Category: United States

TEDx- Are You Ready For Your Sunny Day? | Jay DeMerit

Jay DeMerit is someone who can attest to the value of perseverance. After not making the professional leagues in the U.S., Jay left for Europe at the age of 23 without any professional experience – only a passport, $1500 and a backpack full of dreams.

Determined to join a team, he approached countless professional clubs throughout Europe for a chance to try-out. To make ends meet, he played in Sunday park leagues and lower level division London clubs earning only 40 pounds a week. He slept on floors and ate beans and toast in order to survive.

Eventually he joined a semi-professional team and after playing one game, earned his first professional contract. In 2007, DeMerit became the captain of the Watford FC team at the age of 27 (becoming the first US-born captain in the team’s history).

DeMerit went from barely scraping by, to creating a legacy. He became an instant hero in England when he helped his team earn promotion to the English Premier league by scoring the “40 million pound goal”, was one of the few players who got to play every minute of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the list goes on. His most recent post was as Captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC where he retired in 2014, transitioning into an ambassador role for the team.

If your life is in a rut or you are suffering from a lack of hope then you should immediately listen to this speech. I knew a little bit about Jay’s background but even I did not know how much work he put into his career. After listening to this TEDx speech he has inspired me. There are so many times in his life when he could have easily given up and gone with his “backup plan.” Instead he kept fighting for his dreams and even when he achieved his initial goal he kept pushing for his next dream even if that just led to more setbacks. American soccer fans should be proud that this mean represented us at a World Cup. His work ethic should serve as an inspiration to every US soccer player coming up through the ranks that they can achieve their dream of playing professionally as long as they are willing to make sacrifices to get there.

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New US Soccer Away Kit

Nike officially unveiled the new US Soccer Away Kit today.  Both the Men’s and Women’s team will have the privilege of competing in them.  The Women’s team will debut the kit in the Algarve Cup in the beginning of March and the Men’s team will wear the kit against Denmark on March 25th.

Naturally, Nike got the likes of Dempsey and Alex Morgan to model the jersey for the release photos.  Check out some of the photos and let us know what you think.

Dempsey

Dempsey Back
Alex Morgan

Alex

Away Kit

 

Golazo- Michael Bradley Bends It In On A Corner Kick

The USMNT has not been looking great in the past few friendlies they’ve played so this was a big win against Panama. Jurgen is trying to shake things up which has affected and continuity and chemistry of the team but it is still hard to completely explain away the losses they have suffered recently. Thankfully, this was a vintage USMNT performance and it is no coincidence that their win came at a time when Michael Bradley was able to play in the defensive midfield role where he has shown the most comfort. I’m not sure he meant to do this but I like to believe he did.

Also, check out Clint Dempsey’s goal to make it 2-0 after an exquisite through ball from Gyasi Zardes below.

Landon “Don Ovan” Comes Out Of Retirement To Play Pickup Soccer Game

I wish they had come up with the “Don Ovan” nickname before his career was over because I’m sure the fans would have a had a lot of fun with that. Either way I’m glad to see his name still has the staying power to be used as an advertising spokesman.

Also “Hat Trick Rick” is a fantastic nickname. After hearing that nickname I am starting to wish my name was Rick so I could use that as my nickname.

Spotlight On Will Packwood – USMNT

Injuries are an unfortunate part of soccer. Some players can go an entire career without suffering a major injury, but others are not as lucky.

One of the not-so-lucky ones was Stuart Holden, once one of the brightest US talents before a series of devastating injuries all but ended his career. The same fate has befallen many players before him. Fortunately, established players affected by injury can usually regain their starting spot even if they miss several months.

Youth soccer players, however, are not always afforded the same luxury. In youth soccer, academy teams can be cutthroat. If a young player misses an entire year of his development because of an injury, then he can easily be surpassed by one of his teammates and left in the dust. It is hard for many players to make up that ground. This is why many were worried about what would happen to USMNT youth prospect Will Packwood after he went down with a major leg injury on January 5, 2013.

Will Packwood was born on May 21, 1993 in Concord, Massachusetts. His main position is defensive back, and he sometimes plays defensive midfielder. At the age of 14 he joined the Birmingham City youth academy and rose through the ranks to earn a two-year professional contract in July 2011. During that same time he progressed through the US youth teams, playing for their U-17, U-18, and U-20 sides until he earned his current spot on the U-23 roster.

In addition to his youth international experience, Packwood also earned one senior call-up on March 5, 2014 when the USMNT played Ukraine.

On January 5, 2013 Will Packwood collided with Leeds’ striker Luciano Becchio during a routine aerial challenge, landing awkwardly and breaking his tibia and fibula. After getting stretchered off the field, Packwood faced an ugly 9-12 month recovery time—a timeline that often sounds a death knell to a defender trying to develop himself into a premier defensive back. After only 8 months, however, Will returned, proving his doubters wrong. Some speculate that his speedy recovery was encouraged when he received a one-year extension while he was in rehabilitation.

After returning from his injury, Will played eight games for Bristol Rovers on loan to regain his form. He debuted for Birmingham City on January 25, and in his first game back he won “man of the match,” and subsequently played the rest of the season as one of Birmingham City’s first-choice center backs.  After playing only one game for Birmingham City in the 2014—2015 and due to limited first-team opportunities season, he was sent on loan to Colchester United from which he recently returned after an injury plagued few months.

The loan to Colchester United was enacted in the hopes that Packwood would receive the necessary playing time to further develop his skills. But he only managed 67 minutes on his debut before going down with a groin injury and spending the rest of his loan on the bench.

While it is clear that Birmingham City sees Will Packwood as a valuable talent they need to hold onto, a recent influx of players and Packwood’s injury problems have knocked him down the pecking order. It has been difficult for him to get time on Birmingham City’s first team. Eight months without playing a competitive game has clearly hurt his development.

A fit Packwood is also a a valuable asset to the USMNT. At 6’3’’ he is strong in the air, and comfortable with the ball at the feet.  He is also a versatile defender.

After missing almost a year recovering from that devastating leg injury, Will has little time to spare. This is crunch time for his development. Will Packwood has shown that he has the fortitude and strength to regain his starting spot. Of course, there is no guarantee that he will succeed. European soccer leagues are littered with American players who were never able to fulfill their potential.

To become a starter, Will Packwood will need a mixture of persistence–and luck. Another major injury, or an extended period of time on the bench, could spell disaster for his career. Will Packwood become another American success story, or will he fade into obscurity? US Soccer fans hope to see him in the starting line-up. Soon.

First Published In First Touch

Report: Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem Becomes U.S. Citizen

From SI.com:

Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem has become a United States citizen and plans to commit to U.S. soccer, reports the Washington Post.

According to the report, Zelalem was in Washington on Monday to finalize the naturalization process and now just needs FIFA approval, which is believed to be “a perfunctory exercise.”

Becoming a U.S. citizen would allow the 17-year-old to play for the U.S., Germany (where he was born) or Ethiopia (his family’s homeland), but he has told American officials that he will play for the U.S., according to the Post.

Ever since news broke that Gedion’s father was applying for US citizenship the USMNT fans have been on the edge of their seat. Anyone with a brain can see why. Not only is he an exceptional talent but the French Maestro himself, Arsene Wenger, has revealed he has ‘high expectations’ for the young midfielder. I don’t think Arsene has said anything like that about any other US talent so it is definitely a cause to get excited. Expectations must be tempered though because he is only 17 and needs more time to develop. However, if this report is true then this is yet another coup for Jurgen Klinsmann when it comes to convincing dual-US citizens to commit their future to the USMNT.

There’s Only One Cody Cropper

The United States soccer youth development system has long struggled to produce great international American soccer field players. In recent years, the development system has improved, but the United States Soccer Academy still trails all of the great international soccer countries. Aside from our country’s international “woes” in the field, we have still found a way to produce some of the world’s topnotch goalkeepers. Over the past two decades, the US has produced some of the most talented, athletic and consistent net-minders to date. Distinguished athletes such as Marcus Hahneman,Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Brad Guzan have all enjoyed decorated careers as starting shot-stoppers in top leagues around the world.

Why is it, then, that the US has produced so many successful and consistent goalkeepers, with so few outfield players in comparison?

 

The general consensus about Americans’ success in-between the pipes is that the American youth have long had the opportunity to develop the necessary athletic skills for goalkeeping because of consistent exposure to American sports at a young age. The logic behind this reasoning is that years of participation in sports such as basketball, baseball and even American football help these future athletes naturally develop a basis for great goalkeeping skills such as positional awareness and eye-hand coordination long before they begin their exclusive training as goalkeepers. As a non-goalkeeper looking from the outside in, why would a goalkeeper desire to go abroad at such a young age if past American goalkeepers have proven they can succeed through the US youth system? Cody Cropper recently challenged this question when he decided that the best course of action for his development was to take his talents to England. This is one of the many reasons he is currently one of the most intriguing goalkeeping talents in the American youth system.

 

Cody Joseph Cropper was born on February 16, 1993 in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Deciding to forgo the traditional path of most American goalkeepers, and soccer players in general, Cody chose to attempt to play in England, where he had several trials with many different teams. Finally, he signed with Ipswich Town FC in May 2010, spending three seasons mixing it up at their academy level. In 2012, at age 19, Cropper signed a two-year contract with Southampton that was extended by a year this past summer. On Southampton, Cropper plays for their Academy team, also receiving the honor to act as the third-string keeper during a few Southampton first-team matches. Although he has been called into camp with the USMNT, Cropper spends most of his international career as the first choice goalkeeper for the U-23 US youth squad.

 

Currently, Cody sits behind Polish international Artur Boruc (on loan at Bournemouth), English international Fraser Forster, English veteran Kelvin Davis, and the young Argentine Paolo Gazzaniga on the depth chart. This is a daunting list, especially since goalkeepers, like all soccer players, need playing time to develop. Although he is the low man on the totem pole, there have been promising signs that Southampton sees him an important part of their future. When Dave Watson, England’s former goalkeeping coach, was hired by Southampton, one of the first things he made sure to do was exercise the one-year extension option on Cody’s contract. This high-profile move by a man of Watson’s caliber illustrates Southampton’s commitment to better developing its goalkeepers. If one of his first steps after being hired is to secure the young Cropper to a one-year extension, then it is safe to assume he is part of Southampton’s future plans.

 

Goalkeepers do not have the same development path as outfield players. It can take them several more years than their outfield teammates to develop into starters. Yet, after they do, they typically last longer playing at high level. Sometimes a goalkeeper takes until age twenty-seven to become a full-time starter. While most outfield players peak at that age, most goalkeepers can keep playing until their forties.  Although a thirty-eight-year-old net-minder may not be able to make every single glory save or scramble across the goalmouth in one leap and bound, he can still outplay the younger counterparts by using his experience. This is all due to the notion of knowledge is power. As they age goalkeepers can better manipulate their opponents into taking the shots they want by experienced positioning awareness as well as proper communication, keeping the defense in check at the back. Therefore, technically, Cropper can take the foot off the pedal and absorb as much as possible compared to his fellow USMNT youth prospects who play in the outfield. There are some goalkeepers, like Mattia Perin, Joe Hart and Thibaut Courtois, who get starting spots early, but this is not an indictment of Cody’s future. His place in the pecking order is hopefully only temporary.

 

It is clear that the US coaching staff has a lot of faith in Cody since he is currently the starting goalkeeper for the US U-23 team and has already  been called up to several USMNT camps. This experience, combined with his current environment where he will be learning under England’s former goalkeeping coach, will be great for his development going forward. The scariest part about his future is how far behind he is in the depth chart. Although he has time to develop, he will need to get more first-team experience if he ever wants to get over the hump and become a consistent Premier League-caliber goalkeeper. However, for the time being, he is developing well at Southampton. If Cropper stays there for another year or two, then he will only improve. Nevertheless, he will still need to get consistent first-team experience. This may be hard to achieve at Southampton, so he probably will need to seek a transfer or a loan elsewhere. The team he goes to does not need to even be a Premier League team. At the end of the day the best move for Cody is to continue at Southampton and absorb as much as he can until he can find first-team experience.One can only wait to see what a talent Cody Cropper can develop into. Patience is key in goalkeeping.

First Published In First Touch