The Ultimate Goal (2017)

‘The Ultimate Goal’ (2017) — inspirational or self-serving?

For a while, English footballer Dan Metcalfe was the soccer coach to the Stars of Hollywood, choreographing the soccer action and training the actors for films such as Will Ferrell’s Kicking and Screaming. In The Ultimate Goal , Metcalfe advances beyond an accessory role and adds Writer Director and Producer to his CV. This little documentary film follows his club team as they finish their youth careers by undertaking a big trip to play 3 friendlies in London, followed by advancing in the USYS State Cup competition in Cal South (i.e. Southern California branch of the US Youth Soccer organization).

The Story

I was confused at first because I watched this on Peacock, which listed the film as 2020. IMDB lists the film as 2017. But the fact is that the matches were played in 2008. I caught this immediately because the referee uniforms were an old style that were replaced about 10 years ago. I believe the division is U18 or U19, but the film does not make this very clear. However, the players, of which Daniel Steres is the only recognizable name, were largely born in 1990 and they were in their final year of high school. These players are now 33-34 years old. Metcalfe had coached the team since U9-U10.

As Writer-Director, Metcalfe tries to weave a motivational story that is also a platform for pitching himself and his DMS11 academy. I could have sworn that 10 years ago, he had a company called “Dan Metcalfe Soccer”, whose initials were behind the club name of DMS11. But I didn’t keep a print out of that, so I have to instead accept that DMS11 has always stood for “Discipline – Motivation – Success”. The “11” is appended because there are 11 players on the field who need to work as a team.

To kick start the DMS theme, consulting producer and Brit Mark Burnett gives a motivational speech about the boys’ upcoming trip and the nuances of English football. Burnett produced the Survivor and The Apprentice series and is a former Chairman of MGM Television. Burnett tells the boys and us that sensory acuity means you must pay attention and make a decision, without needing to be 100% certain. Just be confident and make that decision. Obviously, this is why he liked Donald Trump, and we must blame him for giving Trump a career and a Presidency, but I suspect Burnett never gave up his British citizenship. 😁

Most of the film is about the boys’ 10-day trip to England. We learn the stories of Abraham (AB) Villon and Michael Manella, both of whom are literally fatherless. The team struggles through the first 2 games against Fulham and West Ham academies, as the Americans are beset with injuries and discipline problems. The camera follows the boys into the locker room, their hotel rooms, and team meetings. It’s almost a forerunner to the ground-breaking Sunderland ‘Til I Die.

The Soccer

The coaching is definitely of a period where frankly, coaches didn’t really consider players’ health. They actually filmed the boys wearing masks while practicing during the nearby Malibu wildfires (which I thought were a year earlier). But the issue here is that today in California with what we are experiencing with wildfires, kids are not allowed to exercise outdoors if the air quality is unsafe. Coach Metcalfe also encourages his playmaker to dedicate the 3rd friendly to his absent father, and to play despite what appears to be a broken toe. Metcalfe constantly preaches that winning is their only goal and the reason they are there.

It’s also a bit strange that Coach Metcalfe has brought along a rather small 14 year old boy for the friendlies. A lot of old-time coaches will say that playing up is the best way to challenge a kid, but a 4 year difference at the high school level puts a middle schooler at risk.

As far as soccer, the camera work is TV format, not very high resolution, and filmed from ground level. The games in England tend to show only the DMS11 highlights, which largely consist of run the ball down the touchline and cross. The State Cup games are a little more balanced in showing both sides of the action, and the Championship final is exciting to watch. But largely, this documentary is too much like home movies.

The Aftermath

Because the footage and players are so old, I was able to research how their futures in soccer turned out. The film ends by showing that all the boys went on to collegiate soccer or directly to the pros. It’s not clear why they list 20 high school players when the roster is limited to 18. But of the total 21 players listed, 6 went to junior college (5 went to Arizona Western Community College), and 4 players didn’t appear to go anywhere (including not Pumas).

Daniel Steres is the only player to play regularly in the MLS. He and 2 other boys are still playing: Abraham (AB) Villon is in the NISA, and the former 14 year old Zev Taublieb is with the Rochester Rhinos. But at age 30, Taublieb has only played one game in the last 3 years due to recurring injuries. Of the rest of the players, it appears that few played more than 2 more years of soccer, few got off the bench, and few graduated college. I also could not confirm that this team ever won Dallas Cup or Surf Cup.

This shows why a good coach wants to develop players and not just a winning record. The chance of becoming a pro athlete are so slim, and the chance of lasting more than 5 years as a pro are even slimmer. You don’t want high school to be the pinnacle of your players’ success.

Coaching is also a tough job to hang on to and make a living. Always the pitchman, Dan Metcalfe recently got into the business of manufacturing and selling exercise equipment for the elderly. It’s another company with digits in the name:

In Conclusion

If you like old home movies about soccer, you might enjoy this film. I probably got into way too much research, but things just didn’t feel right, and I had to ferret that out. I guess anytime it takes almost 10 years to distribute a film, there’s a big problem somewhere in the process.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6