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Sounders’ Defensive Frailty Capitalised On By Impact

Written by on June 20, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in The Training Ground

Tom Young – A English soccer reporter who supports AFC Rushden & Diamonds and writes about Seattle Sounders and Major League Soccer for a number of websites; mainly

 Seattle receives a mauling in a 4-1 defeat at Montreal Impact bringing the club’s first away loss since July 30 2011.

The Sounders’ are experiencing one of their worst streaks having gained just two points in their previous five MLS matches scoring four goals and conceding 10.

The most recent of which was a defeat to the Impact in the opening fixture in the renovated Saputo Stadium and first MLS meeting between the two sides. The game highlighted the Sounders’ defensive problems as all four goals conceded involved easily avoidable mistakes.

Seattle came into the match without their linchpin central midfielder Osvaldo Alonso due to a two-match ban retroactively slapped on by the discipline committee for a challenge during the Columbus defeat.

The home side opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Patrice Bernier, from the left side of the box, pulled the ball back to Felipe Martins who wasn’t closed down quick enough. He managed to send a low curling shot into Meredith’s left-hand corner. 1-0 Montreal

Seattle had two opportunities to get level before the break, in the 39th Montero’s attempt from a couple of yards out was smothered by Donovan Ricketts and a Brad Evans’ swivelling shot from 12 yards out in added time was again easily saved by Ricketts.

The score remained the same until the 50th minute when Justin Mapp ran at the Sounders’ defence. Mapp picked up the ball on the left before walking past three almost-passive defenders before firing back across Meredith and finding the bottom corner. 2-0 Montreal

It got worse for Seattle five minutes later. Hurtado was harshly sent off for a clumsy challenge on Collen Warner.

In the 57th minute Montreal capitalised on their man advantage, a free-kick was cleared but was unable to win the second ball leading to a routine through-ball by Patrice Bernier splitting the Sounders’ defence and Andrew Wenger’s first time shot beat a wrong-footed Meredith at his near post. 3-0 Montreal

Seattle clawed back a lifeline in the 61st minute with some great movement starting with Fernandez beating a man before laying it forward to Montero who spun and fed the on running Eddie Johnson, his calm dink over the on-rushing Ricketts made it Montreal 3-1 Sounders

Former Sounder, Lamar Neagle got the Impact’s lead back to three before the final whistle. He attacked from the left but a combination of Burch and Evans looked as if they had cleared the danger before falling over each other. Neagle pounced on the mistake firing past Meredith. Montreal 4-1 Sounders FT

It was definitely a night to forget for the Sounders’ faithful but one that team must remember for a long time to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The Rave Green will be attempting to right the defensive wrongs and snap the five game winless streak against Sporting KC at CenturyLink on Wednesday night.

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Stopper – Sweeper or Just Stop?

Written by on June 7, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in The Training Ground

Peter Salis is 22 year old Football fan from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Madridista since 2003 and still a fan of David Beckham. Hoping to one day become a children’s/genre author while also working in the field of soccer reporting and writing.

At the professional level of the beautiful game, the decision in which to play a straight back four or a stopper-sweeper system is made by a top team official. When it comes to your local Sunday league team, however, the defensive system you employ is rarely made by a “coach” individual.

With Sunday league teams, a common practice is “winging it,” attempting to employ each system at the most opportune moments, depending on factors stemming from the opposition (most commonly the speed of the other team’s forwards).

In this debate of a defensive system, that considers all the defensive players and not just the centre back pairing, an argument can be made for either.

What then are the pros and cons when it comes to the stopper – sweeper system? The positives for an efficient and properly employed stopper-sweeper system are many, but perhaps the most important is the stability and strength that it gives to the centre of a team’s defence.

With a strong tackling, fast, and stamina filled stopper, a team can easily pair this position with defensive midfielders to absolutely shutdown opposition centre forwards and attacking midfielders.

Wing-backs may also choose to pinch in on defence, forcing the ball wide while relying on wingers to help in defending. With a reliable sweeper, any ball sent over the top of a pinching wing-back or any ball that passes the stopper, can easily be cleared or turned into a counter-attack with a good first touch.

When a stopper-sweeper system is employed with four individuals that understand the tactical positioning and awareness of the game, this system can thwart almost any opposition attack. The pitfall, however, is the gap it leaves in the centre of defence. With any team, in any league, there will always be opportunity to attack.

The stopper-sweeper system leaves open opportunities in its gaps on the left and right of the sweeper when an opposition counter-attacks quickly. A covering sweeper will also be forced to shift out of position leaving his back vulnerable, allowing for an opposition to double up on the remaining wing-back, forcing the stopper to recover before an opportunity comes from it. This system allows for greater attacking movement as the stopper pushes the midfield forward, acting as an anchor man; spreading short balls to teammates who in turn look to start the attack.

In this ability to help the attack lays the advantage of the stop-sweeper system to the straight line defence approach. The negative side of a straight line is that it forces a midfielder to occupy the space that a stopper would, effectively removing that midfielder from the attacking third of the pitch.

In the case of a team like Real Madrid, however, that have a defensive playmaker such as Xabi Alonso, they are not hindered by removing him from the attacking third. It must be shown, also, that when Alonso is absent from the lineup, Madrid struggles greatly to move the ball and create chances.

The straight line defence makes up for its attacking deficiencies with its defensive capabilities, ensuring that the centre is always covered (either by a centre back, or the defensive midfielder when a centre back switches to cover his wing-back). The straight line is easier to operate, as both centre backs have a clear wing-back to cover, and the offside trap becomes feasible.

In the stopper-sweeper system an offside trap is nearly impossible, as the sweeper must remain in a relegated position. The defensive security and relative simplicity offered by the straight line is what makes this system far more popular.

A combination system is an excellent compromise in strategy, if the players are able to execute it. When attacking, one centre back becomes the stopper and advances into space that would normally be occupied by the defensive midfielder, while his partner would convert to a sweeper and cover the centre.

When defending, they would switch back to their defensive positions in a straight line and operate in that system instead. A compromising system requires a stopper centre back with the tactical awareness to read a play progressively, detecting a possible counter attack before it happens, so they can recover their position in the straight line.

When choosing a system for your Sunday league team take as many factors into consideration as possible. Consider the pace of your players, their tactical reading ability of the game, their strength on the ball, the voice of your keeper in calling out instructions, etc.

Start with a straight line defence and experiment as the game goes on. If you see that your team is controlling the play and has the better possession score, switch to a stopper-sweeper and attempt to take advantage with greater attacking numbers. Experiment as you go and choose what works best for your team.

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Canada 0-0 USA – A Canadian Perspective

Written by on June 4, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Posted in Canada, The Training Ground, United States

Peter Salis is a 22 year old football fan from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Fan of Real Madrid since 2003 and still a fan of Beckham. Hoping to become a children’s/genre author and work in the field of soccer reporting.

In last’s night 0-0 tie between Canada and the USA, the rare occurrence of Canada’s national team coach, Stephen Hart, getting his tactics correct took place. A national team program so fraught with under performance, poor leadership, and failure finally showed some resemblance to a properly functioning national team.

The 4-3-3 system employed by Hart seemed far too ambitious at the beginning of the game considering the USA’s two most recent games against Brazil and Scotland, in which they scored 9 goals combined. This system, however, worked perfectly for the Canadians and Hart, continually frustrating the USA’s midfielders and forwards while not allowing for too many clear-cut opportunities.

The system even delivered to the Canadians a few attacking chances for themselves, that with a striker on form would have easily capitalized on, (finger pointing at Mr. Jackson). The 4-3-3 positioned on the field played in truth more like a 4-5-1, with De Rosario and Ricketts playing heavily on defence, while attempting to maintain possession of the ball through their central midfielders when on attack, giving the aforementioned wingers a chance to break forward.

The strength at the back for Canada was also evident in the superb play of their Captain, Kevin McKenna. Early in the game, before the fifth minute in-fact, McKenna wrestled an American forward off the ball for a corner and smiled cheekily as he walked to his defensive position, relishing the fact that the American forward tried, and I mean tried, to push him off the ball and failed. The Canadians were filled with great team play and also superb individual play, coming from all three sections of the team.

Best Defender

Kevin McKenna  – His leadership and experience shone through at the heart of the Canadian defence, as the stalwart Canadians held the USA at bay. McKenna made a number of strong tackles and timely interruptions, helping to both cover and support his defensive teammates. On the rare occasion a ball managed to pass the Canadian captain, goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld was there to stop the opportunity.

Best Midfielder

Julian DeGuzman – Julian had a fantastic game in his defensive midfield role, plugging the gap between defence and forward, making life for the American forward players miserable. DeGuzman expertly supported his teammates in both defence and attack, covering the defensive space that the injured Hutchinson usually inhabits. His work on the ball was also quite impressive as he easily pinged passes out wide to De Rosario and Ricketts, while also making short, effective passes to his central midfield teammates, Johnson and Ledgerwood. Julian’s first touch and turning capabilities were also on full display, as on a number of occasions he used both to turn defenders and escape pressure.

Best Forward

Surprise, surprise but the best forward in the Canadian lineup was once again Dwayne DeRosario. Although he played a heavy defensive role as well, Dero’s attacking runs and possession looked Canada’s best chance to score time and time again. His tactical awareness and attacking play were far above any of the other Canadian forwards and if he had been playing for the USA, I doubt there would have been a 0-0 scoreline.

Dero’s ability to get wide on the left and create with a cross, in-cutting run, or fantastic dribbling run made him a constant threat to the American goal. Canada’s best opportunity came through Dero in the 92nd minute when he played the ball to the feet of Simeon Jackson, after bringing the ball into the box and dribbling past his American defender.

Overall the Canadian effort put forth was extremely satisfying to both the players and the coach, while also affording the fan something to cheer. The defence looked steady, giving up chances as any team might, but never looked under too much stress.

The midfield looked aware and prepared for the American plan of attack and did a thorough job of stopping it. The forwards looked to make most of the chances they got but were unable to finish the few they had.

This effort is an encouraging display ahead of Canada’s upcoming World Cup qualifying game against Cuba, who will put up a far different test than the Americans did. The Cubans will look to flop and cheat their way to victory and it is up to the Canadians to maintain their cool and look for victory themselves.

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Have some thoughts and opinions you want to express?  The Training Ground is your chance. Just click on the link.

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