Archive for May, 2010

U.S. Men’s International Soccer Has Come a Long Way

May 30, 2010

My first World Cup memory was in 1974 when my family lived in West Germany (West Germany not only hosted but also won the 1974 World Cup). To this day, I recall that Zaire and Haiti were two teams in that World Cup.

To nobody’s surprise, both teams lost big. Zaire, which is today called Congo, lost 2-0 to Scotland, 9-0 to Yugoslavia, and 3-0 to Brazil. (I did not realize until now that Zaire was the first African country ever to participate in a World Cup.) Haiti lost 3-1 to Italy, 7-0 to Poland, and 4-1 to Argentina. At least Haiti scored two goals!

Only much later did I learn that Haiti was part of CONCACAF and was the only country from the North or Central American region to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Not bad for a small island country that had to compete against the U.S. and Mexico to qualify.

The U.S. had competed in past World Cups and actually came in third place in the 1930 World Cup. However, back then there was not the rigorous qualifying process that exists today and many teams were invited simply if they could afford the trip (the 1930 World Cup was held in Uruguay). However, it was not until Paul Caligiuri’s miracle goal against Trinidad & Tobago that qualified the U.S. for the 1990 World Cup that the U.S. started to establish itself as a regular on the World Cup scene.

The United States’ best World Cup performance was in 2002 when it beat Portugal and Poland and tied host South Korea in the group stage. Then they beat Mexico 2-0 in the second round but lost 1-0 to eventual runner-up Germany in the quarterfinal match.

The biggest disappointment was in 2006 when five minutes into their first game against the Czech Republic, the U.S. gave up the first of three goals, essentially ending their World Cup before it ever started. They did, however, manage a 1-1 tie against eventual-champions Italy in a game they really should have won. It was also the only game the Italians failed to win that year.

Who knows what 2010 will have in store for the U.S. team? The chances are good that they will advance out of Group C despite having to play England in its first match. If they don’t advance, 2010 will be considered a huge disappointment. Should they advance, the best potential second-round opponent–Germany–will be without their captain, Michael Ballack. If last year’s Confederation Cup is any indication, when the U.S. beat Spain and lost in the finals to Brazil 3-2 after being up 2-0 at halftime, the U.S. will do very good.

Good luck. U-S-A! U-S-A!


World Cup Flags

May 26, 2010

I’m not sure if this article falls under ‘Improving Soccer in the United States’. However, it definitely falls under ‘Improving Geography in the United States’. The way I see it, any type of improvement is a good thing.

With that said, what is going on with the Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovenian flags? They all look the same. When I first started collecting flag images for the 32 countries in this year’s World Cup for my World Cup East Bay 2010 event, I wasted a good deal of time because I kept thinking I had used some flags twice. But when I deleted one of the ‘duplicates’, I only had 31 flags. Finally I figured out that these countries’ flags do look very similar. See for yourself.




Good thing Russia did not make this year’s World Cup. That really would have made things confusing.


Then there is Australia and New Zealand. Can you tell the difference?


New Zealand

Check out how similar the flags are for the two African countries of Cameroon and Ghana.



The Dutch (Netherlands) and Paraguayan flags are also very similar.



Though they did not make this year’s World Cup, I want to thank Nepal for their flag. Its design will never be mistaken for another country.


World Cup East Bay 2010

May 23, 2010

I am pleased to announce that I am partnering with the owner of an Indoor Sports Center in Antioch, CA to bring this year’s World Cup to San Francisco’s East Bay. The event is called World Cup East Bay 2010 (WCEB2010).

The theme of the event is, “Watch, Play, Experience, Enjoy!” Soccer fans of all ages will have the opportunity to:

  • Watch all 64 World Cup matches.
  • Play in youth and adult World Cup tournament games.
  • Experience the excitement, culture, and fervor of the World Cup.
  • Enjoy the World Cup with other soccer fans under one roof.

I am always looking for help. If you would like to or if you know of someone who would be interested in being a corporate sponsor, a team sponsor to help those families in need of financial aid, a product/service sponsor, or can donate items for daily raffles, I would certainly appreciate it.

If you live in the Bay Area, I hope to see you this summer. Any promotion of this event on your part would be fantastic. Enjoy the World Cup wherever you will be. Go U-S-A!

Follow-up to the Reporter Article

May 19, 2010

Two months ago I approached my youngest son’s (U12) coaches with the idea of having a team reporter. They embraced the idea and I was off and running.

Before I share with you the reports that have been written so far, I’m including an overview of the program.

  • Attached is the score sheet (Game Summary ISUS) I fill out for each game. I include the date, time, location, and opponent of the game. I also track goalkeepers and the number of saves they made, goal scorers, and those who assisted on the goals. The score sheet also includes the report guidelines along with some notes that I write during a game that a player may or may not choose to use in the report. Notice I emphasize creativity.
  • On the score sheet, I list the player’s names that appeared in the last three reports. Some players will naturally appear more than others. These names help the report determine who has not been included in a while.
  • At the end of each game, I review the stats with the reporter so he understands what I have written and we go over the guidelines.
  • During the last game, a younger brother of one of the players was curious about what I was tracking. After a few instructions, he happily kept the stats for the rest of the game.
  • Since we have many Spanish-speaking families on our team, I get a mom to translate the reports into Spanish before I email out the report.

So far the reporter program has been a big hit. I have had a number of boys volunteer. Once I run out of new reporters, I will use this group of reporters again. It turns out these boys are just as creative with their pens as they are with their feet. Great job boys!

Game 1: Dylan

On March 28th 2010 Impact 98 had a victory in their opening spring game against DYSL Barcelona. The Impact U12 boys defeated Barcelona 5-2.

The two teams met at Cypress Park in Oakley and kick off was at 9:00. When Impact took the field they felt pumped up and ready to play. The first goal was scored by Jorge with an assist going to Grant.  Grant dribbled down the right half and crossed it to Jorge and he controlled the ball and chipped it over the goalie.  Grant and Jorge did great at hustling and timing. Grant scored a goal and then assisted Jorge again for the 3rd goal of the game. Daniel’s goal was next and it was great because he beat 4 guys and then shot. The team felt confident that they were going to win. Even though Delta squeezed one in, Ethan still had a great game saving 7 shots. He made a good save when a Delta player shot the ball fast and hard to the bottom left corner. Derek had a great defensive play because a Delta player shot it and Ethan was just getting up when Derek came and bombed it out.  It was an intense first half.

During the second half Delta Barcelona scored a ripping shot.  Oscar came back and assisted Jorge in scoring the last goal.  The communication was better than it usually is.  All the shots were right on target and hard.  The game was outstanding throughout both halves.  The defense was great from Zachary K, Andrew, Derek, Jose, and Zachary J.  In the second half Zachary K. took over in the goal and saved 3 shots.  The final score of the game was 5-2.  Impact 98 dominated the whole entire soccer game.  It will be a great season if Impact 98 keeps up the hard work.

Game 2: Jose

On April 10, 2010 at 1:30 two good teams played. The away team was Impact 98 and the home team was the Cosmos from Richmond. Impact invited three players from the younger U11 team. Their names were Ethan, Alex and Reynaldo.

The starting lineup for Impact was:

  • Goalie: Zach
  • Defense: Dylan, Andrew, Derek, and Jose
  • Midfield: Carlos, Daniel, and Grant
  • Forward: Oscar, Kyle and Jorge

After the first few minutes of the first half of the game we were down 3-0. Zach saved five shots from the Cosmos. But, Cosmos were able to score again. Close to the end of the first half, Impact substituted Grant for Josh. Then Impact scored one goal when Josh passed the ball to Jorge for the score. The first half ended 4-1.

In the second half, Cosmos scored four more goals. Impact’s goalie for the second half was Kyle. He saved ten shots from the Cosmos. It looked like Impact was going to get another goal when Reynaldo juked out the Cosmo’s goalie and shot it, but the goalie was able come back and save the shot. The final score was 8-1 for the Cosmos. It wasn’t Impact’s best performance but Impact 98 will do better next time we face them.

Game 3: Kyle


On April 17, 2010 IMPACT 98 faced Lamorinda United at Cypress Field in Oakley.  To start off Cohen was our team captain, coming back from an injury.  Cohen didn’t get to play, but it was great having him back with us.   IMPACT 98 beat Lamorinda United 5-0!

The weather was sunny, but got windy in the second half.   IMPACT had one guest player from U11, Adain.   The game started with Kyle and Adain on the sideline.   Derek started in the goal, and then Adain came in to sub.  Our defense was strong. Lamorinda couldn’t get past them and had no shots on goal.  Jorge scored our first goal with a header after a great assist from Dylan.  The score was 1-0 at half-time.

In the second half, it was very windy.  Adain was in the goal and had 3 saves for IMPACT.  Jorge scored a second goal off an assist by Kyle from the center.  Jorge scored a hat-trick with IMPACT’S 3rd goal, assisted by Carlos from the right side!!    Jorge score his 4th goal assisted by Oscar from the left side.  For the final goal, Kyle chipped the ball with his left foot over two defenders to Oscar who score our 5th goal.

We had great communication from our players this game.  Everyone was talking.  We had a lot of passing.   We missed having our goalie, Ethan this game, but Adain did a great job for us!
Our next game is April 24th at 4:00pm at Doherty High School in San Ramon.

GO IMPACT! ! ! ! !

Game 4: Daniel





The journey begins at 3:30 pm. It’s a beautiful day. The weather is cool, sunny and windy. The teams are getting ready on the field warming up.

Meanwhile, the fans start filling the stadium. At 3:55 pm coach Rick assisted from Kim, Luis and Memo called the team and gave them instructions. “The moment of truth has arrived.” Impact 98 expects a defensive Tri Valley but will try to impose its game plans.

The game started at 4:00 pm. We have to control the position of the ball and attack in a better way. We tried to play high-up the field and pressure the defense, but hurried things too much when we had possession that we were wasteful with our final ball. In the 17th minute in the first half Tri Valley took a shot and made the first goal. This was an early goal!!  But Impact wasn’t going to give up, receiving support from fans and not after having dominated possession and taken more shots. We were struggling to get the ball into the net. We were losing 1-0.

Jorge took a shot that barely went out. Then Jose took another shot but the goalkeeper got it. We were playing well but luck wasn’t with us. Tri Valley took 3 more shots. But there was Ethan (our wonderful goalkeeper) getting ready to save all shots. We went to halftime trying to get some rest and receiving more instructions from our coach.

The second half started. “It’s very hard to play against a team that controls the ball so well.” But, we know that we are a better team. Feeling the excitement of the game, we started playing better, having more shots and chances to score. Tri Valley wants to make more goals. They didn’t know we have a great defense and a goalkeeper that was on fire saving 7 more shots. Then, Kyle found more open space and made 3 powerful shots. In the last 5 minutes Derek took a shot, the goalkeeper tried to stop it; then Oscar got the rebound and passed to Daniel who scored and made the final goal. The game ended 1-1. “A great adventure has come to an end tonight, but we want more of this in the future.”


Game 5: Derek

Impact 98 Remains Undefeated at Home

Impact 98 vs. Pleasanton Ballistic

May 1, 2010 Cypress Park

At Cypress Field, two teams came at 2:00 to warm up for a 2:30 kick off.   Ballistic wearing their lights and Impact looking good in their darks.  A little windy, but a nice sunny day to be on the pitch.  Captains for this game were Miguel and Carlos.  We started off going into the wind.

In the first half Impact was mostly on Ballistic’s side of the field. Impact had some early shots with Miguel and Jorge taking great shots, unfortunately they both hit the crossbar. It took a while, but Impact finally found the net. Oscar (as known as ‘Big O’)crossed from the left, Derek passed it back to Carlos, who ripped it at the post and in. The halftime score was 1-0.

The second half started with the wind to our backs. This half Impact really dominated. To get things started in the second half Miguel took the ball down the line, crossed it to Jorge, and he volleyed straight in the net.  Right after that, Tunde passed it to Miguel and he again crossed it, this time to Zach Kos, who also volleyed into the net.  Unfortunately, a few minutes later Ballistic broke through and made it a 3-1 game.  Seconds after the Ballistic goal Big O dribbled down the line and curved a shot into the far post .  Shortly after his goal, Big O got an assist as he crossed it to Jorge, who flicked the ball over the goalie and into the goal.  The last and final goal came from a booming shot by Oscar, assisted by Daniel which wrapped up the game. At the end of the game, Ethan had a total of 5 saves. The final score was 6 to 1.  Good job Impact 98. Let’s keep up the good work.

Game 6: Tunde

Impact 98 Takes the Win

On Saturday, May 8, 2010, Impact 98 played Bay Oaks in Alameda. The field was very hard to find but in the end everyone was able to find the field. There was a little wind, but it was not too bad. The field was also very hard. For me, the game started very quickly, no warm ups just checked in and we were on our way.

In the first half Kyle started in goal. The ball was a little flat and the referee had to change it. Impact was not really playing as well as normal, but we were trying our hardest. Bay Oaks scored a quick goal to start the first half. Kyle saved six shots but Bay Oaks was able to slip one more goal in before the end of the half. At halftime Coach Rick and Coach Luis told us what we could do better.

In the second half Zach Kos started in goal, he saved two beautiful shots. After that, Oscar kicked a corner kick to Jorge and Jorge scored off the assist. This woke up the team. After the goal, Impact was still pressuring the ball and scored again. This time, it was off an assist from Kyle to Jorge who controlled it with his thigh and scored it with his left foot. Derek known as D-Rock then went in to the goalie position and saved one big goal with the help of Andrew. Carlos scored a beautiful goal off an assist by Oscar to close the game at 3-2 Impact. It was great to go home a winner.

Game 7: Zach K.

Impact 98 Dominates Lamorinda

On Mother’s Day, Impact 98 played in Orinda against Lamorinda United. After a close first half, the score was 2-1 for Impact. In the second half, we dominated the other team. The final score was 7-1.

The first half was kind of difficult. Lamorinda managed to keep the ball on our half of the field for most of the time, but that didn’t mean they were better than us. Oscar managed to slip the ball past their keeper and into the goal for an early 1-0 lead. The second goal scored by D-Rock (Derek) was a beautiful header that was assisted by Jorge. Lamorinda got lucky. They scored one goal against us. The half time score was 2-1.

During the second half, Impact 98 dominated Lamorinda. It started when Carlos assisted Oscar’s first goal of the second half. Kyle scored two goals; the first one assisted by Zach Jenkins and the second one by Daniel. Jorge also scored two goals; one assisted by Oscar and the other assisted by Jose Grimaldo. All of the second-half goals resulted in a 7-1 final score.

Thanks to Ethan’s little brother, Nolan, for keeping stats during the game. Ethan, our star goalie, saved 12 shots, which kept us going in this very important game. Also, thanks to Kim, our coach. She made cards for Mother’s Day. Kim, you rock!

When a Goal is not a Good Goal

May 16, 2010

There is something special and exciting about kicking the ball into the back of the net. A goal feels more meaningful. It is just not the same when a goal is scored with no net or when cones are used instead of goals. A goal without a net is the same as draining a three-pointer without a basketball net or hitting a home run without the ball flying over a fence. It is simply not the same.

However, players should realize that hitting the back of the net is often not good enough. What is more important is what part of the net the ball hits. In real estate, the three most important words are, “location, location, location”. The same is true of goals.

Take a look at the diagram below. If a goalkeeper knows how to dive properly, the yellow area represents the goal area that he/she can easily save. A goalkeeper’s height and how far a goalkeeper plays off the goal line will also impact how much area a goalkeeper can cover.

There are four areas off the goal that are difficult for a goalkeeper to reach: the two top triangles (red) and the bottom two triangles (green). As I wrote in the article entitled, “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Penalty Kicks“, a player should always attempt to shoot the ball in the two lower corners. The reasons are:

  • It is very hard for a goalkeeper to get to the ground quickly to save the kick.
  • If a player shoots low, the ball will never go over the goal. When shooting for the upper corners, there is a good chance the ball will go over the goal.

To help emphasize the bottom corners and reinforce effective shots, a coach should augment a regular goal with either small pop-up goals or cones/discs. My suggestion is to use discs since a series of well-placed, hard shots will quickly destroy the pop-up goals. With the cones in place (see same diagram), instruct the players to aim their shots between the cone and the post. Even the best goalkeepers in the world will have a tough time reaching these well-placed shots.

I have several tips for coaches to help give their players an incentive to shoot for the lower corners:

  • Award points for well-placed shots (and deduct points for poor shots):
    • 5 points for a goal shot between the cone and post with the weaker foot (4 points with the dominant foot).
    • 2 points for a goal not between the cone and post with the weaker foot (1 point with the dominant foot).
    • 1 point for a missed goal shot lower than the goalkeeper’s hips with the weaker foot (0 points with the dominant foot).
    • 0 points for a missed goal shot higher than a goalkeeper’s hips but lower than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-1 points with the dominant foot).
    • -2 points for a missed goal is shot higher than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-3 points with the dominant foot).
  • Shagging
    • When a shot misses a goal, players should always shag (or retrieve) their ball. When the player returns, he/she should go to the back of the line and not the earlier position in line.
    • If a player has kicked the ball over the crossbar twice, you now have a player to help clean up after practice.

I strongly suggest that coaches add cones to shooting exercises. The better the shots are placed in practice, the more goals your players will score in games.

Want to Get Noticed at a Tryout? Try a Bicycle Kick

May 13, 2010

I’ve written several articles on tryouts: one for coaches entitled, “The Worst Part of Coaching” and one for players entitled, “Be More Vocal at Tryouts”. The most important thing a player has to do at a tryout is to get noticed, preferably for a positive action. Being a good player certainly helps and being vocal will draw attention to yourself. The other way to get noticed is to attempt a bicycle kick.

I say bicycle kick because it is one of the most recognizable, beautiful and yet most difficult moves in soccer. Any time I see a player attempt a bicycle kick, it tells me the players is:

  • Knowledgeable about the game of soccer
  • Creative
  • Confident

In addition to a bicycle kick, these actions will also get a player the attention he/she needs to stand out from other players:

  • Communication
  • An excellent and unselfish assist
  • A beautiful goal
  • Great dribbling moves
  • Crisp, well-positioned passes on the ground.
  • Comfortable with both feet
  • Long throw-ins

Conversely, attempting a bicycle kick or any other move when it is not necessary (for example, a defender performs a bicycle kick in his/her defensive third just to be cute) can have the opposite effect. It can get a player noticed for the wrong reason.

Before a tryout, ask yourself (and ask the advice of other coaches and parents) and write down your strengths (initiative should be a strength since you are taking the time to think about your strengths). With your list in hand, try to apply and demonstrate these strengths at every opportunity you have during the tryout. But don’t force these strengths–strengths should come naturally.

Actually, I lied. The most important thing a player has to do at a tryout is to enjoy the experience and have fun! Good luck!

Passive Defending

May 10, 2010

Passive defending is when a defender applies little or no pressure on an attacking player. Using this defensive posture in practice is a great way for players to work on fakes and feints with an actual player in front of them. However, passive defending may also be a good strategy to employ in a game as well.

I typically see passive defending used in 1v1 and 2v1 drills. The defender is there to take up space and force the player with the ball to make a move around him/her. Passive defending is great when the focus of the drill is on the offense. Going against an actual player is certainly more realistic than beating a cone.

At a recent camp where I was an instructor, I employed this tactic in the World Cup tournament, small-sided games. Every opportunity I had (I was playing in the games), I would challenge the player with the ball by running at him/her and assumed a passive defensive posture. Once in position, I commanded the attacker to, “Make a move” while reminding him/her that I was only there to apply pressure and had no intention of taking the ball away. Then they did.

With players it will be more challenging to get them to practice passive defending, especially during small-sided games. The trick is to make sure that each player is given a chance to go up against a passive defender whether the player with the ball is an attacker, midfielder, or defender. To help the passive defender, call out “Passive” when you want this tactic employed. The player nearest the ball will know what to do.

One of the benefits of passive defending is that it will give the player who is asked to defend in this manner an opportunity to rest. On a warm afternoon after an hour-and-a-half  of practice, you will have players calling out “passive” themselves.

So how can passive defending be a good strategy during a game? How many players do you see or have on your team who blindly go after a ball that is in possession of an attacking player only to have him/her baited into stabbing at the ball? Attacking players love these types of defenders. Change this defender’s behavior by having him/her stop in front of the attacking player and become a passive defender. Once this has been accomplished and the defender is tired of the attacking player still getting around him/her, have this player start back pedaling as the attacking player approaches. In one game you will have broken the player of this bad habit.

Go ahead; implement passive defending in your next practice or even in the next game.

Responding to an Embarrassing Loss: Learn from the San Jose Sharks

May 9, 2010

The San Jose Sharks are half way towards winning their first Stanley Cup title. They just disposed of their long-time rival, the Detroit Red Wings, 4 games to 1. I have to pat myself on the back just a bit. I predicted the Sharks would win the title in an earlier article entitled, “Responding to an Own Goal: Learn from Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks“. After scoring the strangest and flukiest own goals I have ever seen to lose a game in OT, the Sharks won the next three games to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche from the playoffs.

The Sharks’ latest feat was how they responded after losing the fourth game of the Red Wing series by the lopsided score of 7 – 1. They did exactly what all good teams should do. They forgot about that game and moved on.

If you are a player playing on a good time, you will undoubtedly play in a game in which the opposition is on fire and your team simply is not playing well. It will happen and the final score will be embarrassing. So what? You and your teammates should simply move on. You must know and believe that you are better than that final score.

Naturally, this is easier said than done. In my younger days, I hated losing, especially when I felt we were the better team. But losing a game by the score of 2 – 1 was always harder to deal with than getting blown out. In close losses, I would often dwell on one or two plays that I had I performed my job better, I felt the outcome of the game would have been different (i.e., a missed penalty or missed field goal). I still remember those close losses to this day.

On the other hand, when my team was blown out, those losses were much easier to deal with. You realize that no matter what you or your teammates did in that game, nothing was going to help change the outcome. Therefore, there was no point dwelling on the game. All you can really do is come out next time and prove that the last game was a fluke.

Sharks, keep up the good work. Along with millions of Sharks’ fans, I’m looking forward to that Stanley Cup parade in June. However, make sure to win the Cup before the start of the World Cup. Thanks.

Simple Tips that will Significantly Impact Games

May 3, 2010

As I approach my one-hundredth post, I have learned the following:

  • Gore sells. Besides the home page, my most popular post was the one about Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg.
  • Initially, I thought I only had ideas for 25 or 30 posts. I now know I have what seems like an endless supply of material to write about.
  • My content must be OK as Soccer America has reprinted five articles to date and Potomac Soccer Wire reprints one of my posts weekly.
  • I have learned that most soccer blogs cover professional games, leagues, and players. Very few blogs are dedicated to improving youth soccer for an audience of youth coaches, players, and parents.

The other day I was looking at the page hits and noticed that a set of very valuable articles I wrote early on has not gotten the love or attention I feel they deserve. I have written 20 articles that start with the title, “2-3 Goal Difference per Game”. These were written primarily for coaches who tend to over-coach, place too much importance on the X’s and O’s, and don’t let their players go out and have fun and make mistakes.

Soccer, especially at the youth level, should be about free play and only a few coaches’ instructions during games. These articles include simple coaching tips that should be easy for players to understand and learn quickly. These tips will dramatically affect the outcome of a game. While player development, and not winning, should be a youth coach’s ultimate goal, increasing a team’s chances of winning without compromising development and fun is not a bad thing either.

You will find the subject matter and respective links to the 20 articles below. Enjoy!