Bruno Costa is head of scouting at San Jose Earthquakes. The Brazilian joined the MLS side in the beginning of 2017 and has almost 20-years experience of scouting and as Academy Director for Fluminense FC and Figueirense FC, in the Brazilian top flight (Série A), and with the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). As a scout for the Brazil Youth National Teams, he helped scout the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Marcelo and Willian. Bruno draws on his experiences at club and national team level to pick out five key identifiers of talent for players in the 14-16 age groups.
1) Comfortable on the ball
The first thing I look for, is whether the player is comfortable on the ball. When he receives the ball, how comfortable is the player on the ball? The most important thing in a game is the ball so if a player does receive the ball well, he has a better chance to succeed. I am from Brazil and come from a background of very technical players, that is the first thing you see in a player. Working as a scout with Brazil’s youth national teams, I watched the likes of Neymar and Coutinho and many others good profiles when they were 14. They were all very comfortable receiving and playing the ball in any situation.
2) Decisions makings
When the player receives the ball, what do they do with it? It is another important aspect of the game. Do they choose the right play? Do they look to pass forward? How quickly do they make the decision to pass/run with the ball?
It is important to look at how a player moves on and off the ball. Even when they have not got the ball, you have to look at what options they are giving to their teammates? Are they tracking the runs of opponents? Do they look to move into positions that give teammates an outlet when they regain possession? What runs do they make to create space for their teammates, how do they move? Do they have good balance?
4) Tactical awareness
This is something you have to look for at a certain age. Maybe up to 14 years old it is not so important but when players are ready to sign the first contract, you should analyze their knowledge and understanding of the system their team is playing, not only defensively but also offensively. The player has to know their role, what is expected of them when they have the ball and when out of possession. Every position has its own characteristics and the players have to understand what is required of them positionally, tactically. Do they take up good positions when in possession and when out of possession?
5) Body language
Look to see how a player acts on and off the field. Coming into pro-team environments you need players who are going to be good inside the dressing room. If a player does not have a good body language, then having a good composure around teammates, the referee, the fans, with the media that is going to be hard for them in their future. That is something we take a lot in consideration when signing a player. We like to see their character on and off the pitch.
Bruno Costa – Head of Scouting at San Jose Earthquakes and PFSA Member
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