The United States is a country of roughly 300 million people yet, we’ve lost more than our fair share of top soccer talent to other countries for an inability to recognize and incorporate it at a youth level. Stories of Neven Subotic will forever haunt US Soccer fans.
Enter ’99 forward Luis Arreola. The talented striker by all reports has been one of the more impressive ’99s at a number of US identification camps, yet has continually missed chances to play with the other top players in the ’99 pool at the international level or with the id2 program.
Word spread quickly of the Arreola’s talent and following his performance at Sueno Alianza camp he was on the radar of a number of top academies in Germany and Mexico, including Chivas de Guadalajara.
So how could a player with offers to join some of the most prestigious Academies in the world be overlooked by US Soccer after having scouted him a number of times?
Luis plays locally for Chicago’s FC Athletico, an non-USSDA club known for producing some of the midwest’s top young players. The issue of USSDA vs. non-USSDA again rears its ugly head.
US Soccer coaches have been vocal that the top players in this country need to compete at the USSDA level, or be associated with a USSDA/MLS Academy. I for one agree that the top talent in this country should be playing each other on a regular basis. However, if talent pops up elsewhere we should never turn our back.
This is not the first time non-USSDA players have been black-balled from US youth international rosters. Clubs like Fullerton Rangers (California) and Olney Rangers (Maryland) have found it hard to place their top players on US squads. Amirgy Pineda’s story is a good example. Pineda, a ’97 usynt, is one of the top players in the ’97 pool, yet found it difficult to get looked at by US scouts. He was heavily sought after by top Mexican League Academies as well as El Tri youth coaches. Pineda wanted to represent the US, but was often overlooked for USSDA players. Once Pineda finally got his shot he impressed and is now a fixture with the US U17/18s, but it took both time and patience from Pineda to have his dream realized.
If Arreola were to choose to take his soccer talents to Chivas de Guadalajara then you can shut the door on any foreseeable future US youth invitations. His decision to play in Mexico might also ignite interest from El Tri to call Luis into their federation at the international level.
We talked with both Luis Arreola and his father Luis Arreola Sr. regarding his past, present and future.
OWTY :: When and where did you start playing soccer?
Luis Arreola :: I started playing soccer at the age of 8 years old. I started at a Park District rec team. As I started getting serious about soccer my dad took the team out of Park District and started a club that is now known as FC Athletico and put us in Travel soccer where my developing really took place.
Luis Arreola Sr :: 90% of the players of that first Park district Team we started the club with ended up on “top” Academy club teams as starters. Luis started as a goalie for 2 years, then center D for 1 year, then Center Mid for 1 year and now forward for 2 years. He played for a Nationally ranked #2 team, Chicago Magic, as U11 goalie but he wanted to play on the field. Magic only wanted him as goalie. So he left that club and now that same club wants him as starting forward on Acdemy U14 team.
OWTY :: Who are some of the players you model your game after?
LA :: I model my game after the Brasilians Pele and Ronaldihno. I choose them because their so creative and there so fun to watch and they actually look like their enjoying the game and the level of skill and confidence they had to actually to try those moves in a game and be successful is amazing they just make me want to watch a soccer game because their just so fun to watch.
OWTY :: What is you preferred position?
LA :: My preferred position is forward but I know how to play all positions. Including goalie.
OWTY :: You’ve developed at FC Athletico, a very impressive youth academy in Chicago. What that like?
LA :: Its amazing. Others might say different because they think its unorganized only because we purposely carry short rosters for max play. There’s really no place like it. It’s always a positive atmosphere and they just don’t take your money. They actually give you your money’s worth because if your good enough you play on 2 teams for the price of 1and you practice 3-4 times a week at least, all for the lowest prices. And you actually develop. I’ve seen others who left our club who go to some Academy “better” but the parents just want to be able to say my kids playing for Magic or Fire. Status. . They used to be better than me but stunted their development. Our focus isn’t so much about the name but its about the player witch in the end is what its about. Most players here play 1-2 years up besides their age group so they can notice how much they are improving each week. Nobody feels left out. Everyone is friends with everyone. Some say my dad, who is one of the coaches, yells too much but the reason he yells so much is because he sees potential in every one of us and he wants us to reach our full potential whether its playing pro or at least getting a college scholarship. He pushes us to be able to handle a full game without subs and play at a high intense level. He doesn’t believe in subbing in and out. He hates it. It truly is one of a kind.
LA Sr :: At FCA we usually have top 1-2 players at every age in Chicago. Those kids usually love to play and we have them play on 1-2 and many times 3 teams. Creativity is a must and they must play full games at intense rate. The ones that truly love to play don’t have a problem with this.
’99 Luis Arreola at Sueno Alianza Camp Chicago
OWTY :: You recently impressed a number of scouts at a Sueno Alianza camp. In your own words how did that camp go?
LA :: It went very well but it was a great way for non big name club players to show how good they are and to get an amazing chance to achieve their life dream. I feel I didn’t have my best game at the end because I was nervous but was relieved to hear they picked me because of the skill and potential they saw in me throughout. They said I was very coordinated and skilled for my height and young age. I was interviewed by Telemundo and Verizon. After the camp they invited us to a seminar where they explained to us the steps to go to college and get a scholarship because overall the Hispanic population is less fortunate so they took us step by step. I would recommend it to anybody because they truly do give great chances to truly great players.
LA Sr :: Over 500 players tried out the 1st day of trials. They picked 17 from 98/99 age group to play vs Fire Academy the next day as Seleccion Alianza. FC Athletico had 3 players make that team. After that game only 3 were picked to move on to National event set up for September 19-22. Of those 3, 2 FCA players were picked – Luis and Kevin Garcia. Only 20 U15 and under will be picked total throughout the country and will have trip paid for by Alianza. Kevin was also invited to Chivas but did not have his passport ready.
OWTY :: Chivas de Guadalajara offered you a chance to come down and try-out. Did they offer you an official spot in their youth academy?
LA :: Yes they did offer me an official spot on their Fuerzas Basicas 99 team (Chivas youth academy team). They said I had amazing potential and really made me feel good about myself. I never thought I would impress them that much. I didn’t know what to expect and was nervous but they made me feel right at home and said they were very impressed in how fast I adapted. They said that with my potential I could play pro as early as 17-18 years old. Amazing.
LA Sr :: Chivas paid for airfare for both of us. They said they would wait as long as needed for Luis and didn’t want to lose him to anyone else. They said Chivas would be the best place for him to develop. They offered to cover all costs including a great and expensive school they have right next door to their facilities.
OWTY :: Rumor has it a number of European squads are interested in you? Which ones and are you heading over there?
LA :: Yes it is true. I have tryouts in Germany for VfB Stuggart and Schalke04. A German Coach that saw me play in Chicago recommended me , as he has a very good reputation out there since he played pro in Bundesliga. He also said I had enough talent, skill, strength and size to be successful in Europe. I will play with Chivas 99’s in Houston Dynamo tournament August 16-18 and leave on the 18th to Germany for tryouts that start the 20th and end the 29th.
OWTY :: You’ve been involved with US Identification camps, yet have never been called up to National Team camps. Why do you think that is?
LA :: Truthfully I think it is because I am not in a big name club / Academy. If you check out the few Midwest players on the national teams they all come from clubs like Chicago magic, Chicago Fire, Scott Gallagher, etc. Its no coincidence. I feel I have done very well against all of them. One of these was a USSF Regional TC. I scored 2 goals against top defenders in that game and we won 4-2. I always get placed in older groups and still score. USSF Scout, Brian Johnson, seemed to really like me at the last camp where I scored and dished out 3 assists but have never even gotten an evaluation or anything back. I feel I have done the best in my age group, 99’s & 98’s but Academy players are the ones to get called up.
LA Sr :: We do not want to burn any bridges here but its good that my son is honest. I personally do not believe he has received a fair shot and has proven he is National Team Talent every camp he gets invited to. He always does much better than the players that do get called up. Its not only my own fatherly opinion. I have been told by Academy coaches that Luis wont get the called in unless he signs with an Academy. Not right. Luis scores in almost every one of these and always plays up on 98’s and even 97’s. Players that do get National called in are usually not played up an age at these same events. 99’s are usually separate from 98’s. Luis, a 99′, always gets place up with 98’s and even 97’s when its for 3 age groups. If Luis is not the best 99′, then why is he the only one to play up??
OWTY :: Would you accept a US call up if they called in the next few months?
LA :: It would be great but I think I have deserved the call-up since before going to Chivas trials. I just want to always raise my level of play. My dad has tried very hard to get me a US look. We are frustrated. He doesn’t believe it is right or ethical to have to join an Academy just to get a National team call up. I am good enough to get the invite and that should be enough no matter what club I play in and that shouldn’t even be a question when evaluating my talent. It was exiting to hear Chivas was so impressed with me and said that I have potential to play for Mexican national team. Chivas Director, Salvador Gamero, told me this and was the head coach for the Mexican national U15 team. I guess I am just very confused as to why a top Mexican club like Chivas loves me but I cant even get a call-up for a US U14 camp?
LA Sr :: As a dad,I would love for my son to be on National Team. He deserves it but the way we see it is if USA doesn’t want to acknowledge his talent then we must get him going somewhere else. Hopefully USA wont wait too long to call him up. We cant wait too long for my son to keep growing.
Great interview. I appreciated how candid the boy was about the faulty scouting system on the US. There several US players playing at the top level in Europe but US scouting either no resources to follow these kids and simply doesn’t care. Best of luck to him and his family. I’m glad that he was seen by professional -and probably better qualified- staff while US scouting missed the boat.
No Pancho, you aren’t missing anything. Usually, there are two things: (1) the parents don’t have cash, or (2) the athlete isn’t a son of a prominent coach or someone who is connected in the soccer establishment. Ability doesn’t matter in a country where pay to play dictates that mainly rich kids play soccer.
@Big Hoss I don’t think that is entirely true there. The cash point is probably true, I think USSF should spend more money and resources to try and get talent to their clubs. But soccer is a sport for all; rich and poor. All you need is a ball and 2 goals, much less than any other sport. If you meant that only the rich get recognized, then you may be closer to the truth. However, I think no matter how good of a federation the USA has, there will always be stories like this. America is a humongous country in terms of land and people. There will be talent that slips through the cracks, the idea is to recover as soon as possible when we miss talent and to make that number smaller.
Nicholas: All good points. Yes, in a perfect world you need two goals and a ball. But, In order to compete with larger more competitive clubs and to get the best training available, it isn’t that simple. We only know from our personal experience that some of the best players our kids have played with could not continue with club soccer because they couldn’t afford the fees, not to mention the travel. Our son’s total costs this year will be nearly $7000-$8000 at U-12: these include club fees, Coaching fees, tournament fees (5-6 per year), referees costs, uniform costs, indoor training, futsal training and fees, etc. This is absurd. The growth of the Academy system in the USA will help, but most don’t start until U-14 and by that time these kids without means have been out of the game for a couple years and missed out on two crucial years of technical development.
If you have had any interaction with ODP or ID2, as we have, it is incredibly political. As far as ODP goes, generally the Coach of each age group is also a club coach. So, it is in his best interest to load up his ODP team with as many kids from his club as he can, regardless of merit. Not to mention, if you are selected to go to a camp, the cost is upwards of $1000 for a week of admittedly great training, IF you are selected. This is already on top of whatever other costs are incurred through the year.
I am all about solutions, and the one undeniable solution is to eliminate Pay to play. Most State Youth Soccer Associations are rolling in cash: get rid of the bloat and the layers of management and start subsidizing the kids who play soccer! Also, start a program which expands the level of ODP with Coaches who are not tied to local clubs and start identifying good young talent and make sure they stay with the beautiful game. We need to get to the point where talent evaluation is pure and not based on who you know or how much you have to help the Coach’s pet projects.
Hoss- Great point, people not involved in the process believe everything is balanced- fair and without its share of politics.
The pay to play system here will always dictate how players are identified- unfortunately it seems to hurt more kids that don’t have the resources … how do we make it fair? ODP coaches and Academy coaches only push players through that represent the people they work for , this sport isn’t rooted in the suburbs yet those opportunities seem to only sprout there.
Nicholas, it seems that this player has been to several USSF Training Centers, including a Regional TC, has performed well enough but hasnt been able to get the invite. That;s really not considered falling through the cracks. His name comes up on ODP Regional team and ID2 Camps. It looks like he ahas done everything possible.
Big Hoss, I have personally seen the best players in ODP get bumped out simply because of economical status. I dont just mean good players. I mean the best players in their age group in entire Midwest!! I know them personally and also know they asked for financial aid, didnt get it, and were simply bumped out even though they performed better than any. This was in Illinois where ODP prices were absurd and inconsistent with past years. They adjusted their prices so they could charge much more in the age groups with most players and less in the age groups that were not as popular.
Its turned into a bigger joke than it has ever been and many people were frustrated. Example: 99’s and 00’s (Most attended Camps) were charged almost $900 for a “gauranteed” 3 day Interstate camp and said that fee would cover the 2 day Regional Holdover Camp, if you made it. Most people asked if they would recieve money back if they did not make Regional, as the great majority would not, and answer was “no”.
Meanwhile other “less popular” ODP age groups were charged seperately for these 2 camps.
Sorry to hear your experiences, and that they are much like mine. How do we change the system? Maybe a start would be to look at what Germany did over a decade ago: invest heavily in Youth Coaches and players which comes at little or no cost to the kids. Now the Germans at the Club and Country level are much improved. I won’t hold my breath though, as the State Soccer Associations are bloated with upper level management jobs and they won’t re-invest the cash.
Defenitely dont expect anyone in charge at the top to establish a change. Too much money involved now.
All we can do is start a new way of doing things like this young man is. This kid didnnt need to be part of an Academy to spark great interest abroad. No need for excessive league, tournament, uniforms fees. If we see more of this then most people will be forced to figure it out.
My Son has. Even to id2 and training centers as well with no call up. It’s not an automatic. My son scored at id2 as well and believe me… It’s not easy to score at that level. But he is tiny therfore no hype or interest. But he plays like iniesta… Even as center mid amongst giants and top teams in cou try… He has even been to Hugo Perez training centers but because of size… Zero interest. We are at our wits end trying to get this boy noticed…..
Lastly I just want to say that I can understand when mr arriola say that if they don’t come knocking soon the. It’s audios amigos… It’s very very frustrating to be told by many of these people In id2 and NTC that your boy is special and is going to go places in soccer and then nothing happens…. Honestly… My son will grow and if he can hold his own score goals and impress when he is an 90 pound runt amongst 150 pound giants…is t it obvious this kid might be worth some development because his dad is six foot and he is clearly going to grow! Just frustrating… Barca did show some interest so if he does ever get called eventually… It’s either going to be too late developmentally or he may have left the island.
It seen the kid have an awesome talent. Hope he gets his chance before we loose him as we did we many others.
One thing I would like to clarify is that in most cases MLS academies are free of charge, in fact, they even pay for your travel, meals and gear, including cleats and flats.
Because is free of charge, coaches are not obligated to play every player in the roster, as opposite of some local clubs line Bethesda and Baltimore Celtic that are playing USYSA soccer and the cost of around $2500 plus tslk travel expenses and uniforms… Going as high as $5000-$6000 per year…
Also a big thumbs up to owhentheyanks for continuing to promote players that are usually neglected by TOP DRAWER SOCCER and for giving educated point of views in different players and in youth soccer in general.
Well done Joe!
Problem with MLS DA’s is being able to find one that plays an attacking style for a fwd like him to blossom. Another factor is what if the MLS team he is local to doesnt have a good track record of giving local talent a shot at playing or likes prefers foreign goal scorers?
Then if he plays for a particular MLS club he is tied to that club no matter what. That club has rights over him per MLS.
Playing for free is cool but I bet a kid like this looks fwd to playing pro and starting young for a club that will give him a shot.