This is not a good goal

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.

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18 Responses to This is not a good goal

  1. Julie says:

    You have to credit Wambach for recognizing the keeper was out of position. Not all players would see this and seize the opportunity.

    • Gregor says:

      Sure but it’s something good female strikers have been conditioned to recognize as a primary option. It happens so often that they learn to play to that because it works (when it shouldn’t).

      • Julie says:

        It’s a goal keeper mistake, then. I don’t watch a lot of soccer but I guess David Villa’s goal in the World Cup also sucked? The goal that made the highlight reels?

      • Gregor says:

        Wambach didn’t do anything wrong. Her goal didn’t suck. It just should not have been an option for her to score a goal like that. Villa’s goal was a bit different but, yes, I don’t consider goals that are directly attributable to a gk error to be top notch goals whether they’re scored by men or women. The problem is that for every goal like that that is scored in a men’s international game, there are still 7 or 8 scored in a women’s international. Those goals don’t add to the quality of games. They take away from the quality because it leads players to hoof balls forward more and more in pursuit of gk errors. A lot of the time it doesn’t go in and the net result is a loss of possession. It leads to kick and run soccer and most people have made it clear they don’t like watching that. Every time they whack one at goal with this in mind is a time that they don’t try to keep the ball and break down teams more creatively.

  2. Coachrich says:

    There is no point in stating and comparing the play differences between the genders with statements like “Canadian women’s national team still can’t beat teams like the U16 boys Fusion BCPL team” The on the field result is no different than the German women’s or any other women’s national team losing to a boys team. The same goes for comparing genders at the youth club level or even at the Olympics.

    This statement is true for both genders “Because the keeper invited her to whack one over her head by coming too far off her line. ” A good striker regardless of gender will see the opportunity as they have been coached to do so.

    Your article focus and covers a bit of the real issue with the YT post. That is about the poor commentary of the color commenter.

    Clive and the VUFC coach example are awesome for what they focus on for developing the female players. The issue that would have been better to discuss in this article is why clubs continue to have fragmented coaching philosophies in their clubs. What I mean here are clubs that have some coaches that are development drive and others are results driven.

    If clubs globally adopted and mandated a coaching philosophy such as Clive and the others you mention the female game would be so much further ahead. This is especially important in a try out / selection driven sport where over 13-15 years some players will move up/down, come and go in the system. The same can be said when people who run small or gender based clubs understand the advantages for the kids in large city wide clubs of all genders and ages.

  3. Gregor says:

    Obviously, I disagree.

    The point in comparing the Can WNT and the U16 Boys Fusion team is that a team that has not learned any sort of sophistication in attack but instead falls back on taking advantage of their opponents worst tendencies/mistakes to score is going to hit a brick wall at some point. Because girls and women have been able to score easy goals on undersized goalies in (relatively) over-sized goals and because the often poor decision making of those goalies exacerbates the problem further you still have a considerable number of goals scored that don’t get scored in a U16 boys BCPL game. It’s about evolution. You either figure out ways to get past those brick walls by becoming a smarter, better player or you stop progressing.

    It needs to be addressed in the girls and women’s games. The best thing that could happen to foster better play would be to have them use smaller goals to make chipping keepers from distance much more difficult. This would then force teams to look for alternate ways to create chances and force better technique and decision making. But until then advocates, fans and coaches on the girls and women’s side of the game need to stop pretending these are great goals that are being scored when Abby Wambach chips out of position goalie from 30-35 yards out. It’s stunting women’s soccer when these efforts are celebrated. I don’t blame Wambach or any national team striker for scoring or trying to score from these opportunities. It’s up to the team defending to make these scenarios seem high risk, low reward and force attackers to look for better odds when trying to score. Teams will naturally pick the low-lying fruit off the tree. It’s just time for that fruit to disappear and force teams to play with greater purpose in attack. To do that we need to develop not just keepers that take those easy long range goals away much more than current keepers do but players with the touch and poise to break down quality back fours.

    Anyone who thinks that it’s understandable and okay for a team of 15 year old boys to beat the 8th rated national women’s team in the world is simply being patronizing. We should expect just as much from our top female players as we do from our men’s national team (and let’s be honest, they get savaged regularly). I do think the US women’s national team and the German national team would have the ability to beat top boys’ teams in the Province. We need to start demanding more from our top female players and those who coach them.

    It’s not so much that it (beating 15 year old boys) would be a relevant victory in the way that winning games at the women’s World Cup is relevant. It would simply be a sign that the women’s game is changing from an unsophisticated reliance on strength and power to a more mixed skill set that allows a varied approach to playing the game.

    • Larry says:

      How about the Japanese and French National squads?

      • Gregor says:

        I think those teams have evolved into tactically savvy, technically proficient teams and are a great model for what women’s teams around the world should aspire to.

      • Coachrich says:

        Again, the problem is a opinion that is a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.

        a) “the lack of quality goalkeepers” –

        Doesn’t fly when one compares the first 5 events of the World Cup to each gender. The 5 events total average for females is 3.64 (1991 – 2007 years of WC experience ) and the males is 4.42 (1930 – 1954 years of WC experience) The reason for comparing the first 5 events is that is all the females have had in the way of WC experience and the TM’s are close.

        Even if I take the beginning of the female WC history and compare it to the last 5 events of the males. The 5 current total average for females is still 3.64 (1991 – 2007 years of WC experience) and the males are at 2.5 (1930 – 2010 years of WC experience) which is not a disproportionate difference.

        Female – http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/statisticsandrecords/tournaments/tournament=103/index.html

        Male – http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/statisticsandrecords/tournaments/worldcup/organisation/index.html

        b) “the fact that most female gk’s are smaller than the average male gk yet the goals are the same size”

        Not a good comparison as females by their physiological make up are smaller than males after that magical; transition point in adolescences. Last time I looked, the female game had female field players who on average are smaller than the male games field players. Further, it’s well known that female players on average do not have the same physical attributes as male players.

        Finally, comparisons like the above in the end maybe like Galileo Theory 😉
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z789eth4lFU but the reality is that the game of golf doesn’t use bowling balls or vice versus.

        c) “Doesn’t matter if it’s scored in a mens game or a women’s game but the reality is that far more are still scored in women’s games ”

        There are no stats hence it’s a broad opinion. It’s like me saying there are more male goalies scoring on male goalies in games than female goalies hence it’s bad for the male game.

        Everton’s Time Howard – http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-04/sports/30587974_1_everton-goal-bolton

        Maybe for the male game they should lengthen the field or make the goals smaller 😉

        d) I definitely can’t agree with –

        “and it’s hindering both the evolution of women’s soccer and the appeal to the knowledgeable soccer patron”

        IMO a “knowledgeable patron” will understand the differences in the games evolution when it comes to genders. Further they will understand the differences in the evolution of the game on a global basis too. If a patron can get their head around that they will not enjoy the game for the beauty and love of the game. Rather they will continue to think the game as if it’s some sort of result or some sort of war against two different tribes. If a “knowledgeable patron” can’t get their head around the differences in evolution of the females’ game, we need to look no further as to why the female game has taken so long to evolve and to get where it is now.

        The hindrance in the female game is at the youth level where the opportunities to change development is the greatest and most cost effective. Thinking that we can compare field play between the mens’ game and the female game or jump all over our wnt’s is the wrong focus and wrong comparison.

      • Coachrich says:

        These teams are great models of improvement and where the game should be. They haven’t changed over nite but have been part of national organizational and development structure that has changed. They have some similarities in how they are setup and the changes they have made over time.

        Both nations have pro or semi-pro women’s leagues where some of their teams are embedded with men’s clubs but it’s not a requirement.

        France –

        Long time women’s member of UEFA so hard to beat

        French WNT has 50% their players from the Olympique Lyonnais team who are FFF league (last 6 cycles) and cup (4x) champs, EURO league cup champs (2 cycles). Rest of the team comes from teams in the FFF’s top 4 (Montpellier HSC and PSG)

        FFF Women’s League has 3 Divisions. D1 started in 1918 and died in 1930 only to restart in 1975.

        French NT player funding mostly comes from their domestic teams with the rest from the FFF. D1 players are pro (full time)

        Olympique Lyonnais players according to French fans have a average salary of $9000USD monthly with a Fiat car and a flat included. Top players are said to get some where near $22,500 monthly and the perks too.

        The FFF is part of UEFA who is funding the women’s game from 2012 – 2016 with €.2 Million or €10,000 per association yearly

        2012 Cypress Cup Winners beating CAN 2-0

        Interesting fact is the FFF in 2007 had only about 49,000 reg’ed females to CSA’s almost 495,000 and the USSF’s 1,600,000

        Japan-

        Has been rebuilding their L League and National program since the early 2000’s where they tanked. At that time, FIFA ranked them around 14th. Now they are ranked 3rd

        Japan WNT players come from most of the L League teams.

        L League attendance has averaged 20,000 per game after the WWC win

        Funding for the WNT is about $1.7 USD annual. For Beijing they got an extra $785,000.
        Their players get some sort of annual athlete grant on top of their L League wages.
        Since 2011 those players who go overseas mostly to UEFA leagues get $2500USD lump sum plus an additional $125 per day on top of their UEFA League CBA

        2012 Algrave Cup Runner up losing to GER 4-3

        This April 5th they beat BRA 4-1 in a friendly
        This June 18th they lost to USA 4-1 in a friendly
        This June 20th they beat SWE 1-0 in a friendly

        Interesting fact is the JFA has only about 37,000 reg’ed females in 2011 to CSA’s almost 495,000 and the USSF’s 1,600,000

      • Coachrich says:

        Gregor apologies as my June 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm post which needs to be mod’ed is in the wrong place so please nuke it. Thanks and cheers Neil 🙂

  4. Brendan Quarry says:

    The best thing for the girl’s game would be to eliminate teams altogether until age U12. Break up the players into tiered training groups and give them technical skills with good coaching. As soon as you have permanent teams with standings and scores, the adult competitive instincts kick-in.

    Play modified games on the weekend. Stop playing the adult version of soccer. Reducing the size of the field and the number of players is not enough. Make a rule that you have to make 1 pass before a goal can be scored. The fast, athletic kid can then no longer fill the net by dispossessing the defender who’s trying to pass out of the back or the goalkeeper who can’t execute a goal kick longer than 10 yards. Or perhaps make a rule that a goal can only be scored with a 1-touch finish. Or play a 4 goal game one weekend and a possession game the next. Be creative in modifying the game. Stop imposing the adult version of the game on young kids. New Zealand doesn’t allow kicking in their youth rugby leagues. Why? Because they’re trying to encourage running and passing the ball. Why are we so hung up on the adult version of the game?

    Lastly, stop using the title of “coach” to describe youth coaches. Call them “instructors.” Every time we use the title of “coach”, the person in charge feels that their job is to be some tactical genius who devises ways to win (usually at the expense of development). The youth “instructor” is supposed to help players learn, and learning is about accepting mistakes and failure along the way. Ultimately, our big problem is that young kids are being asked to “learn” a sport and “compete” in a sport at the same time. Invariably, the competing gets in the way of the learning. It’s like being on the swim team before you’ve learned how to swim.

  5. Coachrich says:

    My position is you are making a very broad statement about the female game based on a very specific play that most strikers regardless of gender would take advantage of. Further you are trying to attach the situation to a comparison of genders and age without further information that clarifies why there are such huge and many differences between the genders and ages.

    There are huge differences as to why the developmental performance of our and other females NT’s are at the levels they are at when compared to genders, ages or organizational/development opportunities. Even comparisons between cultures shows there are difference in how development can be impacted.

    Whether in Canada or elsewhere, the female games access to organizational and developmental structure opportunities in almost any sport where both play in their respective gender are different. In some cases, the important skills of a sport may be taught way earlier for males or maybe not all for females. Fact in sports, that at some point in late middle childhood to early adolescence, males become more dominant than females at the same age in sports. Obviously, at what age varies depending on the sport but this dominance leads to the gender structure of most amateur and pro sports.

    Canada and even the USA doesn’t have a football/soccer culture like other nations. NA doesn’t even have a top tier women’s league anymore. OTOH, the UEFA has 30 female domestic leagues. They have lots of NT friendlies during their league NT windows. Also. like the UEFA EURO 2012 for men the women have a EURO Cup as well. But like their female NA and other counterparts the UEFA NT’s still play boy teams and get beaten. Even in other sports like ice hockey female NT’s tune up against boys teams. I’m sure some here remember Hayley Wickenheiser (31 years old) going after and head locking teenager Dane Phaneuf (15 years old) in friendly between the NT and a youth team several years back..

    “Anyone who thinks that it’s understandable and okay for a team of 15 year old boys to beat the 8th rated national women’s team in the world is simply being patronizing.”

    It’s not patronizing as whether it is Germany, USA or another female NT team, they all play boys teams and lose. It makes no sense to compare the canwnt to a boy’s team any more than it does to compare the canwnt to the canmnt

    As far as “understandable and okay”, one needs to evaluate where the level of development is to get the right perspective, understand the differences and to learn how to improve. To focus on results whether they are scores or why a boys teams beats a women’s team is the wrong focus. Same goes for people, press, NSO and even coaches hyping the canwnt as world beaters without looking at what they have done and what their competition have been doing. The lack of looking was asking for a pinprick to the balloon to be devastating.

    Our canwnt is at the level they are at due our organizational and development structure. This structure has prepared them in their time line or evolution prior to NT duties. What is concerning about our present level is that other nations have already changed their organizational and development structures from top to bottom for females. This has taken place over the last 10 ½ years when Canada has done very little. Those changes other nations have done allowed them to strengthen their positions or in some cases pass us bye in development. Japan and France were the easiest examples to recognize that their changes had been successful in changing the look and skill of their game. For the traditional powerhouse of Germany not even getting out of the quarterfinals is another sign of progress. It cost them a Olympic berth too.

    The big question is for us as TD’s, Coaches, Instructors, Board Members and Admins should be about what are and what should we be doing differently as interdependent groups in how we deliver to our female players the best structure for organizational and development opportunities. That should include an inclusive and consistent consensus of what we need to do with all parities regardless of being a club/academy or academy/club and team-to-team at all ages. Until everyone in the Canadian organizational and development structure are on the same page with what are sports clubs, and how we deliver a common national style of play, we will still be trying to push the round peg into the square hole while other nations have already figured out what peg goes in what hole.

  6. Gregor says:

    Garbage goals are scored in both men’s and women’s games. The problem is that it’s a disproportionate number in the women’s game because of (a) the lack of quality goalkeepers and (b) the fact that most female gk’s are smaller than the average male gk yet the goals are the same size.

    This leads to too many more opportunistic goals and when you reach the point where it happens too often, players start to rely on being able to score them and are led to hitting the type of shot that Wambach hit on the weekend more often than they would if the risk/reward ratio swung more towards risk as it does in the men’s game.

    Once those opportunities are taken away it forces players to diversify what they do in attack. It forces them to become better players and to make the game more interesting. I don’t consider 35 yard hit and hope long bombs over the head of out of position, relatively small goalies good goals or interesting soccer. Doesn’t matter if it’s scored in a men’s game or a women’s game but the reality is that far more are still scored in women’s games and it’s hindering both the evolution of women’s soccer and the appeal to the knowledgeable soccer patron.

    • Coachrich says:

      Again, the problem is a opinion that is a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.

      a) “the lack of quality goalkeepers” –

      Doesn’t fly when one compares the first 5 events of the World Cup to each gender. The 5 events total average for females is 3.64 (1991 – 2007 years of WC experience ) and the males is 4.42 (1930 – 1954 years of WC experience) The reason for comparing the first 5 events is that is all the females have had in the way of WC experience and the TM’s are close.

      Even if I take the beginning of the female WC history and compare it to the last 5 events of the males. The 5 current total average for females is still 3.64 (1991 – 2007 years of WC experience) and the males are at 2.5 (1930 – 2010 years of WC experience) which is not a disproportionate difference.

      b) “the fact that most female gk’s are smaller than the average male gk yet the goals are the same size”

      Not a good comparison as females by their physiological make up are smaller than males after that magical; transition point in adolescences. Last time I looked, the female game had female field players who on average are smaller than the male games field players. Further, it’s well known that female players on average do not have the same physical attributes as male players.

      Finally, comparisons like the above in the end maybe like Galileo Theory 😉
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z789eth4lFU but the reality is that the game of golf doesn’t use bowling balls or vice versus.

      c) “Doesn’t matter if it’s scored in a mens game or a women’s game but the reality is that far more are still scored in women’s games ”

      There are no stats hence it’s a broad opinion. It’s like me saying there are more male goalies scoring on male goalies in games than female goalies hence it’s bad for the male game.

      Everton’s Time Howard – http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-04/sports/30587974_1_everton-goal-bolton

      Maybe for the male game they should lengthen the field or make the goals smaller 😉

      d) I definitely can’t agree with –

      “and it’s hindering both the evolution of women’s soccer and the appeal to the knowledgeable soccer patron”

      IMO a “knowledgeable patron” will understand the differences in the games evolution when it comes to genders. Further they will understand the differences in the evolution of the game on a global basis too. If a patron can get their head around that they will not enjoy the game for the beauty and love of the game. Rather they will continue to think the game as if it’s some sort of result or some sort of war against two different tribes. If a “knowledgeable patron” can’t get their head around the differences in evolution of the females game, we need to look no further as to why the female game has taken so long to evolve and to get where it is now.

      The real and most important hindrance in the female game is at the youth level where the opportunities to change development is the greatest and most cost effective. Sadly at the female youth level we still have some boards and coaches who have for decades treated and taught the females differently. Still to this day, we have boards that limit the development or opportunities or movement for some players, teams and their coaches. Still to this day, we have coaches in the youth female game who are stuck on only direct play, results or just plan old babysitting. All this has and will continue to impact the female game at the local, provincial and national level until we adapt a structure and development model that is standardized and consistent.

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