U.S. players have less ball control than players from around the world. This means they can’t play at the same quick tempo and intensity as players from football-plalying countries.
Americans are also not known for our finishing, aka scoring.
Christian Pulisic is an exception. But, he is more of a product of English football culture.
Which is the first part of the problem, football culture in the U.S. is lacking.
Club soccer is not a culture. It’s baby-sitting.
Here’s a good description of soccer culture in Germany. We don’t have that. There may be pockets of it here and there, but it isn’t widespread.
Culture is kids of all ages playing on the playground for hours everyday without an adult, emulating their heroes they watch fervently on the weekend.
Culture is former pros not having to teach 10-year-old kids how to trap the ball (a basic skills that would be like having former MLB players teaching your kid how to catch) at training, because those kids learned that with family and friends when they learned to walk.
That type of culture sparked Pulisic’s interest when he lived in England for a year when he was 7.
The difference culture produces in ball skills is like the difference culture produces in language.
The language we were born into is natural to us. Second languages are not. You can become fluent in a second language, but native speakers can tell it’s not your native tongue.
My son’s gym class was playing baseball. His classmate from England stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bat awkwardly. Everybody in the class corrected him. He said, That’s how you hold a cricket bat!
Few kids in the gym class play club baseball, but they all know how to hold a baseball bat. They learned it from our baseball culture. The British student didn’t know how to hold a bat because he did not grow up in the baseball culture.
When I watch Americans play soccer against players from soccer cultures, it’s like watching kids play baseball who grew up in a cricket culture. They’re playing similar, but different games.
Building soccer culture is easier said than done.
More to come…