Thursday, July 25, 2013

Latino Link-up

Ok, Throwback Thursday! Watching the recent ouster of Mexico in the Gold Cup by Panama got me to thinking about how the USA has improved. The squad is on a win streak, but I don't think Jurgen Klinsmann or Landon Donovan should get all the credit. 
Jose Torres speaking to kids in El Salvador, presumably in Spanish

Frankly, the USA squad looks different than it once did. Meaning, there are a number of Hispanic players who are now making a regular impact on the squad. I don't mean to discredit at any point the contributions of past Latino players, such as Tab Ramos, Hugo Perez, Claudio Reyna, or Pablo Mastroeni, but it was weird to see in 2006 how few Hispanic players went to the World Cup. 

Months after that World Cup, I looked into the reasons why, and the plan, if any, to address the issue, and then wrote this piece.

Obviously, this happened back when the Dempseys were talking to me, by the way. 

It's not, and never should be, that players should make the USA squad based on ethnic background. It's about realizing that there's a pool of talent that could be reached and in return, add a lot to the USA team, if the initial stages of development are more accessible to them. 
Landon Donovan speaking Spanish

What Landon Donovan and both Dempseys made clear in their quotes was that they'd played soccer in those early days with really talented Latino players. For various reasons, those players hadn't continued to develop. Hugo Perez and Sunil Gulati were both saying that greater outreach to that segment of the population was needed and would be good for both parties. 

So, now the USA team features Jose Torres, Ale Bedoya, Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo, Joe Benny Corona, Omar Gonzalez and the youth teams feature young talent like Jose Villarreal and others. The Development Academy program continues to grow, and more squads are giving players a chance to participate without paying expensive fees. Good progress, I'd say.

There's even a page of the US Soccer website in Spanish, by the way. Granted, it's a pretty sad and boring news page. Would it kill U.S. Soccer to post a few videos in that language on the page? After all, a lot of the Latino players speak Spanish well. It doesn't have to be Donovan busting out his high-school Spanish all the time. Although a few of those would be ok, too. His Spanish is decent.