Wednesday, July 23, 2008
California knows how to play
First of all, Rob Hues, it's Grahame, not Graeme. Also, I'd like to offer my own thoughts on what California offers soccer.
I mean, I'm not sure that I even understand the point of the recent article - is it that California allowed Jurgen to relax and Beckham to smile? That's all one can put together about the state and soccer? As the surfers here would say, lame.
California has given the U.S. national team, at every level, more players than any other state. It maintains three Major League Soccer teams responsible for four league championships in the 12 year history of MLS. The first goal in league history was scored in the state (Eric Wynalda, San Jose).
The weather allows players to practice and improve their skills year-round and attracts clubs such as Chelsea to train here. In the past ten years, more international teams have played exhibitions in the state than anywhere else in the Americas. California stadiums have hosted the finals of three FIFA World Cups.
California gave birth to AYSO, the youth organization that introduces millions of American children to the sport.
The player widely considered the best on the U.S. squad at present, Landon Donovan, is a native Californian who spent by far the bulk of his development and professional career here.
Notable players who have played on California teams include George Best (LA Aztecs and SJ Earthquakes), Johan Cruyff (LA Aztecs) , Teófilo Cubillas (LA Aztecs), Hugo Sanchez (San Diego Sockers), and Jurgen Klinsmann (Orange County Blue Star)
The soccer culture here is diverse, with obviously a large number of Mexican and Central American players, but also Brazilian expats, Argentine expats and English expats can be found at any park pickup game. The mix and meld of styles offers players of various talents chances to shine and broadens their understanding of the sport. More soccer leagues, more youth clubs and more adult teams exist in California than in any other U.S. state.
California contains the current national champions of women's university soccer, USC, as well as past champions Santa Clara. Men's colleges in the state have won the title eleven times, while one university, UCLA, has developed more players in the professional ranks, both at home and abroad, than any other U.S. school.
Klinsmann began his coaching career here, serving as assistant to then-Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid. Rinus Michels coached here (LA Aztecs), and Guus Hiddink played (SJ Earthquakes)before turning to coaching.
Of course California is a place to relax, and that philosophy is an integral part of the state of mind here. But Californians are also serious about their soccer, and Beckham's smile is only a very small part of that.