The New York Sun may be one of the strangest newspapers in America, but soccer columnist Paul Gardner is worth reading for his sharp-elbowed, argumentative style. He sounds off today on the need to end the North Euro stranglehold on American soccer, dissing Sexy Jurgen in the process and boosting the (to my mind, weak) case of Jose Pekerman.
While I don't agree with Gardner's Pekermania (aaaaah....), you can't argue with the fact that US Soccer desperately needs to incorporate this country's Hispanic footballing scene(s) into its very essence. Not for the sake of PC ethno-pandering; not for marketing purposes. The Latin game is the future, in this hemisphere and beyond: just look at the proliferation of Latin-flavo(u)red training academies in the UK or the money-enabled annexation of South America's top-tier talent by the European leagues. On the grassroots level, you don't need a particularly vivid imagination to see that the stereotypical suburb-spendy club-high school-college soccer development axis is on the wane, or at least losing its monopoly. Even players from that hackneyed milieu are increasingly looking to early pro moves to Europe, where they're exposed to modern styles, tactics and talents that fuse Latin elements with traditional Euro grit.
So Gardner is right: whoever ends up managing Team USA through the 2010 cycle must be judged BOTH on results and his success in incorporating the various Hispanic futbol nations already very alive and well in this country into our national side. But let's take it further—when are we going to see players of East African and Eastern European extraction in the mix for national team spots? How will we make use of that ever-growing migration of Americans choosing to skip college and MLS for Europe? How will we, in short, leverage the incredible amount and variety of soccer played by Americans of all origins into a cohesive national team?
Judging by surnames alone, we have a demographically intriguing U-20 squad in the works. Let's hope it's the start of something.