Toronto FC Academy Goalkeeper coach Luciano Lombardi and U16 goalkeeper Christian Calabro recently represented Toronto FC’s Academy at a six-day goalkeeping training program held in Bavaria, Germany from July 20-26. This program was offered to each Major League Soccer Academy through a partnership between adidas and German Football Association. The objective of this program was to share coaching education between MLS and the German federation and to support the development of academy goalkeepers in MLS.
Lombardi, who started his TFC career by serving as an intern for TFC’s Academy in 2013, is now in his third season as the full-time TFC Academy goalkeeper coach. In Lombardi’s six years with TFC, he has helped academy products go on to Division 1 college scholarships and represent their national teams. “I try to push the kids to the next level,” said Lombardi. “The greatest accomplishment so far has been seven who have gone on to D1 and been starting goalkeepers on national teams. We’re still working on the best one, which is to sign one of our guys to a homegrown contract.”
The first three days of the trip were held in a classroom. The Academy goalkeepers did not arrive until the class sessions were completed, so only the goalkeeping coaches took part in the classroom activities, “We had three days of in-class sessions that were mostly theory based. It was mostly German theory that looked at WASIC (Warm-up, Analytic, Situational, Integration, and Cooldown). This method is how they train their goalkeepers on the youth national team. It is broken up in sessions from warm-ups all the way to cool downs, technical pieces which is analytics, situational which is more goalkeeper tactical, and integration which is the goalkeeper in with the team tactics”. Following the class sessions, academy goalkeepers and coaches were split into groups and paired with a DFB mentor for on-field training.
The on-field instructions were broken up into six sessions over three days. There was one youth national goalkeeping coach for every 4-5 goalkeepers with six groups total. Every German youth national team goalkeeping coach from U15 to U21 was present. Each group focused its training on a different aspect of goalkeeping. Lombardi and Calabro’s group focused on the warm-up and offensive play, which is basically goalkeeper distribution playing out of the back. Toronto FC’s group was instructed by one of the best in Europe. “Our group was led by the U21 goalkeeping coach, Klaus Thomforde, who has won a European championship and a silver medal at the Olympics,” said Lombardi. “He is also someone who worked with Barcelona goalkeeper, Marc-André ter Stegen for three years which is excellent to learn from him.”
Mentors from the German Federation will travel to North America in next year to follow up with an assessment, demonstrating how the MLS teams have implemented the German goalkeeping methodology into their Academies. Lombardi has already begun to adjust his training sessions based on what he learned in Germany, “I’ve already started implementing the techniques of WASIC into our Academy training,” said Lombardi. “A lot of it is how I look now to schedule and organize our training sessions. I try to make a logical progression and try to focus on the situational piece during every training session. The Germans are big on goalkeeping tactics so a decision that has to be made with the forward technique, which I agree with, now to see how that is organized has definitely been a very interesting and beneficial aspect to our training now.”
The Germany trip was clearly valuable to Lombardi, but it may have been even more important to the growth of TFC Academy goalkeeper Christian Calabro.
Calabro, who started as a U12 player for the TFC Academy, won the GA Cup with TFC’s 03s and was the Golden Glove winner. Now that Calabro is moving up to the U17 age group, the main focus for his development is to get him appropriate experience. “Getting Christian that kind of experience, to go over and be with the top MLS Academy goalkeepers, and to go through a camp that was set up to mimic what the German youth national team goalkeepers do, was important for us to assess where our academy goalkeepers are compared to other MLS academies goalkeepers as well,” said Lombardi. “Our goalkeepers are now going to be assessed by the German Federation to see where we are on the global scene. To bring the German methodology into our training sessions will really benefit our goalkeepers because it’s a different way. They aren’t reinventing the wheel in terms of technique and how goalkeeping is done but the detail in which the video analysis is covered and how much detail goes into each and every aspect of the training and the analysis for me it will benefit our young keepers. They don’t believe that goalkeeping is one way, they have their way but even within that way there are as they said, ‘many roads that lead to Rome.’ They’re very open to see how we put a spin on it but at the same time encouraging us to use what has clearly worked for them as they have developed many world class goalkeepers. The depth at which the goalkeeping was discussed was at a world class level. We don’t have anything like this in Canada, but we hope to build up to that.”