Archive for the ‘2-3 Goal Difference Per Game’ Category

2-3 Goal per Game Difference: Home-Field Advantage

January 22, 2010

Rarely, if ever, do you hear the term ‘home-field disadvantage’. The simple fact is that teams do better when they play at home. This is true at the youth level as well as at the professional level. Less travel time and familiarity with the home field always helps. Home games also draw friendlier spectators.

Besides these reasons, there are additional steps a coach (or League) can take to make the home field even more advantageous.

Scheduling

  • If your team is a morning team, schedule your games in the morning.
  • If stamina is a problem, schedule games on a smaller field. If conditioning is a strength, play on a larger field.
  • If your team has good ball control or plays well on a wet field, schedule games in the morning when there may be dew or frost on the field. Strong-footed players and a good goalie would be another reason to play on a wet field.

Know the ‘Elements’

  • Know if your locale has variable winds. Do you get afternoons wind when the land warms up? If so, know when the winds kick in. It is always preferable to play or go with the wind.
  • Know the position of the sun relative to the field. It is easier to play when the sun is not in your players’ eyes.
  • Know the area’s moisture tendencies. For example, if there is dew, how quickly does the field dry? Tailor the line-up in order to take many shots when the grass is wet.
  • Know the weather forecast. Is it going to rain? Will the field be wet? Is it going to be cold in which case it may take the players a while to warm up? Is it going to be hot in which case by the second half, one team is going to be tired?

While scheduling the times for games can be controlled to a large degree, taking advantage of the elements is much less predictable. After all, it comes down to which team wins the coin toss. If you win, great! If the other team wins, hope the other coach has not done his/her homework.

Don’t forget to tell the captains which side to defend in the first half should your team win the coin toss.

There are few tricks you can try as a coach to help increase your chances of getting the preferred side even if your team loses the coin toss:

  • Arrive early.
  • Warm up the team on the half you want to defend in the first half.
  • Set up your bench on the half you want to defend in the first half.

What tends to happen is that if the other team wins the coin toss, they will elect to defend the side they are already on.

Countering the Opponent’s Home-Field Advantage

Make sure you do your ‘element’ research. Also use the tricks listed above. You may also be interested in reading my post entitled, ‘Coin Toss Alternatives‘. Since the away team traditionally calls the coin toss, some experts hypothesize that this action is not a 50-50 proposition. Knowing the position of the coin prior to the toss could increase your team’s chance of calling the toss correctly.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Neutralize the Best Player

November 12, 2009

One year when I was coaching a U10 Boys team, the team made it to a tournament’s consolation (3rd-place) game. We were facing the same team that had beaten us a day earlier by a score of 7-3 (and it was not that close). They had a super-fast, left-footed winger who must have scored 4 or 5 of their goals. What to do? Another lopsided lose would certainly be a downer. I did what any coach would do in this situation–I called on ‘The Glove’.

Strategically speaking, I did the following:

  • This tournament was a 6-a-side tournament–5 field players and a goalie. Being more defensive-minded, my formation had been 2-2-1. For the 2nd game, I changed it to a 2-2 formation.
  • Having freed up one position, I took my scrappiest player and told him never to leave the side of their best player. I told him to think of that player as a hand and for him to be ‘The Glove’. Wherever that player went, he had to follow. As soon as that player received the ball, he had to be right next to him making sure he had no room to move and no place to go. I also asked my player to lean on or touch the other player every now and then, engage in idle conversation with him, and occasionally nip at his feet just to remind him that he had company. But ‘The Glove’ was too shy so he never applied these additional suggestions.

The result was as follows:

  • The other player was completely shut down. He got frustrated early on, lost his temper, and received a yellow card for foul language.
  • The other players started engaging in some unnecessarily rough and unsportsmanlike behavior resulting in more yellow cards being shown.
  • The other coach and I got into a heated exchange when I asked him to control his players’ tactics and he would not comply.
  • The boys won 6-0! Talk about a simple tactical change making a huge difference.

Countering ‘The Glove’

There are a few things you can do to counter this strategy. The first time this happens to your better player, take him out of the game and explain to him what is happening. Tell him that it is the price for being good and for him to get used to it. Tell him not to get frustrated or lose his cool. Tell him that’s what the other team wants to happen. Then employ one or more of these tactics

  • You could have him move around and try to lose ‘The Glove’. But in all likelihood once the first glove gets tired, another glove will be brought on. Instead, accept the tight marking and slow his game down. Then, when he wants the ball, have him quickly separate himself from ‘The Glove’ in the form of a quick burst.
  • Have him go stand next to the center back and see how the other team reacts to two players covering the one player. If the center fullback moves, have your player follow him.
  • Consider playing your player in the back or midfield. Since you player is considered less of a threat to score, the other coach will likely remove ‘The Glove’ after a while.
  • Have your player play in an offside position–not just a few feet but more like 20-30 yards. See how the other team responds to this strategy.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Smart Pass-Backs to the Goalie

October 25, 2009

I am all for involving the goalie as much as possible. In fact based on my previous post (Role of the Goalie) many say I involve the goalie too much. Given the extremes a goalie has to endure, from utter boredom to continuous onslaughts, and the unique pressure they face, goalies do a team a great service so they should be rewarded with more involvement.

I also believe that passing the ball back to the goalie is an important strategy. It is a great way to ‘switch the field’ and sometimes a defender has no other choice but to pass it back to the goalie or risk losing the ball. What I’m not a fan of is passing the ball back only to have the goalie kick the ball up-field with no purpose or plan. Yet many coaches promote this exact strategy.

However, since there are occasions when a passback is advisable and coaches are going to continue to employ this strategy, at least it should be done correctly. When passing the ball back to the goalie, direction and speed are critical.

Direction

Unless it is absolutely necessary, a ball should never be passed back that could potentially go into the goal. You never know what can happen. The goalie may slip, the goalie may not be expecting the pass, or the ball may take an awkward bounce. If any of these 3 scenarios should occur a passback will result in a goal (see red-shared area below).

The ideal passback should always be passed away from the goal (see the green, dashed lines below). In these cases, a pass will never directly result in a goal for the opposing team.

passbacks

A goalie can help her own cause by pointing and commanding where the ball should be passed. Besides receiving the ball in a good location, this communication confirms that everyone is on the same page. If the goalie does not initiate this communication, the defender making the passback definitely should.

Speed

Speed is also important. A ball that is passed too hard, especially on goal, is more likely to be misplayed and result in a goal. At the very least, it will result in a corner. However, a ball that is passed too softly is likely to be just as disastrous. An attacking player could reach the ball first leaving only an out-of-position goalie to beat.

By all means, involve the goalie as much as possible. Just make sure it is done correctly.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Follow-up the Shot

October 8, 2009

When a ball is shot on goal, 5 things could happen:

  1. A goal is scored
  2. The goal is missed, resulting in a goal kick
  3. The goalie makes a save and retains possession of the ball
  4. The goalie makes a save by deflecting the ball out for a corner
  5. The goalie makes a save and the ball rebounds back into play.

#5 happens a number of times during a game. As a coach, whether your team took the shot or your team was shot on, you always want the appropriate players to follow-up the shot. On the offensive end, following-up shots will result in easy goals. On the defensive end, following-up an opponent’s shot by clearing it out of danger will result in fewer goals being scored against your team.

Yet rarely, especially on the offensive end, does this happen. There are several reasons why players don’t follow-up the shot.

  • The ‘Spectator Factor’. Once a shot is taken, many players become spectators. They wait to see the result of the shot and then will react accordingly. This is a very natural reaction and happens at all levels of the game and in all sports, even at the professional level. In baseball, players assume that pop-ups will always be caught and simply wait for it to happen. In basketball, rebounds often go uncontested. In football, once the quarterback throws the ball down field, many players assume the play is over for them.
  • The extra work/effort is rarely rewarded. When a shot is taken, the attacking player does not know the outcome in advance. Therefore, on every single shot attempt, the player needs to ‘crash the goal’. If after several games there has not been a rebound for the attacker, that player will be less inclined to look for the rebound.
  • Since the follow-up needs to be done at full-speed in order to be effective, players need to expend extra energy. After several efforts a player may get tired.
  • Shots are often taken from a long distance (refer back to the ‘dribble-on-goal‘ post). When a shot is taken from a great distance, rarely will an attacker be able to get to a rebound.

In theory, the solutions are easy. But because the ‘spectator factor’ is a natural human reaction or simply a bad habit, it will take a long time to recondition and reprogram the players to follow-up. Here are some tips.

  • As a player, assume that every shot will be saved. Start your follow-up as soon as the shot it taken or even better, when you anticipate the shot will be taken. That extra step or two, as long as you are not called for offside, can make all the difference in the world.
  • As a coach, incorporate a follow-up drill into all shooting exercises. The one I recommend which will reward and condition the attacker yet not compromise the goalie training is that every time the goalie makes a simple save, have him/her drop the ball in front of the goal that the shooter must follow-up and score. This follow-up can go uncontested by the goalie.

For players who follow-up shots, the rewards can be tremendous:

  • Attackers will score more goals; defenders will save many goals
  • Players will be in better shape
  • Coaches love effort. When a coach sees extra effort being put forth by a player, I guarantee you that the player will get more playing time. If you are not a starter or are not happy with your playing time, start following-up the shots and see what happens.
  • Effort is contagious. If you are a captain or aspire to be a captain, effort (and leading by example) is the quickest way to earn the respect of your teammates.

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: Simple Goalkeeper Tricks

September 21, 2009

I’ve already written about how playing the goalie outside the penalty box will dramatically reduce the number scoring opportunities your opponents will have during a game. Fewer opportunities will reduce the number of goals that are scored. These additional tricks will help out as well.

  • On free kicks, a goalie should position herself on the goal line or better yet, one foot inside the goal line. In youth games, goals are often scored on free kicks by kicking the ball over the goalie’s head. By standing on or inside the goal, chances of this occurring are reduced. In addition, it is much easier for a goalkeeper to run forward to meet a ball than running backwards.
  • Shooters have a tendency to kick the ball right in the middle of the goal. Therefore, if the goalie is positioned correctly, chances are that a number of the shots will be easily saved. There are several methods to teach good positions that will be covered in future postings. The simplest method is to have your goalkeeper constantly check her position by looking over her shoulders to make sure she is centered between the two goal posts.
  • The next trick may be difficult to grasp and teach but once it is learned, it will become second nature. First of all, a goalie needs to learn to anticipate a shot on goal. Once the kicker’s head goes down to look at the ball, the shot is not far behind. Then just before the ball is struck, the goalie should take one hop-step forward and hit the ground with both feet at the same time the kicker strikes the ball. Besides achieving forward momentum, the goalie is now in a better body position to move to her right or left to save the kick. Oftentimes, a goalie is caught flat footed when a shot is taken, making it very difficult to move in either direction. In baseball, you often see infielders and outfielders do the same thing. In addition, the hop step will cut down the angle of the goal. Hockey goalies do a great job of being prepared for a shot and cutting down angles.

Offensive Counter

Once again, playing against a good goalie can make for a long and frustrating day. There a several ways to counter these types of goalie tricks.

  • If the goalie is short and the goals are tall, even if the goalie is standing on the line or in the goal, it is still worth shooting the ball high. Be aware that by playing on the line, the goalie has probably created more space between her and the defenders. In this case, a good strategy may be to drop over the wall but in front of the goalkeeper to an on-rushing attacker.
  • If the goalie has excellent positioning and is cutting the down the angles beautifully, the best thing to do is make one extra pass to a wide-open teammate. This extra pass will require a lot of discipline on the kicker’s part but will almost certainly result in a goal.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Communication

September 21, 2009
There is no prettier sound on the soccer field that 22 players communicating with one another. Communication is a critical component to soccer success. A player can see only so much in terms of what is going on around him at any given time. He needs help from his teammates. In addition, a player needs to know what his teammates are thinking. This can only take happen if everyone is communicating with everyone else.

Communication can happen many different ways. The three main forms of communication are verbal, gesturing, and eye contact. For now, I’m only focusing on verbal communication and only two examples. But if you incorporate just these two examples, you will see instant improvement in your team’s performance and communication.

“Keep”

Goalkeepers have a distinct advantage over field players. Not only can they handle the ball inside the penalty box but 99.9% of the time, the play is in front of them. As a result, goalies have the best picture of what is happening on the field. As such, a goalkeeper will know best if she will be able to get to a ball before her teammates or opponents. When she makes the decision to attack the ball, she needs to yell “Keep” so the whole field can hear her.

Yelling ‘keep’ serves two purposes:
  • It lets the goalie’s teammates know that she wants the ball and therefore not to touch or play it.
  • It warns the opponents that the goalkeeper has every intention of going after the ball.
It always helps to have a vocal goalie. However, if you have a quiet goalie, as long as she says ‘keep’ loud enough for her teammates to hear her, that is fine. Another term that a goalie can use in this situation is ‘keeper’.

“Man On”

How often have you seen a player waiting for a ball only to have an opponent step in front of him and steal the ball? Much too often, I bet. But what happens when a player or coach yells “Man On”? Instantly that same player will react and go toward the ball. ‘Man On’ means, “watch out, someone is coming up on you from behind or from the side.” This expression is the best expression new or young players can learn. It will:
  • Help them start to become more vocal and communicative
  • Get players to go toward the ball more frequently and naturally
  • Reduce the number of times the ball gets stolen
  • Keep coaches from having to yell or scream the warning. And given decibel levels I’ve heard recently, everyone will appreciate this.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Shots On Goal

September 4, 2009
Ever wonder why it seems that so many shots on goal are shot directly at the goalie? Sure it could be that the goalie is in a good position. But I am of a different opinion. I believe the main reason is due to which part of the foot is used to strike the ball.

Oftentimes, the instep (also known as the top-of-the-foot or laces) is used to shoot on goal. The main reason to use the instep is to produce a more powerful shot. A strong shot is great but if it is shot directly at the goalie, what is the point? Players will often get frustrated at themselves when kick after kick goes directly to the goalkeeper; yet this keeps happening. What is going on?

Different Technique
I consider myself an expert when it comes to using and understanding the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. I invented a soccer training device called Loopball which teaches players to use the inside-of-the-foot. You will see many more posts in this blog about Loopball and the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. For the purposes of this post, I believe the problem lies in the fact that shots with the instep require much less thought than shots with the inside-of-the-foot. Instep shots require brute strength. Inside-of-the-foot shots require forethought and placement.

The direction a ball travels can normally be traced back to the position of the plant-foot toe. For shots on goal, this toe is usually pointed at the middle of the goal. When an instep kick is well struck, it will travel in the direction that this toe is pointing which is where the goalkeeper is likely to be standing. It is usually the poorly-struck instep kicks that stand a better chance of going in. The same logic can be applied to shots with the inside-of-the-foot, but because more forethought is given with this type of shot, the kicks don’t always head for the middle of the goal. Using the inside-of-the-foot requires the player to think which side of the goal to aim for and whether or not to curve the shot around the defenders or goalkeeper.

From long distance, I definitely recommend using an instep kick. But when the ball is closer to the goal, have your players use the inside-of-the-foot and have them think about the kick. You’ll also be surprised how much force this type of kick can generate when struck well. The top players in the world usually use the inside-of-the-foot to score goals, especially with free kicks. David ‘Bend-It-Like’ Beckham certainly does and he is quite successful.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Play the Whistle

September 4, 2009

I know many of you have heard the expression “Play the Whistle”. It means that players should continue to play until the referee blows her whistle. This is great advice that all players should follow. However, many times at the youth level you will see players stop for various reasons:

  • They believe a foul or infraction was committed. For instance, the ball hits a hand or arm, someone fell down from contact, a player was in an offside position, etc.
  • They believe the ball left the field of play.
  • They saw the assistant referee’s (AR’s) flag go up.
  • They heard a whistle from another game.
  • They heard parents and coaches yelling for a foul or infraction.

There is not much that can be done about another game going on at the same time. Some referees have different-sounding whistles for just this situation. If not, players usually adapt to a multi-whistle environment quickly so any confusion will usually happen just once. With regard to the other examples:

  • A hand-ball is called when a player INTENTIONALLY handles the ball with the hand or arm. At the youth level, ‘intentional’ has a very broad interpretation. Play until the whistle is blown.
  • Referees are instructed not to blow the whistle every single time the ball goes out-of-play. The only time they will is when it is not obvious that the ball has gone out. A ball is technically out-of-play when the ‘whole of the ball’ has completely crossed a boundary line. As a rule, anytime the ball is close to a boundary line, let the referee and her whistle decide when the ball is out-of-play. The players should continue to play.
  • An AR (linesman/linesperson) is there to ASSIST the referee. Their flag can’t officially stop the game. Otherwise, they would have a whistle. By raising her flag, the AR is only suggesting that an offside occurred or that a foul or infraction took place. The referee is the final decision-maker. Wait for her whistle.

My U10 boys team won a tournament one year when in the finals, in OT, one of my players, aware that the whistle had not blown, scored the golden-goal game winner while everyone else was standing around. The rest of the players thought the ball had gone over the goal line. However, the referee did not think so and never blew his whistle. Could the ball have been out-of-play? Probably, given the way my players and the other team reacted. The lesson is that only one person’s opinion matters–the referee’s. The other team learned a very valuable and costly lesson that day. I’d be surprised if those players ever made that mistake again.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Good Sportsmanship

September 3, 2009

In many ways, it is disappointing that I am writing about good sportsmanship making a 2-3 goal difference per game. In an ideal world, we–players, coaches, and parents–would all exhibit good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, we know that this is rarely the case. But those teams whose players, coaches, and parents exhibit good sportsmanship will have an advantage over a team of poor sports in the eyes of the most important person/people on the soccer field–the referees.

Referees are just like you and me. They love the sport of soccer, don’t like individuals who complicate their lives, and like all of us, make mistakes. Referees are human. And because they are human, they will see and appreciate good sportsmanship.

These are some examples of good sportsmanship:

  • If a player fouls an opponent, have the player who committed the foul ask the opponent if he is OK. Extend a hand to help him up.
  • Don’t argue or talk back to the referee. If he made a bad call, keep in mind that the referee has made far fewer mistakes than your players.
  • Be respectful.
  • If an opponent is upset at a player and tries to provoke a confrontation, ignore the challenge. Walk away and let the referee handle the confrontational player.
  • Adhere to the referee’s pre- and in-game instructions. If you are supposed to sub at midfield, sub at midfield. If you and your players are supposed to be 4 feet off the touch line, be 4 feet off the touch line.

As a referee, my job is to judge and call a game with complete impartiality and neutrality. To the best of my ability, I always try to live by this principle. But I am human. I notice and appreciate well-mannered players, coaches, and parents. I also notice and don’t appreciate poorly-behaved players, coaches, and parents. Therefore, if I am a referee:

  • Would I withhold issuing a yellow card on a hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
  • Would I only show a yellow card instead of a straight red on an extremely hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
  • Would I not punish a well-mannered coach and team if  he accidentally had too many players on the field? Maybe.
  • Would I call a direct free kick instead of a penalty on a foul committed by a well-mannered and respectful player that took place only a few inches inside the penalty area? Maybe.

As you can see, I have listed four infractions that if called differently, could have had a huge impact on the outcome of a game. Not that good sportsmen and well-behaved players should ever get favorable calls. But I know for a fact that exhibiting this behavior and character can’t hurt. However, good sportsmanship and behavior should always be practiced, PERIOD! It will make the beautiful game that much more beautiful.

Counter Strategy

This one is easy. Show better sportsmanship and behavior than the opponent. Remember, soccer is not just about winning games. It is also about teaching and building character. No one likes a poor sport.