New England Revolution Youth Academy coaches and scouts Stephen Patino (left) and Kevin Arboleda conducted a youth soccer clinic this week for the River City Athletics soccer club in Bangor. Credit: Larry Mahoney

BANGOR, Maine — Soccer is in the limelight these days.

The World Cup, which is held every four years, is in full swing as the field of 32 teams has been whittled down to 16 in Russia. The group stage has been completed and the knockout stage is next.

It has been a hollow World Cup for Americans, whose team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986.

Kevin Arboleda and Stephen Patino, coaches and scouts from the Revolution Academy youth Academy program, said soccer is growing in this county but said there are areas that must be addressed if the U.S. is going to make more inroads on the world stage.

The New England Revolution play in Major League Soccer and they are based in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Revolution currently have four players on their roster who came up through their Revolution Academy program.

Arboleda and Patino, who were born in Colombia and raised there and in Rhode Island, were in Bangor to conduct a clinic for the River City Athletics soccer club this week.

“The biggest thing is the U.S. needs to get more players playing overseas,” Arboleda said. “They need to get that experience. It’s difficult when you’re choosing (players) from the MLS (Major League Soccer) where the level of play isn’t like a (English) Premier League game.

“The youth is developing at a great rate but that transition from (age) 16 to 18 is really where the U.S. should focus. We have youth teams, whether they’re academy teams or national teams, that beat other countries. But when they reach that 16 to 18 level, they let them go off to college and do certain things rather than looking to build off them,” Arboleda said.

Patino said the U.S. should try to get kids into soccer academies at younger ages as they do overseas.

“Kids get contracts at 9 or 10 and they build them in academies for four or five years and they’re making their pro debuts at 16 or 17. Here, they don’t make their pro debuts until they’re 21 or 22,” said Patino. “And they’re too busy trying to create the player rather than looking for players to fit into their system.”

Patino believes the U.S. needs to mimic the way things are done overseas.

The Revolution Academy sponsors five boys club teams: Under-19, Under-17, Under-15, Under-14 and Under-13. They also have a U-23 team made up of Revolution Academy graduates and college players who play during the summer.

Arboleda said Americans need to play with more of an intelligent grit.

“When you play in another country, when the referee isn’t looking, they will tug your shirt,” Arboleda said. “Here, they just want to play the right way. You need to be a little more (gritty).”

Arboleda said the United States hasn’t developed a true soccer identity like other countries.

“You know when you play England, it’s going to be fast-paced. It’s going to be a tough game,” said Arboleda, who added that Spain likes to play a possession game by linking lots of passes.

“We don’t have a defined structure of play,” he said, adding that the U.S. doesn’t really have an idol youngsters can try to emulate such as England’s David Beckham during his prime and France’s Zinedine Zidane.

The men are enjoying the World Cup, especially now that Colombia has advanced to the Round of 16. Colombia plays England on Tuesday.

“It has been interesting and very exciting. Some of the teams you didn’t think would make it too far have (advanced),” Arboleda said. “There have been upsets. (Defending champ) Germany was a top contender and is out. It’s good for the soccer world because it shows that any team can be just as competitive (as the favorites).”

The coaches, who travel the Northeast conducting clinics and scouting for Revolution Academy players, enjoyed their time in Maine.

“The level of soccer has been great here,” Patino said.

“From a soccer standpoint, it has been very, very good. The kids are creative and very technical. And Maine is a beautiful state,” Arboleda said.

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