Mikael Eriksson says he knows what's wrong with American soccer players: They're all brawn and no brains.
"When American teams play, they play in small groups," Eriksson said. "When the ball is on the right side, there's a small group working. When it goes to the left, another small group. You have to think football all over the field. When it's on the right side, you have to be thinking, 'I should do something on the left.' "
He later admitted, "They are very much improved from when I saw American football the first time [in 1998]."
Eriksson coaches Rudbeckianska, a U-19 boys' soccer team from Sweden. The club from more than 4,000 miles away captured the weeklong title at this year's Schwan's USA Cup, a tournament featuring 978 teams, 173 of which are from outside the United States. The tournament is held in Blaine on an expanse of 52 fields covering more than 600 acres.
Rudbeckianska beat MapleBrooks Red FC 3-0 in a match that turned physical in the latter half.
"Americans are very strong and big, physical and pretty good," said Dan Frojd, Rudbeckianska's captain, who played in the Schwan's tournament for the third time. "But we're more tactical.
The Swedes' superior foot skills and field awareness carried them to a relatively easy victory.
They first struck 15 minutes into the game. A mental error by the MapleBrooks defense lined up a free kick for David Engstrom six yards from the goal.
Even with the entire Reds team standing on the goal line trying to block the shot, Engstrom found a big enough hole to squeeze the ball through.
He then barrel-rolled in celebration as far as he could before his teammates piled on top of him.
Five minutes later, a deflected shot found Mauro Quinones square in front of the goal.
He drilled it past the goalie's extended right hand.
Patrik Ostlund, who was debatably offsides, scored his team's third and final goal, with 20 seconds left in the first half.
MapleBrooks' loss ended its streak of championships at Schwan's. The same group of boys, which is based out of Maple Grove, won the U-19 tournament last year and the U-17 tournament the year before. Of course, before Saturday's game, the most foreign team it had played was one from New York.
Last weekend, Rudbeckianska took the weekend tournament trophy, going on to a 6-0 victory in the finals. Eriksson said the Reds were by far the best team of the nine his boys faced in the past eight days.
"But when we can focus like we do," Eriksson said, "then we are the better team."