We need a new goalkeeper! Analyzing Goals.

Goalkeepers are the last line of defense. The lasting impression many will have when their team is scored upon is of the goalkeeper's failed attempt to prevent the score. Some will be supportive of the goalkeepers efforts and others will make comments like "He should've made that save!" or "We need a new goalkeeper!"

In the article I Learned Attacking Soccer from a Goalkeeper Coach I relate of learning the importance of analyzing goals from current Anderson College coach John Murphy. If we wish to prevent future goals we must learn from the goals we have allowed, and even those our team has scored. While it's easy to blame the goalkeeper as the last line of defense I have fond that less than 10% of high school goals scored can be solely attributed to goalkeeper error.

In reviewing video of a recent high school match it occurred to me the goals one team allowed were ideal to illustrate that goals often originate from far out on the pitch. There usually exists a chain of events that lead up to that heart dropping moment when the ball gets by the goalkeeper. The idea here is not to transfer blame from the goalkeeper to a field player, but to demonstrate that there is a shared responsibility.

We will need to set the background in order to develop as complete an understanding as possible. The defending team in this case plays a 1-4-3-3 formation with a well defined attacking system. It's defensive system is flawed both it construct and, of course, in execution. They employ a zonal back 4 with a holding mid and two attacking mids manning the midfield triangle. Three forwards with the wing forwards responsible for weak side width on defense.

GK = Goalkeeper
RB = Right Back
RCB = Right Center Back
LCB = Left Center Back
LB = Left Back
HM = Holding Midfielder
AM = Attacking Midfielder
RW = Right Wing Forward
CF = Center Forward
LW = Left Wing Forward

Goal #1

This goal is scored off a break away but actually originates from action off an opposition goal kick.

The opposing GK played a goal kick into a gusting wind of 15-20 mph. A wind of this strength indicates that a short goal kick is likely to occur. It is quite possible the ball might be blown back towards the GK if played high enough that the wind catches it. Therefore the defending teams forwards must not only guard against a short goal kick but also be prepared to play the anticipation area on a longer kick that will be played by their midfield or back line teammates.

In this case, the teams HM won a flighted ball with a leaping header playing the ball strongly back up the field. This is where the goal originates. There are only 3 opposing players in the anticipation area. Neither the AM's, or any of the three forwards are present to play their teammates header

Naturally an opponent won the ball and immediately made a long ground service through the defense. The best pass in soccer is one that successfully defeats as many opponents as possible. In this instance the pass defeated seven players -both AM's, the HM and the entire back line.

Film shows no pressure on the passer and both the LCB and RCB advanced 7-10 yards out of position. The pass went through the center channels to an opposing forward bending off a flat run behind the LCB and RCB.

It is important to note at this time that the RCB was not only advanced but also in the right outside channel. The LCB was even further advanced and in the right center channel. The teams LB was in the left center channel. This is an extremely odd deployment given the ball has been located located centrally in the teams atacking third. Only the teams RB appears to have been positioned properly and his role was being duplicated by the RCB.

It is also important to note that with no pressure on the ball carrier / passer the cue for the backs is to "retreat" in order to deny negative space between the backs and their GK. While two of the tactical cues for pressing were technically present - 50/50 ball and an opponent restart - it was within the purview of the midfielders to press, not the backs.

Because the RCB was out of position both vertically and horizontally his pursuit angle to the play actually cut off the pursuit of the RB effectively eliminating the RB from the play. And because the LB was positioned in the left central channel his pursuit angle was much sharper than it should have been effectively eliminating himself from the play. As the opposing forward had a 10 yard head start on the RCB and LCB and was noticeably faster than either of them this was essentially a 1 v GK situation beginning 45 yards out from goal.

With the ball 45 yards from goal and on the attackers foot, the GK's role of sweeper / keeper was effectively eliminated. His only choice was to give ground and establish himself inside the penalty area. The attackers next touch pushed the ball 20 yards forward for him to run onto. This is the touch that the GK needed to cue on. The ball would next be touched at a distance of 25 yards from goal. The attackers first touch essentially resulted in a 50 / 50 ball to be contested between the goalkeeper and the attacker.

Unfortunately the GK had retreated all the way to inside the goal area. From this position he could not challenge for the 50 / 50 ball created by the attackers first touch. When the ball is off the attackers foot, the GK must take ground and close down the distance between himself and the attacker at a pace that matches the attacker pace. The GK had retreated himself out of position to do this.

One more small touch by the attacker put the ball inside the penalty area and the next touch found side netting at the back post from a distance of 16 yards. The goalkeeper remained 3 yards off the line and dove laterally in an attempt to make the save. Even with an properly executed diagonally forward collapse dive he may not have been able to make the save from that near his own goal line.

From this analysis it should be clear the goal allowed was because of total team breakdown.

1) The forwards did not play the anticipation zone nor did any of them pressure the opponent who would make the through pass.

2) The AM's did not play the anticipation area or support in behind the HM. They also did not pressure the opponent who would make the through pass.

3) The center backs were far too aggressive in their advanced position and completely missed the cue for early retreat. Instead of denying or shrinking the negative space between them and their GK, they actually aided the opponents by creating more space behind them for the opponents to play into and utilize against them.

4) The LB was out of position in the central channel and effectively eliminated himself from the play due to having too sharpe of a pursuit angle to run down the break away.

5) The RB. although positioned properly might have had the best chance to prevent the break away had he not read the cue for early treat correctly and had been improperly positioned inside behind the advanced RCB.

6) The GK completely misread the cues and failed to challenge the 50/50 ball created by the attacker breaking through. In missing this play he also eliminated any chance to "come out and close down the angles"  as the attacker shot early from near the top of the penalty area. Lastly he dove laterally and again missed the opportunity to cut the angles on the shot.

Quite literally, all 11 players on the defending side played a role in this goal being scored against their team. A complete and total team breakdown on a play that originated 114 yards from their own goal.

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