Posts Tagged ‘corners’

Which Goalkeeper is Better: Today’s or Yesteryear’s?

April 8, 2010

Author’s Note: This article discusses professional goalkeepers. Non-professional goalkeepers are exempt.

Because today’s goalkeepers are so tall and so athletic, I believe it is much harder to score goals today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, sometimes I wonder how any goals are scored because goalkeepers make regulation-sized goals look like youth goals. Yet despite all the physical gains, tactical advancements, and acrobatic dives, I don’t believe today’s goalkeepers are held to the same standards as their predecessors. Which begs the question … which generation of goalkeepers is better—today’s or yesteryear’s?

For me, it all comes down to expectations and accountability. Back in my playing days, goalkeepers were expected to hold onto all shots. Rebounds, of any sort, were unacceptable unless the ball was being tipped over the crossbar.

Today, that philosophy has changed and I think for the better. Since today’s shots are stronger and more unpredictable (I’ve never seen so many knuckleballs), it is harder to make a save and hold on to the ball. Therefore, it makes sense to have goalkeepers deflect shots for a corner rather than trying to corral them and possibly give up a rebound. Plus, many times a fingertip is all a goalkeeper is able to get on the ball making a deflection the only option.

Yet too often, I see today’s goalkeepers letting rebounds deflect back into the center of the field or deflect shots that appear easily catchable. Besides being unacceptable, rarely do I see or hear goalkeepers being held accountable for poor saves.

Saves should never deflect back into the center of the field. The diagram below shows acceptable deflections (green) and unacceptable deflections (red). Granted, there are times when goalkeepers have to make reaction saves. In these cases, who cares where the ball ends up as long as it is not in the back of the net? But for longer-distance shots that can be judged, they should be just as easy, if not easier, to deflect sideways.

To counter high-velocity shots, I see many goalkeepers catch-and-drop the ball in front of them rather than try to catch it outright or deflect it away. This is a wonderful solution to the velocity problem. The ‘catch-dropping’ method prevents a goalkeeper from having to absorb the full impact of a shot. Since an attacker is rarely close enough to a goalkeeper, if the ball drops close to the goalkeeper’s feet, this method should preclude a goalkeeper from having to deflect shots kicked directly at him/her.

I am no goalkeeper (I only recall playing in goal once in a JV game) and don’t claim to be one. And God Bless those players who want to play ‘keeper. You are a rare and special breed. But I think today’s professional goalkeepers are permitted to get away with poor and unnecessary deflections which is setting a bad example for youth goalkeepers. Therefore, while they are athletically superior to their predecessors, today’s goalkeepers don’t appear to be as technically sound.

What do you think?

Reward the Soccer Assist

October 3, 2009

We Americans are obsessed with statistics. Baseball is all about statistics. Football is heading in the same direction. Can soccer be far behind? Most professional televised games now share with its audience shots on goal, saves, corners, fouls committed, yellow cards, red cards , and time of possession at half time and at the end of the game. I understand the importance of these stats especially if you are the coach. However, as a fan, I think you can sometimes go overboard. In my book, the most important stat is the final score.

Fortunately as the youth level, I have only seen a few coaches who are overly concerned about stats. But some stats are good to track. I have no problems keeping track of who has scored the most goals on a team. While it may single out several players from the rest of the team, it is usually the parents that have the tougher time with this especially if their son or daughter is not among the leaders. On the other hand, players know and readily acknowledge who are the better players.

There is one stat, however, that if it were tracked and emphasized more, could make a team much, much better. It is the assist. Here’s my reasoning.

The better players are already scoring a lot of goals. They know it wins games. Perhaps they are getting compensated each time they score. Quite simply, next to winning and losing, it is the glamour stat. But it could come at a price. These players may hold onto the ball more than necessary resulting in the rest becoming mere spectators. However, if the assist is now the most important or glamour stat, the better players will now focus on the assist. By doing so, these players will hopefully look to get teammates involved in the game since only when someone else scores will they received the primary reward. Just think how much better a team will become. And think how much better and more well-rounded the better players will become.

I like the way professional hockey (the NHL) tracks assists and goals. They acknowledge the goal and both the primary (first) and secondary assists. Each is worth one point. I would make one change. I would award 2 points for the primary assists and 1 point each for the secondary assist and goal.

If you are a coach, try it for a few games and let everyone know if emphasizing the assist has made your team better. As parents, ask your child how many assist points they collected in the game.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Never Let the Ball Hit the Ground

September 21, 2009

As a referee, I have had the opportunity to see many age groups and different calibers of players. I am always surprised at the number of players, even high school players, who don’t have the ability or the confidence to control  the ball out of the air. This is most evident when a goalie punts the ball but it happens on corners, free kicks, goal kicks, or anytime the ball is kicked high in the air.

I equate being able to control a soccer ball out of the air to catching a pop-up in baseball. At first, catching a baseball is very intimidating. The ball is hard, the ball is hit high, and if a player miscalculates a catch, it could cause a serious injury. I know I was scared to death when I was first asked to catch a pop-up. But at least in baseball, there is a glove you can use. In soccer, there is no glove.

The problem with letting the ball hit the ground in soccer is that at that point, it is anyone’s ball. Usually it will be the faster, more aggressive player who gets to it first. If that is your player, great. If not, you will find yourself in a heap of trouble more than you would like. Also when the ball is punted by the opposing goalie, the ball is heading toward your goal. If the ball bounces several times before it is controlled, it will be dangerously close to your goal.

These particular ’2-3 goal difference per game’ postings are not meant to get into techniques and mechanics. That will be done in other postings. However, regarding the earlier statement that there is no glove in soccer, that is not entirely correct. The fact is there are two gloves–a right and left foot. It is just a matter of learning how to catch and control the high balls. When a player feels confident controlling high balls, the goal should be, “Never Let the Ball Hit the Ground!”

Offensive Counter

As a youngster, I made my living knowing that most defenders would not be able to control the high kicks. Therefore, once a ball was punted or kicked by a teammate and I knew I was not going to be able to control it, I would simply anticipate the defenders missing the ball. When they did, I would be well on my way toward the opponent’s goal. Even after college, this strategy worked very well, although the defenders would miss these balls much lest frequently.

Headers!

It is worth mentioning about headers. I’m not a big fan of headers, especially with young players. First of all, the spot on the head that should be making contact with the ball is actually the forehead. Now imagine the thoughts that must be going through a young player’s head when the coach tells him what part of the head should be used. “But coach, the ball is going to hit me in my nose!” is a common response (and often it does). I would be scared too. So for a long time, young players will hit the ball with the top of the head which is not the part of the head they should be using.

As coaches, I would make sure to teach your players the proper heading mechanics but greatly discourage them from using their heads, especially on high punts or kicks. Tell them to use their ‘gloves’ instead.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Bombs Away

September 3, 2009

At the youth level, most players have a really tough time controlling the ball out of the air, especially when the ball descends from great heights such as a goalie punt. Many players are scared and I don’t blame them. Players are often taught is to head these balls. That is the worst thing a player could do for several reasons:

  • Soccer balls may not be properly inflated. Over-inflated and under-inflated balls can really hurt when they are not headed properly. Over time, who knows what long-term damage could result.
  • While coaches probably teach their players the correct way to head a ball–always using the forehead and not the top of the head–rarely do players practice heading extremely high balls. Usually any game-simulated heading exercises come from corners or free kicks where the trajectory of the ball is not nearly as steep.
  • Players rarely have any control of where the ball ends up after heading the ball.
  • High balls are very difficult to judge. For an outfielder in baseball, it takes many years to learn the fundamentals of catching a routine pop-up. Same thing in soccer with high balls.

Since many coaches don’t practice controlling high balls, the offensive team should take full advantage of this, especially when going with the wind. This is how to do it.

  • Have your goalie punt the ball as high as possible straight down the middle of the field. The higher the kick, the more the wind will carry the ball.
  • At least one forward should always assume that the defense is going to miss the ball. This happens more often than not in youth soccer. Playing the miss will result in many one-on-ones with the goalie.
  • Consider putting in the goal the player who has the strongest leg but who may not necessarily be your best goalie especially when down a few goals and when going with the wind. With the wind to the goalie’s back, you will be able to take advantage of her long punts.

Defensive Strategy

This is very easy to defend against:

  • After seeing that the long, high punts are a problem, have your last one or two defenders play further back than usual. It is always better if the first bounce is in front of the defender, not in back.
  • By playing a defender back, it will be easier for her to run up on the ball, if necessary, to control it.
  • Controlling these types of kicks should be done with the feet, not the head or even the chest. If properly taught, it is very easy to control the ball with the feet even from great heights. It is just a matter of practice.

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