Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Embrace the chaos

There are times in my recent refereeing past, and times in my current assessing present, and instructional future where I sought (or seek) to understand the style of play the teams are going to employ for the day to calculate possible problem areas.

For example, and please note I am overgeneralizing here, if I had a South American styled team, I would expect more individual ball possession than a Western European team which would likely provide long ball from the back 1/3 to the front 1/3. This combination at times could be problematic at these competing styles clashed.

More homogeneous styled teams would lead to a more balanced approach in play style and consequently, refereeing style.

So what style do US players have, and how does a referee react to them when faced with a more classic style as that listed above?

This article is intended to comment on the first part of the question only as the second part will take up volumes of a book I am currently contemplating and would certainly leak parts here from.

For those who did not know Claudio Reyna has been named the Youth Technical Director for U.S. Soccer recently and has been charged with figuring out this very question. What style does the US play?

In this article from ESPN, Reyna is suggesting to publish a curriculum to begin to standardize some common elements that the US Youth can work on. On the surface this may make some sense, but it certainly has its flaws ... and critics. From the article (sic):
"A curriculum's not going to make us any better," Arena said. "If that was the case, we'd all publish curriculums. This country, I've always said, is too large, too different to have one style of play. If he [Reyna] can get that accomplished, more credit to him."
 And from Steve Nicol who is never at a loss for words ...
"It depends on what you mean by 'try to establish a style of play,'" said New England coach Steve Nicol, the Liverpool legend who has mastered the art of scouting and developing players from college campuses. "We all want to pass the ball, and we all want to play good, open attacking football. If we can develop players to have that ability, the style will evolve on its own. What we'll have is players who can play the game properly."
So it would seem that Claudio has his work cut out for him.

On the other side of the flipping coin there are (2) issues.

First, what does a US referee do in such a case where players do not have a defined style?

My brief answer is study the individual team, and coach, and frankly be ready for anything. At the end of the day all the preparation in the world can be destroyed by a random event or player that is having a real terrible day. After all, all of us are not only involved in THE game, but also in the greater game of life and stuff happens in life that can disrupt those "expected" patters of how a match should play out on paper.

Second is in the form of a question. As the citizens of the US are culturally diverse, and among them are not only players but referees, how does US Soccer remedy this issue among its referees, who like its players, may be seeing THE game through their cultural identity, in a search for consistency among its referees?

Players have Claudio fighting the fight ...

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