We played a team that played ugly soccer, and we reflected their style after the first twelve minutes.
Both of our teams were back in action today after a two Saturday hiatus for spring break. Going into the break, we had played both days of a weekend and then took two Fridays (practices) and two Saturdays off. Friday night we practiced and this afternoon was our game.
I wouldn’t say our U8 team is great by any definition. We have a mix of players – but in the last couple games before the break, we started to show signs of playing intelligent football. Our goalkeeper and defender distributed the ball to the rest of the field players well, and we generally did a good job of defending and closing down the opponent’s space. My goals with our team though have been to emphasize playing under control, maximizing dribbling times and making controlled passes as a decision versus instinctive deep kicks.
Within the first twelve minutes, I could see that our opponent didn’t have these goals in mind. The defender’s first touch sent the ball deep, and the other team regularly knocked the ball out of bounds when trying to close down an attacker.
In U8, it’s not necessarily a bad style of play if you consider the outcomes. By sending the ball deep downfield, you get instant penetration and you might be able to regularly achieve a 1v1 situation with a defender plus the goalkeeper or even 1v1 against the keeper.
Our team was easily influenced by watching our opponents play this way – and I think our parents as well. We came off the field after the first twelve minutes for subsitutions tied at one – their goal the result of a throw-in that the other team moved past our cluster of players to open space on the opposite side and our one goal the result of intercepting the ball in the midfield, a good dribble and shot.
But the opposition moved a bigger-legged kid to defender in the second quarter – and he regularly blasted the ball downfield on first touch (there were a few that bounced once before going out of bounds on the opposite end.) The crowd cheered every time the kid blasted it away.
And soon our kids were seduced to the dark side.
We talked at half time about it.
I asked our team, “How many goals did they score in the second quarter from all of those big kicks?”
“Do you think they work to help score goals?”
I encouraged the team to return to playing with our eyes, ears and heads in the second half.
When the third quarter hit, our defender’s first touch had the same crushing impact – the ball rocketing downfield before going out of bounds. After a few minutes, ping-pong set in and I knew we were done for the day.
I sat down for several minutes rather than say anything more. My words were lost versus the cheers from the parents sideline.
Our opponents scored one more in the third quarter, and then we pulled even in the fourth. Another member of our team scored his first goal of the season.
We did have some positives this week – most notably on throw-ins. While we still had problems with making legal throw-ins (as usual in any U8 match) we found a lot more open space this week on throws and regularly chose not to throw the ball into a cluster of the other team. Progress!
Next week I’m hoping to address the ugly play in practice though – I just need a plan of how to get there.