Bryan Scales Interview

Last Thursday I attended my first Revolution Academy training session. I’ll have more on that later, but after practice concluded I talked to Bryan Scales, the Director of Youth Development and head coach of the U16 team. Here, I pick his brain about the upcoming season, the Revs Academy and the state of youth soccer.

Matt Kauffman: You had a short Fall season between the end of highschool soccer and winter break. How would you rate the Fall season and the team thus far?

Bryan Scales, photo by Keith Nordstrom/New England Revolution

Bryan Scales: Well, both teams are in first place, that’s not necessarily how we measure progress here, but we are 3-2 with the 16s, the 18s are 4-1. I think for us that was just a quick, month-long season where we had to get a snapshot of where we were and based on that right now we feel like we have a pretty good starting spot.

MK: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?

BS: For this upcoming season, everybody wants to make the playoffs. We obviously want to get the 16s back into the playoffs and the 18s we want to get them back in. They (the U18s) missed out on it last year. So I think on a number of different fronts, we want to see progress, we want to see guys being able to play up from the 16s to the 18s. We want to get guys from the 18s into the reserve team and maybe having the possibility to train with the first team when they are available. But I think we just want to get the connections (between teams) going and get the chemistry of each team right and try to win games.

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Revs Roundup: First of its Kind Edition

If you’re reading this, congrats, it means you’re privy to a momentous occasion: the first Revs Roundup.

The RR will be a once or twice-a-week post featuring the latest news about the New England Revolution Youth Academy, the goings-on of U.S. and international academy soccer and perhaps an hilarious soccer-related link too, if I’m feeling generous.

First three people to reply get to have dinner with Ryan Cochrane’s mustache.

Not Really. I just wanted an excuse to post this picture.

Enjoy the news!

Kabala stays with U-17 Residency Program – Press release from the Revs website about under-16 player Guyllain “Guy” Kabala, who will be training  in Bradenton, Fl. as part of the U-17 national team. Kabala was part of the squad that beat powerhouse Brazil at the Nike International Friendlies in December. Full roster here.

Revs players invited to U.S. Soccer Training Center – Six Revs youth footballers will be attending the Saturday training session — meant to identify potential youth national team players — at the Gillette Stadium campus.

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A Lesson thru Links

To get started, here’s some links to webpages, articles, and videos about youth academy systems and players in the United States and abroad:

Development Academy overview – A good breakdown of the USSF’s (United States Soccer Federation) partnership with elite youth clubs and MLS academies.

Top US boys clubs get report cards – With comments from former national team midfielder and current U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna. The Revs academy received 3.5 stars out of 5, putting them in the top 8 youth clubs in the country.

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Soccer in America, Then and Now

If you grew up in America in the 80s and 90s, chances are much of your adolescent experience was similar to the rest of us Generation Y-ers. We lived in the neon colors of Nickelodeon, Gushers were manna from heaven (still are), the boundary of your neighborhood was the edge of the universe and adulthood seemed light-years away.

And like millions of our youth compatriots, we played soccer.

Soccer occupied a strange place in the ethos of 1990s American culture. It was the sport just about every kid played, yet played with resounding insouciance. The minivan pulled up in front of the field, we ran, we kicked the ball absentmindedly, we tripped over our own shoelaces, ate some orange slices, downed a CapriSun, high-fived the other team and piled back in the car in time for TGIF.

It was just what kids did before moving on to more physical, more “American” sports. It wasn’t on TV. We had no Michael Jordan equivalent to inspire us. Soccer was the waiting room, the boarding gate, the preamble to real sport.

However, that idea has been changing. The US has truly become a soccer nation in many respects. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Americans bought more tickets than any other country besides the host nation. Major League Soccer — the nation’s professional league — has grown at a steady rate, nearly doubling the number of franchises since its 1996 inaugural season with over half of those clubs playing in soccer-specific stadiums. In the past two decades, soccer on television has gone from virtually nonexistent to airing on ESPN, FoxSoccer and Gol TV. Just this past sunday, Fox aired Manchester United versus Arsenal on it’s main network, a first.

I could throw more numbers and statistics your way to convince you of the sport’s growth, or I could just show you this video of Americans freaking out to Landon Donovan’s last-gasp, game winning goal against Algeria at the previous World Cup: 

Yet for all our resources, money, quality of life and all our growing enthusiasm for “the beautiful game,” the United States still finds itself wholly behind the likes of Europe and South America in cranking out world class footballers. For decades, we have relied on the same staid processes to develop players as other sports played here.

Kids join youth leagues or their parents shell out money for them to play on a club team. Game play is emphasized while technique and theory are neglected, leaving players fast and agile, but lacking the football savvy so richly possessed by our international counterparts. If a player is good enough, he moves on to college and supposedly hones his skills further against fiercer competition. Meanwhile, elite players in Europe have been training with the same clubs their idols play for, honing their skills and playing with and against the best youth products in their country. By the time someof them are 18, they aren’t shipping off to University, they’re suiting up for the first team.

However, the United States is also changing its tune to youth development. The United States Soccer Federation has created the Development Academy, a 78 club national youth league that emphasizes more training and less, but more competitive games. All MLS teams are involved. The idea is to bring up home-grown players who will eventually move up to play for the professional squad.

This website plans to explore this developing world of academy soccer through the lens of the New England Revolution’s Under-16 team.