Watching Chivas USA’s practice on Wednesday morning, one couldn’t help but notice the large group of extra observers on the sidelines. Around fifty people stood on the edge of the pitch and watched for the duration of the session.
These weren’t your average observers; they spent the morning making insightful comments about the Goats’ playing style and discussing tactical movements on the field. Any intelligent person would have guessed them to be coaches, which is exactly what they were.
“These are coaches who have their ‘A’ license here in the United States,” explained Jay Hoffman, a member of the National Educational Staff for U.S. Soccer, to MLSsoccer.com after the practice. “They are here for their A Audit course, which is the continuing education units for coaches with their ‘A’ license.”
“What we try to do is give these guys the opportunities to see professional teams train,” he added. “So today we’re at Chivas USA, tomorrow we’ll watch the Galaxy, and we’ve already spent some time with the U.S. U-18 women and the U.S. U-20 women.
The National “A” license is the highest level of coaching accreditation given by the U.S. Soccer Federation. It focuses on recognizing the principles of the game and its technical applications in 11v11 game format and how these principles influence positional, group and team organization. In earning the license, coaches also examine player, team and game management issues as they relate to senior level players.
The coaches at Chivas USA’s practice on Wednesday had already been in Los Angeles for four days, holding conferences, attending other training sessions and listening to special presentations.
“The nice thing about doing it [in Los Angeles] is that you have a lot of opportunities to incorporate a lot of things,” Hoffman said. “For example, Bob Bradley came in yesterday and spoke. We’ve had [U.S. Women's national team head coach] Pia [Sundhage] come in. Bruce Arena has spoken. This location just gives us a lot of opportunities.”
After Wednesday’s practice, the coaches, who are from all over the United States, were treated to a conversation with Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez. Vásquez, a holder of an “A” license himself, talked to the visitors about his strategy for practice and his tactics for the Red-and-White’s upcoming match against Houston.
“We shared with them our training plan for today, and we told them what we had in mind in preparation for Houston,” Vásquez said. “Jay Hoffman and I go back many years and our assistant coach, Carlos Juarez, has been working for the federation and coaching school for close to twenty years. We will be receptive any time if they want to come and look at our training sessions.”
The visiting coaches will return home on Friday having competed their seven-day refresher course. Chivas USA, meanwhile, leaves for Houston on Thursday where the team continues its preparations for Saturday’s game against the Dynamo.