Sweet Moves

As a soccer coach I have checked a fair share of soccer instruction books out from the public library.  A good many have a section illustrating the signature soccer moves of internationally famous players from the past.  The German player Franz Beckenbauer led his team to World CupDiego Maradona and the Englishman Johann Cruyyf. Consequently soccer players go to summer soccer camps to learn ‘the Beckenbauer’, ‘the Maradona’, and the ‘Cruyyf’. victory, as did the Argentinian,

As a youth soccer coach I see my players concoct moves that work for them time and again.  These signature youth moves, two of which I shall introduce and illustrate here, make coaching a joy and a pleasure.

The very first time I saw Josh G. step on the ball and let the defender run by, I noticed that there seemed to be no limit to the number of times he would try this consecutively on the same player, and it would work, over and over again.  I have seen many a young player, who typically invite their close friends to games so that they can show off, get duped into overcommitment after overcommitment as they chase forward then backward, then forward again.  The affair could be viewed as a comedy sketch, if it weren’t for the other coach screaming madly to his player to be patient and to stay his ground.

One aspect, too, that must be maddening to opposing players is that this part comedic part dramatic chase rarely involves just one individual.  As any well coached team knows, when a player with the ball becomes isolated, that is cut off from any reasonable chance for support from his teammates, the time is right to double-up, to try and sandwich him.  Typically, when this happens to Josh G. he executes his signature move ad-nauseum and as the defending players begin to gather around him, the group takes on an appearance similar to a school of fish darting and changing direction seemingly randomly.

The whole affair ends quite abruptly as Josh G weaves through the stumbling crowd on his way to the goal they have organized to defend.  Out of this chaos comes a lone dribbler, with a mere semblance of the defenders still on their feet in desperate pursuit.  Nine times out of ten, what results is a shot on net, either back post or near post, or a leading pass to a teammate.  Often, after this step-on-the-ball move (I will temporarily dub ‘The Josh’), the next time the defending team touches the ball is when they gather it out of the back of their net.

‘The Josh’

‘The Josh’ is a move done while dribbling at speed and with a defender on your shoulder in-chase.

1.      In this situation the ball is being played forward by the furthest foot away from the defender, the body and the other leg is acting as a shield. Simply step on the ball as the defender is mid-stride and immediately turn to dart the other way.  The move can be a touch applied to the top of the ball with just enough weight on the ball to stop it still.  Or the ball can be pulled back against the way it was rolling, effectively doing a 180 degree turnabout.  Proper balltouch is key.  Done with mercurial quickness, this move can leave defenders one-to-two steps away.

2.      Explode in to space!

Rory plays for my U10 team.  She is an athletic girl.  One look at Rory and you think, ‘athlete’.  Her entire family cycles, and her brother plays for the U8’s. When her mother, who comes to every training session and every match, sees Rory execute a particularly cunning move, she exclaims with a tinge of pride in her voice, “that a girl!”

On occasion I will referee when our club team plays.  My assistant, Sam, coaches the team as usual, and I run around on the field, trying to stay out of the way and watching what I hope to be a good game. On the occasion of the second day of our Travel League, a game between Athens Soccer Academy and the hosts Alexander Soccer Club needed a referee. My State Referee badge is up to date, so with the consent of the Alexander coach (who incidentally schedules the referees at that site), I stepped in to do the middle.

It was a great game.  One of the arrangements our league the Southeastern Ohio Soccer League, has made in order to round out the U8 schedule is to have the U8s play some of the developing U10 teams.  In this game the result was a fantastic contest.  The Alexander club has a very skilled U8 team Anchoring the back-line for them is a very quick sweeper; the sweeper has good ball control, wide vision, and excellent decision making ability. The team also has a very good technical skill base and a number of key attacking players.

In this game Sam had Rory playing right wing. Sometime in to the second half, Rory received a ball forward.  She dribbled first touch to the right and then abruptly cut back to left and exploded into the space behind the defender.  She left a very smart defender standing.  As the center referee I was behind and to the left of her within about 10 yards.  The coach inside of me wanted to yell out “that a girl!”, however, since Rory performed this just as she entered the attacking half she happened to be right in front of her mother, who did the yelling for me. She sliced through a gap in the defense, splitting defenders, and headed for goal.

So the second signature youth move I would like to declare is called ‘the Rory’.  The move involves the following actions with any ball acceptably spherical.

1) Push the ball forward at an angle to your right (about 45 degrees right but as you improve, you can make the angle sharper!).  This can be done with the inside of the left foot, instep, laces, etc or the outside of the right foot.

2)      Step across your body with your left foot as though you intend to explode into the space at your right. (The defender is thinking you are going to his left and so explodes in chase of you).

3)      Immediately cut the ball back to your left.  To do this simply reach around the ball with your right foot and kind of chop at the far side of the ball to make it kind of pop off the ground and squirt backward from the direction it was rolling (to your left, the defender hopefully has over-committed and has exposed a gap of space to his right).

4)      Explode with a leading touch into the space you have created by ‘juking-out’ the defender.

All really simple, really…At least it looks simple to the kids who can perform it.  Like Rory. Like Josh G.   For me it is an uplifting experience to see athleticism.  To play well is not only a physical triumph, it is a mental feat as well.  Perhaps that is why it stirs the spiritual in we who are inspired by it.


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