Posts Tagged ‘shoot’

USA vs. Netherlands (1:2) — Statistics Show it Could Have Been Worse

March 4, 2010

I watched the USA vs. Netherlands game today. The U.S. did not do too well (granted several likely World Cup starters did not play and the U.S. was playing the team ranked third in the world). Though the scoring chances did not reflect it, the first half was dominated by the Dutch. Jonathan Bornstein gave up a silly penalty and was lucky not to be called for a second one when he unintentionally handled the ball in the penalty area. The 0-1 was a just half-time score although if you look at the statistics I compiled (more on those shortly), the U.S. was lucky to be down only one goal.

In the second half, the U.S. showed more urgency but so too did the Dutch. The U.S. was very unlucky in conceding the second goal but made up for it with a beautiful header by Carlos Bocanegra. 23-year-old Dutchman Eljero Elia sure is a good player. He was all over the field today. The U.S. was fortunate to lose by only one goal.

The statistics I referred to earlier are shown below. They are the same type of touch-statistics I compiled for the 2010 MVP tournament for which the inside-of-the-foot was crowned champion (MVP stands for most-value-part).

The Dutch completely dominated the first half in terms of touches (see below). They more than doubled the number of U.S. touches: 769 (71%) – 317 (29%). When looking strictly at feet touches, the percentages are even higher (see yellow cells). I contend that controlling the ball with the feet gives players more control than with other parts of the body.

I also contend that using the inside-of-the-foot to control a ball, whether it is to receive, pass, or shoot, gives players far more control of the ball than other parts-of-the-foot. While both the U.S. and Dutch used the inside-of-the-foot a majority of the time (see yellow cells), the Dutch did so with much more frequency.

  • Dutch: receiving-73%, passing-76%, shooting-100%
  • Dutch: receiving-60%, passing-62%, shooting-33%

I’m not sure if these statistics prove anything (I did not compile statistics for the 2nd half because it takes a long time to do so and I wanted to get this post published in a timely manner). However, today the Dutch were the dominant team and they did exhibit very good ball control.

Author’s Notes:

I believe that poor ball control and a lack of emphasis placed on using the inside-of-the foot are the biggest problems facing U.S. youth soccer. If you concur and believe that the inside-of-the-foot is soccer’s MVP, please join the “Inside-of-the-Foot Soccer Fan Club” on Facebook.

I compiled these statistics as follows:

  • I watched the game on ESPN2.
  • I only counted touches that were televised.
  • If I could not tell which body part or surface was used, I did not count the touch (this included when more than one player was playing the ball).
  • If there was a one-touch pass, it was counted only as a pass, not a reception (under receiving).
  • Headers were counted as passes when the intention was there. Otherwise, headers fell under ‘receiving’.
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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.

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

February 8, 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.

The first discipline that the four main parts-of-the-feet were evaluated on was its structure. Specifically I looked at the flatness of the surface as well as the forgiveness level. The forgiveness level is how forgiving a surface is when the ball does not make contact with each surfaces’ respective sweet spots when trying to receive, pass, or shoot the ball. ‘Bottom’ was crowned the ‘Structure’ winner with ‘Inside’ coming in a close second (see table below).

Flatness

Imagine playing billiards with cushions (bumpers) that were not flat/straight. You would have little idea how the balls would ricochet off the cushions.  However, since they are straight, you will always know how a ball will behave coming off a bumper (unless the ball has spin or English on it).

The same principle carries over to soccer. The flatter the surface, the easier it is to control a soccer ball. A flat surface eliminates a lot of unpredictability in terms of how a ball will respond when it is received, passed, or shot.

With that in mind, ‘Bottom’ won the ‘Flatness’ secondary discipline, ‘Inside’ and ‘Laces’ tied for second, and ‘Outside’ came in last (for this discipline, I measured flatness of the foot with the shoe on.)

  • Despite the studs/cleats, the undercarriage of a shoe is flat across the entire length of the shoe (represented by the lime green line in image ‘A’).
  • The flat surface of the inside-of-the-foot extends the full length of the foot’s arch, from the ball of the foot in front to the heel in back (represented by the blue lines in images ‘A’ and ‘B’). Note that this surface is slightly concave (it is more pronounced in image ‘A’). As it turns out, a concave structure has a significant advantage in controlling a soccer ball. Concave shapes have a way of drawing a ball in for better control. Some examples of concave shapes that are very effective are the position of a football receiver’s or soccer goalie’s hands when catching or receiving a ball. The shape of a baseball glove is also concave. In my Loopball curriculum, I like to refer to the inside-of-the-foot as a glove, especially with younger players.
  • The top-of-the-foot is also relatively flat. While it appears to be slightly concave (represented by the purple line in image ‘C’), the top of the bare foot is relatively flat). ‘Inside’ and Laces’ tied for second because ‘Inside’ had a slightly longer surface area but ‘Laces’ was straighter.

  • The opposite is true for ‘Outside’. Its shape is more convex (as shown by the yellow lines in images ‘A’ and ‘B’). This makes controlling a ball much more difficult.

Forgiveness

Everyone has heard of hand-eye coordination. A vast majority of sports as well as simple daily activities require and develop this coordination. Soccer, on the other hand, requires good eye-foot coordination. Since this is a skill that is extremely difficult to develop and there is not much opportunity to develop this skill other than on a soccer field, there is much value when a surface has a lot natural ‘forgiveness’ built into its structure. Each foot surface has a natural sweet spot. I measured forgiveness by the additional area around the sweet spot where ball control can still be achieved with some degree of success.

In this discipline, ‘Bottom’ and ‘Inside’ tied for first. ‘Laces’ came in a respectable third and ‘Outside’ a distant fourth.

  • The sweet spot for the bottom-of-the-foot is in the front-center portion of the foot (dark red spot in ‘image ‘A’). Its forgiveness area radiates out to the edges of the foot and down to the heel (red transparent area in image ‘A’).
  • There is a protrusion of the talus (ankle) bone near the top of the arch (red spot in image ‘C’). That is the main sweet spot for the inside-of-the-foot (red transparent area in image ‘C’). The forgiveness area is not quite as large as the bottom area. However, ‘Inside’ has a secondary sweet in the front of the foot (smaller red spot in image ‘C’). This spot is namely used for passing or shooting the ball with a curve (like ‘Bend It Like Beckham’). By virtue of this second sweet spot, ‘Inside’ earned a tie for first place.
  • ‘Laces’ has a great sweet spot (red spot in image ‘B’) but its area of forgiveness is smaller.
  • The sweet spot for ‘Outside’ (red spot in image ‘D’ below) is in the front of the foot. The area of forgiveness is the smallest of all the surfaces.

Conclusion

The ‘Structure’ competition was close but ‘Bottom’ pulled out a narrow victory.

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

Parents: Do Not Reinforce Poor Play

October 5, 2009

As a coach, referee, and fan, I am always surprised to hear some of the things that can come out of parents’ mouths during games. So much so, that there will multiple posts devoted to soccer parents. Don’t get me wrong. A vast majority of parents are very encouraging and well-behaved during games. In addition, I recognize that I am no saint. I have not always been the ideal coach or fan. And if you ask my youngest, he would say that I’m a bad soccer parent because I will tell him to hustle and on occasion ‘coach’ him just a bit. However, I know I am getting better so I do feel like a can share my thoughts with you without being considered too big of a hypocrite.

As a coach and as someone who wants to improve soccer in the United States, there is nothing that drives me crazier than parents reinforcing poor play. The biggest example of this is the long ball.

U.S. parents are obsessed with the long ball. When a player kicks the ball 40-50 yards down field, you will hear a chorus of ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’ coming from the sidelines. It does not matter where the ball goes. The player will still get lauded for his/her ‘tremendous’ kick. Naturally, players hear and like this reaction. So any opportunity they get …. BOOM! … there goes the ball accompanied by the parents’ approval.

What parents are reinforcing is a type of soccer called ‘kick ball’. In kick ball, players just kick the ball as hard as they can. It may go in the right direction–towards the opponent’s goal–but rarely will it go to one of the player’s teammates. If you get both teams playing like this, it by no means ‘a beautiful game’.

Soccer is all about the first-touch and ball control. The better first-touch (on the ball) a player has and the more control he/she has over the ball, the better the player, the better the team, and the more beautiful the game becomes.

So what can parents do? A lot. But for the purpose of this post, reinforce a good first touch and good ball control. Ooh and aah when a player makes a good stop. Do the same when a player makes a good pass to a teammate. When a team starts to string together several nice passes in a row, start an ‘ole!’ cheer after each pass, as bullfighting spectators do when the matador eludes a bull’s charge. This will get the players’ attention.

Remember, the first-touch and ball control are skills that take a long time to develop and can never be mastered. David Beckham and Cristiano Renaldo will be the first to tell you that their first-touch and ball control can be better. Anything that parents can do to encourage this behavior, the better.

It is still OK to ooh and aah the long ball if it is done with purpose and precision. A 30-yard shot on goal is worthy of such recognition. So, too, are long punts that result in a scoring opportunity.

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.