Posts Tagged ‘spin’

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.

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2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Penalty Kicks

August 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some additional tips and tricks:

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

Defensive Strategy

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

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

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

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

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Throw-Ins

August 19, 2009

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

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

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

Defensive Strategy

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

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