Category: soccer

TEN PRINCIPLES OF POSSESSION

I did not write this, but its sound advice for any pig-headed player screwing up the local pick up with crappy play.

PRINCIPLE 1: TEAM SHAPE
Every time your team has the ball, you must spread out to make the field as big as possible. This is done by player 9 pushing up as high as possible, wingers 7 and 11 getting out as high and wide as possible, the back line dropping back and the midfielders spreading into the space in the middle.

PRINCIPLE 2: PEEL OFF AND OPEN BODY TO THE FIELD
All the players ahead of the ball should peel off their opponent and open their body so they can receive the ball facing up field. Players should avoid receiving the ball with back to goal if there is pressure on them. Move away from pressure and open body to at least a sideways-on posture.

PRINCIPLE 3: BENDING RUNS
Whenever you make a forward run on the flanks, bend your run towards the outside to create width and separate yourself from your opponent. Whenever you make a forward run in the middle of the field, bend your run to give the passer enough time to judge the pass, to open up a passing lane for a through ball, and to avoid running into off-side.

PRINCIPLE 4: RUNS TRIGGER RUNS – AWARENESS OF SURROUNDING
Players need to look around them all the time to see where their teammates and opponents are. This will help players make the correct runs and will avoid players duplicating runs or running into the same area. For example, if you are an attacking midfielder and you see that your center forward is making a checking run towards the ball, you might decide to run into the space created by him/her and run onto a through ball behind the other team’s defense. Another example is when a winger runs inside to make room for the fullback to overlap. Runs trigger other runs but for that to happen you must be constantly looking around you to assess your position in relation to your teammates’ positions.

PRINCIPLE 5: DIAGONAL PASSES
Diagonal passes are better than vertical passes. Diagonal pass allows the receiver to open his/her body and receive the pass facing up field. A diagonal pass accomplishes both penetration and switching all in one pass. A vertical pass is played into a player who is likely to be facing his/her own goal and have limited vision. If he/she is marked, a vertical pass is difficult to control. Avoid vertical passes and look for the diagonal ball as often as possible.

PRINCIPLE 6: EVERY BACK PASS IS FOLLOWED BY A SWITCH
When a player makes a back pass, he/she is likely doing it because he/she does not see an option to play forward. It usually means that the area in front of the ball is too congested or your team is outnumbered in this area. For this reason, it is usually best to switch the ball into another area of the field. Another reason for a switch following a back pass is to sustain a rhythm of possession and increase the speed of play.
Of course, there are exceptions to this principle. For example, if the back pass is part of a combination play like a wall pass or a back-through passing sequence to penetrate, it is of course ok.

PRINCIPLE 7: THE BALL DOESN’T STAY IN AN AREA FOR LONG
To maintain possession and not allow the other team to press and win the ball, we have to circulate the ball and move it constantly around the field. This makes us less predictable and it makes it harder for the other team to pin us down and press us with lots of players. As a rule of thumb, after a couple of short passes in one area, the next pass should be played out of the area.

PRINCIPLE 8: KEEPERS DISTRIBUTE BALLS, AVOID THE LONG PUNT
Since the emphasis in ODP is to play out of the back, it is important for the keeper and the back line to become comfortable at playing out of the back. When the keeper catches a cross or a shot, the team should spread out quickly so the keeper can throw the ball to a free player. On goal kicks, the keeper should look to play the ball to feet rather than send everyone up and take a long high kick.

PRINCIPLE 9: USE THROW-INS TO SWITCH THE POINT OF ATTACK
Use the throw in to switch the point of attack since the opposing team has most of their players squeezed into the area near the throw-in. This means that there is lots of space on the other side of the field. Avoid throwing the ball down the line into a crowd since it usually results in loss of possession.

PRINCIPLE 10: SPEED OF PLAY
You have to learn to play quickly and keep the ball moving. This requires a lot of one touch and two touch play. This results in a high tempo of possession and makes it difficult for the opponents to keep up with the play. There are some moments when dribbling is appropriate, but for the majority of the time, quick one touch or two touch passing is the best way. If you watch high level soccer on TV, you will see how quickly the ball is passed from one player to the next, with a minimum of fuss and with quick and pacey ball movement. KEEP THE BALL MOVING!!!!

State Cup Champs

image

52 weeks ago, Leg A-Z played in the State Cup Final and lost 6-0. Reaching the final is an accomplishment of no small signficance which makes the opportunity to win such a game that much more precious, and to lose it so badly, all the more devastating. Losing 6-0 resonates much differently that a one goal or shootout loss, where you can endlessly replay moments of the game that could have turned the result. It is an endlessly hollow, hazy recollection of an event that feels more like something you witnessed than actually participated in, and that’s undoubtedly a defense mechanism to distance one’s recollection from the reality of such a profound failure.

Bryson joined the team in December, scarred not by the 6-0 Final’s loss, but by having served half a season in something resembling soccer hell. The culture of his former team was an odd mix of detached, dispassionate coaching and tactical/sporting indiscipline that wore on his passion for the game, and my will to live.

Leg A-Z is different. It is a small club in Gainesville, Florida coached by Darnell Bernier. Darnell cares about his craft, this team and having lost the State Cup Final 6-0. The nucleus of the team is from Gainesville and Ocala, but we travel from Orlando, our goalie from Stuart, a midfielder from Spring Hill and our striker from Fort Walton Beach. Bryson now plays with 5 of his state of Florida ODP teammates, who have traveled across the country and to Europe together.

The team showed well at the Disney Showcase in December placing third in their flight, and rolled through the Weston Cup in February winning all five games, but it has been clear throughout that the State Cup was the prize.

Our opening game was in Tallahasse against the Gulf Coast Texans. Our striker, Nelson Hunsinger, used to play for the Texans, and scored our first two goals in a comfortable 5-1 romp.

Our final two games of group play were in Miami the following weekend. We beat Lakeland FC 2-0 to advance to the sweet 16, but lost to Coral Gables 0-1 in our final group game assuring that we would be a second seed from the group. The Coral Gables game was distressing. We conceded a soft goal midway through the first half, and struggled to generate any meaningful chances. It seemed to suggest a blueprint for beating us, and asked questions of our capacity to play from behind.

Our sweet 16 game was against IMG, who won a difficult group. IMG was physical and took the game to us for much of the day, but could not score despite hitting the crossbar well into the second half. As regulation time would down, it was evident that this would be a one goal game, and may end in a penalty shoot out, but with 7 minutes left, Trey Jackson struck a wonderful dipping free kick that baffled the IMG keeper before hitting the post and finding the back of the net. On the whole, we were probably on the back foot more than the front foot, and it felt like an escape. The following day, we beat overmatched Ponte Vedra 3-1 to reach the final four.

In the semifinal, we played Plantation FC. We kicked off, but seemed unusually shaky through a series of back passes before turning the ball over for a goal. Plantation led 1-0 45 seconds into the match, and it seemed possible another 6-0 disaster could be underway. We wobbled about for the next ten minutes before finding our footing. Chris Fregley put away a cross to the tie the game, and a few minutes later Daniel Wear earned a penalty that was converted by TC Anderson for a 2-1 advantage. We were denied a penalty a few minutes later, but led 2-1 at the half and had established control over the game. Midway through the half, Trey Jackson found Wear on a free kick for our third unanswered goal. Plantation pulled a goal back with about ten minutes to play, but Jackson responded with a volley making it 4-2.

Back to the final, and the weight of last year’s failure reached critical mass. From the opening minute, this match against FKK had the feel of a tight, tactical game that would be decided by a mistake. Both teams were well-versed in each other’s strengths, and the first 80 minutes produced very little in the way of clear chances. With extra time seeming increasingly likely, the decisive mistake came. A misplayed ball in the back sent Daniel Wear through and he slid the ball inside the far post.

Jubilation, ten minutes of defending, and more definitive jubilation followed.

Leg A-Z is Florida State Cup Champions!

I did not play any minutes, assist or score any goals, but I am so happy and proud. I am obviously proud of my son for his contribution to the success of the team, but very much for the whole group.

I do not generally emote very well particularly when the emotion requires more than four letter words so for me there is always a bit of awkwardness to balancing the celebration with my feelings. I was compelled to seek out Darnell after the podium ceremony. He had taken several pictures and was sitting in the grass a few feet away from anyone else. I approached and shook his hand thanking him for his work with Bryson and this team. He responded politely and then looking out into the distance said more to himself than to me, “it’s been a long journey.” Though I had only been a peripheral part of the journey for a few months, it is a credit to his sincerity and transparency that in that moment it felt I had been along for much longer.

Craig Pickering’s Humorous Take on SPEED

This is lifted from Craigpickering.com, and I loved it so much I had to share it unedited beyond my intro.

“I used to be a very highly-strung professional athlete. I took myself and my sport pretty seriously. I once spent 10 minutes arguing furiously with an official at the side of a track because he told me my blocks hadn’t slipped (they had). Once in a fit of rage at being stuck in traffic, I actually bit my steering wheel. I’m a much better person these days; years of pressure management techniques from sports psychologists have calmed me down. I practice mindfulness, meditate, and do yoga. If someone cuts me up on the road, I breathe deeply and carry on. I am, as my girlfriend would say, zen.

However, last night something awoke the beast within me. Something which caused me to use language that would make Malcolm Tucker blush. It was, of course, this article from the Mirror.

“The Arsenal Player OFFICIALLY Faster Than Bolt” (emphasis mine) the headline exclaimed. I mean, Jesus Christ. I understand that journalists and editors are under time pressure, and often have to write about things they might not fully understand. It’s a hard life, I’m sure. I’m here to help.

The article goes on to explain that Hector Bellerin, the young Arsenal right-back, had recently broken Arsenals 40m sprint record, clocking a time of 4.42 second. It then states that, during his World Record run, Usain Bolt “only” clocked 4.64 seconds to 40m. Therefore, and I quote, “halfway down the track, Bellerin could have been a good few metres in front”. Want another quote? “… there it is in black and white – over 40 metres, Arsenal’s right back would win.”

First of all, let’s examine the logical fallacy of this headline/story. Is it likely that a young footballer, who has to practise a wide range of skills, including actually kicking a football, as well as tactical and other fitness demands, could be faster than someone whose job it is to just focus on covering distances of 200m or less in as short a time as possible? That someone with almost perfect genetics, who spends 6 days per week honing his unbelievable talent, would be beaten over 40m by someone who does a bit of sprint training? That the fastest person by almost a country mile to ever walk this planet is not as good at HIS job as a Spanish under-21 international footballer?

Clearly, it’s stupid.

Then lets examine the facts of the case. “Arsenal Player OFFICIALLY Faster Than Bolt” (again, emphasis mine). Presumably this is IAAF ratified then? There was a wind gauge? Electronic blocks were used to measure reaction time? The IAAF have sent someone to measure the track? There was an official starter, with gun and electronic timing. Has anyone seen the photo finish to ensure it was accurate?

Of course, one thing that people writing these articles always forget is that, in a 100m race, there is a reaction time component. The gun fires, which starts the clock. The athletes then have to react to the sound of the gun. This can take anywhere between 0.1 and 0.2 seconds, but is usually in the region of 0.15 seconds. In his World Record run, Bolt’s reaction time was 0.164 seconds. Let’s add this on to Bellerin’s time of 4.42, and we get 4.58. Still faster than Bolt, but much less so.

Then let’s consider the starting method. I have no idea how Bellerin was timed, but I would wager it is one of two ways:

  • Hand timed
  • Timing Gates.

If it’s the former, then that is an incredibly inaccurate way to measure sprint speed. Over 100m, it can be as inaccurate as 0.5 seconds, and it is routine to add on 0.24s to any hand-timed performance to convert to electronic timing. If timing gates were used, then did Bellerin have a rolling start? This doesn’t have to be over much distance at all – even a slight backwards lean would give him more forward momentum than Bolt is allowed from the starting blocks, and would skew the time significantly in his favour.

Let’s assume that electronic timing gates were used, and Bellerin went from a standing start. In a sprint race, a photo finish is used to calculate the finish time. The point at which the athletes chest crosses the finish line is where the time is taken from. Using electronic timing gates, once a laser beam is broken, BY ANY PART OF THE BODY, then the time stops. So, for example, an arm could be outstretched to break the beam, which would give a quicker time.

“But Bolt’s a slow starter” I hear you exclaim. In his World Record run, Bolt was winning the World Championships by 0.04s at 40m. At 60m, he clocked what I’m pretty sure is the fastest 60m time ever recorded. So don’t start that with me.

Hopefully you can see that there are some significant problems within this article, and the many others like it. I’m sure Bellerin is fast, but to say he is officially faster than Bolt, whose job it is to be incredibly fast, is, quite frankly, a pot of crap. Please, when reading/writing/editing articles like this, think logically. And if you use the word official, make sure it is official.”