BRENT LATHAM - Saturday, June 13, 2009
I took the opportunity today to run up the road to Rustenburg to catch the press conference of the Spanish national team, and a bit of their training. I can say what I saw for an hour or so watching the Spanish side train was incredible. They spent the first forty-five minutes playing a ten v. ten game of of keep away in a 30x20 box, and the decision making is so crisp and clear on all levels, it blows the mind. I think our youth coaches should watch a tape of Spanish training sessions before they even begin to train kids. If six-year olds were playing in tight spaces instead of full sided scrimmages weed be in better shape soon. But that is redundant by now.
The declaration of change of national affiliation is huge for the US - there's no doubt about it. The man is a rung above anyone, perhaps save Tim Howard, in class, as far as the US goes.
One more thing about Jones, he's a thug. I mean that in a good way. He's not afraid to win, and knows how. If he is incorporated early enough into the lineup, he could be a real leader by next summer, bringing some of the feistiness the US has lacked in recent years with the decline of Pablo Mastroeni.
Jones made a good choice. He is 27, and was out of the picture of Joachim Low's Germany team, and this move should get him a ticket to the World Cup in 2010 and perhaps even 2014. This won't be the last high profile player to switch sides; the African federations are chomping at the bit. Hopefully the US can reel in one more big name player, but that at this point is just speculation.
Hard to believe I'm even mentioning the guy's name on this site, but I spoke with him briefly yesterday after an Italy scrimmage. Rossi, to say the least, doesn't get it. He thinks playing against the US will be, in his words, "something special." Far from the class of other athletes - Tim Duncan is one who comes to mind - who sit out when playing against nations from which they share citizenship, Rossi is psyched to play against the US. He seems like a nice enough guy, and he's living his dream, which is admirable, but it's hard to wish a guy like that too much luck, at least on Monday.