the club since around February. I had played against them last season when the club was still in Bundesliga 3 and eventually earned promotion. The club monitored me and initially expressed some interest, but then after this season the interest had intensified and I decided to sign.”

3. Atmosphere in Bundesliga 2 and BundesLiga 3

Q: Describe to all of us who aren’t able to see the matches on television… the atmosphere at your matches with Sonnenhof Großaspach this past season, and next season at Duisburg how do you expect the atmosphere to change?

Hamburger home fans
Joe: “The atmosphere in the 3rd league in Germany is great. It’s comparable to some first leagues in other countries, depending on where you play. Playing against Magdeburg FC (pictured above) you will be playing in front of about 20,000 fans.

The overall atmosphere in Bundesliga 3 is definitely great, but next season in Bundesliga 2 it will be a step up just because of the teams that will be in the 2nd league next year.

HSV (Hamburger SV) will be there.

FC Köln will be there.

Both of those stadiums hold 50,000 supporters, so next season should be a lot of fun.”

4. Promotion/Relegation

Q: Your club wasn’t in a relegation battle, but I know you’re buddies with Bobby Wood who was in a fight to survive with HSV this season and I’m sure you’ve seen first-hand instances of important relegation battles in the past. Can you describe to US Soccer fans what relegation/promotion means over there, and how it adds to the quality of soccer on the pitch?

Joe: “Definitely. Being in Germany for a while, you see the passion that comes with relegation battles all the time. The pressures become a part of the game, but that’s what brings the best out in the players. Everyone wants to stay in the league, everyone is fighting to secure a spot, and that brings the competitive nature out. I talk to Bobby daily, and during the relegation battle the team and players were in the newspapers on a regular basis. The pressure is all around you, but the best professional players are able to shut it all out and perform on the pitch. It’s obviously unfortunate that my boy’s team went down, because the last few games is when they started to really come together. But relegation and promotion brings out the best in teams and players, in my opinion.”

5. German Soccer

Q: So what is it about Germany that keeps you around? Is there anything in particular about German soccer that makes it more appealing to you?

Joe: “The soccer knowledge in this country is next level. You can really come to this place and learn about the game and learn more about tactics. And I feel like once you are able to make it out here and establish yourself in the Bundesliga, you can play anywhere. I’ve stayed out here because I feel like I have unfinished business. I didn’t come out to Germany just to play a season or two and come back home, I want to accomplish my goals first. I caught a sniff of playing in the Bundesliga when I made my debut at Dortmund, and also while playing for Hoffenheim, but unfortunately I picked up the injury. I want to keep working, play week in week out and establish myself before leaving Germany.”

6. Scouting in Germany

Q: Scouting is a popular topic in the US right now. Your dad is a coach, so I’m sure you pay close attention to the coaching setups at German clubs. Do you have anything to chime in on in regards to the scouting setup in Germany, since your new club Duisburg likely scouted you before signing?

Joe: “Scouting in Germany is REALLY big, and the clubs and coaches are very particular with methods and how they scout players. They look at practically everything when they scout a player- age, productivity, and stats. They look at work rate and they identify and monitor your tendencies. They even ask around to your coaches and old teammates about how you are personality-wise, because they don’t want bad locker room energy. Scouts are literally everywhere in Germany, at every level. They come to 4th league games, 3rd league games, and 2nd league games on a regular basis. You never know who’s watching, so it’s important to always be on your game.”

7. Overcoming Adversity: It Runs In The Family

Q:You sister Mia has had an outstanding career at Duke thus far, but unfortunately suffered a knee injury this past year. You guys are close, so I’m sure you can share things with her about what it was like during your rehab process that motivate her. But in terms of being a big brother, how much of what you do…your mental prep for a match, your motivation…is based on you setting an example for little sister doing her own thing?

Joe: “Yeah my little sister is a beast, I can’t believe it. She had a minor setback with her ACL and when it happened, I told her how difficult the rehab process would be but also made sure she knew it wasn’t the end by any means. With the way that medical technology has evolved, ACL injuries are not as serious as they once were. The key with an injury is to always remain hungry and to endure, because the time will eventually pass. Sometimes it’s hard to keep that mindset when you’re in the rehab process, but once you are out of the rut and back to playing, you can look back at it as a short blip in a long career. She’s back now doing her thing, so she passed the test of time.

I want my little sister to be able to look up to me and see that her big brother set out on his journey and made it. Me and my sister are really close… like REALLY close… so everything I do, I know she is watching me. And I just want to make sure she is proud of me. But when I play, my main motivation is to repay my parents for all they invested in me, to be honest.”

8. Hindsight is Always 20/20

Q:Injuries aside…obviously you can’t change those…but is there anything that 25 year-old Joe Gyau would go back and tell 20 year -old Joe Gyau, in terms of how to be a professional soccer player in another country?

Joe: “25 year-old Joe would just tell 20 year-old Joe to be more patient. Young players always want to jump through the ranks really quickly and climb the ladder, but sometimes it’s best to stay where you’re at and just develop as a player. Develop and gather as much knowledge of the game as you can. Patience is key, and being that young you have time on your side. There were often times when I wanted to move up the ranks too quickly, not realizing that the situation I was in was an ideal one. Once you’ve established yourself with a club, you can set out and make moves and demand the big bucks. But stay patient and grind, young Joe! Lol.

One other piece of advice for all young players is to adjust to the culture of the country you’re in as quickly as possible, because that shows your coaches that you are willing and eager to learn. They respect that, especially in a country like Germany where they are very prideful in the players they coach and support.”

9. Long-Term Goals, Future with US Men’s National Team

Q:What are your personal goals over the next 4-5 years, in terms of possibly working yourself back into the USMNT mix/setup? Is that on your radar?

Joe: “Over the next 4-5 years I’m just trying to keep leveling up. I know a lot of people were skeptical about me moving down and playing in the 3rd league. They said I would get stuck there and get lost in the division. But they don’t know my focus and the belief I have in myself. I was able to establish myself and earn a transfer to Bundesliga 2 within one season. And moving forward, I’m going to keep improving my game. I just want to focus on my play, and the rewards will come. If your eyes are set on something else, you will lose focus along the way, so I just keep my eye on the ball. Obviously I want to get back in the National Team mix, but that’s not what I think about on a daily basis. I’m just trying to be the best player on my team every day, and the best player on the field every weekend.”

10. Are You Happy to be home in the DMV this summer?

Joe: “I’m so happy to be home this offseason. Right now I’m at Duke visiting Mia, and experiencing the college life a little bit since I never went, haha. It’s always nice to unwind out here for sure. I’m excited about continuing my training this summer in the DMV, and looking forward to what the future holds.”

11. And lastly, who’s your World Cup pick??

Joe: “Hmmm…..I’m going to have to go with Germany, or maybe Spain. I would like to see Brazil and France do well, because I love the style of play and the players they have, but I don’t know how they will perform. It’s definitely going to be exciting summer!!”

Thanks to Joe Gyau for agreeing to be interviewed. I think I speak for everyone in the DMV when I say we will be rooting for you next season in Bundesliga 2 with MSV Duisburg. Keep grinding and putting in the work, getting matches in and hopefully your hard work will continue to pay off!

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