Archive for August, 2009

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Role of the Goalie

August 27, 2009

The easiest way to save at least 2 or 3 goals a game is to have your goalie play out of the goal as far as possible. How far you ask? How about when the ball is in the other team’s offensive third, have the goalie at the edge of the center circle. That’s right, the edge of the center circle. At the youth level, many goals are scored on breakaways. By having the goalie play out, she will prevent these breakaways from materializing by getting to the ball first and thereby save countless goal-scoring opportunities. Follow these additional tips and tricks:

  • Consider putting one of your better field players in goal. A goalie who plays out will need good ball control. In addition, they will need to be able to read the game well so they know which balls to attack and when to retreat. If you allow your goalie to play this way, you should have plenty of volunteers.
  • I guarantee your goalie will be hesitant to come too far out. I have bet my goalie (in this case, it was my son) that if an opposing player scored on him when we he as was far from the goal he would get $100. He played in goal up through U13. Not once did he come close to getting the $100. However, he would only have received the money if he was least 25 or 30 yards out of the goal. It would not apply inside this distance because balls are kicked routinely over the goalie’s head in the youth games from closer range. Still this last fact should not dissuade you from playing your goalie out.
  • Assuming your goalie comfortable coming out to the edge of the center circle, make sure that she is not too slow to retreat. It is still the duty of the defenders to prevent the offensive players and ball from penetrating close to the goal. The goalie should always be the last defender. Your goalie should never find herself playing ahead of a field player.
  • By playing the goalie out, you will force your defenders to play further up as well. This, in turn, will result in more players playing closer to the opponent’s goal which will lead to more scoring opportunities.
  • I always liked rewarding my goalie by having them take all goal kicks and free kicks in the defensive half of the field. This made the goalie feel more involved. By taking the free kicks, the goalie played further out from goal.
  • Make sure your goalie never dribbles around an offensive player. If she does and loses the ball, a goal will most likely be scored. Her main role when playing outside the penalty box is to stop breakaways. If she receives a ball with little or no pressure, have her control it first and then make a nice pass. No dribbling!
  • When clearing a breakaway, make sure the she kicks the ball out toward the touch line. You would rather give up a throw-in than risk the clearance hitting off the offensive player and ricocheting toward your own goal.

Offensive Strategy

Playing against a good goalie that plays far out from goal puts an offensive team at a huge disadvantage. However, there are several ways to counteract this play:

  • Since the goalie will usually get to any through balls first, limit those types of passes. Instead have the offensive team dribble more or make shorter passes. By keeping the ball closer to the offensive players’ feet, the goalie will be forced to retreat.
  • Any long balls should be passed down the wings and not up the middle. Passing the ball down the wings will put the goalie in a quandary. If the goalie decides to go after this pass, she will end up much further from goal than a ball passed up in the middle. Make the goalie think twice about going after balls kicked to the wings.
  • Instead of your center forward playing near to the last defender, play him close to the goalie. Naturally the forward will be in an offside position if the ball is kicked to him, but see how the other team counters this strategy. You may get lucky and get the defenders to retreat which will force the goalie closer to her goal. At the expense of a few offside calls, try to get the other team to change their strategy.
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2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Penalty Kicks

August 26, 2009

I would say that at the professional level, 75 – 80% of penalty kicks are successful. For the misses, the goalie will save 15-20% and the other 5% miss the goal entirely. At the youth level, the success rate is around 50%. Given that youth goalies typically don’t move or dive until the ball is kicked, I would have thought the success rate would be higher. This is not the case. I have several theories why this is so.

  • When a player steps up to take a penalty kick, he does not know where he is going to kick the ball–he does not have a plan. And if he does, he may end up changing his mind before the kick because of the goalie’s actions. Without a plan or by changing the plan, the success rate drops sharply.
  • Penalty kicks are pressure kicks, especially for the penalty kicker. Everyone expects the penalty to be made so all the pressure and eye are on the kicker.
  • The penalty kick is not practiced much.

Before explaining how you can easily go from a 50% to a 90% success rate, it is important to understand the proper kicking mechanics of a penalty kick.

  • Because the penalty kick is taken so close to the goal, accuracy is much more important than power. Players should take the kick with the inside-of-the-foot.
  • When a kick is taken with inside-of-the-foot, the toe of the kicking foot should be pointing up.
  • When the kick is taken with the inside-of-the-foot and the toe is pointed up, the ball will have a spin or curve on it.

As a result, a right-footed kicker will naturally kick the ball to the left side of the goal (the goalie’s right) and a left-footed kicker will naturally kick the ball to the right side of the goal (the goalie’s left). To prove my point, try this exercise at one of your practices.

  • Place a cone 1-yard in from the right post and another cone 1-yard in from the left post.
  • Have each player take 10 penalty kicks with their dominant foot–5 kicked to the right and 5 kicked to the left. Have them alternate feet for each kick.
  • Put a goalie or coach in goal to simulate a game situation.
  • Score a point when the ball goes between the post and the cone.

Tally up the points. The right-footed kickers should be more accurate going to their left.

Ask each player which side they felt more comfortable with. Whatever side they choose (even it is not what I predicted), tell them that that is the side they should always target in practice and in a game regardless of what the goalie may be doing or where the goalie is standing. This will take a lot of pressure off the kicker.

Here are some additional tips and tricks:

  • It is a good idea to practices penalties once or twice a year, especially if there is an upcoming tournament that uses penalty kicks for tie-breakers.
  • Penalty kicks should not necessarily be taken by the best player or the player with the strongest foot. Consider using the player with the best accuracy. It could even be your goalie. Remember, they should use the inside-of-the-foot.
  • All penalty kicks should be kicked on the ground. It is much more difficult for a goalie to save a shot on the ground than in the air because it takes more time for a goalie to reach the ground, especially if the goalie is tall. In addition, a kick on the ground will never go over the cross bar.
  • The penalty kick should never be blasted. But there should be enough power behind the kick so if the goalie dives the correct way, she will still not be able to save it. When more power is used than necessary, accuracy will be compromised and kicks will tend to go high.
  • Make sure the penalty kicker knows which corner he will kick to well before the kick is taken. Remind him not to change his mind, even if the goalie is leaning to his preferred side. An accurate, well-struck penalty kick will not be saved.
  • Targets help. The target should always be the side netting.

Defensive Strategy

According to Law XIV, FIFA states that the defending goalkeeper must remain on her goal line, facing the kicker, and between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked.

Once again, everyone expects for the penalty kick to be made. Therefore, there is no pressure on the goalie whatsoever. Also, you and your goalie now know which corner the kicker is likely going to choose. With this bit of information, the chance of the penalty being successful drops to 25%. Those are pretty good odds for your team. In addition, follow these tips and tricks:

  • Reiterate to your goalie that she is under no pressure. If you want to remove all pressure, communicate with your goalie through hand signals which way you want her to dive. That way, the goalie won’t be able to second-guess herself. Personally, I don’t think this step is necessary but it should depend on the confidence and comfort-level of the goalie.
  • Since you know which corner is likely being targeted, have the goalie stand slightly off-center. But which way you ask–left or right? If the kicker is right-footed, you know he will likely target the left corner. In this case, have the goalie stand 1 foot to her LEFT-of-center (not right as you may think). This will accomplish 2 things:
  1. If the right-footed penalty kicker had decided to go to his left, now that the goalie is favoring the other side, the kicker will naturally stick to the left side.
  2. However, if the kicker had planned to kick the ball to his right, now he is presented with a dilemma. Is he still going to go to his right, or has the goalie forced him to change his side? Good question. In all likelihood, the kicker will probably change corners. Now a successful kick drops to 20% because the preferred side has been taken away. Just before the kick is taken (after the kicker’s head drops to look at the ball), have your goalie shift to the center of the goal and a foot to the right-of-center. Make sure that your goalie acts the part. It should appear to the kicker that the goalie is standing off-center not as a tactic but rather as a mistake.

In many ways, having all this information is not fair to the kicker. I’m always fascinated to see how penalty kickers and coaches counter this type of defensive strategy.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Dribble On Goal

August 26, 2009

In a typically youth game, each team will have several breakaways per game. While the offensive player simply has to beat the goalie, more often than not, a goal is not scored. The main reason for this does not happen is the offensive player ends up taking a shot from long distance and thus negating the advantage of the breakaway. The further the shot is taken from goal, the less likely it will go in. This is easily solved and will definitely results in more goals.

  • In this situation, the offensive player’s goal is to get as close to the goal as possible before shooting. Youth goalies typically either remain on the goal line or if they are good distance off the goal line, will tend to retreat instead of charge the ball. Since the goalie is usually not aggressive, the offensive player should take full advantage and get as close to the goal as possible.
  • During a practice, set up a game where the only way a breakaway goal can be scored is if the player dribbles past the goalie before shooting. This drill will condition players to get closer to the goal (it will also help your goalie become more aggressive).
  • The most common command I hear from the sidelines is, “Shoooooot!” Naturally, if a young player hears her parents and sidelines yelling ‘shooooot’, she will most likely shoot. In this and in many other cases, she is being given bad advice.
  • Oftentimes, a player will say they shot the ball because a defender was closing in on her. While that may be true, treat the comment as an excuse. The solution is to always make sure that the offensive player places himself between the ball and defender. This is easier said than done and normally takes many years for a player to understand and feel comfortable employing this tactic. Nevertheless, if an offensive player positions himself properly, the defender won’t be able to get the ball and if they try, they will likely go through the offensive player, resulting in a penalty kick.

Defensive Strategy

I have a long post that discusses tricks a goalie can use to make a huge difference in a game. For now, the best way to negate a breakaway is to teach the goalie not to retreat and instead be aggressive and move toward the on-coming ball. It is interesting to see how often a forward will panic when a goalie charges him.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Quick Kicks

August 25, 2009

The quick-kick is seldom used. Yet executed at the right time, you are almost guaranteed a goal. However, use them sparingly and only in offensive third when you know you can catch the defensive team napping.

The free kick law states that the only time a free kick needs to start on a whistle is for ceremonial kicks which is when an offensive player asks the referee for the defensive team to be moved back 10 yards from the kick. The ball must also be stationary when the kick is taken. If there any movement on the ball, the referee will ask for a re-take and any advantage now and in the future will be lost. Follow this tips when accessing the possibility of taking a quick kick.

  • As soon as you know the foul has been called for you, access the situation. If an advantage can be gained by playing the ball quickly, do so. Make sure a player is not hurt and the ball is not moving.
  • If the player who is fouled falls on the ball with her hands, the referee be forced to call a foul. If the foul is for the attacking team, a player will already have the ball in their possession and a quick start can occur quicker. However, make sure to bring the ball back to the spot of the infraction before the kick so the referee will not have you re-take the kick because of an unfair advantage having been gained (a free kick needs to be kick very close to where the infraction occurred). However, if a player falls on the ball with her hands and the foul goes against that player, the referee may be onto her and at a minimum, present a yellow card to that player.
  • Don’t telegraph the quick kick. Be very calm, quiet, and appear to be indifferent.

Defensive Strategy

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Always assume the other team may take a quick kick. Therefore,

  • As soon as the foul is committed, have the nearest defending player stand in front of the ball–not over the ball but close to it. Don’t make it too obvious. A referee could issue a yellow card immediately for delay of game or if in the opinion of the referee, the player does not retreat immediately when asked. Normally a 1-2 to second delay is all it takes to discouraged a team from trying the quick kick.
  • If the foul occurs in the offensive third, make sure the goalie and defenders alert everyone to the possibility of a quick kick. By alerting everyone, the opposing team is less likely to try it.
  • Don’t get caught napping
  • Never have your goalie set up the wall until she knows that the referee has signaled for a ceremonial re-start (this is indicated by the referee pointing to his whistle). To avoid that problem entirely, keep the goalie in the center of the goal and have the center forward set-up the wall. The goalie has enough to worry about and the center forward can do the job just as easily. Plus the players in the wall are facing the forward and won’t have to turn their head to look at the goalie.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Throw-Ins

August 19, 2009

There is always one kid on the team that for whatever reason is able to achieve much greater distance on her throws than the rest of the players. Coaches should use this skill to their advantage.

  • Anytime there is a throw-in within the distance of the penalty box, have that player heave the ball toward goal. The objective is to create the same type of chaos that a corner kicks do.
  • If the team only has one player with exceptional throw-in ability, hopefully that player can play in the center of the field so she can quickly and easily take throw-in from both touch lines without get exhausted. If this is not the case and you are down by one, make sure that player is on the field and they are aware that they will need need to run across the field to take the throw-ins.
  • Incorporate the element of surprise. If you have this secret throw-in weapon, don’t unveil it immediately. Wait for an opportune time when you can possibly catch the other team unprepared.
  • A player can’t be offside on a throw-in. If the other team does not know this, you are in luck.
  • Add some variety. So many teams simply throw the ball in down the wing. There is no rule that states that this must be the case. Throw the ball into the middle or even backwards. It will make the throw down the wing much more effective when you do use it.

The rules state that a throw-in must be held with both hands and delivered from behind the head. Nowhere does it state that spinning the ball is illegal. The spinning of the ball occurs when one hands is much more dominant than the other. However, if a referee feels like a players is gaining an unfair advantage by spinning the ball, a foul throw-in may be called and the ball awarded to the other team. Teach your players to throw in with little or no spin.

Defensive Strategy

At the youth level, unless the other team has an extraordinary player, throw-ins should not pose a big threat if you do the following:

  • Since there is no offside on a throw-in, never let an offensive player get behind a defender.
  • Treat a long throw-in inside your own penalty area as you would a corner kick. Stack the penalty area with more players who are not afraid to head the ball.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Corner Kicks

August 19, 2009

Some of the most beautiful goals are scored from corner kicks. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful header or one-time volley into the back of the end? However, rarely will you see such a goal at the youth level. Most players are afraid to head the ball and many don’t have the eye-foot coordination to take a ball directly out of the air. Also at this age, very few goalies are assertive enough or have the hand-eye coordination to catch a ball in a congested area.

The trick to scoring more goals from corner kicks is to have all corner kicks be in-swingers … bend-it-like-Beckham kicks. Looking at the opponents goal from the field, an in-swinger is created when a right-foot kicker takes the kick from the left-corner spot or a left-foot kicker takes the kick from the right-corner spot. The kick is taken with the inside-of-the-foot with the toe pointed in an ‘up’ position. When done properly, a kick can bend or curve significantly. A ball that appears to be heading for the 6-yard line can quickly bend toward the goal. This kick will typically hit a few players and land on the ground in front of the goal just waiting for an opportunistic forward to kick the ball into the goal.

To implement this strategy:

  • Choose a right- and left-footed player capable of putting some bend of the ball and who can reach the far post on a corner kick.
  • When taking the kick ask the kicker to to put as much bend on the ball as possible and have her aim for the far post. In fact, challenge them to score.
  • Place one forward on the goal between the goalie and the near post. The mere presence of this player will make the entire defense nervous.
  • From the top of the penalty box, have several players crash the goal. The run should begin as soon the the kicker approaches the ball … but not sooner. By starting at the top of the penalty area, a player is running on to the ball. Also, if the corner is poor and heading for the penalty spot and not the goal, the players can stop their run on goal and still receive the ball in front of them.
  • Keep at least 1 offensive player at the top of the penalty box. Many times, a ball will only be cleared to the top of the box, just waiting for someone to score on the rebound.
  • The more chaotic the the penalty area is on a corner and the closer the ball lands near the goal, the more goals will be scored.

The laws state that there is no offside on a corner kick and that a goal can be scored directly from a corner kick without having to touch another player–either offensive or defensive.

Defensive Strategy

Corners are very difficult to defend. If given a choice between given up a throw-in or a corner, always choose a throw-in. However, corners are avoidable. These tricks should help reduce the number of goals you give up per game:

  • Keep your goalie on the line at all times.
  • Place a defender on the near post facing the kicker. Make sure the defender is holding onto the post so they know where they are and the ball won’t slip between the player and the post. When the ball passes over this player, he/she slip into the goal while still holding onto the post. A player on the far post is optional but recommended if the other team has strong kicker.
  • Place 2 additional defenders on the goal line. These players should not be afraid of heading the ball. If it means bringing your forwards back, do so.
  • Place a defender half-way between the corner flag and the near post. They will be able to pick off a poor corner and be in position to quickly attack a short corner.
  • Keep a defender at the top of the penalty area for any lose balls. If there is an offensive player there as well, the defender needs to be between the offensive player and the goal.
  • When clearing a ball from the goal mouth, always kick the ball to the touch lines, never up the middle.
  • The more defenders in the penalty area, the better.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Goal Kicks

August 13, 2009

Unless the defending team has a goalie or defender with a strong leg, an offensive team will have several opportunities a game to intercept a goal kick at the top of the penalty area with only the goalie and possibly one defender to beat. In these situations, the offensive team stands a very good chance of scoring a goal.

In this case, the offensive team should:

  • Camp a few forwards just outside the penalty box
  • If the player can kick the ball further, the forwards should be positioned 5 yards nearer the goal than where the ball lands. Line up the midfielders 5 to 10 yards behind the forwards. Spread the players out to cover a large area of the field.
  • Since younger players tend to telegraph where they plan to kick the ball, simply have the forwards follow the eyes of the player taking the goal kick.

The rules state that a ball is not in play until it has completely left the penalty area. Therefore, there is no reason for an offensive player to stand inside the penalty area. When the ball is touched by any player inside the penalty area, the goal kick will be re-taken. Some league or tournaments allow goal kicks to be taken from the top of the penalty area. The same strategy should be applied to these kicks as well but when they are intercepted, the offensive player is further from the goal. This is a nice way to counteract teams that employ this strategy, especially against weaker opponents or team that don’t have strong kickers.

Defensive Strategy

Conversely, if you are the defending team that is not blessed with a strong leg in the back and your goal kicks are constantly getting picked off and creating easy scoring opportunities, employ one of these tricks:

  • Have your strongest-legged player, even if it is a forward, taking all goal kicks, especially when kicking against the wind.
  • Don’t be afraid to have your goalie take the goal kicks. If their leg is not that strong, make sure to place 1 defender in goal and possibly another defender around the penalty area. Because this player is in the penalty area, they can’t have the ball passed to them. However, they will be in a position to defend immediately.
  • Take the goal kicks quickly before the offensive team has time to set up.
  • Have the kicker avoid telegraphing the kick. Have them look one way but kick the other
  • Kick to ball out the side of the penalty area. If the ball is picked off on the side, the chances of scoring are considerably less than when a ball is picked off at the top of the box. Also if the ball goes out-of-bounds for a throw-in, a throw-in is better than giving the ball up in front of the goal.
  • Toe-poke the ball. Though it is not pretty and the ball may not always go where they want it to, some younger kids get more distance on their kicks using their toe.
  • Ask the referee before the game if they will allow goal kicks to be taken from the top of the penalty spot.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Indirect Free Kicks

August 9, 2009

Treat all free kicks as direct free kicks (DFK), even when the referee signals an indirect kick (IDK). This is especially true when your team is inside or just outside the opposing team’s penalty area.

According to the laws of the game on IFKs, “a goal can be scored only if the ball subsequently touches another player before it enters the goal”. Coaches and players usually take this to mean a teammate must first touch the ball. But the law states that it can be any player.

For all IFKs around the opponents penalty area, have one of your stronger kickers take a low shot on goal. If the ball goes into the net, I guarantee you that more often than not, a field player or the goalie will have touched the ball first.

Tips:

  • Shoot the ball on the ground so it can get deflected.
  • Shoot the ball hard.
  • Before the game, tell the referee what you have planned and ask if the goal will count if the ball is touched by a defensive player. During a game, some referees could be caught off-guard by this tactic.

Defending Against the Indirect Free Kick

Conversely, if an opponent employs this method for all its IFKs, the defending goalie plays an important part besides trying to save the shot. First of all, she needs to know if the free kick being taken is a direct or indirect free kick. If the free kick is an IFK, the ball is heading directly for the goal, and the ball has yet to touch another player other than the kicker, the goalie should wisely let the ball go into the goal. Since the ball did not touch a second player, a goal kick will be awarded to the defending team and more importantly, the goal will not count. However, should the goalie attempt to save it, get her hands on the ball, but have the ball still go into the net, a goal will be awarded.

BE SMART GOALIE!