08 June 2009

Lack of Quality

Commentor Kenobi in my "Post Tease" post almost had the right answer. He quessed,
"The ability to serve in a decent ball off a free kick/corner kick?"
Actually, I was going to say just the opposite.

In the USA v Costa Rica match, Landon Donovan couldn't get his corner kicks over the 1st defender, and yet he continued to take them. If I had been Bob Bradley, I would have yanked LD from set piece duty immediately. That is unacceptable from a supposed world-class player. He did a bit better in the Honduras match.

Gomez has an ongoing similar problem. His service from the corner is often low and short. It is almost as if he is more concerned about the location of the advertising signage than accurately striking the ball. Tino and Pontius are doing a better job, I think.

And then I watched the SJE @ FCD match yesterday and witnessed two of the most atrocious set pieces I've seen in awhile. DvdB just straight up put the ball into the 14th row. I only put an asterisk next to A.A.'s name because shortly after a botched set piece, he scored a golazo in the run of play.

These are SET pieces. The minimum result should be a ball on frame or into the mixer that necessitates a clearance or a save or a ball that bounces in the box. If you can't do that, if you can't get the ball past the first defender or over/through the wall or if you can keep your attempt from just going into touch - after practicing it all week - then I, as the coach, will find someone who can. There are 9 other field players out there.


At 08 June, 2009 11:17, Anonymous Grunthos said...

In situations like this, where nobody is especially good at taking the corner/IFK, I often wonder why the coach doesn't select the guy with the greatest differential between technique and finishing. For DCU, that would be Fred, whose ability to balloon close-range shots over the bar is becoming legendary. You keep Gomez in the middle of the field where he can look to put something away.

The criticism doesn't hold up as well when the other options are demonstrably worse. Who, on the USMNT, is going to provide better service than Landon? Perhaps Torres. But there's a real lack of competition there.

At 08 June, 2009 11:45, Blogger Bob said...

Doesn't matter. If LD or Gomez is getting a little too comfortable taking them and as a result taking them poorly, then by shaking things up a little bit by allowing Gooch to hammer it into the wall (cover those crotches!), then maybe LD will snap out of it.

At 08 June, 2009 13:01, Anonymous Grunthos said...

This presumes that Landon is too comfy, rather than fundamentally inconsistent. I actually don't see LD as a complacent player - I think he gets a bad rap in this regard b/c he is the best we've got, and people want him to be more than he is. But then we risk going down the tangent of MNT performance and politics... a dangerous road, indeed.

The broader point would be, if the best set piece guy on a squad is a mediocrity, and everybody else is poor, then sitting the mediocrity to motivate him is only going to have an impact if he isn't motivated. If semi-decent is the best he can do, and he is the best you can procure, then you live with that. Having somebody else step up to fire the ball into the wall a few times won't make your mediocrity have better technique.

At 08 June, 2009 13:06, Blogger Bob said...

I understand your points. What I can't get past is that you should be able to practice getting the ball past the first defender from inside of the opponent's third. That LD can't reach that very low bar is what is so frustrating and embarrassing to watch.

At 09 June, 2009 09:07, Anonymous Bill Urban said...

Simply put, it's harder than it looks...

The point is not merely for the ball to clear the first defender, but barely to do so, and at great pace. Lobbing the ball in a great looping parabola over the first defender makes finishing very difficult, since the defenders only have to clear the ball up and out, rather than down and on frame.

None of which excuses your original point about professional players being expected to serve better balls than the four examples mentioned. In Donovan's defense, because Nats training is so infrequent, what happens during Galaxy training sessions is probably more germane to his ability to serve good set pieces.

Have you noticed him doing serving the same poor balls in MLS matches, which are also far less important and stressful than Hexagonal matches?

You also should have noted the difference in surface between Costa Rica and Chicago. The ball "sits" differently on turf than it does on natural grass, which might have explained in part how Donovan's service appeared to improve between Wednesday and Saturday.

At 09 June, 2009 12:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why not play Adu more? Besides his creativity and flair, he also hits some nice set pieces... Wish he would get himself off the pine so that he can get into real playing fitness...If not, Torres will eclipse him and that will be tough to overcome.

Interesting article on whether the Nats are regressing:


At 10 June, 2009 13:37, Blogger Ryan Melvin said...

Hey Bob,
I have some information regarding DC United.

Soccer fans were surprised to learn last year that DC United star Santino Quaranta was addicted to painkillers and cocaine. But after a stint in rehab, he's clean, sober, and a force on the field. And he has created a very public way to remember how far he's come. Hakem Dermish has his inspiring story tonight on News4 at 5.


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