Soccer Training Observations from Cruziero

I spent a day observing the youth teams of Cruziero EC or Esporte Club as well.  Cruziero is the complex that I am staying on.  Right now they have five different centers or complexes. TOCA 1 is with U14/15/17/20. TOCA 2 is where the full professional team trains. The Leisure Club is where the U10/11/12/13 train and has the futsal facilities.  To enter the compound you go through a guarded security gate. I stayed at the international exchange with 8 other international boys in their teens that are basically paying to try out for the program. If they are successful, Cruziero will extend them an invitation to join their academy like the one 17-year-old I met from Angola. There was one American–rest were Canadians. The hotels are small–maybe 150 square feet or so with Internet, TV, and a shared bathroom suite. It really reminds me my dorm days back in college!The grounds here are simply magnificent. There is a cafeteria that feeds the players three times a day with one snack to take back to bed with them. These players go to school on the grounds unlike America. The school is located at the North end of the complex, and they have four training fields; two grass practice fields; a turf practice field; and a grass game complex. I will be videotaping some of the game sessions, but the trainings are not permitted to be taped for obvious reasons.They also have a weight room and medical facility. The players are all separated into different living wings/buildings. All the players here live on the facility unlike America, and there is a trophy room that is simply ridiculous. Their U20 team has won two of the last three European Tournaments they have been in. They won ADO den Haag Cup and Terborg Cup in Holland. All three of these tournaments are world-class tournaments with teams like Chivas, Ajax, Boca Jr’s, FC Twente, and others. The goalie is on the full national team and they have three others on the U17 National Team.

Many of those boys were the same boys that won the Dallas Cup Super Group Tournament back in America in 2010. Again, I have pictures of this complex and will share them with you shortly.

What I have realized here is that there are things that we are never going to be able to duplicate on a large scale. In Brazil alone, they have 20 professional clubs in the A division, 20 in the B, 20 in the C, and 64 in the D division. That is 124 professional clubs in just their National Leagues. On top of that they have hundreds of state league professional clubs that don’t compete on the National level. The players sign amateur contracts when they join these clubs. Sure, the parents can move the kids as they wish if they are under 16, but the new clubs have to buy out their contract before they can join. Kids at 16 years old can sign pro contracts domestically. This means that these clubs start to pay these players roughly $50,000 a year to be a part of their programs. However, when the big European Clubs come knocking, there are hefty fees they must pay to the Brazilian Clubs. Just to get an idea, multiply 100 by their yearly salary and that is a ball park figure–yes, $5 million for the average player, not the superstar like Neymar at Santos who just signed with Barcelona for about $50 million.

So as I said before, certain things we aren’t going to be able to duplicate, but when it is all said and done it really just comes down to coaching and training—which we can duplicate. The other shiny stuff is a bonus to have, but it isn’t necessary to create great players.

I truly believe that we can create these same great players without the complexes, the facilities, and the same structure that they have here in Brazil. However, it starts with our coaches getting the proper training they need, and understanding the game on the highest levels. There is definitely more than one way to skin a cat….

Training is the other key. If kids don’t want to train on a daily basis from 14 on, then they are not going to ever play this game at the highest levels. There is so much competition out there that you have to love this game, embrace this game, and be willing to dedicate your life to this game if we ever want to garner the success of the Brazilians. They BLEED Football, and so shall we.

As coaches, we have to get our kids excited about this game. It’s ok to have a recreational side for the love of the sport, but the club side needs a major overhaul. I have been very controversial in the past couple of years with my training methods, styles, and views on soccer in America, and I don’t plan to stop. I have never been one to just go with the flow to fit in. We are doing it SOOOOOOO wrong that it is pathetic.

Take a look at one National Team Player for example: Jozy Altidore was highly touted as a kid; he grew up in the Youth National System; He played in the U17 World Cup Team that BEAT BRAZIL!  Yes, beat Brazil and played them toe-to-toe. No fluke there. Jozy was a part of the U17 residency program which I believe is run by IMG Academy over in Bradenton, FL. Jozy saw great success as a teenager on the international stage because he was big, strong, fast–way more athletic than most other kids. Now he is playing with grown men on the full professional level and can’t break out…why? We never harnessed his talent and developed him right as a youth player. You can’t simply out power and outrun grown men on the international stage if you are not creative, intelligent, and technically sound. Jozy can’t hold the ball, he can’t run at players, he isn’t creative off of the ball…all those things that make a great striker I listed in my previous blogs. This is not his fault; it is the fault of the US Federation for not developing that talent. They let him slide by on his athleticism not realizing that someday it would bite them in the butt. Now we have a striker that was so highly touted, that really is just starting to make a splash over in Holland. I’m not saying this to be negative, I am saying it to make everyone aware of our shortcomings–we simply don’t know how to develop players. We can’t even develop our talented ones! With that said, I believe we can develop a nice blueprint which will put us on the right track. Sure, we won’t really see the results for another decade, but we need to start today.

Even doing it so wrong we have produced good players like Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, my buddy Jimmy Conrad, and many others. That is a testament to America. Think of the dynamic players we could build if we did it just a bit differently, or even right.

I’m excited!  And by no means do I believe the Brazilian blueprint is the only one to follow for success. The Dutch do it great, so do the Spanish, the French, The Germans, and others as well. What I am simply stating is that the Brazilian philosophy is the one that I have chosen to embrace and believe is a good fit for America. The American Federation has recently chosen to embrace the Spanish philosophy, namely, the Real Madrid philosophy that is great! However, it is really going to take more than a philosophy to make a serious impact.

If you go on you will see a great series of articles on the US Soccer System…The old school US Coaches are having a hard time accepting the proposed Spanish curriculum…why? They believe they are doing it right and that it is only a matter of time until the results start to pay off. However, we haven’t raised our level of play in over 20 years. When I was a kid we had midfielders like Claudio Reyno; defenders like Marcelo Balboa and Alexi Lalas; forwards like Eric Wynalda. 20 years later we have the same thing. Sure-they were good players and pioneers, but if we were doing it right, we would have forwards like Ronaldo, Messi; midfielders like Xavi, Iniesta; Defenders like Alves, or Lucio.

These guys at the top of the US System have their USSF “A” Licenses, which by the way, any coach with some money and 7 or so years of US coaching experience can earn! It’s not about the silly credentials, it’s about the knowledge and the ability to share that knowledge and motivate players. All a license entails is you having the ability to memorize a bunch of jargon to pass a practical test. We need those that can formulate that knowledge, develop their own hypothesis–test it, tweak it, perfect it and tailor it–to our youth. Anyone that can’t do that is worthless in my book no matter how many credentials they may have.

So let’s speak about the sessions I observed at Cruziero:

U20 Cruziero Team

Their session today lasted about two hours.  The theme of the session was technical training.  The warm-up consisted of some basic ball movement, passing, and trapping. The session then opened up with a two touch 5 v 5 then 10 v 10 possession game. Talk about ridiculous! The way these guys move the ball around is unreal. When they receive they always receive the ball in a position to play it easily and their touch is spot on. Their vision allows them to see the whole field so they know where they want to pass before they receive the ball. It is a real testament to the program here. This team is one of the best in the world for their age and I can see why. It goes to show that you are never too old to work on your technique. Cruziero Teams all the way up to the Professional side work on their technique on a weekly basis!

U14 Cruziero Team

These boys are bad!  I mean bad in the VERY GOOD sense.  I enjoyed this session very much because they are the same age as the boys I coach.  Right now, I would say my boys are two years behind where these boys are at but are gaining ground quite quickly.  The session topic was Tactical.  They run a unique formation that plays out as a 4-3-3 with one holding midfielder and two playmakers.  All the midfielders play centrally and the outsides are exploited by the full backs and the outside forwards.  Just as all typical Brazilian play starts, they build from the circulation of the ball from the back four.  The two outside backs stay wide when the ball is on the strong side and attack when the opportunity presents itself.  The three midfielders are basically links that provide the support between the fullbacks and the forwards.  The two outside forwards–or wingers–draw back to collect the ball and combine with the outside backs our midfielders to penetrate forward.  When they draw back, they drag defenders with them and open up space for the midfielders, center forward, or outside back to run into for the combination.  Very fluid game…the boys are very technically sound as well which buys them time on the ball. When it doesn’t work on one side, it is not uncommon to see the boys switch the ball 30 yards to the other side of the field–simply marvelous to watch.

The level of play over here is just top notch all the way around. The trainings are simple, the methods are simple, and everything is built around small sided games. There is really no reason why we can’t duplicate the system and get on the same page as the Brazilians. As I said before, I am very enthusiastic and excited about what’s to come for Electric Soccer and the youth of the Inland Empire in 2013 and beyond…the kids and parents that grab on are going to be in for the ride of their lives, because I am bringing Brazil back to the US on a very large scale.  Somebody had to do it, and that somebody is I.

Until next time,

Coach Randle

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