Just had a moan about this on Twitter so I thought I’d quickly add some detail and context. The US Women’s National Team played Sweden today and in several places, including the New York Times I found myself reading how this was a fantastic goal, a “stunner”, a golazo (had enough of that word coming from the mouths and keyboards of North Americans by the way).
It’s not. It’s a throwback. It should be anachronistic by now. Should never happen. It is holding back the development of women’s soccer and it’s one of the reasons why the Canadian women’s national team still can’t beat teams like the U16 boys Fusion BCPL team they played earlier this month (Fusion beat them 2-0).
Here’s the goal:
How does a relatively slow striker like Wambach score from outside 30 yards with her first touch when she’s covered and it’s shaping up to be a 2v3? Because the keeper invited her to whack one over her head by coming too far off her line. The keeper has to:
(a) See that it’s Abby Wambach and know she has the ability to hit that 30 yards up and over her head and under the bar
(b) See that it’s 2v3 developing with pressure on the ball. She does not need to overcommit and come out like a potential breakaway is looming. Yes, Alex Morgan is making a run off the ball. That’s a secondary consideration though and one she can deal with if the ball is played. Deal with immediate threat: Wambach and a bouncing ball 30 yards out.
(c) Realize you are at best 5’6″ and the goal is 8′ tall! Not only does she get chipped the ball crosses the line about four feet off the ground. it’s not even close! Stay in a position that precludes being chipped. If she did that she would have caught it standing still at chest level.
These cheap goals attributable to relatively small goalies (compared to the size of the goals) are hampering development of the women’s game. Why learn to keep possession of the ball when you get ping balls from 30 yards towards the crossbar and know you have decent chance of scoring? Why learn to break down other teams with movement off the ball and quick decision making when you can just hit and hope without looking desperate?
That’s one of the main reasons why women’s teams still struggle against boys teams. That would never be tolerated at the boys level because it wouldn’t work. They need to be able to diversify how they attack and to do so requires greater technical abilities, more quickness and faster decision making.
Is girls and women’s soccer moving in that direction? Yes, I see it at many levels and perhaps if the Morace years hadn’t been marked by so much acrimony between herself and the CSA (and also if the coach/player issues hadn’t been so messy), she would have been given more time to see if the Canadian women’s team could develop from the thoroughbreds that Evan Pellerud groomed to the much more technical sides that Morace sought but in the end found wanting as witnessed by last year’s Women’s World Cup.
That insistence though, the one that tells girls they have to be comfortable on the ball, take responsibility for progressing it and develop into a player rather than just a particular body type that assumes an overly-simplistic role, it’s growing. I see it in many places including at a jamboree game between one of our VUFC U12 Gold 1 teams playing one of our Gold 2 teams. The Gold 1 team has a coach who insists on maintaining possession and looking for positive options. They also, almost half of them, have been regular attending TSS for awhile where they get the same message. In this game, despite playing very well, they couldn’t score and ended up conceding an own goal late on to lose 1-0. Not only did our Gold 1 coach take it in stride, keep his approach the same even after they went down a goal but he was positive and encouraging with them after the game for how they played. Just as impressive was our Gold 2 coach who didn’t make a big deal of them beating the Gold 1 team. He praised his girls for what they did well but didn’t focus on the win and didn’t try to score points at the expense of a team that he knew had played well and controlled play. Both exemplified the idea that we shouldn’t be coaching for results at this age. We should be creating an environment where players feel comfortable learning and won’t be berated for the mistakes that accompany any learning process.
I also see it in the success of Clive Clark’s ’95 born girls team that have plenty of players that could pump balls 30-40 yards down the field, outrun their opponent and blast balls over the head of 5’4″ keepers on a regular basis. But they don’t. They play and they’ve been very successful at it. There’s several girls on that team that will likely go on to play, or at least be considered, at some level for Canada in the future.
So the sooner we rave about the YouTube clips of better build up play and use of the ball, of intelligent, sophisticated passing and movement, the better. It’s there. The US Women’s national team regularly provide displays of it. Many others do too. But showing your little girl a clip of Abby Wambach not even looking at goal and just lashing a shot past a too-short, out of position keeper for an easy notcher is not doing her any good. Hopefully in ten years instead of these goals popping up on soccer sites as examples of great goals, they’ll be treated as they are in the men’s games: weak goals that should never have gone in.