US Soccer announced today that Richie Williams will be appointed head coach of the US U-17 Men's National Team. This comes after the recent dismissal of Wilmer Cabrera who managed the head coaching duties for this position over the past five years.
Richie Williams has been involved with the US set up for a greater part of his professional career. A UVA graduate and MLS champion with DC United, Williams was capped 20 times for the senior side as a player. More recently, Williams was named by Klinsmann to be the head coach of the US U-18's, which is the position he currently holds and is vacating for the U-17 job.
With qualifying in CONCACAF for the U-17 World Cup in 2013 quickly approaching this critical position was finally filled by Jurgen Klinsmann and US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati.
“His experience as a player and coach at the highest levels will allow him to continue to provide a professional environment for the players in our U-17 Residency Program,” said Sunil Gulati.
The U-17 residency program, which is breeding ground for a select group of young US players to train and go to school, has strengthened the player pool for US Soccer and has consistently provided talent for the senior team, the MLS and other clubs abroad. However, it has come into question in recent years as to what its true effectiveness really is and Klinsmann seems to be willing to try a different route when it comes to developing young talent.
There is not much doubt to how connected he is to US Soccer, but, I ask, is he too connected?
Much has been made about the recent change in philosophy, the change in system and the change in leadership that has occurred under Klinsmann. In what ways does appointing Richie Williams signify this change?
Richie Williams was always known as a creative and nimble midfield player, very inventive, defensive minded at times but definitely not a brutish or one dimensional player. Very much in the same vein as Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna as he stated in an interview.
“If you look at Claudio, Tab and myself and the way we played soccer, we weren’t that different," said Williams.
“We were all midfielders who controlled the ball, liked to pass, liked to play a nice style of soccer. Play out of the back, keep the ball on the ground, and attack and create chances,” Williams added.
Sound familiar. Richie Williams is connected to US Soccer, so much so that he can admit US Soccer may need to go in a different direction. The change in direction, philosophy, system may all be coming, and quicker than you think according to Williams.
It will be interesting if the residency program itself will also be something that is evaluated during his tenure. It isn’t exactly broken, but with the development of the academy system slowly progressing, it’s up to the new coaching staff to evaluate talent in this tried and tested method.
The current crop of U-17 players are all eligible to compete in the qualifying tournament for CONCACAF and the U-17 World Cup in 2013. Will this be enough time for Richie Williams to implement the new system and style of play in order to make a considerable difference?
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