Former Colorado Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson was appointed as the USMNT under-20’s head coach. It is a curious decision, to say the least, and serious questions have to be asked.
The development of young players. It depends on coaching. While talent is obviously extremely important. There is only so far good coaching can take you. Everyone, at some point, will reach their athletic and technical limits.
But despite these upper and lower limits, there is still a great variance depending on the input that young players receive. Even senior players attest to the impact that good coaching has had on their games, teaching them new elements and expanding their skills. So imagine what a good coach can do for a developing teenager?
Having positive coaches helps develop good players. Iceland are proof of this. At the turn of the Millenium, they chose to invest substantially in their youth football. They improved their facilities, provided more opportunities for young players to play, and, most importantly, trained their coaches.
They now have elite 850 youth coaches who hold UEFA licenses across the country, all of which have been invested in and trained by the state. For a country of a little over 300,000 people, it is quite staggering. Iceland only have about 3,000 registered males playing football. More than 100 are now playing abroad and almost all of their squads at the recent European Championships and World Cup came through this newly built youth coaching system.
The lesson is quite clear: good coaching can produce great players, even from a tiny population and playing pool. Iceland are proof as much. And if anything, the U.S. Men’s National Team — and U.S. Soccer more generally — are proof of the opposite. Such talent, such a large pool, and yet so poor results.
Good news, then, that the USSF decided to entrust their youth players who will later comprise the USMNT to Anthony Hudson, a failed coach who flamed out at the Colorado Rapids just this year — he won just eight games out of 42 in an utterly brutal tenure. The Rapids also immediately improved following Hudson’s firing under interim Connor Casey and then Robin Fraser.
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Hudson was successful as the New Zealand head coach, before struggling greatly at the Rapids, which was perhaps more down to his recruitment than his coaching skill, but his resume is not exactly glittering. Prior to his time in New Zealand, he spent time coaching in Bahrain, not exactly a footballing giant.
This week, the USSF unveiled Hudson as the new head coach of the under-20 USMNT. In a statement, U.S. sporting director Earnie Stewart:
"We’re excited to bring Anthony on-board to lead our U-20 Men’s National Team as it prepares for this summer’s Concacaf Championship. We’ve enjoyed great success with the U-20s over the last few cycles and the team has been instrumental in advancing players to our senior Men’s National Team. We believe that Anthony’s experience in the international game and at the club level make him a great choice to continue that success.”"
Now, perhaps Hudson is a much better coach than his record implies. But from an external perspective, serious questions need to be asked. The proof is in the pudding, and for Hudson, thus far, the pudding has been made with out-of-date ingredients.
Maybe this hire is precisely what the USMNT youth teams and player development require. But the evidence suggests that Hudson is not a very good coach, and as Iceland prove, that is somewhat problematic. Serious questions must be asked, and I am not sure the USSF can answer them.