Importance of Watching
by Coach Felix
Learning to play soccer well requires dedication and training, but it also is imperative for developing players to watch and study professional soccer. In the United States, matches have been broadcast on television for many years, but until European league soccer (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A) was readily available, no one truly was able to watch and appreciate the “beautiful game.”
For most Americans born before 1985, growing up watching soccer was not the norm or something networks offered to broadcast. American football, baseball, hockey and basketball were the sports that everyone watched and understood. How do we watch soccer, understand and appreciate it, when “so little happens” in a 90-minute game? Soccer is more than goals.
Every match twenty-two players are running for two 45-minute periods and only three substitutions allowed. No time outs for commercials. Play only slows down to a walk if the ball goes out of bounds. Otherwise they run, and sprint all around the pitch. On average professional players can run at 6-minute mile pace for the duration of the game if needed. The ball can be controlled, and is by many of the greatest players, with all parts of their bodies with the exception of their arms and hands.
The amount of teamwork required to move a ball precisely from one end of the pitch and direct it into the back of the opponent’s net is what makes it all worth it. While the professionals make it look easy, we know from experience, it is much, much harder; requiring years of dedication and practice to master. By studying and then emulating the best players, developing ones can markedly improve their game.
Players and Parents, if you are not sure what you should be concentrating on, here is what I look for during the 90 minutes of action.
1. Count players touches before passing, more than 2 touches is a dribble
a. Recognize inside foot or outside foot
b. Standing still or moving into open space, head up looking for a pass
2. Look at Players without ball and anticipate when and where the dribbling player should pass the ball to by saying their name out loud.
3. What happens on Throw-ins?
a. How does the offense get open
b. How does the defense win the ball
4. What happens during a corner kick offensively vs. defending a corner?
a. Are players standing still?
b. Are players being physical?
5. How is my team defending?
a. Is the Back line flat to play an Offside Trap
b. Are they diving in? If so, did they win? How was their body position?
c. How close are defenders playing? Different parts of the pitch mean it will be different.
d. Are they communicating to switch whom they cover?
e. Who goes to the ball?
f. Are they defending inside or outside?
6. When my team gets the ball, are they making good passes?
a. Connecting passes to move ball down the field
b. Is it easy for their teammate to control the pass?
a. How many passes before the shot?
b. How did the play build up for it to happen?
c. Which players touched the ball before the goal?
d. What will the team need to do after this goal?
a. Was it a foul?
b. How did the foul happen?
c. Was the defender being tactical or dangerous?
d. What happens next as a result?
At halftime my friends and I like to talk about what could happen in the second half as far as substitutes.
We also watch the halftime discussion of the announcers to hear their insight. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree.
9. Predicting Substitutions
a. What time?
b. Why? Tactics, or injury?
c. How will this alter the game?
i. Does the player provide speed, creativity or strength?
Missed Shots & Bad Passes
10. What kind of expression happens when the goal is scored?
a. Players work many hours training and lots play many game minutes without scoring, so they cherish those moments.
b. Did the crowd erupt with joy or fall silent with despair?
11. Wasted shot and ambitious passes
a. Was that the best choice?
b. Should the shot have been a pass?
c. Should the ambitious +15yard pass have been an easier ball?