New England Soccer Today

Technically Speaking: #NEvSJ

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.com

Wednesday’s 0-0 tie between the Revolution and Earthquakes is a classic example of a team – namely, New Engand – that collected plenty of chances, but fell short of getting maximum points because of an easily correctable problem: poor shooting.

How poor? Well, I counted eight shots that threatened San Jose’s net, and only one of those went on target: the Diego Fagundez 73rd minute effort from the 18-yard-line, in front of the goal. His technique on the shot was mediocre, at best, featuring the all-too-common wild, cross-legged follow-through that leads not only to a lack of accuracy but also to a total inability to follow his shot for a rebound. He slightly mis-hit the ball, but it did go low to the left corner and forced David Bingham to make a nice diving save. This was the team’s best chance of the night. The other seven other threats launched by the Revs went off-target — either over the crossbar, wide, or both (yes, both).

In the seventh minute, Kelyn Rowe found an absolutely golden opportunity to shoot and score when the ball gently floated down to his right foot 15 yards in front of the goal. Bad shooting habits foiled him, though, as he swung his leg right to left across the ball and followed through with crossed legs. The startlingly-bad hit careened almost directly to his right and didn’t come close to crossing the end line. It was an ominous foreshadowing of the Revolution’s success – or lack thereof – in front of net.

Just after Rowe’s miss, the Revs earned a free kick outside the area taken by Chris Tierney in the eighth minute. Again, because of a wild follow-through, his shot went well off-target, both high and wide. Tierney is a strong taker of free kicks, but to move into the ranks of really effective power shooters, he needs to exert total body control from backswing to on-balance magic-hop follow-through. With this technical step forward, he could be a good European-caliber shooter of the ball.

Two minutes after Tierney’s miss, Fagundez shot low, but well wide from about 20 yards. Because he shoots with his upper body too erect, he has difficulty focusing on the ball throughout the shot. Lack of attention to the ball is the leading cause of missed shots, as evidenced by the Revolution’s continued misfortune in the final third Wednesday.

A couple of more misses served to keep the Revolution, who appeared to be primed to score before the break, from going into halftime with the lead. In the 17th minute, Lee Nguyen shot into the side netting from close range while demonstrating the same untamed follow-through that seems to afflict nearly everyone in a navy shirt. In the 22nd minute, Juan Agudelo hit the best ball of the evening after receiving a great cross from Rowe, but it still went off-target to the right.

Another example of bad shooting occurred in the 72nd minute. Right back Andrew Farrell, from 25 yards and in front of the goal, missed the target by 20 feet to the left. His shooting technique needs a complete overhaul. It would be best, with Farrell, to start from the very beginning of the power kick teaching sequence, emphasizing foot control, a full leg swing, and staying on-balance throughout the shot.

In a flub that somehow upstaged Rowe’s seventh-minute fiasco, Kei Kamara uncovered a totally wide-open shot off a cross, from 12 yards and directly in front of the goal—unquestionably a prime scoring chance in the 81st minute. It should have won the game for the Revs — but he completely butchered it by sailing it high over the bar, and the rains followed soon afterward. It’s no excuse that he had to use his left foot: at this level, every forward has to be two-footed.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this column, effective power shooting has a huge impact on the final score of a game. And when I say effective power shooting, I mean fast balls, line drives, not curve balls or knuckling efforts.

It always unsettles me to watch the Revs’ pre-game shooting/keeper warm-up drills, because the emphasis seems to be exclusively on curved shots to the corners from the 18-yard-line. There’s nothing wrong with these shots, but the likes of Kamara, Nguyen, Fagundez, Rowe, and Aguelo could all benefit from warming up their power shots too. Any team that masters the power shot will have the kind of advantage that can determine the success of a whole season, like whether or not it makes the playoffs.

The Revs were better from a statistical standpoint than the Earthquakes in this game. It gripes me that something eminently correctable — deficient shooting technique – allowed them to leave two points on the pitch Wednesday. And after the Revs missed out on the playoffs tied on points with Philadelphia – who clinched the final berth via goal differential, mind you – it’s completely inexcusable.

4 Comments

  1. Rick Sewall

    April 21, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Three minor additions: 1) to the description of Fagundez’s technique, add an improperly curved leg swing to lack of attention to the ball; 2) while knuckling efforts can be very effective (and tough on the keeper), the concomitant danger is that controlling them is much harder for the shooter and takes more technical delicacy a properly shot power kick will be easier for the shooter to control because it imparts topspin and thereby keeps the ball low (and, more likely, on-target); and 3) As a result of poor foot control combined with a curved leg swing and a lack of focus on the ball, you almost always see a Rev shot at goal from distance take on backspin, causing it to sail over the crossbar.

  2. JimM

    April 21, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Rick,

    I agree with your observations. However, I think there’s a more fundamental issue here. Passing. Poor passing and bad passing decisions causes a lot of what puts the players in a position of poor shooting.

    There’s two general problems. The players seem to have a problem getting the ball off their feet – too many touches. This gives time for the other team to swarm around the one with the ball – the Lee syndrome. This leaves nowhere to pass and fosters reaction passing. It’s so much easier to defend a dribbler.

    The second is that the passes are not actuate in general. A lot of times the passes are rushed (holding the ball too long), or just plain bad decisions. Sometimes the passes look like an after thought.

    There are two sides to a pass.There’s not much movement without the ball. Both to move to space or creating space.

    Without playing more disciplined you’ll continue to have poor, rushed and off balanced shots.

    The positive in this game was that the Revs showed more energy and movement. Unfortunately, SJ matched that energy.

    • Mike

      April 21, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Well said. The passing continues to be a major problem for the revs under Heaps.

  3. Rick Sewall

    April 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Reply to JimM and Mike—Thanks for the replies. I agree that the Rev passing attack often seems to fall apart because Rev players hold the ball too long (aptly described by JimM as the “Lee syndrome”), pass inaccurately, or sometimes try to force the pass unsuccessfully to marked receivers. On the other hand, I also guess that the Rev coaches focus on passing for possession quite a bit in practices (as most pro teams do); one piece of evidence supporting this guess is that the team does pretty frequently string together nifty and effective offensive passing sequences. In my own mind, I reconcile these somewhat contradictory observations by pointing (as I did recently in this column) to the team’s regrettable lack, since Jermaine Jones’s departure, of a midfield field general. It is the role of this key player to see the whole field and marshal and lead his troops in a sensible and coherent possession attack at goal. Without that commander at midfield, all too frequently the NCO’s on the field slide back into bad decisions and bad habits. With a Jones (or even better a Yaya Toure-type player) back on the field, with his excellent vision and knack to change to pace of a game, somehow everything clicks again.

    As JimM notes, bad passing can make it difficult for a player to shoot accurately, no question. But the fact that the Revs in Wednesday’s game muffed shots where the ball was fed sweetly right to their feet is a sign of serious team technical weakness at shooting.

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