Five Phrases to Retire from Soccer Writing
I've used 'em, and I am ashamed:
- "They need to finish their chances." True, but about as informative as "You don't want that souffle to collapse" or "The problem in Iraq is all the killing."
- "How can you leave him unmarked?" The problem with saying this is when it is used in the run of play against a defense with a zonal marking system. It always implies that a back missed his assignment, but the truth is usually that the fault was with a winger or defensive midfielder. The issue is frequently not that the defense left someone unmarked, but that the defense got beat once or twice. Consider a four man back line with zonal marking facing a winger coming down the flank. The winger beats his defender and sends a cross to the back post which is headed home. It may seem as though the goal scorer was unmarked, but what actually happened was that the back line suddenly had to contain a player running parallel to the goal line. One centerback shifts to contain the winger, the other to mark the near post run. The far outside back now contains a winger from the other side who makes a run towards the heart of the defense. Now, the far outside back is covering a defensive lapse from a defensive midfielder, and the outside wing player of the defending team is most likely out of position, leaving a space on the far post. The problem with "How can you leave him unmarked?" is that it implies that the goal is the fault of the defense, and not hustle by three or four players, most of whom will never touch the ball from the attacking team.
- "They need to score first and put the pressure on the other team." Is there any team with a losing record after scoring the first goal? Answer: No, although RSL tried. This is only slightly less informative than "You'll want to score more goals than the opposition. It also ignores the perhaps more informative truth: You don't want to be the team that allows the first goal. On average, teams that surrendered the first goal had a lower winning percentage compared to .500 than teams scoring the first goal had a greater winning percentage than .500. Individually, this was true for 7 of the 12 teams. It's not conclusive stastically, but it is interesting.
- "Player X may seem to be out of the game for 89 minutes, but one minute he'll get free and punish you." Said typically about strikers that like to conserve energy. The problem is that it is false, or else we'd have a bunch of players over the age of 30 with 20 goals or more.
- "These are some of the best fans in the league" Again, a statement which is true no matter what team's fans you mention. The best fans in the league do not belong to any one team, but can find themselves in the Barra, the Legion, in Section 8 Chicago, the Nest, the Quiet Side of RFK, and even in the remnants of the Empire Supporters' Club. They are all the best fans. What's more important than getting the best fans to your game is getting the good fans to your game, and that's less television friendly or interesting than the supporters. Now, I happen to think that if you treat the supporters well, the good fans see it and are more likely to come out to take part in the atmosphere. But every team has some of the best fans in the league. (Note: I am not talking about Rob Stone's comments relating to Section 8 Chicago on last weekend's ABC broadcast. His comments about "How happy it made him" to see the smoke were gold. That's good stuff there. Even if you disagree about the quality of Clint Dempsey's backheel.)