U.S. national team coach passes along knowledge

January 16, 1993|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

Clad in a red, white and blue warm-up suit, he stood on a podium, mapping out plays with magic markers and showing game-action videotape.

His English was broken, and sometimes he relied on his interpreter.

But U.S. national soccer team coach Bora Milutinovic got his message across.

Speaking to a roomful of college, high school and recreational soccer coaches during the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday, Milutinovic pointed out some of the problems with American soccer players.

"We have many problems," said Milutinovic, of the former Yugoslavia. "For one thing, we don't have the chance to see the game here because we are so far from Europe. We need to better understand the game."

To illustrate his point, Milutinovic played a videotape of an American and a Brazilian player in a similar scoring situation. When the American had an opening, he passed the ball laterally instead of shooting. The Brazilian took the shot.

"What is the difference between the Brazilian player and our player?" Milutinovic asked.

Someone in the crowd replied that the American player doesn't know what to do when he has the ball.

"That is why I'm here," Milutinovic said.

Milutinovic, who was named the U.S. national team coach last March, is getting his team ready for the 1994 World Cup, for which the United States will be the host.

This week, the team moved into its new training center in Mission Viejo, Calif. Milutinovic, who coached the Mexican national team in the 1986 Word Cup and the Costa Rican team in 1990, hopes to have his team set by September.

Milutinovic said he stresses to his players the importance of knowing what to do before they get the ball.

"When a player has the chance to score, he must first observe, then think and then play," he said. "One step is so important. Sometimes it is the difference between a win and a loss. Most players here watch only the ball. They need to see all of the field."

Some of the coaches said they found Milutinovic's ideas helpful.

"I'm going to try to incorporate into my practice sessions situations where players have to look at a situation and react accordingly," said Spring Grove Area High School (Pa.) coach Kenneth Strickhouser.

Said St. Francis (Pa.) coach Bill Furjanic: "Our players have to get better. They have to read the game a little quicker. A lot of what he said will help us as college coaches know what kind of player he's looking for."

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