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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Ask the Extra – Part 2, A Back 3 or 4 and MLS’s Gaggle of Goalies

Written by on December 1, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Q from Jonathan

Napoli finished near the top of Serie A last season, playing 3 at the back, yet Inter were unable to play this system (under Gasperini) and if I remember you were attacking the Brazilian ladies for playing the same system in last summer’s WC.

So why does it work for Napoli but not Inter (age) but Brazilian ladies (younger) could not make it work?

Bobby – Let me start with clearing something up. I never attacked any Brazilian ladies and certainly not for playing three at the back.

What I did point out that was in the case of the late American equalizer the centre back was poorly positioned and was far too deep.  No matter the formation if you are positioned poorly and make bad decisions the formation will not save you.

Why did it not work for Inter? It was not so much three at the back that failed for Inter but more a case of the high defensive line they played with an excruciatingly slow group of defenders.

If the defenders had been quicker it might have bought some time for the team to grow use to the system.

Conversely sitting deeper might have also offered a safer half way house but Gasperini was a manager who believes in pressing high up the park and that needs a high defensive line.

At Genoa Gasperini had some defenders with some speed but even then they conceded a lot of goals. Napoli are not as pure a back three as sometimes is made out. Campagnaro, Cannavaro and Aronica are the out and out defenders.

But when the team has to defend Maggio on the right and Zunega or Dossena on the left, slip into one of the full back positions giving Napoli a back four.

And Napoli’s defenders sit deep.

Q from Richard Notari
The goal keeping for this year’s MLS teams seems to be a big improvement over just 2 or 3 years ago.

So, how does the current crop of MLS keepers stack up against those of other leagues?

Bobby – It is difficult (in my opinion impossible) to measure the standard of MLS against other leagues and it is also very difficult to assess goalkeepers from league to league.

Every league has good goalies, everyone has keepers who are a bit inconsistent and every league has keepers who are one mistake away from being turfed. No goalkeeper is going to reach a professional level if he cannot block shots on a regular basis.

But great goalkeepers are usually great because they make good decisions under pressure rather than because they just make great saves.

Assessing how a keeper performs in MLS is going to give you a good idea that the primary skills are there but I don’t know if it would tell you how he would get on in the Premier League.  

Last week on the podcast Eon and I talked about a good crop of young goalkeepers in the Premier League and the same is probably true of MLS.

Josh Saunders stepped in when given an opportunity by the Galaxy this season, and Tally Hall gave the Dynamo some excellent goalkeeping as well. 

You could also look to Mondragon, Rimando, Frei (when fit in Toronto), Nielsen, and Keller as others who had excellent seasons.  

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One response to “Ask the Extra – Part 2, A Back 3 or 4 and MLS’s Gaggle of Goalies”

  1. From this week’s WSC Howl
    “With a few hours to go before the Euro 2012 draw, we can exclusively reveal what pundits will be saying about England’s opponents. Teams from Eastern Europe will be well organised, the northern sides will relish a physical battle and the southern Europeans are unpredictable but can be world beaters on their day. As for Ireland, whatever they do, their fans be will be sure to have a party.”

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