“Simple…..simple…..keep it simple.” If you have been to any half way decent youth soccer game, you have likely heard this refrain while player after player dribbled or passed themselves into a crowd of opponents and lost the ball. It is uncanny how full field, full-sided youth game can appear far more crowded than a professional game given the size and speed of professional players. The difference is in the simplicity of play. The “simple” play is a function of position, time and space, and it is rare, even at the professional level, that a game-breaking or decisive play is not preceded by the creation of position, time and space.
The twin antagonists of simple play are technical incompetence and ego. Technical incompetence is manifested in the inaccuracy of ostensibly simple passes that require the recipient to concede valuable position and angles of attack to control the ball, and the dreaded poor first touch, which even when a pass is accurate will carry the player into a less advantageous position to control the ball or close the window of opportunity for the next pass or shot. Technical quality is a bright line definer of the level at which you can play. Without the ability to deliver accurate passes and bring the ball under control with a first touch, it is best you leave the game of soccer to others.
Ego is perhaps more frustrating in that the player often has some technical aptitude for the game, but is blinded to the interaction of team requisite for success. This player elevates his every touch of the ball to a manhood-defining act of theater, while eschewing anonymous, but functional, time and space-creating passes as beneath his vain, self-delusional gloriousness. This form of ego is often empowered or enabled by weak coaching that is either captivated or beholden to the temporal success of the talented egotist.
“Simple” play requires technical skill, a selfless team oriented disposition and an awareness to contemporaneously recognize the option that will optimize position, time and space.