The Easiest Way to Improve A Team

Like any sport or other discipline where people crave mastery, there are a lot of experts out there who will give you their “secrets” in exchange for a few dollars. Training techniques from England, Germany or Brazil can be yours. For sale: Coerver fancy footwork tips. New! 101 drills guaranteed to win championships. Ideas from Anson Dorrance show you the UNC way. How to juggle. How to dribble past opponents. Shoot with power. Goalkeeping.The 4-4-2 vs 3-5-1 as played in Italy’s Serie A.

There’s one concept that takes mere minutes to coach and will revitalize your team. You don’t have to go to a coaching course or buy a series of DVDs. What’s more, it’s something almost every player can do the first time they try: chase back in defense. That’s it.

I accept Paypal.

You may say, “Well, that will help some soccer dad’s U6, but I have an advanced team.”

Doesn’t matter. You can see this at the highest levels of play. How high? How about the World Cup?

An example: Everyone’s familiar with this great goal, the USA beats Algeria in the 94th minute, here’s Andrés Cantor on the network feed. Keep your eye on Landon Donovan and his thrilling goal:

But when I watched that game, I noticed something in a few of the replays that told a different story. Here’s an angle you may not have seen (fan video, reverse angle, so the US is going left to right now):

Donovan makes a full field run with the ball he gets from Timmy. You can see the two Algerian defenders chase him for about 75 yards, they’re about 5 steps behind him. Stop the clip at 0:16 when Landon’s in the top of the box, just inside the arc. Landon pauses, and his pursuers do, too. They leave him with a five yard advantage when he stopped running, instead of catching up to him. Clint’s shot is stuffed by the keeper, the ball rolls free, Landon renews his sprint and slots it home.

What if the Algerians had run five more steps and closed him down? I’ll tell you what: Slovenia goes through to the next round and we go home.

You can change countless moments of every game to your team’s favor, simply by running back and closing down space. It’s easy to do, if your legs still work. It doesn’t take coordination or years of experience. You just have to get back.

There’s a famous little American  famous poem, “Keep A ‘Goin'” that says it well:


Submitted by: Lexel

Author: by Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927)

If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin’!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a-goin’!
‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine
When the fish ain’t on your line;
Bait your hook an’ keep a-tryin’–
Keep a-goin’!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin’!
Though ’tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin’!
S’pose you’re out o’ ev’ry dime,
Gittin’ broke ain’t any crime;
Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime–
Keep a-goin’!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin’!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin’!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like singin’, sing–
Keep a-goin’!

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2 Responses to The Easiest Way to Improve A Team

  1. emily says:

    Great post. I agree, but I am glad Algeria didn’t sprint back and defend more! That through ball from Timmy was soooooooo absolutely perfect. It was majesterial…
    I found your blog through Unamadridista’s Con La Roja page. While we are USA fans to the core, I just love to watch the Spanish NT. They are so beautiful to watch, in so many ways. Casillas is the heart and soul of the team and to watch him lift the cup this past summer was a pure pleasure. They really speak as a family and they really seem to support each other and that’s the way a team should be. I would like to see that kind of cohesion in the USMNT. Someday, maybe after I am dead, the US will get to hold la bambina. I got to see the Red Sox win the World Series, twice!, so anything is possible.

  2. jimsakeeper1 says:

    Emily, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I checked your blog and see we share the same TwentyTen format! I can’t touch una’s quality and quantity but I’m a big fan of hers.

    As for Iker and the chavales(/i> I think it’s a special moment in time. While I’d love it if Spain could continue to dominate, my gut feeling is that guys like this will not come around again. While humildad has always been a Spanish virtue, it has not always been visible in the seleccion, why should it, it’s a collection of millionaires, like all such teams. To me it starts with Del Bosque, although Aragones also had huge success. Everything I hear Del Bosque say, I want to write down and memorize. And of course Andres, I think he’s a font of humility. Can’t get enough of him.

    I will be checking your posts also. Nice to meet you.

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