New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch suggested Tuesday that foreign Major League Soccer coaches could hinder youth development in America and ultimately the future of the U.S. men’s national team.
“In the current U.S. climate, developing young American talent is vital,” Marsch said at Red Bulls media day. “It’s really important in MLS that we have coaches who are willing to play young players. One of the concerns with more foreign coaches is, are their motivations as tied to youth development from an American standpoint as it is with some of the American coaches.”
Among the seven non-American managers in MLS is Patrick Vieira, a French national who recorded 107 caps for Les Bleues as a player and currently guides Red Bulls rival New York City FC.
After NYCFC’s training session Thursday, Vieira offered a response to Marsch’s declaration.
“I think I will not agree with that statement,” he said. “The problem is, how come you don’t have quality players to play for the first team, no? We are talking about talent and talent does not have a national team.”
The Red Bulls count eight Homegrown players on their roster, ranging from 17-year-old Ben Mines to 25-year-old Sean Davis. Midfielder Tyler Adams, 19, is the marquis teen who is projected as a future national team starter.
“For every MLS club like the Red Bulls or Real Salt Lake, which give tons of opportunities to younger players, there’s a lot of teams [where] it doesn’t fit into their DNA or doesn’t fit into their way to win games,” U.S. Soccer youth technical director and under-20 national team coach Tab Ramos said on SiriusXM FC. “You can’t blame a coach for wanting to win games. But at the same time, the club has to have its own culture and its own philosophy and its own way of fitting young players in. We’ve got a lot of work to do not just on U.S. Soccer but on the MLS side.”
At NYCFC, 17-year old James Sands signed as the club’s first Homegrown player in 2017 – the team’s third season. Sands, who started at centerback for the U.S. at last summer’s U-17 World Cup in India, trains in NYCFC’s midfield where Vieira says he can merit a berth in the starting group or as a key reserve.
“You don’t have to give a player a chance to play because he’s American or because he’s French or because he’s English,” Vieira said. “If I go to James Sands and say, ‘OK James, I am going to play you because you’re American,’ I don’t think he would be happy with that. James will want to play because he’s good enough to play.
“The big problem in this country is the game plan. You can blame coaches or football clubs because there’s not enough Americans, and I think these are just excuses to put the problem to somebody else. It’s like in England when they say there are too many foreigners and that’s why there’s not enough quality players for the national team. This is hiding behind the work of the federation. Here, if you want to win the league and you want to have American players then you have to go to the grass roots and develop the players. The talent is there.”
Vieira said he has a vision of America’s future at the younger levels of the NYCFC Academy. He’s witnessed the love and passion for the game expressed by 10-, 11- and 12-year-old players. However, Vieira believes they are squandering too many years between their 10th and 20th birthday celebrations.
“We go to the college draft and take Jonathan Lewis last year,” Vieira said. “He’s 20 years old and he had four months of competition, training two or three times a week. How can he fully develop? Yes, we are going to train him and yes, develop him — but he’s lost five, six, seven years. To catch that back is very difficult.”
In addition to the limitations on the collegiate level, fueled by NCAA mandates which ration hours of instruction and competition, Vieira points to self-imposed restrictions on the youth levels.
“When you compare the number of hours that youth players in France are on the field compared to Americans – there is no comparison,” Vieira said.
Marsch said countless people across the country are “putting their best foot forward” at the grassroots level and are zealously committed to youth development. And in his opinion, some MLS colleagues do not share that vision.
“Every club in the league says they are about youth development,” said Marsch, in his fifth year coaching the Red Bulls. “I can show you reasons why most of them are not.
“What we’re doing here at Red Bulls is very important to football in our country. It’s what we believe in and who we are.”
The banter will no doubt continue when the on-field rivalry between the two big-city teams resumes May 5 at Red Bull Arena.