New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: Revolution at Portland

(Photo Credit: Mark Murray / Prost Amerika)

Diego Fagundez got his third straight start on Thursday. (Photo Credit: Mark Murray / Prost Amerika)

Thursday night the New England Revolution got a feather in their cap by holding a strong Portland team to a 0-0 draw in front of a very partisan and animated Timber crowd.

To get this result, the Revs needed to bear down defensively, and this they did, clogging their penalty area with several in-position defenders for the vast majority of the game. They had all 11 men back on corner kicks, with both posts covered – under the circumstances a very good idea, especially in the second half, with Portland peppering them with scoring chances. I have rarely seen a Revs back-four play so well positionally, and they did it last night with new left and right backs. Bobby Shuttleworth put in an almost errorless effort, suffering only one miscue in the second half. As the games go by, he is getting more and more assertive and confident.

Rick Sewall

Rick Sewall

I do wonder why the Revs choose to cover the near post with their shortest player, when the other team has a free kick outside the Revs’ penalty area. This is a place where height can be a real advantage.

Midfield possession was a Revolution problem for the whole game, especially in the second half. The solution?  Spread out and pass the ball more quickly, have more patience, and work on crisper passing and receiving technique. To top it off, players should be encouraged to do the unexpected. All this, as I am sure the coaching staff is well aware, takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of practice.

Offensively, the Revs had several chances to score in the first half and a couple of great chances late in the game. This is a good sign. Get everybody healthy, and keep plugging away. With the scoring so low in soccer one good shot often makes the difference in a game’s outcome. Work on it.

Kelyn Rowe had a strong game, getting more and more involved in the flow of play. He had a good shot on frame in the second half, but the one he missed over the crossbar in the first half occurred because of a lack of proper follow-through, a very important factor in keeping the ball under the crossbar.

I have a basic problem with the current orthodoxy among soccer coaches and teachers for teaching the power kick, which is to instruct players to land on their kicking foot after shooting. I readily admit that this will happen in a game, when players approach the ball at speed and/or from an acute angle, and, from this standpoint, landing on the kicking foot is not wrong.

Nonetheless, when initially teaching the power kick, coaches should instruct players in the “magic-hop” follow-through, which involves a quick hop forward on the placement foot at the end of the swing, before the kicking foot goes down. Landing first on the kicking foot causes the shooter to have too short a follow-through and to be briefly off-balance, with the placement foot often flying laterally away from the kicking foot. This imbalance makes it more difficult to follow the shot. Even more importantly, though, the magic hop provides that extra second for all the muscles around the hip joint (which is the major source of power in the power kick, rather than the knee) – especially the hip flexor – to be deployed to the maximum. It is a combination of the proper coordination of the hip and the knee joints, ensuring that all muscles are relaxed and working in harmony, and a complete follow-through that results in a very powerful and accurate kick.

Good luck to the Revs on Wednesday.


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