In doing some research for my 32 Players to Watch: Arjen Robben post a couple months ago I stumbled across a term I hadn’t seen in a while, and it stuck in my mind. I couldn’t figure out why it kept on popping into my head until, while in the midst of a five hour drive, I got it. The term was the Coerver Method and the revelation, what a surprise, relates to my beloved United States Men’s National Team.
First, let’s do a little catching up. The Coerver Method is a coaching technique invented by former Dutch manager Wiel Coerver. I hadn’t thought about the Coerver Method in years until I found out that Arjen “Oldface Killah” Robben was a student of the method in his youth. The technique aims at teaching kids when they’re young to execute evasive moves on the dribble and to use small team play, essentially ball movements between two or three players aimed at retaining possession and creative offensively. The one-on-one evasion aspect of the method went in one ear and out the other for me, like when TYAC Editor-In-Chief Dan Seco tells me to, “Stop making so many damn West Ham references in your posts!” But like a blown Alessandro Diamanti penalty against Arsenal, the specter of the small team moves aspect of the Coerver Method haunted me, and I couldn’t figure out why.
“Coerver Coaching believes that the game is made up of a series of movements and plays involving a small number of players (1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3 etc.) in different parts of the field. It is when they are linked together, or broken up defensively, that these small group plays make up a game of football.”
This isn’t simply the “keep your triangles!” part of the game that you probably had more than one soccer coach bark at you as a kid, but it builds off that. These Coerver-style small team moves in the attacking third are exactly what the U.S. attack is missing, especially in the absence of Charlie Davies (who seems to make all the Yanks passing in and around the box more effective).
This is not me calling for a complete revamp of the U.S. youth system. This isn’t me calling for a Coerver disciple to replace Bob Bradley two months out from the World Cup either. No, this is just me expressing the need for a USMNT version of Larry Shyatt.
Now on the off chance that our readership isn’t comprised solely of college basketball fans, let me explain. Larry Shyatt is the former head coach of Clemson University’s basketball team, but he’s more well known for being one of the best assistant coaches in the game, serving under Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan in that capacity. After years of coaching his offensively potent, motion heavy “Billy Ball,” Donovan assessed his own weaknesses as a coach. While he could seemingly teach trained housecats to put the ball in the basket and press like their lives depended on it, the diminutive former Providence star wasn’t an elite coach of half court defense. So after a disappointing end to the 2003-04 season, Donovan assessed his own weaknesses and added the newly available Shyatt to his coaching staff. Larry was pegged as a defensive guru, and he lived up to the billing. Current Knicks star David Lee and three-point specialist Lee Humphrey led the charge under Shyatt, taking their defending to another level, and showing freshmen like Joakim Noah and Al Horford that Shyatt was onto something. With a points-allowed-per-game that jumped from the 11th in the SEC to third right off the bat, Florida basketball won three conference tournaments and two national titles in Shyatt’s first three years with the team. In short, Larry Shyatt completed the coaching puzzle for team. He was the Ringo to Florida’s Beatles, the Masta Killa to the Gators’ Wu-Tang Clan.
And that’s exactly what needs to happen (but won’t) in the coaching ranks of the USMNT. Realistically we’re in the 11th hour here as far as the World Cup is concerned, and the man who would be making the decision is the type of dude who usually takes too long to make a change anyway. But that doesn’t mean this type of specialized coaching isn’t what the team needs.
I don’t have illusions about a well orchestrated attack turning the Yanks into a Brazil or Netherlands clone, but maybe getting better with team moves in the attacking third makes us look just a little less disjointed and confused on the ball (which we appear to be all too often). Maybe focusing on these techniques would even lead to a run-of-play goal or penalty call against Algeria or Slovenia when the opposition’s practice on set piece defending is paying off and the Donovan corners have run dry.
Charlie Cooke is the foremost Coerver Method coach in the States, and yes, he’s used to coaching kids, but I bet the Yanks’ offense would benefit from Bobbo getting Charlie on the phone and into camp for a few days. It sure would be nice to carry the ball into England’s area looking more like killer bees on the swarm than the derogatory “colonies” moniker which we sadly often justify.
Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TYAC_Jon.