NYCFC's Andrea Pirlo: MLS has too much running, too little play
Former Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo said that U.S. players are not taught technical skills at an early age and that ultimately affects the quality of play in Major League Soccer.
The 37-year-old, who is in his second season with New York City FC, said that more needs to be done at the youth level to bring professional soccer in the United States on par with Europe.
"It's a very hard league to play in. It's very physical, there's a lot of running. So there is a lot of physical work and to me, in my mind, too little play," Pirlo told Reuters at a MLS promotional event. "What I'm talking about is actually a system or culture. I don't mean that the level of technical skills are low. I just mean there is a cultural void that needs to be filled."
On Monday, Pirlo and Toronto FC midfielder Sebastian Giovinco, along with Mario Balotelli, were left off Italy coach Antonio Conte's 30-man squad for the second phase of preparations for Euro 2016.
Former AC Milan and Juventus midfielder Pirlo said that Americans who play soccer at college are already behind in terms of their development when compared with European peers. He stressed that youth training in Europe also includes technical skills.
"They pick them and they train them in much more than just running," he said. "They train them in stopping the ball. Here that doesn't happen.
"So when a young man becomes a professional in the United States he still has some gaps that need to be filled when playing on the field," he said.
Pirlo said he was pleased to see the progress made at NYCFC, which entered the MLS last year.
He praised the work of coach Patrick Vieira and his teammates, incluing Spanish striker David Villa and former English footballer Frank Lampard.
Pirlo said Vieira, the former Premier League star and World Cup champion for France, has made a significant difference to the team's performance this season.
"We are very happy with what he is doing. We are working hard every day, and he is bringing in new things that we are learning," said Pirlo. "There is a lot of hard work, both tactically and technically, as well as things that haven't been done before. The team is really improving and seeing excellent results."