Posted: Tuesday June 5, 2012 11:45AM ; Updated: Tuesday June 5, 2012 1:13PM
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U.S. Open Cup (cont.)

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Player discovery and cultivation

Fox Soccer analyst and Cal FC coach Eric Wynalda believes that U.S. soccer coaches need to accentuate player strengths rather than refine their styles to fit a system.
Fox Soccer analyst and Cal FC coach Eric Wynalda believes that U.S. soccer coaches need to accentuate player strengths rather than refine their styles to fit a system.
Major League Soccer/Getty Images

If the Open Cup has taught any lessons over the years, it's that there is a vast amount of talented and capable players in the lower levels of the sport. Scouting is an inexact science -- playing outside of the MLS does not mean a player is not of top-tier caliber.

"The biggest problems that we have in this country is the size of the country, so your players are all over the place and it's difficult for them to be watched on a regular basis," Parsons said. "I have two guys not attached to anybody and there's nobody watching them on a daily basis to tell an MLS club, 'Hey, you've got to have this guy.' MLS is not that far along, the scouting network it hasn't developed that much, these guys are going to fall through the cracks."

Across a national soccer landscape in which millions play at the youth level, there's no definitive way to filter all of the talent to MLS teams and academies. Even in this Internet age where everyone is seemingly connected or a known commodity, there remain players, teams and coaches that go unnoticed. For many players in MLS or on teams at a higher level, success was a result of supreme skill and exposure, determination and circumstance. Ability and opportunity crossed paths. For less fortunate teams like Cal FC and players across the lower tiers of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, that opportunity for recognition is now.

"It's got to be so discouraging for some of them, because they want it so bad," Wynalda said. "They just want a chance, and they're getting doors slammed in their face. I think this team gave them a perfect opportunity. I'm not the kind of manager that's going to criticize a lot. I'm not going to beat them up for their mistakes. I just let them play the game the way they love to play it."

For Wynalda, identifying and cultivating talent is about accentuating player strengths as opposed to trying to refine and alter their respective games to fit a system. That's something he sees as the chief crime committed by the majority of coaches in this country.

"I think there's a lot of players that have probably been integrated into the system and been identified as talented, but in my experience I feel like when we find a good player who has obviously got talent, the coaching in America tries to change that player into something that he's not, and that's when things start going in the wrong direction," Wynalda said. "I believe that the talents and the abilities of these players or the players in America now exceed the knowledge of the coaching, and when that happens that's the definition of stagnation. That's what's wrong. We actually do have great players, but our coaches don't know what to do with them, they do too much. They beat them up, all the things that they're bad at and it's just waiting for them to make mistakes so they can have their inclusion.

"Soccer is a turnover sport. They're going to lose the ball every once in a while. If you beat them up for it, with a guy like [Cal FC star] Danny Barrera, for example, if I was beating him up for every time he lost the ball, I'd cheat him of the game-winning pass that won us the [Timbers] game.

"David Beckham has a pretty damn good right foot. He can hit a stop sign from 40 yards away. Not many players can do that. It's why he's rich. We [American coaches] probably would've grabbed David Beckham, put him on the left wing and said, 'You need to work on your left foot, kid.'"

 
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