Friday, April 28, 2006

Soccer strategy

Wherein this advice is probably obvious


State tournament has started and we watched another girl's soccer game. Outcome was 7-0. This is a very good team: 15-0, Goals Scored: 73, Goals Allowed: 6. Plenty of extremely skilled players with only four seniors (one of whom will be playing for a major college program).

One of the more impressive ones is the 6'2" sophomore goalie who can easily clear midfield on a punt (60-70 yards is not an exaggeration). The first game we watched, another 7-0 victory, she played forward for the last 10 minutes and had an assist and a goal. She's easily the tallest, but there's a few more that stand a full head above the competition and are quite skilled with the header in front of the net. There's another sophomore, of more modest height, who had four goals last night, frequently takes 30-yard shots on a rope, can overkick on corners, and runs like a cheetah. You think an opposing player is running fast, then she flashes by.

Watching them play I am reminded of two facts: 1) women are generally shorter than men; 2) for whatever reason, women don't jump that high. Which leads to the generalization that a lot of women can't reach the 8-foot crossbar of a soccer goal.

Strategy: shoot high and shoot often.

Also factor in that when play is 30-40 yards out, the goalie is probably a few yards out on the edge of the goal area and not glued to the line. So moving backwards, trying to stop a ball at the edge of her jumping ability is difficult. Even tall, experienced keepers can be caught offguard with a quick, outside shot.

All you need are women comfortable and able to take shots from outside the penalty area. This team? Not a problem. I'm not talking big rainbow bloopers, here; I'm talking serious velocity, swerving shots that shred the back of the net. They even had a few rockets from 40 yards. Heck, even the left back is passing from midfield to the middle of the penalty area. Seriously, they can spread the field.

Knowing that not every team can have goalies over six feet, I would train everyone to launch a shot within sight of the net. I wouldn't make this the entire offense, but you should be able to pick up a fair number of goals without overtaxing the offense. They'll still need to run and dribble, but anyone who can blast from 30 yards should be given the green light. Even if the goalie can stop them, the defense, expecting a shot, will start to slack off marking making for more open passes and crosses. Having played goalie and been burned playing a step out of position, I can attest to how demoralizing this is. To know that, even in the best of instances, you are screwed on a high shot, must just suck.

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