Wednesday, May 2, 2012



Try-outs for Premier Football Club (PFC) for the 2012-2013 season

PFC teams play in the OYSAN State League and are coached by professionally licensed coaches. Practices held in Shaker Heights.

BU14 & GU14
Friday May 11

BU13 & GU13
Saturday May 12

Try-outs held at the Force Indoor facility  4505 Northfield Rd, Warrensville Heights, Ohio 44122

Pre-register by 5/10/2012 here. 

More information on our programs is available

at For information on other age groups please contact Director of Coaching, Paul Driesen at

Information provided by Lora Mesiano

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

John O'Brien: '4-3-3 requires lots of good, technical skill'

An Article written by Ridge Mahoney, April 11th, 2012 1:19AM

When the U.S. under-23s failed in their Concacaf Olympic qualifying attempt, critics lambasted coach Caleb Porter's use of a 4-3-3 formation and/or the players he chose to play it. Barcelona has refined its use to an art form, yet its demands on players are especially crucial for its success. Ridge Mahoney checked in with former U.S. and Ajax Amsterdam star John O'Brien and MLS coaches for their views on the demands and benefits of the 4-3-3 formation. ...

When the U.S under-23 team surrendered a critical goal in stoppage time that knocked it out of contention for a place in the Olympic Games soccer competition, one of the few American players schooled in the 4-3-3 system it was playing was on hand to observe.

Former U.S. international midfielder John O’Brien watched the group finale against El Salvador in Nashville. He’d been working with the coaching staff at UNC Asheville and was curious to see some of the U.S. young talent as he gets ready for his next career; he has a degree in psychology and is taking his B coaching license course this week in Southern California.

He wasn’t the only one to notice that while the Americans were potent and incisive going forward, they were naive and vulnerable when they lost possession. The origins of the breakdowns aside, the U.S. players weren’t prepared for the unique demands of the system they were playing. It requires players to think defensively even when they have the ball.

“That’s the problem with the 4-3-3,” says O’Brien, who played 32 times for the United States and spent more than a decade in Dutch soccer. “You’re pretty exposed and so if you don’t keep the ball, you’re definitely very open for counters. Part of the 4-3-3 is getting used to knowing that when you’re possessing the ball, you’re ready in case the guy turns it over.

“That has to be ingrained a little bit more, what to do in transition. You’re on offense but you’re still thinking defensively. Once you lose it, in that formation you need to be able to press the ball right away and be tight to guys, because you’re so open.”

O’Brien, a native of Southern California, left home at age 17 to join Ajax, the club that refined and popularized the 4-3-3 system in the early 1970s. Injuries limited him to just 85 matches for the club and he also had brief stays with Utrecht and ADO Den Haag. He played a variety of positions, including left back and left midfield, though he’s best known to American fans for the central, holding role he usually played for the national team.

Many MLS teams have at times used 4-3-3 in the league’s history but it’s never been a preferred formation. Currently, Sporting Kansas City has utilized it to emerge as one of the league’s top teams, Toronto FC has used it extensively since Dutch coach Aron Winter took over at the start of the 2011 season, and new head coach Oscar Pareja has introduced it in Colorado. It has been extolled by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and was implemented by U.S. U-23 head coach Caleb Porter for the Concacaf Olympic qualifiers.

The formation bore much criticism when the U.S. fell short, yet O’Brien feels the players selected to play the system weren’t thoroughly familiar with it.

“You know in a 4-3-3 you’ll have a lot of players in front of the ball, and I noticed that they lost the ball easy and didn’t have guys in the right spaces,” said O’Brien of a 3-3 tie in which El Salvador scored its equalizer deep into stoppage time. “When they scored the equalizer, for a team that needs a result at that moment, we were very exposed. There weren’t many people behind the ball.”

Kansas City is the league’s top defensive team with just one goal conceded in five matches, so the 4-3-3 does not automatically translate into leaking goals. Coach Peter Vermes implemented the system, which really seemed to take root last season when Brazilian Julio Cesar moved from the back line into a midfield holding role. His play has meshed nicely that with Roger Espinoza, who handles a lot of the two-way work, and attacking catalyst Graham Zusi, who himself covers a lot of ground probing for openings. Together, they shield the back four and provide good supply lines to the three forwards.

Though the roles and responsibilities and alignment of the three midfielders change, at least one player must be ready to buttress the middle. SKC assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin, while not a veteran of many matches in the 4-3-3, played the holding role for more than a decade in MLS and occasionally with the national team.

“In that position, not only do you have to have the physical capabilities to cover the ground that’s required,” says Zavagnin. “Some formations require you to have a bigger engine and certainly if you’re playing with one holding midfielder you have to have the physical capability to play that position.

“The other piece is you have a tactical understanding of what’s not only required of yourself in that position but all the other players around you, particularly in front of you and to the side. In general terms there’s an education process that has to take place. The 4-3-3 is a system we’re relatively unfamiliar with in this country, so it’s still difficult for the player to understand everything about playing in that area of the field in a 4-3-3.”

O’Brien cites that element as well; once Ajax found success with the system, it searched for players to play in it. Many Dutch teams copied Ajax to the extent they played it much of the time, and adopted variants such as shifting to a 3-4-3 to better match teams in midfield that were playing 4-4-2. During a game a centerback comfortable on the ball would push into midfield to help keep possession or launch an attack.

When he introduced the Rapids to his version of a 4-3-3, Pareja immediately ratcheted up the technical demands on his players. The club signed Colombian Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero to get more skill in the lineup, but the sidelining of veteran Pablo Mastroeni because of post-concussion problems has at times altered the formation. The emphasis on possession has not changed.

“[Pareja] doesn’t feel like in this system anyone can hide out there,” says Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. “That’s a really good thing because everybody should be able to play with the ball. It’s whether you believe you can do it and using it at the right time. Oscar is showing now that everyone has to get on it and want to be on it.”

Pareja also preaches another element of the 4-3-3 as cited by O’Brien; pressuring the ball once it is lost. In this sense the 4-3-3 is like every other formation in that mastery of it stems from the players’ mindset.

“One thing I’m asking them is I need midfielders who are committed with the game all the time, players who are comfortable with the ball and want the ball when we are in possession, but players who are eager to get the ball back when we don’t have it,” says Pareja. “That kind of mentality I want from all of them.”

Says O’Brien of the U.S. under-23 experiment: “The 4-3-3 is a possession formation. You’re going to need a lot of good, technical skill to play it, and it’s something were still working on, I think.”

U10 Girls from Cleveland F.C. Take First at Cincinnati Elite Tournament

The U10 girls team from Cleveland FC, coached by Doug Coreno, found themselves as the Cincinnati Elite Tournament Champions after competition concluded at the April 20-22nd tournament.

The team, consisting of Bailey (Olmsted Twp.), Blythe (Columbia Station), Haley A. (Medina), Haley C. (Strongsville), Jessie (Elyria), Lauren (Medina), Maddy (Medina), Olivia (Medina), Phoebe (Avon Lake), Taylor (Berea) and Tori (Medina), beat the Red Rebels (KY), Internationals Red (Ohio North) and Beechmont (Ohio South), and tied the Cincinnati Challenger team to secure first place in the tournament.

In second place team in the same division was the girls team from The Internationals Soccer Club, whose director of coaching is Zdravko Popovic. The teams will face each other again in both State League season-play, as well as at the State Cup match June 1-3 in Toledo, Ohio.

Information provided by: Tracy Grabowski

2012 Europe Trip Video

Visit this link to watch the entire video of the 2012 Europe Trip!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
From Flamengo to Futsal: Insights from Brazil's Beautiful Game
By Mike Singleton

Spending soccer time in other countries is always an education in itself. Whether it has been England, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Mexico, or Brazil there are things I learn that always contributes to my continued education about this beautiful game.

Taking such nuggets from these countries and acculturating them to our country can be challenging but is a task that is always needed as we are a melting pot country and our beautiful game is very much a melting pot as well.

I write this as I sit at the airport in Brazil after nine days of practicing, playing, talking, and watching much soccer. Between having Brazilian pro coaches coach our Regional ODP team, playing multiple soccer games against local Brazilian teams, playing local futsal games, enjoying beach soccer, watching foot-volley, watching many games on television, and watching Flamengo train up close and personal I leave the country with many thoughts streaming through my head.

1) Despite having less access to money, quality fields, and equipment teenage players from Brazil seem to have superior technical skills to our players.

2) Futsal demands great technical skills and forces high speed of play (both thought and execution) upon players. In addition, players have to learn the basic principles of the game to play futsal and play both offense and defense … our players seem to sometimes take breaks in transition from one to the other in either direction.

3) The goals set up on multiple beaches and stands to watch beach soccer games show how pervasive a love this country has for soccer.

4) The goals set up in every small park in every neighborhood shows the pervasive love of soccer … these parks rage from sand to grass to turf to concrete.

5) Every night there is a quality game with competitive domestic teams to watch.

6) Flamengo, one of the five most popular clubs in the world, allowed our team to sit one yard from their field to watch their training, to take pictures, gave us a close up tour of their grounds and facilities, welcomed us with complimentary juice and snacks, came up to players after practice to sign autographs and take pictures … and Ronaldinho even came out a second round and gave his training jersey to a player and took a team picture with all.

7) The Flamengo players were smiling and laughing constantly throughout their training. The next day they won their Copa Libertadores game.

8) Foot-volley was on primetime television and on the one big screen TV in the restaurant as we ate dinner … wow!

These facts teach me many things and the constant questions I have heard from people regarding how we can make our players more like those in such countries. Here are some of my reactionary thoughts:

1) This is the result of many factors including points 3, 4, and 5. It is also the result of their culture being less focused on team results and tournaments and more focused on creating beautiful play. Players see creative play constantly and they hear and see the appreciation everyone expresses for such play … whether they win or not.

2) Where as indoor soccer is very good and some fantastic indoor fields are being constructed all over our country, futsal has a needed place in our soccer development. The way it forces technical development and speed of play in a small-sided environment can be hugely helpful to player development and is not replicated through indoor play. This game addresses particular weaknesses we see at all levels in our country and this game is much more popular in Brazil, Spain, and Portugal than in the USA. Hmmmm …

3) We can wish our game would become as pervasive as it is in Brazil, but it simply is not and will never be. However, introducing our players to the multivariate forms of soccer could be a way to keep them playing in fun ways without seeing it as “training.” If they are playing soccer like games in their free-time we coaches should be smiling.

4) I see basketball courts throughout Boston that are prime for such goals. Maybe finding a way to supply goals for these courts and working with Parks and Rec to secure them is a worthy endeavor. I will be looking to do this in Boston for sure.

5) MLS is getting better and better and television coverage of all international leagues is as well. The games are not on the major channels but they surely are accessible for our players now and that is a great thing!

6) What world-class club of any sport in our country allows such personal access and kindness to a foreign team of youth players? I wish our players could have such access to our professional soccer teams (without having to buy 100 tickets). Maybe fans are more important than customers? Maybe we need to think about which comes first … does one become a fan after being a customer or vice versa? Flamengo did this to help promote our players’ passion and now have a full team of passionate followers who did not know many of the players before this visit. They will now follow that team excitedly.

7) I loved seeing this! Here is to hoping we coaches all enable and enjoy such laughing and smiling during our practices.

8) This will never happen here but video is powerful and we all now have the ability to video our teams and put them on big screens. Maybe doing so more often could help fuel a little more passion … it’s worth a try.

Admittedly, nothing brilliant or world changing in the above words. However, we are a good soccer nation and need not change our world. Hopefully these nuggets and the nuggets we each take from our experiences help us all grow into a great soccer nation!

(Mike Singleton is the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association's Executive Director and the MIT men’s soccer coach. He is a Region I ODP Senior Staff Coach and a U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer National Staff Coach.)

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What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:20 pm

Written by: Steve Henson

Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: "What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"

Their overwhelming response: "The ride home from games with my parents."

The informal survey lasted three decades, initiated by two former longtime coaches who over time became staunch advocates for the player, for the adolescent, for the child. Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC are devoted to helping adults avoid becoming a nightmare sports parent, speaking at colleges, high schools and youth leagues to more than a million athletes, coaches and parents in the last 12 years.

Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame.

Their overwhelming response: "I love to watch you play."

There it is, from the mouths of babes who grew up to become college and professional athletes. Whether your child is just beginning T-ball or is a travel-team soccer all-star or survived the cuts for the high school varsity, parents take heed.

The vast majority of dads and moms that make rides home from games miserable for their children do so inadvertently. They aren't stereotypical horrendous sports parents, the ones who scream at referees, loudly second-guess coaches or berate their children. They are well-intentioned folks who can't help but initiate conversation about the contest before the sweat has dried on their child's uniform.

In the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. And they’d prefer if parents transitioned from spectator – or in many instances from coach – back to mom and dad. ASAP.

Brown (pictured below at podium), a high school and youth coach near Seattle for more than 30 years, says his research shows young athletes especially enjoy having their grandparents watch them perform.

"Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate," he says. "Kids recognize that."

A grandparent is more likely to offer a smile and a hug, say "I love watching you play," and leave it at that.

Meanwhile a parent might blurt out …

“Why did you swing at that high pitch when we talked about laying off it?"

"Stay focused even when you are on the bench.”

"You didn’t hustle back to your position on defense.”

"You would have won if the ref would have called that obvious foul.”

"Your coach didn't have the best team on the field when it mattered most.”

And on and on.

Sure, an element of truth might be evident in the remarks. But the young athlete doesn’t want to hear it immediately after the game. Not from a parent. Comments that undermine teammates, the coach or even officials run counter to everything the young player is taught. And instructional feedback was likely already mentioned by the coach.

"Let your child bring the game to you if they want to,” Brown says.

Brown and Miller, a longtime coach and college administrator, don't consider themselves experts, but instead use their platform to convey to parents what three generations of young athletes have told them.

"Everything we teach came from me asking players questions," Brown says. "When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers. When you listen to young people speak from their heart, they offer a perspective that really resonates.”

So what’s the takeaway for parents?

"Sports is one of few places in a child's life where a parent can say, 'This is your thing,’ ” Miller says. "Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong.

"Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs."

And discussion on the ride home can be about a song on the radio or where to stop for a bite to eat. By the time you pull into the driveway, the relationship ought to have transformed from keenly interested spectator and athlete back to parent and child:

"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"


Nearly 75 percent of kids who play organized sports quit by age 13. Some find that their skill level hits a plateau and the game is no longer fun. Others simply discover other interests. But too many promising young athletes turn away from sports because their parents become insufferable.

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Even professional athletes can behave inappropriately when it comes to their children. David Beckham was recently ejected from a youth soccer field for questioning an official. New Orleans radio host Bobby Hebert, a former NFL quarterback, publicly dressed down LSU football coach Les Miles after Alabama defeated LSU in the BCS title game last month. Hebert was hardly unbiased: His son had recently lost his starting position at LSU.

Mom or dad, so loving and rational at home, can transform into an ogre at a game. A lot of kids internally reach the conclusion that if they quit the sport, maybe they'll get their dad or mom back.

As a sports parent, this is what you don't want to become. This is what you want to avoid:

Overemphasizing sports at the expense of sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents demonstrative in showing displeasure during a contest are sending the wrong message. Encouragement is crucial -- especially when things aren’t going well on the field.

Having different goals than your child: Brown and Miller suggest jotting down a list of what you want for your child during their sport season. Your son or daughter can do the same. Vastly different lists are a red flag. Kids generally want to have fun, enjoy time with their friends, improve their skills and win. Parents who write down “getting a scholarship” or “making the All-Star team” probably need to adjust their goals. “Athletes say their parents believe their role on the team is larger than what the athlete knows it to be,” Miller says.

Treating your child differently after a loss than a win: Almost all parents love their children the same regardless of the outcome of a game. Yet often their behavior conveys something else. "Many young athletes indicate that conversations with their parents after a game somehow make them feel as if their value as a person was tied to playing time or winning,” Brown says.

Undermining the coach: Young athletes need a single instructional voice during games. That voice has to be the coach. Kids who listen to their parents yelling instruction from the stands or even glancing at their parents for approval from the field are distracted and can't perform at a peak level. Second-guessing the coach on the ride home is just as insidious.

Living your own athletic dream through your child: A sure sign is the parent taking credit when the child has done well. “We worked on that shot for weeks in the driveway,” or “You did it just like I showed you” Another symptom is when the outcome of a game means more to a parent than to the child. If you as a parent are still depressed by a loss when the child is already off playing with friends, remind yourself that it’s not your career and you have zero control over the outcome.


Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, Brown and Miller say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what to do:

Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.

Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.

Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.

Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.

Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child's biggest fan. "Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers," Brown says.

And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: "I love watching you play."

-- Steve Henson is a Senior Editor and Writer at Yahoo! Sports. He has four adult children and has coached and officiated youth sports for 30 years. He can be reached at and on Twitter @HensonYahoo

Ohio North Night at Byers Field!

AFC Cleveland is proud to announce the return of professional outdoor soccer to the Greater Cleveland. AFC Cleveland is a semi-professional team that plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The NPSL is a nationwide league that includes teams in major markets from coast to coast, including Hollywood United, Chicago Fire NPSL, New York Red Bulls NPSL, and the San Diego Flash.

On May 18th at Byers Field is Ohio North Night! Game time is 7:00pm. Players wear your jersey and adult tickets are only $5!

Purchase your tickets now at