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Challenges ahead for U17 MNT coach Williams

Published: January 24, 2012
On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer announced Richie Williams has been named the new U17 men’s national team head coach. Earlier in January, U.S. Soccer and previous U17 head coach Wilmer Cabrera mutually agreed to part ways. 
 
Williams was hired in October of 2011 by the Federation to oversee the U18 national team, but will now take charge of the U17 setup, which includes a residency program in Bradenton, Florida. 
 
He also had a previous role in the U.S. scouting system as the technical advisor of the Mid-Atlantic region for the Development Academy, which he will also relinquish for this new position. 
 
boys U17 mnt club soccer coach richie williamsRichie Williams
Prior to this experience with the federation, Williams was the assistant coach with New York Red Bulls from 2006-2011. He was fired in February of 2011 by the Big Apple franchise. 
 
“As an organization, we decided to go a different direction with our coaching staff,”  New York Red Bulls General Manager Erik Soler said at the time in a press release. 
 
The former D.C. United and University of Virginia midfielder did spend a short period as the head coach of the professional franchise with an interim tag in 2006 and 2009.
 
On January 2, Williams called together his first and only training camp as the U18 head coach in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. TopDrawerSoccer.com recently spoke with two of the participants from the weeklong camp and both gave glowing reviews of Williams as a head coach.
 
“Richie Williams is a fun guy to work with,” said Chivas USA Academy forward Ben Spencer. “It was fun training with the best players in the country.”
 
Prior residency member, Marky Delgado, also enjoyed his time training with Williams at the camp. 
 
“The coach brought a new training style,” said Delgado. “So you had to get used to it. It took everyone some time, but after a while we got it.”
 
Delgado’s previous experience with Cabrera, as a coach, should speak to the change that U.S. Soccer is looking for from Bradenton. The 16-year-old midfielder said it was difficult to describe what made Williams’ training different from other national team camps. 
 
Williams’ hiring is yet another move for the Federation in putting all its ducks in a row for youth national team coaches, as Claudio Reyna continues to harp on the idea of a consistent playing style among all teams. 
 
“It is a great responsibility as the players kick off the cycle toward the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup,” said Williams in his introductory press release. “But it is also an excellent platform for introducing them in more detail to the philosophies and style of play that are being integrated throughout the National Team programs.”
 
When he was given the title as U18 head coach, Williams had similar remarks about incorporating an analogous playing style among all teams on the men’s side of the Federation. 
 
“I’m excited about the prospect of helping our young elite players develop their abilities and move them in the direction of progressing to our other national teams,” said Williams. “By working together with Jurgen Klinsmann, Caleb Porter and Tab Ramos, we will have an integrated approach in developing players who will fit in with our style of play.”
 
Given Williams’ limited experience as a head coach, the challenge ahead could be very difficult. Running a residency program is a completely different entity than orchestrating a club team.
 
Former RSL-AZ coach Mike Munoz, who helped start that residency program from the ground up, told TopDrawerSoccer.com on Saturday that there were obvious challenges for him in that situation, but believed it was the future, especially for MLS Academies.
 
But is it the future for the national program?
 
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