We continue our series looking at 100 years of US Soccer with a second interview with a current Welsh US- resident. After a few years coaching in South Wales, including at Cardiff City’s Centre of Excellence, Aled Williams moved to the US and has been a goalkeeping coach in the New York Red Bull’s regional coaching set-up for almost five years. He kindly spoke to Lost Boyos about football and life in the US, his own and the Red Bull’s coaching philosophies, and his hopes for the club he has supported since he was a boy on their return to the English top-flight: Cardiff City.
Lost Boyos: What does your role at the Red Bulls Regional Development School entail?
Aled Williams: My role as Head of goalkeeping entails me creating a philosophy and curriculum for the Goalkeepers from U6-U14. I deliver this philosophy through specific technical and tactical sessions, evaluations and analysis for the Goalkeepers with the RDS in New Jersey and New York. The aim is for the goalkeepers to eventually sign full time with our Academy at U14. So far through this philosophy eight goalkeepers have made this transition in four years, with three of these representing the USA national squad at U14. My other roles with the RDS are to assess our other goalkeeper coaches to ensure they are following this philosophy and improve them as coaches. I also coach the U18 and U23 Academy goalkeepers at Red Bull.
LB: How did the move to the US come about? Was moving there something you’d always thought about once you got into coaching?
AW: I saw the Job advertised online in 2009, and decided, why not go for it. Next thing you know I’m being interviewed, then on a plane to NYC. I’ve always wanted to experience football globally to see how things are done in different countries. My belief is that I can add these cultures and different philosophies to my own philosophy to improve as a coach, and to improve coaching to all the goalkeepers that I come into contact with.
LB: After nearly five years in the US, are you still enjoying life in and around New York? Do your long-term plans involve coaching in the US or would you like to return to Wales/the UK?
AW: The lifestyle out here is fantastic, I am very happy with my role here at Red Bull. Sometimes it gets difficult as I am so far away from family and friends back home. But I get through it by delivering my passion in coaching goalkeepers. My long term plans would be to visit another one or two countries to experience more philosophies of the game, see it more globally and see where it takes me. I would like to think eventually I would end up back in Wales or the UK, but who knows what the future holds.
LB: How has soccer grown in the time you’ve been living in the US? What things are they doing right? How far do you think the US can go?
AW: The first thing I noticed when I first arrived was everything was result orientated. Winning mattered more than anything. But as the years have gone, it is great to see Football (soccer) taking the different route of player development over winning. Coaches are now focusing on the future of these young players rather than winning. As I used to say to many coaches, no one is going to remember a U9 team winning a certain game, it’s about how those players played and developed in that season that leads to the bigger picture. Also bigger and more athletic players had a huge advantage. Now with the likes of Messi in the world, people are realising size isn’t everything, it’s not the impact you have on the game now, it’s about the potential future impact young players will have. If it carries on with this route, I believe the US could go far in international football (soccer).
LB: The US has produced several top goalkeepers in recent times; Have you seen anything that helps to explain this? Are there any young goalkeepers to look out for at the moment?
AW: America has been very gifted when it comes to goalkeepers. My theory behind this is due to the amount of physical sports out here played with hands, e.g. basketball, baseball, American football. They have excellent hand-eye co-ordination and also that physical presence from these sports. There are many goalkeepers that I have coached which I believe will make the grade.
LB: How do you see the role of the goalkeeper in the modern game? What do you think is the single most important bit of advice you give to young goalkeepers today?
AW: The modern game is changing all the time. The ball is getting lighter every year. The way players strike the ball is getting harder, for example Gareth Bale and Ronaldo with their dipping shots. So our reaction speed needs to be much quicker. Goalkeepers need to react quicker to apply the correct technique. I am a firm believer that it is vital for young goalkeepers to learn the Technical fundamentals of the game. Once these technical become natural they can apply them quickly when reacting. Also the goalkeeper’s offensive game is changing. The amount of teams that use the Goalkeeper as an outlet is getting higher with the ball starting out of the back. So it is vital that goalkeepers practice distribution with feet as much as possible. To me they need to be just as good as a central midfielder with their feet, to restart/switch plays.
LB: How much are you looking forward to Cardiff City’s return to the top-flight and what are you hoping for/expecting from them in the new season?
AW: Seeing Cardiff City in the Premier League is something I never thought I would see. From going down to watch them with 2,000 people when my favourite players Steve White and Carl Dale were playing to seeing them now is unbelievable. Seeing them promoted was an extremely proud and emotional moment for me. I believe our home form will keep us up this year, although it won’t be easy. I would like to see another Central defender signed, along with a proven Goal scorer. Malky has implemented a proven vision and philosophy in the club, and I believe Cardiff will stay put for years to come!
You can follow Aled on Twitter @sheepmanaled