Posts Tagged ‘goalie’

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!

Spring Forward and Prosper

March 18, 2010

I hope everyone made it to school or work on time this past Monday. The start of Daylight Savings is my most anticipated weekend of the year. Losing that extra hour of sleep in exchange for the seven or eight months of additional evening sunlight is more than a fair trade-off. For me, it has always marked the time during soccer season when practices become more enjoyable. The extra hour of sunlight makes scheduling and attending practices much easier. Plus, Spring is just around the corner.

I was at my son’s practice the other day and was asked to play in goal during a small-sided game with large goals. One thing I noticed when I tried distributing the ball to my teammates was that many of them were not ‘springing forward’ to receiving the ball. In soccer, it is critical to constantly move without (or off) the ball. If it is the player’s desire to receive the ball, he/she must always look for and move into open space.

Oftentimes, the open space can be where the player is currently standing. When this is the case, standing there is not enough. In this instance, a player should also move toward the player with the ball. In honor of daylight savings, a player should ‘spring forward’ to that player.

Springing forward serves two main purposes:

  1. Moving toward the player with the ball indicates to the passer that you are making yourself available for the ball and that you are open. This visual cue will catch the passer’s attention and will result in a greater chance of receiving a pass.
  2. Springing forward will significantly reduce the chance of a defender stepping in front of the pass and taking the ball away. In American football, it is the equivalent of a receiver needing to step towards the quarterback’s throw. When this is not done, a cornerback can easily step in front of the pass for an interception.

As the goalie during practice, there were a few things I did to get the players to move toward me.

  1. I made eye contact with my teammates and gestured with my hands to have them spring forward into the open space.
  2. I verbally asked them to “check in”.
  3. I rewarded good behavior by passing the ball to the players checking in.
  4. I held onto the ball as long as possible giving players ample opportunity to check in. Only when an attacker was about to take the ball away from me did I make a pass to the outlet player.

I really like descriptive expressions and clever mnemonic devices. ‘Spring Forward’ certainly qualifies as one. There is no mistaking in which direction to move the clocks in March. In soccer, this expression also paints a pretty descriptive picture is terms of how players should move when the open space is directly in from of them. ‘Spring Forward’ and prosper!

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Shooting

February 26, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

There sure is a lot of emphasis placed on shooting and scoring goals. And rightfully so. After all, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score, and if you don’t score, you don’t win games. Goals in soccer are equivalent to home runs in baseball, touchdowns in football, and slam dunks or buzzer-beating shots in basketball. It’s what puts bodies in the stands and highlights on Fox Sports Report, Gol TV, and ESPN SportsCenter. The lack of goals is usually the #1 complaint voiced among sports fan when asked what’s wrong with soccer. So players, please shoot, shoot often, and score!

The shooting discipline was divided into 3 categories: power, accuracy, and breadth. In what many will consider an upset, ‘Inside’ won this discipline as well.

Power

Without a doubt, ‘Laces’ generated the most powerful shots. Besides being able to transfer the momentum of a pass or a cross to produce powerful shots, strong shots were also generated when shots were taken with the ball in a stationary position. ‘Laces’ was able to score some fantastic goals from 25-, 30-, or 35-yards out. Talk about a ‘golazo’.

‘Inside’ came in a respectable second. On crosses, ‘Inside’ generated as much power as ‘Laces’ had. But it was not able to generate as much power from stationary or set-play shots. However, ‘Inside’ was able to score some amazing goals off of free kicks. Walls and great goalies were no match for a beautifully executed and well-positioned ‘banana kick’.

On several occasions, ‘Outside’ was able to generate the same velocity as ‘Inside’ had but only rarely. ‘Bottom’ was a non-factor.

Accuracy

‘Inside’ excelled at accuracy. The same billiard table analogy I used for receiving the ball can again be applied. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the shot. On many crosses, ‘Inside’ simply had to stick out the foot and accurately redirect the ball into the net.

Accuracy is why penalty kicks and free kicks are taken with the inside-of-the-foot. A good penalty taker has to be able to hit any target inside the goal. With the inside-of-the-foot, the lower-left corner can be hit just as easily as the upper-right corner. The same holds true for direct free kicks. When David ‘Bend-It-Like’ Beckham shoots his free kicks, he always uses the inside-of-the-foot.

‘Outside’ came in second because it was more able to consistently hit its targets than ‘Laces’. When ‘Laces’ made solid contact with the ball, it would usually go straight. However, when the ball did not make solid contact with the sweet spot on top-of-the foot, a spin or curve was introduced and the direction of the shot became more unpredictable. ‘Bottom’ was once again a non-factor.

Breadth

Goalies are so good these days that it often takes incredibly precise shots to beat them. To be effective goal scorers, players need a foot surface that can give them many shooting options. The inside-of-the-foot does this and easily won this shooting subcategory. Several ‘breadth’ tests were used in determine the winner: penalty kicks and long-distance shots with defenders in the way.

Penalty Kicks

Penalty takers try to disguise the direction of the penalty kick so the goalie is forced to guess where the ball will be kicked. Good goalies know that the position of the plant and the kicker’s approach usually telegraph the placement of the kick. That is not the case with the inside-of-the-foot. Good penalty takers are able to place the plant foot in several positions and still hit all targets inside the goal (see image below).

The same is not true when using the top- or outside-of-the-foot. As illustrated below, these surfaces limit the part of the goal that can be targeted because the plant foot needs to be positioned just so in order to execute a good kick. Therefore, good goalies can usually predict where the ball will be kicked by concentrating on the position of the plant foot.

Long Distance Shots with Obstructions

Bending the ball around defenders is an extremely important skill for forwards and free-kicker takers to have. Once again, David Beckham is able to bend or curve a shot around or over walls that are set up to defend against the free kick. This skill also comes in handy on non-set plays. When a forward needs to avoid a defender from blocking a shot, a curved shot using the inside-of-the-foot will do the trick. Even when no defenders are present, forwards will curve a shot around a goalie’s outstretched hands.

Shots with the top-of-the-foot generally go straight. If a defender is standing between the shooter and the goal, whether in a wall or in the run of play, there is a high percentage that the shot will be blocked. Shots with the outside-of-the-foot did give the kicker the ability to curve the ball around a defender, but unlike the inside, these shots had less spin.

Conclusions

In a surprise, ‘Inside’ won the shooting discipline. In terms of shooting ‘accuracy’ and ‘breadth of shots’, the inside-of-the-foot was the overwhelming winner. ‘Inside’ also did quite well in the ‘power’ category.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, receiving, dribbling, passing, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

95-Yard Goal; Thank the Goalkeeper

November 8, 2009

If you have read an earlier post of mine, you would know that I am a big fan of playing the goalie out as far as possible. When the ball is in the offensive third of the field, I have no problem with the goalie being at the edge of the kick-off circle. Besides making the goalie feel more a part of the team and of the action, playing the goalie that far out will prevent a number of breakaways on goal, and thus keep the opposition from scoring as many goals.

Some of you may recall that when my son was playing in goal, I always told him that I would pay him $100 if an opponent scored from long distance because he was playing too far out. Not once did I come close to paying him $100. But I know his positioning prevented dozens of sure goals from being scored.

So you can imagine my concern when I heard that a college player scored a goal on a 95-yard shot. Was the goalie too far out from goal? Had I been coaching him, would I have been out $100? Look for yourself.

As it turns out, my $100 would have been safe. It turns out that while the University of Tulsa goalkeeper was standing at the top of the penalty box, he was not playing far enough out. Had he been standing approximately 30-yards from his goal line when Ryan Rosenbaum of Southern Methodist University kicked the ball, he would have been able to easily catch the ball. He would have also been in a better position to stop breakaways if any were to develop. As it turns out, he was caught in no-man’s-land and gave up a needless goal which eventually cost his team the game.

As a goalkeeper, don’t be afraid to play up as long as you know the ball can’t be kicked over your head.

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: 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: 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.