>Friday Lunch Special: Matt at the SoccerNation Expo

Posted: February 19, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

>     On Saturday, February 13th, I (Matt) had the pleasure of attending the annual Soccer Nation Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the event, as I formerly was, this gathering is organized by Cal South and according to the website is “two amazing days of high-spirited soccer action, education, shopping, networking, and just plain fun.”

     Being a soccer coach, my focus was primarily set on the education and networking facets. I had signed up for the VIP Coach Pass, which not only gave me early access to the event (doors opened for VIP pass holders at 8:30am, general public at 9:30am), but also included many free products (t-shirts, coupons, etc.). The event was held in the spacious south hall of the convention center where all sorts of soccer related vendors set up shop. After having a little trouble figuring out where to park as well as waiting in a long line to pick up my pass, I soon found myself heading inside. As I headed up the escalator, I could see the many booths, in the middle of which was “the Center Pitch”, an Astroturf adorned plot of land where numerous professional coaches put on coaching demonstrations. This was my ultimate destination.

     But first, I opted to walk around and see the various exhibits while I still had time before the general public entered. I went to the Nike booth to check out their new bright green total 90s, headed by the LA Galaxy and Chivas booths to score some free stuff (I gave the LA shirt to my girlfriend, more on why in a future post), and tried to ignore the many solicitations from uniform vendors (as I am not a league official and cannot speak on behalf of my league as to whether or not we want to change our uniforms).

     Soon I could hear the first coaching demonstrator come on the PA and begin his session, so I went back over to the center pitch to check it out. I missed the introduction, but I’m pretty sure the coach was USC’s Ali Khosroshahin, who ran a young group of youth players through a session oriented toward technical development in young players.

     Next up was Jan Smisek, who despite her experience and credentials, did not come across as very interactive with the players. Perhaps this was because the demonstration was oriented more toward the coaches. She ran an older group of Olympic Development Program players through a session on 2v2 defending, focusing mostly on the second or supporting defender.

     Then, with perhaps the most exciting demonstration (in my opinion) of the day came Klaus Pabst, who took the ODP players through a session focusing on 1v1 up to 4v4 tactics. This was all without mentioning the fact that his last name also refers to my favorite cheap pub beer. I enjoyed his charisma and interaction with the players so much, that I decided to head to one of the smaller rooms adjacent to the main hall to hear him discuss FC Koln’s (Cologne) youth development system. I later spoke with him more in depth and made plans to visit the academy and the club the next time I am in Germany.

     Bob Gansler, my favorite retired MLS coach, was next. He ran a group of boys through a technically challenging session and displayed a huge amount of humor and wit which I would have had no idea he possessed had I not attended.

     Oscar Gil (who I was too lazy to find a link to, look him up if you want), from Boca Juniors in Argentina was next, but I only caught the end of the session as I was both hungry and hungover and went searching for food (found some nachos and a coke, not bad for $7 in LA). When I returned, I watched him putting ODP players through a very physical progression from a team game with 1v1 in zones to a 9v9 game.

     Jeff Tipping, of National Soccer Coaches Association of America was up next (again, lazy). He put the players through a session designed to work on the transition from attack to defense, but ended up spending more time on attacking on the counter.

     Finally, the crown jewel of the day (and the reason why I decided to come), was Dave Sarachan, current assistant coach of the LA Gaylaxy (oops, did I write that?). He originally was supposed to do a session on attacking on the counter, but ended up improvising (as Jeff Tipping stole his topic) and running the players through an effective technical passing and possession exercise.

     That session closed out the first day of the convention. Sadly, I was not able to return the following day as a combination of Valentine’s Day, a soccer game and lack of time prevented me from doing so. I am happy to report that Valentine’s Day went well, we won our soccer game, and I found time to do other things (such as spend time with my lovely girlfriend – I’ll keep it PG, don’t worry). I learned a lot from the demonstrations and hope to attend similar events in the future (except the upcoming Vegas event in March, which I cannot swing).

Burn of the week – From [ex-USA head coach Steve] Sampson, I learned what not to do as a coach.” – Former USMNT player and current NAC Breda technical director, Earnie Stewart.

Upcoming match of the week – Everton vs. Manchester United, Saturday at 4:45AM PST. Yes, I will be awake and watching. Maybe still even drunk.

Match of the week (thus far) – I’m gonna have to go with San Jose 1: Kansas City 0. Not the biggest or most important match, but it’s nice to see the ‘Quakes come up with at least one preseason win thus far against significant opposition

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