The US Women's National Team lost the World Cup final to Japan in a very close game that ended up tied in regular and additional time, and was decided by penalty kicks. Although a disappointment for supporters of the US team, local coaches had their own perspective on the game, and youth soccer in general.
Jovan Yamagishi is a native of Japan and has played professionally in Uruguay, Norway and Japan. He has coached for many different teams in the US, as well as in Japan, and coaches at several local colleges, high schools, and for the youth soccer club, Dublin United. It will be Jovan’s second year coaching the women’s varsity team for in Alameda.
Mike Woitalla has coached youth soccer in the East Bay for the last eight years. He will be coaching the East Bay United/Bay Oaks U-12 Girls team this year. As well as coaching, Woitalla is the Executive Editor of Soccer America Magazine.
Jean Christophe Decru has been coaching youth soccer for the past 13 years in France, Greece, and the last two years here in the US. He will be coaching the East Bay United/Bay Oaks U-16 Girls team, the women’s varsity team at for the third year, and is a trainer for both Piedmont and Alameda Soccer Club.
Frank Fasano has coached teams with the for the past ten years. He is the Alameda Soccer Club Coaching Coordinator, and will be coaching the Alameda Soccer Club U-13 Girls competitive team this year.
Brooke Nelson has played soccer in college and has been coaching for East Bay United/Bay Oaks for the past ten years.
These experienced coaches had interesting insights about both the World Cup final and local youth soccer in general:
Where did you watch the final game?
WOITOLLA: At home on television, with my 11-year-old, soccer-playing daughter and my wife. We were on the edge of our seats the whole time.
YAMAGISHI: I didn't watch the game. I was coaching Under-9 girls when the final was going on. Parents of these children congratulated me at the end of the game and that's when I found out that my country won.
What is your reaction to the US loss?
YAMAGISHI: My reaction to the US loss is mixed feelings, as I am a Japanese citizen living in the United States, sharing my soccer knowledge to American players. I hope the loss encourages players and coaches in the United States to aim higher, including myself.
DECRU: I think that the US played a great world cup, winning is not everything, only the will to win is important.
WOITALLA: The U.S. women were humble when they won the games that took them to the final and gracious after the loss to Japan — wonderful role models for America’s young players. That the US women lost in the crapshoot that is the penalty-kick tiebreaker was particularly heartbreaking because they played such good entertaining soccer in the final.
NELSON: As a US fan, and someone involved with player development, the US team had been a disappointment in qualifications and in the group stages. The final two US games were extremely exciting, and they played much better especially in the final. In most people's view outplaying Japan through most of the game with skill and some excellent passing. It was the second most watched game, and showed the world what quality players the US produces, and hopefully will help increase viewers for the women's professional game as well. It could only have been better for soccer in America if we had won, but for women's soccer in general it was fabulous!
Do you think the better team won the Women’s World Cup final?
DECRU: It is usually not the team who plays the most beautiful soccer that wins a competition. However, Japan deserves their World Cup, they played with heart and you could tell they played for their country. It is a good thing for Japan after what happened over there this year. This world cup will give them some kind of happiness which is the purpose of soccer.
YAMAGISHI: Yes, the better team won. The numbers show that Japan have scored more goals than the US. It's difficult to say the criteria is in judging who is better but ultimately the team that scores most, in my mind, is better, so in this case: Japan.
WOITALLA: Both the USA and Japan were worthy being world champions.
FASANO: The U.S. Women’s team did not capitalize on its opportunities in the first 30 minutes and let Japan hang around. The better team on that day and at that time won the game.
NELSON: I think on the day the US played a better game, but Japan kept their nerve and the US did not, but Japan is a very good team. Very skilled!
Why do the men dive and pretend they are injured more than the women?
FASANO: Most fans would like to see an end to this type of gamesmanship, i.e. diving and faking an injury, but the reason it continues and possibly has increased over the last 10 years is due to the speed of the game. There is only one referee on a field that can be up to 100 yards wide by 150 yards long. The referee can’t be expected to keep up with the pace of the game and to know if a player has been truly hurt. FIFA needs to consider adding a second referee onto the field and card players for diving and faking injuries.
YAMAGISHI: Men dive because they take professional sports for granted. Women are more honest in the way they play, in my opinion.
WOITALLA: Defenders in the men’s game resort to foul play much more often, which results in attacking players going to extreme measures – i.e. diving – to get the referees’ attention.
NELSON: It is cultural, and Brazil did a good job in this area.
Why do you think the US Women’s National Team has done better in the World Cup than the men’s team?
WOITALLA: The girls and women’s game in the USA had a big head-start on the rest of the world, whereas on the men’s side the Americans have to catch up with countries that have had a much longer history in the game.
FASANO: In the USA there is a large number of athletic women/girls that started playing soccer at a young age and continued to play the game up to the highest level. On the other hand the top athletic men are not playing soccer. The top athletes are playing football, basketball, baseball & hockey. Mostly due to star power and the possibility of financial gain.
YAMAGISHI: The women's team has done better than the men because they are more charismatic and American women have inner strength. They have the will and passion that men take for granted in the field of sports. American women are not afraid to challenge.
How does a player get picked to be on the US national team?
WOITALLA: If you’re a great player, one way or another, the national team coaches will find you. The U.S. national team program has a network of scouts who look for exceptional talent starting at the teenage level, when standout players are invited to various identification – “all-star” team – programs. But some players, especially on the girls side, catch the attention of national team coaches while playing college ball.
FASANO: Players cycle through a development program, grow and mature into effective players and eventually draw the eye of the coach, receiving an invitation for a tryout.
What is the best and worst thing about local youth soccer, especially in Alameda?
DECRU: The best thing in Alameda is the amount of players. I am fortunate to coach in high school and in club and there are more and more players. The bad part of soccer in Alameda is probably the lack of facilities. It would be fantastic for the high school to have a turf field, for example, in order to be able to play rain or shine. It would allow all the kids to play their favorite sport all year long.
WOITALLA: The enthusiasm for soccer among children is tremendous, as is the work of all the adult volunteers who give them a place to play. The biggest problems in youth soccer: adults who scream at children while they’re playing, and over-coaching. Children enjoy soccer more and are more likely to excel when granted the freedom to explore the game on their own terms, because the game is the best coach.
FASANO: The best thing about local youth soccer is community building. Families coming together on the weekend to cheer their local team, especially in Alameda. The worst thing about local youth soccer in Alameda is when politics get in the way and adults only think about their own agendas rather than the development of a strong club and growing players.
YAMAGISHI: [In general] I think coaching needs to improve. Also players need to attack soccer more critically and become students of the game. There is a difference between playing and working on soccer. There is too much playing in youth soccer here in the US.
NELSON: Too much focus on winning too young, not enough focus on technical development. I coach for East Bay United/Bay Oaks because it is a development-focused club.
What is your favorite team and why?
WOITALLA: Barcelona, because they play entertaining and attack-minded soccer. Its three top players, Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta stand 5-foot-7, proof that skill and savvy are more important than size and brawn.
DECRU: Barcelona and Arsenal are my favorite teams for the quality of the game they play.
FASANO: I have many favorites: National teams, Italy, Portugal; U.S. Soccer Club Teams, Juventus, Arsenal & San Jose Earthquakes
YAMAGISHI: I don't have a favorite team, but I always think about the teams that I used to play for and wish those clubs all the best.
NELSON: Men’s Spanish National Team and Manchester United. They played great soccer!