I really enjoyed watching practice yesterday, seeing our trainer Paul really work with the kids to try and get them to think about soccer at a new level. The main focus of the practice yesterday was about passing, and the main drill was a 10 v. 2 keepaway/monkey-in-the-middle game. 10 against 2!? you might think, that hardly seems fair. But actually the players in the middle were intercepting the ball quite a bit, and the reason was that our boys still aren’t very good at passing.
What do I mean by that? Certainly they can pass the ball, with reasonable accuracy, from one person to another. But in the game, passing is more than just kicking a ball to a teammate. It’s about receiving the ball well, quickly scanning your options and making and executing your chosen pass before the opponent can shut you down. It’s also about shielding the ball from the opponent, and perhaps most importantly it’s about what you do when you don’t have the ball: getting open and letting your teammate know you’re there for him, with a special emphasis on movement right after passing. In other words, don’t pass and then stand there. Pass and move to a new open position, ready for a return pass.
After this drill we scrimmaged what I believe was the U11 Girls White team. Paul wanted to continue emphasizing this quick passing game, and so he didn’t want our boys to touch the ball more than 3 times. He also called to our boys in the back line to make use of the option of passing to our goalie, although yesterday none did.
I smiled to myself watching this, because last week I was watching a game with Alex and saw a really brief point in the game that I thought really exemplified exactly this kind of situation, and I replayed it for Alex to watch. I then got a little crazy and recorded a video of it on my cell phone and posted it to youtube with the idea of showing it to all the boys. It’s only 16 seconds long but I think it’s really illustrative of how to use passing, including passing back to a goal keeper, to get out of pressure, and how to keep moving after you pass.
First the setup for those interested: the game in question was from August 26th, a CONCACAF Champions League game between the LA Galaxy and Alajuelense of Costa Rica (for those who don’t know the CONCACAF Champions League is a season-long tournament featuring the best teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean). This 16-second clip features four passes between the Galaxy’s right back (Sean Franklin), one of their center backs (I believe it is Omar Gonzales) and their goalkeeper (Josh Saunders).
Franklin first receives the ball when a Costa Rican midfielder heads the goal kick into the attacking half of the field. Facing his own goal and knowing an opposing forward is running towards him from behind and not wanting to take the time to turn around with the ball, he plays a short pass to Gonzales and then keeps moving towards his goal. Gonzales, seeing the forward turn towards him, plays the ball back to Franklin, and keeps moving alongside Franklin. Still facing his own goal, and with the Alajuelense forward still moving towards him, Franklin passes pack to the goalkeeper Saunders (who, because of the passback rule cannot pick up the ball–he must use his feet). Now notice that while the opposing forward runs towards Saunders both Galaxy defenders spread apart to the sides, each of them offering a passing option to Saunders away from any Alajuelense players (it’s hard to tell in the video but Gonzales points to Franklin, showing that he prefers that Saunders pass there but he is still moving to get open just in case Saunders does not). At this point the Galaxy goalkeeper could just kick the ball as hard as he can down the field, but then it’s really anybody’s guess who ends up with the ball. Instead, he keeps the possession going and initiates an attack by passing to Franklin, who has moved all the way to the sideline to receive the ball and is able to turn, get the ball, look upfield, pick out a teammate and make a long pass to start an attack. Simple, but great.