Girls DA launch means crossroads for many players

Jennifer Beekman February 27, 2017 111
After helping Walter Johnson High School win it's first Maryland state championship, Cammie Murtha is heading to Wisconsin (photo courtesy: Melissa West)

After helping Walter Johnson High School win it’s first Maryland state championship, Cammie Murtha is heading to Wisconsin (photo courtesy: Melissa West)

High school sports have long played an integral role within American communities, bringing people together and teaching adolescents valuable life lessons along the way. Student-athletes take great pride in collaborating with their teammates—and friends—to work toward one common goal: best representing their respective schools, peers and families.But this year, thousands of the nation’s top young female soccer players face a difficult decision that might mean giving up high school soccer altogether.

Last February the United States Soccer Federation announced the Fall 2017 launch of a Girls’ Development Academy (DA) that is “designed to maximize the nation’s young female youth player development.” Its overall purpose, essentially, is to support the United States Women’s national team through the development of world-class players, by prioritizing training and player development over competition—there will be fewer, but higher quality games.

On Feb. 16, U.S. Soccer named Miriam Hickey as the program’s first director. In an interview posted on the organization’s website, Hickey, who brings 25 years of coaching experience to the position, said: “We want to make sure that every talented youth player is given the opportunity to develop and we do not want any talented player to be overlooked…We must continue to raise the level of the game in the U.S., so we can continue to win World Cups and Olympic gold medals, and that means we must not only develop the players, but also the coaches and get them ready for the demands the international game places on them.

“The DA will assure that the elite players train with and play with and against like-minded players and are coached by top level coaches who have committed to continue to educate themselves.”

The Girls’ DA program will follow the structure of the Development Academy for boys, which was first introduced by U.S. Soccer in 2007. But as of 2012, when the season was extended from seven to 10 months, academy players are not permitted to compete with their high school teams. With spring tryouts fast approaching, the pressure is now on for female players to choose their direction. And many concerns have been raised by players, parents and youth coaches alike, wondering whether the academy format actually has the girls’ best interest in mind.

USWNT coach Jill Ellis was on hand at the Girls’ DA launch meeting in December and spoke to youth club leaders and directors about the program, which currently includes 71 clubs—selected by U.S. Soccer through an application process—divided among six regions, and what it means for elite girls’ soccer players and their potential paths to the pinnacle of women’s soccer in this country: a spot on her national team roster.

USWNT coach Jill Ellis spoke highly of the new Girls DA program scheduled for launch this fall. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

USWNT coach Jill Ellis spoke highly of the new Girls DA program scheduled for launch this fall. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

“At the outset you are talking not about a league but you are talking about a platform for development,” Ellis told the crowd, according to an article published on U.S. Soccer’s website. “I think the fundamental basis of what this is going to serve, it’s for development. The Development Academy is going to bring clubs and coaches to become more aligned in terms of what the big picture is: to find players and help them become the best soccer players they can be.”

no easy comparison to boys program

U.S. Soccer’s decision to launch a Girls’ DA came as no surprise. Because, equality, right? But it’s difficult to compare what’s best for men’s and women’s soccer in this country because they are on two separate planes. The U.S. Men’s national team has been unable to compete at the top of the international game—and in 2016 failed to qualify for its second consecutive Olympics. The top-ranked USWNT (per FIFA.com’s latest world rankings) won its record third Women’s World Cup in July 2015. And though the American women are in a transitional period after suffering a major setback at last summer’s Rio Olympics where they crashed out in the quarterfinals to Sweden—their worst result ever at a major international competition—there is no shortage of young talent waiting in the wings. So, why “fix” what doesn’t seem to be broken?

It certainly makes sense to implement an overall umbrella structure that would help guide top youth leagues when it comes to instruction and player development. But playing high school soccer provides so many intangibles that help create more well-rounded athletes and teammates.

“High school soccer provides invaluable life experience,” Georgetown University men’s soccer coach Brian Wiese said. “From time management necessary to balance academics with competition, to leadership qualities and performing under pressure. Academy soccer is played in a sterile environment. In high school you’ve got the crowds, it’s fun. The kids have a great time. But I think the experience [of playing high school], the leadership and the character building, a lot of these intangibles that high school provides, I see a lot of these things becoming holes in the qualities you want in recruits.”

And one major distinction between boys and girls soccer in this country is that while on the men’s side, for most top programs and athletes, the college years are a sort of weigh station before a potentially lucrative professional career. While the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is preparing for its fifth season, when none of its predecessors made it past three, and just signed a three-year sponsor and broadcast deal with Lifetime Network, it’s virtually impossible for non-USWNT members to make a decent salary playing professional soccer, so most female high school student-athletes still see NCAA Division I soccer as their end goal. Hopefully that trend will change as women’s soccer continues to grow, but many coaches agreed the team-first high school soccer environment does tend to be more similar to college soccer than the club atmosphere.

going up against the established ecnl

Another obstacle facing the Girls’ DA is that, while such an elite academy was missing from the youth boys side, the girls program will be going head-to-head with the Elite Clubs National League Inc. (ECNL). Established in 2009, the ECNL has been providing the nation’s best players the opportunity to train with and compete against one another.

According to its website, 1,224 of 1,346 ECNL seniors graduating in 2016 will go on to play soccer in college. And 969 (79 percent) of them, are signed to NCAA Division I programs. In addition, ECNL players account for more than 80 percent of the total U.S. Soccer Youth national team player pool.

It’s difficult to understand why U.S. Soccer would create a developmental program for girls when the ECNL already serves that purpose; several top club coaches in the Washington Metropolitan area said an alliance might be more beneficial, as this setup is sure to dilute rosters. Plus, a decade in, and the USMNT is still waiting for the academy to spring the next superstar. The USWNT has seen wave after wave of them. And 18-year-old Mallory Pugh, who reportedly remained loyal to her high school squad despite her busy schedule and national team call-ups, seems to be leading the next one—last summer she became the youngest player in U.S. history to score in the Olympics, according to U.S. Soccer’s website.

When questioned about criticism regarding the limitations, Hickey’s response was: “To develop optimally, it is in the elite players’ best interest to be part of a consistent learning environment, with as few distractions as possible. Becoming an international level player requires that matches are played with the international demands and rules placed on them. The work/rest ratio will not be optimal if players compete in other environments. To benefit the most from each activity, it is essential that players are 100 percent recovered before each training session and match.”

As with the boys’ academy, there is sure to be a learning curve with the girl’s program over the next few years. But for now, young girls stand at a crossroads in their respective soccer careers, and it’s hard to know which is the best path to take.

“If you take away camaraderie, the aspect of playing for your team, from the girls side…I think if you gave the top players in the country the choice of playing at a high level for ECNL and the ability to play high school, or the ability to play at an equivalent level at the academy, you’ll lose kids because they want to play for high school,” Wiese said. “I think high school soccer is much closer to the [team-oriented] college soccer environment.”

  • Michael V

    The ECNL is not been good for girls outside of bigger metro areas, and might even be considered a detriment to those girls. Many, many ECNL girls are not at the same quality as non-ECNL girls but are getting D1 scholarships.

    Giving the ECNL some competition hopefully will help provide opportunity for other girls that fall outside of the ECNL geographies.

    • #1Fan

      the reason is you will always get the non ECNL TEAM that stays together under a good coach and progresses really well. Much fewer Clubs though. yes there are better teams, but not many better CLUBS. Even less so now because the upshot of this GDA move is the ECNL is now adding Clubs left and right. Clubs that prior to this move were not considered good enough across the board for ECNL. Its now a big land grab .

      • Michael V

        Agreed!

  • no hs

    tbh high school soccer isn’t worth it/makes no sense. i understand older folks are nostalgic for hs sports and it’s trendy to worry about kids being forced to specialize, but it just doesn’t make sense for a lot of elite players.

    – hs soccer is often coached by part-time coaches, who may have no understanding of the game. elite players with years of soccer knowledge are then working with relative novices. this is bad from both a learning standpoint, and then also can be dangerous from a conditioning perspective, where coaches may wear players into the ground.
    – games are often played on terrible high school fields that double as football fields. they may be incorrect dimensions. in my case the field was heavily domed to help with drainage, so much so that you couldn’t see the ball on the other side of the field if you were sitting on the bench.
    – wear and tear. given that the players, coaching, and opposition are often subpar and other competitions are still ongoing (nationals, college recruiting tournaments), elite players don’t stop playing club soccer. so, you have players doing two hours of high school soccer after school each day, and then going to two more hours of club soccer. this certainly teaches you to be able to do homework in a car or after midnight, but doesn’t do much to promote the balance and well-roundedness mentioned in the article.

    • AlexH

      The beauty of soccer is that you don’t really need all of the coaching and the facilities. Some of the greatest players in the world learned to play by kicking wadded up rags in the back alleys of third world slums. In the extremely unlikely event that my daughter grows up to be better than her HS team she can always hang around after school and play with the boys.

      • CED

        Actually not true in reality. Those players in other countries Brazil, etc…were picked up by academies when they were teenagers and cultivated to be proper footballers .

        • AlexH

          True but they were already 90% there when the academies got there. The point I was making is that coaching and facilities matter less in soccer than in a lot of sports and I think that girls can elevate their game a lot by kicking it around with the boys and having a balanced life then by going to an academy and becoming a 1 dimensional person.

          • Ethan

            Your point only makes some sense if most people who go to an academy become one-dimensional people. What’s your reasoning for thinking that’s the case?

          • AlexH

            There is only 24 hours in a day and my guess is that most girls could probably learn to play the violin in the time they take from the daily commute to practice. Obviously there are many exceptional girls that can do it all but at some point soccer becomes a zero sum game.

          • #1Fan

            your are not wrong but that goes back to the parents and the coaches. Most Elite Clubs are marketing to parents, not the kids. They are selling the parent on the vision of elite soccer. Most of the kids involved are not good enough and certainly not dedicated to it. Just because you are forced to go to practice becasue Dad pays, does not make you good.

            parents convince themselves that travelling an extra hour to be player #10 on a winning team is better than being player # 3 on a weaker one. They pay to win ,not to get real development opportunities. Thats my experience of the last 10 years.

            ive never bough in to it.

          • AlexH

            #1Fan. I am curious as to how you and your daughter got into the competitive scene. I don’t want to pry but you seem to have a lot of experience in these matters.

          • #1Fan

            purely by accident really. all my kids played. On the last one now. All different and all had differing skill sets so i have seen it from diff angles.

          • AlexH

            It is accidental for us as well. We gave my youngest some coaching when she wanted to play GK at the rec level (mainly for safety) and she really took to it. Her coach pointed out that because the GK training was included with the club fees, joining his club wasn’t that much more expensive so we gave it a try. It works for us, but I really wish there was a better way (and I have no answers) to train girls to play than exists right now.

          • CED

            No they weren’t 90% there.

        • #1Fan

          This. And the point is they were usually selected on ability to PLAY not PAY.

          Someone saw potential.

          In the USA they see dollars and then string along mediocrity and call it Elite.

      • guest

        Simply “playing with the boys” won’t make her better either, unless all you care about is athleticism and playing fast. My high school boys team was bereft of any tactical ideas or creativity. Playing with them would have just meant playing with larger, faster, clumsier versions of the people I was already playing with. I learned far more playing for intelligent, sophisticated club coaches.

      • guest

        Another point too – novice coaches + bad fields + desire to win most often = a hoof it up the field and chase strategy. Very different if you’re talking pick up vs. organized team game.

  • Andy

    I have 2 main issues with this Girls’ DA:
    1. USSF’s dishonest and disrespectful unfolding of the DA – They say all the right things about working together, but then by their actions they are clearly doing everything they can to rip the rug out from under all other organizations. It is “our way or the highway”. This is brash and arrogant. I would rather them just step up and admit, “Ok, yeah, we’re directly competing with ECNL and high school and any other top leagues.”
    2. International substitution rules. While there is some truth to players becoming used to unlimited subs and then taking some time to become accustomed to the limited substitutions, it is a very minor impact. What will not be a minor impact is when many of these talented players drive or fly long distances for a game just to sit on the bench for either the whole game or all but the last few minutes. Fewer games also means you won’t have as many opportunities to “play your bench”. These non-starters will be marginalized due to lack of playing time.

    Not to say the current structure has all its ducks lined up in a row, but these two items come to mind regarding the DA.

    • CED

      Substitution rules completely change the tactic of the game. The most glaring example is UNC, they have based their entire programs tactics on exploiting the liberal substitution rules in the NCAA. You can’t actually play their style with standard international sub rules. UNC for 25 years has used a high press tactic of line shift subs. The thing as other programs are no progressing in producing enough technical players on their squads UNC is having less success and their style of play is being shown to be rudimentary, aesthetically unappealing and low brow. UNC soccer is stuck in the same spot as USWNT, they had success in one style and are unwilling to change as the game is progressing to value technically players in all positions. They have gotten by with brute players and a few skilled players. Dorrance tacitly admitted as much after they got spanked by USC early in the season.

      • Andy

        I agree the substitution rules have an impact on the tactics of the game. However, as you pointed out UNC’s high press tactic (encouraged by more available substitution) is being beaten by technical play. In a way, more subs teaches a more sophisticated game to be able to counter the high press.

        Certainly substitution rules have an impact. I just believe for development purposes the more stringent substitutions does more harm than good.

        • rkmid71

          I think it’s the opposite. For development purposes, the int’l rules does more good than harm. They just would need to spread the games out so players have adequate recovery time. You would really better id the best college players.

          Re: bench players, there is no entitlement to be on the field. That right has to be earned.

          • #1Fan

            except they are not changing the College rules 🙁
            i think that is where they should change them, not in Dev years.

          • #1Fan

            I think is its earned by ever parent who pays for development. Game time is part of the package. the real issue is when parents are paying for kids who dont belong and WHY do Clubs allow the kids to be there ?

            money money money money…..MONEY

          • Andy

            This is not a matter of entitlement. If you are the 12th best player on the team as a teenager then it’s entirely possible you could train and get to be better than those above you. However, if you are not offered an opportunity to train and put training into practice with real game time, then you almost certainly won’t develop.

            This idea that the best players as an adult will only ever come from the best players at U14 is just wrong.

            Now, if you were referring to college, then perhaps you are right. However as this is a discussion about the girls’ DA, you would be discussing a different topic.

          • rkmid71

            I was talking more about college. Though HS ages I feel similar. I agree that the best players at U13 aren’t necessarily the best players at U18. Especially given the potentially significant timing differences in physical maturity. So you need enlightened coaches that understand and are focused on what it will take to win at the older ages when it really matters, potentially sacrificing short term results.

          • Andy

            Ah, that makes sense.

            Yeah, it’s the U13-U16 age groups (or younger if implemented) where I’m concerned about losing some good players that might develop later.

          • #1Fan

            GDA starts at U14 . too late imo, IF development really was the goal

          • Steglitz49

            I see U14 as a compromise between young enough to cope and not too young.

        • #1Fan

          its only being beaten by technical play from the schools that can recruit enough of those players. Its still effective – College Cup this year.

          Some interesting facts

          1. The 2018 class is loaded with kids going to UNC including Pinto. Hardly a great spot for a technician 🙂
          2. ACC FOy is a UNC kid. prototypical UNC player.. Big good speed and very direct
          3. Its funny hearing him talk GDA/ECNL etc given his exploitative, non soccer style
          4. Shows how in the USA winning >> All .
          5. When your winningest program is this, why would anyone be incented to focus on anything but speed an power ?

  • AlexH

    A few points.

    “Its overall purpose, essentially, is to support the United States Women’s national team through the development of world-class players, by prioritizing training and player development over competition—there will be fewer, but higher quality games.”

    What is good for the WNT isn’t always good for girls soccer especially because so very few of these young women will get the barest of sniffs from Jill and the gals.

    “The DA will assure that the elite players train with and play with and against like-minded players and are coached by top level coaches who have committed to continue to educate themselves.”

    Translation: Coaches that toe the party line and get the federation stamp of approval.

    “The Girls’ DA program will follow the structure of the Development Academy for boys, which was first introduced by U.S. Soccer in 2007.”
    The opportunities for boys in soccer are in a completely different universe than for girls so it makes no sense for the girls DA to be modeled on the boys.
    I am curious what will happen to girls that do not choose to go the academy rout. Are they going to be branded with a scarlet letter? Is it going to be like the NWSL where players will be forced to participate if they want a spot on the team? At the end of the day is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog.

    • #1Fan

      The Coaching part is referring to certification. UEFA stuff not USSF and as fas as I know they have relaxed requirements

      GDA should not follow DA for the reason you state

      Agree that WNT prioriities =/= the priorities of 99 pct of the girls playing the game at the “Elite” level. For one, most of them are not elite and just want College. The NWSL similarity is there , but not in the way you say. Its more like the GDA will provide a match day environment for the select few to practice in. Maybe it benfits the other 99pct , but not more that the ECNL has or would.

      • AlexH

        I am curios about your opinion about what happens to the girls that elect not to go the GDA route? I am sure that their will be tons of really good players that will opt and many will have very good individual reasons for doing so. Are they going to be frozen out?

        • #1Fan

          great question. By frozen out I assume you mean of NT camps. Thing is, the younger kids who are not in HS now will not “know” anything else so will probably go GDA.

          Issue is kids 16+. Things to consider are

          1. For the kids already in NT programming, will USSF “”tell” them they have to be DA ?

          2. Frozen out.? The kids who are not in already by 16+ may think they are already so …

          3. Is one year of GDA going to count for moer than College?

          The GDA is really a 5+ year plan so I dont think it will matter much.

          • AlexH

            I was more curious is to whether colleges will somehow view non DA girls as damaged goods. College is the goal for most (although I think that parents ought to put their kids’s soccer money in a college fund if that is the goal) and I would not want to see the DA become some hoop required to get in.

          • #1Fan

            they recruit non ECNL player now. so no. I think Colleges look at the player , but it will become self fulfilling because over time , the kids will gravitate to the GDA.

            Many of the top kids 16+ are already committed , so I see it as a non issue

          • guest

            The top programs in the ACC and PAC 12 already are largely focused on YNT kids. Almost a required badge to enter as more than a glorified walk on.
            I think there should have been a focus on a few regional level teams that augment the player’s primary ECNL team programming. Maybe train a long weekend a month and play 2 festival like showcases a year when the ECNL is in session. Maybe more and help to set up local training with boys or something when high school is in session and ECNL is out. My kid chose not to play High school because of the developmental drain. She is looking forward to DA. Just MHO.

          • #1Fan

            I agree. A regional super league would have been better for many reasons BUT

            1. National sells better than regional to the sucker parents who are footing the bill
            2. ECNL is not a great platform to build off re development. Too many varied standards and some down right awful Clubs and coaches in there
            3. Power and control – The USSF want it
            4. Too close to ODP model
            5. Political selections

            No one has the best interests of the kids in mind. It all about $$ and power.

          • #1Fan

            Are they focused on YNT kids or good kids who happen to be on YNTs? I think the latter.

          • guest

            Exactly and well said. thanks for the clarification.

    • Bobby

      Development……I have to laugh at that one. There are 20-30 girls in the NWSL that have the experience, knowledge and drive to play on the USWNT. The only problem is JE. Can you imagine if US Soccer were to bring in a Successful High School Coach or Club Coach to replace JE? She would go nuts! I actually would indorse it. Bringing in a 16 year old to train with the USWNT kicks dirt in the eyes of All the players in the NWSL and tells them “you can play in my league but you’re never going to be good enough to play on my team”!
      Lastly, with all the success the ECNL has had, I guess development is not one of them??? It seems to me that when these so-called phenomenon players from the ECNL go to train with the USWNT the USWNT can’t make them any better…..hmmmm maybe the USWNT should think about their own development!! In a few years girls from the DA are going to wish they would have stayed and played in High School and with their Club Teams and tell everyone that the DA wasn’t worth it. They are never going to get those years back and never enjoy the social aspect of High School!

      • #1Fan

        Sorry, but I dont agree. The ECNL is collection of Clubs. The ECNL is not coaching or developing anyone. The Clubs are. Many of the same Clubs are adding a GDA and shifting the best coaches into it. They get an extra training session and fewer games. The only loss is HS.

        It is false to make the following generalizations

        HS = social, friendships , teaches leadership , time management etc .. it may, but so can Club soccer. HS can be cutthroat, poorly coached and retarded development. You can ave the same petty politics with all state all american decisions etc.Its not necessarily a bed of roses.

        Club can offer all the pros and many of the cons that HS can. Bad coaching as well.

        The way i see it , you pick the option that best suits your child and go with it. No need to rubbish the other ones.

        If the GDA takes off, the younger kids will never know about the HS benefits in some areas, they just will not play.

  • wosofan

    there has to be a better way.

    • #1Fan

      and what do you think it may be ?

  • AlexH

    I am curious why elite girls need to go through the trouble of going to a DA to improve their game, when they can just pickup with the boys a la Allie Long. My daughter is 12 and plays goalie and after practice she walks over to the ubiquitous not of boys at her club and they take shots on her. Her coach in a fit of honesty once mentioned that she learns more from 20 minutes of pepper than 2 hours of practice.

    • #1Fan

      the truly dedicated player does not. However the USA is full of parent funded dedication. Quasi good players who think they are good becasue they pay to play in the right league and are good enough to get College interest.

      You do need some venue to put the practice into game action. Thats what these leagues are, access to a common tournament platform with varying levels of training.

      • AlexH

        “Parent funded dedication” Nice!

        • #1Fan

          🙂 just calling it how I see it.

    • Ethan

      Well, if all they’re doing is taking shots on her, then maybe she still has to go to practice to improve her aerial game and decision making when it comes to crosses and one-on-ones. Then, there’s also distribution work, and goalkeepers still work at least a little on fitness during practices. I think a good balance between team practices and individual training/pick up play outside of those practices works well. If your daughter is learning more from 20 minutes of pure shot stopping than 2 hours of practice, that says more about the quality of the practices and less about the quality of the 20 minutes of shot stopping. If it’s 20 minutes of shot stopping and some actual game time/scrimmaging that has crossing, one-on-one, and distribution simulation, then the coach’s comment makes more sense, but the quality of the 2 hour practice is still questionable.

      • AlexH

        Yes obviously knocking it around with the boys isn’t everything but stopping shots from boys is valuable and not something that she gets from the girls. My point is that, if she wanted to really up her game, she could find a higher level of competition on the other side of the practice pitch without having to dedicate her life to the DA.

        • #1Fan

          GKs are unique, but I agree with you in principle. Great competition is readily available to the dedicated player. Except thats not the narrative the gets people paid is it 🙂

          • AlexH

            True enough about the real reason$ for the DA.
            For the record I think GK’s benefit the least from playing with the boys. Stopping shots is one thing but I would NEVER let my daughter play against boys in anything remotely competitive. There are just too many ways a GK can get f*ed up even playing with other girls. I think the gain to risk ratio is better for outfield players.

          • #1Fan

            agree. coming for crosses or coming out is one, Shot power another 🙂

          • Som Termanni

            Do you think there’s an age limit where that’s an issue? For instance, UK’s FA started allowing girls’ teams to play boys’ at U10 and U12 age tiers in September, on the idea that at that point they’re effectively equal in physical development: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/sep/03/playing-with-the-boys-womens-football-fa

          • guest

            fwiw my youth team would crush boys teams up until roughly 12-13 years old because we were actually more physically advanced. later on, could still hang with and frequently beat a lot of top male teams by passing around them, but there were clear physical speed differences.

          • AlexH

            I think that past U12 elite girls and elite boys should not play meaningful matches against each other because the girls can’t compete and safety becomes an issue. That said there are a lot of opportunities for girls to play with boys in less formal setting where the game is still fast and competitive but nobody is diving in studs up, or trucking the keeper.

          • Steglitz49

            Alex Morgan injured her knee playing against a boys side. It was a practice game but still competitive.

            As others have noted, your daughter needs to learn when to come off her line and when to stay put, how to handle crosses and how to restart the game. The great Schmeichel could throw the ball accurately to the half-way line. He also could make himself big in goal. Gordon Banks was the great exponent of the art of goalkeeping.

          • Som Termanni

            But as I’m sure Steg will point out when AlexH’s daughter is older enough to play college or pro ball, she isn’t tall enough and shouldn’t bother.

          • AlexH

            Well she actually is too short, but for now she is having fun, learning the value of practice and competition and making herself a well rounded person. My family is fortunate enough to afford soccer as a hobby but I think the soccer establishment is cruel to families in which paying for soccer requires a real financial sacrifice.

          • Steglitz49

            Indeed. The name of the game is that she enjoys herself.

            She could always pick up refereeing. A new Jenny Palmqvist in the making.

            Two of the best referees in handball is a pair of identical French twins. They handle men’s matches, not just ladies. At age 16 they decided that they were not good enough as players and switched to refereeing.

          • AlexH

            Funny you should mention it. My older daughter refs. She is probably a better athlete than my younger one but she just didn’t want to put in the training once she started high school, which is perfectly acceptable to me. I joke with her that on days that she refs soccer actually improves our family balance sheet.

          • Steglitz49
          • Steglitz49

            The young lady could always be a referee. Don’t limit yourself. Instead, see the opportunity. Carpe Diem, and all that.

          • #1Fan

            Interesting fact. the Current u-18 GK is 6-2 . I have seen her chipped more than once. I strongly feel that they are playing her in the hope she improves. Today, the shorter kid they left behind is a lot better

            http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2017/02/26/03/00/20170225-recap-u18wnt-draws-0-0-with-hosts-to-finish-trip-to-england

            pic not doing her justice in terms of height

          • AlexH

            I hate that sort of thing. If the shorter keeper is better they should play her. If they think her height is an issue they should cut her and let her get on with her life. Nothing poisons a team like the knowledge that being the better player does not get you on the field.

          • #1Fan

            Right now the shorter one is not on the team. No one has been screwed over more than her. In line for WC spot, told she needed international experience. Played for 16s in Italy. Replaced on WC roster by a kid who had never been to a camp and has no experience at all.

            That’s how BJ rolled. Treating players with respect

          • Steglitz49

            By shorter do you mean 5’11”? Or 4’11”?

          • AlexH

            Injuries happen all the time. There is obviously a balancing act for girls when they play against boys. But there are advantages to playing against boys, namely that their is usually a local supply handy and they do provide a higher level of play.
            As for my daughter learning to come off her line, the speed and geometry of the boys and girls game is just different and I wouldn’t want her to skull to pay the price of navigating the learning curve. I’m happy with her just getting a lot of reps at trying to stop hard struck shots.

          • Steglitz49

            Wise.

            Maybe one of the big English clubs holds goalkeeping clinics for girls? She might treasure such a trip — provided you can afford it, obviously.

          • Gary Diver

            “Alex Morgan injured her knee playing against a boys side.” Has that been reported in the press?

            It is funny that women national teams do poorly against men’s U17 teams. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing of a women’s national team beating a men’s U17 team.

          • #1Fan

            they won’t.

          • DNG

            That match wouldn’t be remotely close so what could they learn from that. Men’s physical advantage once they are mostly full grown is completely dominant.

          • Steglitz49

            When Alex was 17, she was called up to the US U20 team. She suffered an ACL-tear (may have been a partial tear) when playing against a male junior team and did not play for the U20s again until April 2008.

      • Steglitz49

        Hear hear! Verily and forsooth.

  • #1Fan

    Toni Payne to Ajax ..

    passes on FCKC

    this is becoming a growing trend and I love it. the better player is going to be seduced by the professionalism of the top mens Clubs.NWSL cannot compete. A top player who is not getting a fair shake form the USSF re NT should def consider it.

    I also thin that the USSF have their heads in the sand and dont realize that the bubble they have created is hurting them.

    Top players are intelligent. If the USSF dont think that these ladies look at things like Pinto over Killion , Colaprico , Jordan etc and think F this ..Ill go elsewhere , they are not paying attention. These decisions have a much wider impact. There si no reason to sacrifice development AND money for the hope of a golden ticket that may never come.

    • AlexH

      I love this. Unfortunately, for women, prop soccer is just a weigh station until they start their real career so they really ought to max out in the life experience component and go abroad and see the world, especially if it pays better.

      • Steglitz49

        Indeed. And, to wear the jersey of the club that gave Cruyff and Zlatan their chances: priceless.

    • Steglitz49

      Ajax is one of the fabled names in Soccer. The club that gave Johan Cruyff his chance and much later acquired Zlatan from his Swedish club.

      Ajax only started a ladies team a couple of years ago but the chance to pull on this historic strip must be a juicy carrot.

      The story is told that when the Ajax Ladies were to play their first ever match, which was away, a bunch of Ultra fans turned up. The stewards explained to the Ultras that this was a ladies game and more of a family occasion, not the men’s team. The Ultras in their turn explained that anyone who played in an Ajax strip had the right to Ultra support. They were not sexist — at least not in that sense. I think the matter was settled within the club that 5 or 6 of the milder Ultras was more than enough.

    • Som Termanni

      The fair shake point on the WNT is especially relevant to Payne, who can still choose Nigeria’s team if she sees no future with USSF. She could have a full, fruitful career without ever touching a USSF property.

      • #1Fan

        i believe she chose Nigeria already. Another risk that the USSF is taking. Some solid prospects have dual opportunities.

  • Steven

    I don’t understand why they are making out soccer to be more team oriented in some settings compared to others. There may be rule differences between high school, college, and academy, but I’m pretty sure soccer is still a team sport no matter the setting.

    • #1Fan

      i think I agree. I find it ridiculous when they talk like HS is more team than Club. Many of the Club kids have played together for longer than HS. Camaraderie is camaraderie. Playing for the a HS is not necessarily what it used to be. Private HS experience is not the same as kids form the same town…

      • Som Termanni

        It varies. In some parts of the US—I’m thinking mostly of the south and midwest, excepting some urban pockets—high schools and colleges have much larger profiles as sporting clubs than they do as schools. Just as pride in sporting clubs transfers to other sports in Europe, pride in a school affiliation extends past any one sport. Hell, there are schools in the south where even academic competitions are more defined by athletic rivalries than anything else. Club leagues unaffiliated with schools in such places are often newer and lower profile in comparison, if they exist at all.

        Contrast that with places like the PNW, California, or Northeast, where schools are known at least a little more for their academics, or their sporting affiliations are more limited to one or two sports, and affiliations with soccer academies and club leagues run older, deeper, and more prominently than with schools.

        • #1Fan

          I agree which is why one size does not fit all when the HS p[promoters are talking and vice versa

    • Oregon

      Actually my daughter talks about the dog eat dog and cutthroat nature of girls basically waiting or hoping for another to be injured or in disfavor, whatever it takes to get a spot or starting spot. That kind of thing. No love lost when she stopped playing on an out of town ECNL “reserve” (travel) team. This was not even the highest echelon. She hasn’t got the mentality of wishing this on others or cutting others down, more a team mentality, so she ended up preferring her HS team–though teammates still had to compete for favorite status with the coach. So this “ECNL environment” is one way a girl can lose the drive to play in college…even in our quiet PNW state! Not SoCal.

      Must say she did learn the most skillwise on the club team though. Maybe that goes without saying. More team character building on the HS team.

      (Two ECNL friends going on to PAC 12 teams missed 1-3 years of HS team: not an issue for college play at all.)

      • Breakers fan

        Thanks for the view from the inside. Disheartening report, but glad your daughter isn’t letting the maliciousness she sees around her become one of her traits.

        • guest

          My kids play in a high level ECNL club. They have been awarded a DA spot and one of my kids will happily give up HS for the DA, but the other is a bit disappointed. We told her she could play ECNL and HS and she said, I don’t think the ECNL team will be that good and I don’t want to play on the B team. Life is full of tough choices with no right answer. We made it clear that it was her choice and we would support whichever decision she makes. Looks like it’s going to be DA.

          Our club has already asked the ECNL players to indicate whether they will play DA or not. Overwhelmingly they are saying DA “if I make it”. One kid in the middle of the roster has indicated that she wants to play HS. She gets a great deal of recognition in high school and is a 50% player at club. That may be a developing pattern I don’t know. I also am not sure what is being said now will be the reality when tryouts come about.

          Contrasting to the above poster, our experience has been very good. I don’t think the above poster’s child actually plays on the ECNL team at the club and I can’t speak to the dynamics on the lower level teams. Our ECNL experience has been very positive, but they are both in the top 5 of the roster and garner much of the benefits afforded thereto. They play a lot (like all 80-90 minutes). Go to training centers, id2, PDP and one was invited to national ECNL id2. Generally are treated very well, and get a lot of attention from the coaching staff. However I do hear a lot of grumbling from the other parents. Even heard one of my kids being referred to as “the golden child” once.

          That said, they love the vast majority other kids on their teams. Even though some live as much as 2 hours from us, they have sleep overs, text, snap chat etc, and have terrific times together at away events. If there is animosity, they don’t feel it. That said, I know there is angst about play time and “exposure” among the bottom roster kids. Some parents, during the recruiting years, get very upset during showcase events regarding their kid’s position and time on the field. Minimizing this angst, this club plays all kids at least 50% at showcases, but some play much less during ECNL league games. Frequently they have more college coaches on the sidelines of league games than our ulittle club has at showcases. In a previous year, they took 20 on the roster of a u15 team and some kids had to sit out a game in far away venues at prime recruitment showcases. That created a lot of unhappiness.

          As an aside speaking to the culture described above, I definitely enjoyed my time with the parents on the sideline of their u8-12 club much more where we all seemed, at least, to be rooting for all the kids to succeed. It may have been a function of the age when no one was thinking about college recruitment and “exposure”. We had fun drinking beer in hotel lobbies and we all hung out together. I think that the parents seemed to be universally supportive of all kids helped to create more of a family type atmosphere within the team . They also had a ulittle eastern European coach who was fantastic and set them up when they were ready to go to the big leagues in middle school. He actually told me to take my oldest because he couldn’t develop her maximally in the more local environment.

          Maybe we are just lucky to have been very satisfied with out kids youth soccer experience. My kids generally see the DA is just another step along the way in testing themselves to see how good they can be.

  • #1Fan

    NYCFC partners with WCFC ..starts GDA.

    • guest

      The World Class FC (Orangeburg, N.Y.) club had previously (July 9th 2016) been announced as one of the Girls Development Academy (GDA) clubs. NYCFC partnership with WCFC avoids need for NYCFC to start from scratch

      • #1Fan

        Or it avoids the ecnl founder members preventing wcfc from having both. The structure suggests the latter. Compare with PDA – Sky Blue. This is a NYCFC Team.

        • guest

          Will WCFC keep the ECNL and NYFC take the WCFC DA slot?

          • #1Fan

            Yes

  • Gary Diver

    I’ve been away for over a week and feel out of the loop, but I have a several unrelated questions.

    1. I casually follow the Canadian team, but I am amazed that Herdman is including several players for the Algarve Cup that I know very little about: Hannah Taylor, Sarah Stratigakis, Lindsay Agnew, Gabrielle Carle, Jordyn Huitema, Alex Lamontagne, and Marie Levasseur. Are these quality players? Any Americans? It doesn’t seem Canada really cares about U23 or U20. Anybody will any ability, no matter how young, is now being to called up to the national team. It will be interesting to see if this focus on star youth turns out to be a boom or bust.

    2. Are the new jobs for J. B. Snow and Michelle French lateral promotions? Few people here have been pleased with U17 and U20 results. Is the problem the coaches or the system?

    3. Has there been any reports on Hope Solo’s plans for 2017? Is she a free agent?

    4. What is the deal with Brianna Pinto? It is my understanding that she did not play all that well at U17 WC. How many goals has she scored for U17? Since SBC is high-level Friendlies, it is unlikely Ellis will field Pinto. And if that turns out to be true, why put her on the roster? Would putting her on the U23 roster make more sense?

    5. Has Ellis eliminated her two “extras” yet?

    6. It is interesting (and strange) the USWNT will play their toughest opponent/competition in their first match. Hope the Germans come to play some serious soccer. Is this schedule of opponents risky in the sense that a loss to the Germans put Ellis behind the eight ball?

    • #1Fan

      2 . Depends how you see it . From a source – the way The USSF works , to get people to commit to full time jobs , you have to offer a level of security. These are roles created to give these 2 security that they were promised when they came on board. Read that how you will

      4. She will certainly play . I think I was the only one who predicted she would make the SBC team, 1 g in 20 games , but is seen as a #6 on this team. I dont hink she should be anywhere but the u18/20s prepping for the next WC.

      5 yes . Kling A Rod , Killion out Jess Mac in.

      6. No way we know who the toughest is. this is not a major tournament.

      • Gary Diver

        We can agree to disagree but it seems mind-boggling to me that Brianna Pinto will play for USWNT before Ashley Sanchez gets a chance to play. Comparing what the two players have done at U17 and U20 level, I don’t understand why Pinto is now currently in “The Show” (Bull Durham term). You said you predicted this would happen. Could you please share why you saw this coming? I don’t recall anybody saying Pinto was playing great U17 soccer.

        • #1Fan

          i stated on EQ that once she was selected to the SBC training camp she would make the team and I believe she will probably get minutes.

          They play different positions so its not apples to apples Im afraid.

          I saw it coming because there is no reason to pick her OTHER than to play her. I think she has potential but is not close to the finished article. Player who play at a young age should be phenoms whose lack of seasoning is trumped by their sheer talent. I dint see that here with Pinto which is why I am against it. Sanchez is irrelevant. I think she is very similar to Pugh and several other wide types with speed and some trickery. Pinto is perceived to have something unique that Ellis wants.

      • Gary Diver

        SBC is not a major tournament, but it is the only tournament where 4 of the top 5 teams play each other. And Euro-17 is around the corner, so there is pressure on the European teams to play good soccer.

        In last year’s SBC, France scored 0 goals and England scored 1 goal in 3 matches. You cannot win without scoring goals. Germany, at least, has shown that they can score some goals. And coach Steffi Jones and captain Dzsenifer Marozsán have something to prove.

        • #1Fan

          there is no pressure to play good soccer as such. There is pressure to have better idea of your team and its strengths and weaknesses after the event. Any intelligent coach knows that and builds to major events. The USSF do not. They seem to function on a game to game basis at every level.

          • mockmook

            I don’t think other federations and coaches are immune from the desire to win “meaningless” tournaments.

            Perhaps they have less desire than the USA, but I bet they will get more notice and accolades if they win the SBC than if not.

          • #1Fan

            obviously you ant your players to play well and you have faith in them. The point is you are not sacrificing your development goals and planning for major tournaments to win. Winning is not a priority.

            Interpret that how you want

          • Steglitz49

            Beating the US at WoSo always get you noticed. Taking the scalps of Germany and Japan too. As for France? Sweden, no doubt feared too.

    • mockmook

      “How many goals has she scored for U17?”

      Now there is a question that no one should be asking — not if you are truly interested in the quality of play of the player.

      • #1Fan

        i think its a valid question considering she was marketed as an attacking player. Its hard to know the truth unless you actually watch them play becasue whast written about many Youth players has zero correlation to reality and I mean zero.

        In this case, you are right given she is not really an attacking player. In the 15 or so games I have seen her play, I have seen 3 goals and about 5 assists.

        • guest

          Was she largely playing in attacking roles in those games? I have seen her play as deeply as the 6 in the early NTC game where ironically, I think, she scored her sole international goal and that moment probably defined her destiny.

          • #1Fan

            place your opinion in the context of this from TDS written less than a year ago and pre WC. .

            2018
            
Top-ranked player: Brianna Pinto

            Club: CASL

            To be the top-ranked player in this particular 2018 group requires a special amount of skill. The ECNL is good about dolling out playing time to quality young players, and in this particular age range, there’s a lot of quality. Whether we’re talking Alexa Spaanstra, Jaelin Howell or Sophia Smith, who’s still making up her mind on her commitment, making No. 1 atop that heap is an impressive feat indeed. So Pinto should turn your head in that sense.

            But she’s also an incredibly talented player who walks the fine line between skill and athleticism. Pinto, who once scored five goals in a high school state final game, is committed to North Carolina in two years, so you know she has the athletic side of her game sorted. Anson Dorrance doesn’t recruit much else. But Pinto is far more Crystal Dunn than anything else. There’s much more than raw speed and agility on offer here. She’s climbed the ladder with the YNT, and you’ll almost certainly see her in a prominent role at the U17 World Cup later this year. Another chance for one of the nation’s most exciting attacking players to showcase her wares.

            OFF TOPIC ..but just found this which i find hiklarious in the context of what actuaklly transpired

            The U.S. U17 Women’s National Team should be considered the favorites at the 2016 U17 World Cup.

            Despite what head coach B.J. Snow has said recently about the U.S. falling behind the rest of the world in player development, he still brings the most talented and confident team into the competition.

            Snow’s group has not lost a competitive game together. Ever. Since he took over as coach of the group in 2014, they are on a 17-game unbeaten run (15-0-2). Along the way, they beat Japan twice and defeated Switzerland’s U19 Women’s National Team twice.

            The rest of the world is catching up, but they are still behind this group. And they are pretty far behind this team at this World Cup.

            The reason for the team’s success comes down to Snow. He has built a group that buys into his system. He has also designed the playing style to highlight the best attributes of his best players. Snow, the former UCLA head coach, benefits from a talent-rich pool, but he has also been brave in his player selection. He is taking four players born in 2001 to a Youth World Cup meant for players born in 1999. Two years is a large gap in player development in the U17 age group. They aren’t just there for the ride as well, all four are likely to contribute at one point or another.

            Snow’s dedication to the player discovery process helped uncover a number of players who might not have made this group without his vision for their trajectory as players. He also had the assistance of Women’s Development coach Mark Carr (U15 GNT) and Tricia Taliaferro (former U16 GNT coach) to help provide players for the U17 age group.

            The commitment to this process has this group as prepared as any youth national team has ever been for a World Cup. Snow’s coaching staff has been diligent in laying out plans for each specific player over the past year as the focus has been on being as ready as possible when her number is called.

            The expectation for the team is that they will continue to play at the level they have displayed in the past. The level that helped the group secure results against some of the best teams in the world. Take a look at the breakdown of how the USA will play and what to look from the World Cup games below.

            The USA likes to utilize the speed of the outside backs. The system of play relies on the outside backs to get forward into the attack often to open up the opposition. This style depends on the players at left and right back to have ball control, speed, and the ability to hit in a cross. These attributes were on full display against Japan in February. So Cal Blues right back Kennedy Wesley snuck into the attack and linked up well with Civana Kuhlmann. The forward played the right back into the channel and Kennedy took advantage of a 1v1 situation thanks to her pace. The service into the box is good, but the timing of the runs might be better. Center midfielder Brianna Pinto crashes the near post and nearly gets her head on the ball. Right winger Ashley Sanchez crashes to the corner of the six-yard box and brings down the cross with a touch and then hammers it home. This is a play that the USA has practiced often over the past two years and something that the USA will use against competition that tries to play against the USA.

          • DNG

            Did they seriously compare Pinto’s athleticism to Crystal Dunn. I must have been watching a different player at the U17 WC

          • guest

            I agree that is really bizarre reporting. So far from reality.

          • #1Fan

            Beyond. I write what I believe to be true having actually seen these kids play and when i read TDS I often wonder if its the same player. To extend that to their rankings and the fact that Schools actually use them … Amazing.

          • DNG

            Well I doubt the writers of many of the articles actually get to follow these girls all over the country very closely. I would guess that they rely a lot on what they hear from the coaches who don’t always have the most objective povs. Just have to learn not to take TDS too seriously I guess.

          • #1Fan

            I dont, but many do and it becomes its own truth. Im not sure I agree on the coaches being the source either. I have often wondered who it is.

          • DNG

            Yeah it makes me wonder how they actually do their evaluations.

          • #1Fan

            its hilarious is it not? I mean the total departure form reality is amazing.