Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Golden Cutback

photo by Sean Davisvia PhotoRee

What's a football blog without the requisite winning coach to offer insightful analysis of important games?  We've got one of the best in our ranks: farlieonfootie is proud to introduce Champions League winner Tom to our blogging staff.  Granted, Tom won the Champions League of the Girls' Under 11 Division in Riverside, New York, but still, it's something.  Those were some tough girls.  With no further ado (because there is none), herewith the Coaches Corner:

I've done a bit of coaching in my time:  little bitty weeble kiddies, seventh grade boys, varsity girls (with some acclaim, I add most humbly).  At every level I, and all other competent coaches, stress the fundamentals.  First touch, body over ball, shin guards in the front, what have you.  And at every level I've stressed the vital power of that most basic and plain of tactics:  the cutback.

Even little kids can see (eventually) that if an attacker drives the ball to the end line and attacks the near post some wonderful things will happen. The 'keeper slides to the side of the net,  all ten field defenders will face their own net, and, blessedly, nine remaining  attackers wait in position to pounce.

What makes this simple strategy so hard at the youth level is skill.  Not a lot of kids can get the ball to the end line without dribbling out of bounds, or kicking the ball in a random direction or tripping over the line.  And then, if the poor kid gets to the line, he or she has to have the presence of mind (important term.  We'll return to this) to drive to the near post and then lay the ball back into the box.

And this is what frustrates at the Premier level.  The skill is there.  Players regularly gain the end line, and have the skill, time and space to attack the near post, but don't.  Oh, no. We get the cheeky chip for an unlikely header, the laser cross for the even less likely diving header, the floaty hopefulness for...what, exactly?  The keeper's mitts?  And (all too often)  the rip shot at the near post into the side netting.  

Why can't these players, with all the skill in the world (literally), lay the ball off?  They've done the hard part; they've got the defense (or would it help make my point if I spelled it "defence?") turned around at the highest level of football and can roll a ball like greenskeeper wielding a Stimpmeter into the path of the best finishers on the planet.  But, alas, they do not.  Maybe farlieonfootie's correspondent Ed is right about all the hair product in the game today; it's seems to have seeped straight into the players' brains.

And yet...there is a glimmer of hope.  Or, rather, a golden light of promise.  I found it most fitting that the recent NCAA Women's Champion was crowned via the cutback.  It's a tactic designed to fashion champions.   When Notre Dame's Melissa Henderson had the presence of mind (see!  I told you we'd get back to it) to cut the ball back into the box she made the year for every youth soccer coach in the world.  The best part of her heads up play was that she didn't even pass to ball to a person; she passed it to the area (Click the link to see).  

That's how effectively this tactic works.  And when Adriana Leon finally got her foot on the ball (and I admit, it seemed like it took a while for anyone to get there - which only reemphasizes the devastating power of the move) she had a clear shot on net, shot it right at the 'keeper (nobody's perfect) who was still discombobulated from...you guessed it...sliding all the way across the net and could not stop the blast.

Leave it to the Irish to remind us tacticians that you don't always need luck to be a champion.  A good dose of the fundamentals will do.

It's a newly educated farlieonfootie signing off for December 8.


  1. very good advice for a novice coach like me! i can't wait to work on that tactic this spring. Go Irish!

  2. It was actually a tactically impressive coaching/playing display by ND. Stanford looked like the better overall team but they were painfully slow at the back and the ND attackers abused them as Stanford pressed for a goal. The Stanford goalie made 3 very good saves which could have as well been goals. A game where coaching actually made the difference in my view

    The goal was a brilliant goal – great cutback coupled with a great finish.