With his first season in MLS under his belt (and more to come after speculation he might depart the San Jose Earthquakes didn't come to fruition) Matias Almeyda has acquired a pretty good pulse on the state of the US men's national team and has a few thoughts on what it needs to reach the next level.
The Quakes coach shared some of those thoughts and observations after his first year coaching stateside in an interview with ESPN FC's Tom Marshall, saying that instilling a passion for the game in its young players as early as possible is the biggest key in his mind for the US to maximize their potential.
"The United States has a great team with a lot of young players with fabulous talent," Almeyda said. "But I think in this league and especially with the players who were born here, there is spark that we have to plant within them and that is the passion and the love for football."
Almeyda argued that US players could stand to benefit from expanding their horizons and training or playing overseas to help spark that passion, citing one of his own players in legendary San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski as an example.
"I believe they are players that if they had been developed like in other parts of the world they would've become really great players," said Almeyda. "With different training between the age of 20 and 23, Wondolowski, who is still scoring at his age, would surely have been better than he is now. He's done very well, but I believe he could have done a lot better if he had trained somewhere else. I think [US players] are really open-minded, very intelligent and work hard, which is important as well.
"Right now winning, losing, drawing, it is all the same for them," he added. "So, when that switch gets flipped, they are going to change because [MLS] is growing. The United States then is going to have a great national team because they have the talent in each of their lines, many of them enough to play in Europe, yes."
Almeyda also reiterated his positive outlook on the development of midfielder Jackson Yueill, who managed to parlay a strong showing for the Quakes at the club level into his first four senior caps for the USMNT, saying that his first impressions left him believing there are big things in store for the 22-year-old.
"[Yueill] can have a great future depending, as always, on how he wants to carry out his footballing career," Almeyda said. "I see a future in Europe, and when I came here he was a player in whom few believed -- not the directors, the directors did believe in him -- and he'd been at Reno [in USL] and hadn't been able to play as he is now. I like him because he's a player with personality, who speaks on the field despite his youth and is very complete. He can grow a lot."