Oct 252013
 

Tougher than it needed to be?

Maybe, but maybe not.

I know Marcello was not pleased with our boys’ offensive production, telling them at halftime (when the game was still scoreless) that if they failed to score three goals in the second half they would spend the next week working on fitness at practice.

But I have a couple of counter-arguments to the notion that we should have won by a higher scoreline. They don’t necessarily excuse our lack of goal-scoring, but they may help explain it and point to things our boys need to improve.

Let’s start with the stats:

HESC 01B White

South Belt Select 01B

2

Goals

0

22

Shots

1

15

Shots on Goal

1

12

Corner Kicks

0

5

Fouls

2

0

Blocked Shots

3

 

They certainly tell a story of domination.  22:1 on shots? 15:1 on shots on target? 12:0 on corners? Early in the second half, I noticed a puddle on the field from the spray kicked up as the ball moved along the ground. I wondered how I had not noticed the puddle before, and then realized that it was because when we defended that half we’d never had to play on that part of the field.

So why, with all this domination, did we not win by more than 2 goals? There are a couple of reasons. One is that simply our shooting wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible, in that 2/3rds of our shots were on target, but many of the shots were taken close to their goalkeeper, giving him “easy” saves. This is somewhat natural. When a player is placed in front of goal with a chance to take a shot while under pressure, he doesn’t have much time to aim. The human eye is naturally drawn to movement and to other people, so the natural focus of attention is to shoot at the goalkeeper. The way to overcome this tendency is to practice shooting near the posts from various positions, and after mastering that to do it without looking up. If you watch the great goal-scorers when they are shooting they usually are looking at the ball, not the goal. They already know where the goal is.

Also, their goalkeeper was pretty good. That is not a contradiction of my previous statement. While many of our shots were taken at him, not all were, and he made several very good saves.

Finally, they are a good, defending team—they play defensively. Truth to tell, so do we. We have usually relied on strong defending with counterattacks against teams that have space at the back due to pushing numbers forward. But this game was different. South Belt rarely had more than one player pushed up, and often had none. They clogged the box, blocking the passing lanes. Most every attempt at a through ball ran into an opponents leg. Even our shots were blocked by defenders, three times.

If you look at South Belt’s record, of the four previous games they had played one was a two-goal loss and two were one-goal losses (including one against a tough Texans Houston team). Their one big loss was 6-0 against a pretty good team, and for all we know they may have played down a player or two (they had no subs at our game, which suggests they may not have a large roster).

So how do we defeat teams that defend so tenaciously? Two ways. One is through even more passing, passing around from one side to the other, encouraging their defenders to step up and try to win the ball. When that happens space opens up and we can try to exploit the opportunity. The other is to send balls over the top. If they are clogging the passing lanes such that through balls don’t make it through, you have to go over the top. Players can work on chip passes to send our forwards through.

Still, this was a good game and I don’t think our boys should be down on themselves for not winning by a larger margin.

Soccer in Houston’s Three Stars of the Game

  1. Luis Aguilar. Luis seemed to struggle with the strong defense, finding many of the through passes that he needed to run onto blocked. But he persevered, and worked hard to produce things on the offensive end, putting in a pair of crosses in addition to his four shots. His shots were not as accurate as in past games, but that two was a symbol of his creativity, as he strove to adapt to the clogged center by attacking more from the flanks, meaning his shots came from tighter angles. The goal he finally scored, though, was classic speed and power as he made the run on a through ball and forced the keeper to make a decision to challenge far outside the box. Luis powered through the challenge and found himself alone on goal, using his great skill to ensure no error would be made. Great game from Luis.
  2. João Mitchell. One game after earning a star for his play in defensive midfield, Zinho shows his versatility by earning one for his role as a forward. As long as we only held onto a single goal lead I was nervous, and as I knew that the boys were struggling to break down their opponents I worried that we were at risk for breaking our perfect record. But Zinho was able to latch on to Nicholas’ excellent through ball and place an exquisite shot, just out of the onrushing goalkeeper’s reach but just inside the post. A true golazo from an a tireless and versatile player.
  3. Honestly, I can’t pick another player. This was, in its way, a difficult game and many players contributed invaluably, from our defenders Sean, Kevin, and Nick who limited our opponents to just one shot, to Alvaro who cleaned up so much in the middle and helped ensure South Belt never got a breather from our relentless attacking, to the rest of our midfield who maintained possession with great passing.

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