While coaching college soccer the last six years, I have been amazed at the number of teams that do not play soccer. By play soccer, I mean string a few passes together and try to build up an attack in resemblance to a good level professional team. I had a recruit in my office and she asked me how we played soccer. I started to tell her how we liked to keep the ball and build a possession orientated attack. This particular player had visited a good number of schools before ours. I stopped and said you must get that speech all the time. Every team says they like to keep possession. She told me that all but one had. I was surprised by this one and asked what the coach had said. She said that he liked to smack it over the top of the other team’s back four into the corners in order to pressure them so that they could win the ball close to goal. I thought about how honest that coach was and how many were not because I estimate that the vast majority of teams in division 1 play very similar to that. They would rather give away possession deep into the attacking third, than try to build up their attack. I would hate to be a midfielder because you get bypassed so much and are constantly sprinting up and down the field. It has become the norm in female youth soccer as well. It is bad for the game and I think that is becoming evident by the fact that our women’s national team is being beaten by lesser athletes that play good soccer. I propose that substitutions be limited (limited more in the college game) in order to keep teams from exclusively playing high pressure and direct. This will force teams to mix pressure. Keeping the ball and letting it do the work will come to the forefront because of the inability of players to keep up all that pressure for an entire game. Players will not be able to chase up the field for every long pass and then sprint back to defend the other teams long pass. Watch an MLS game and tell me how many teams play high pressure. None. Zero. There will be spells in the game when they go high pressure, but not for an entire game. The reasoning is simple: the MLS season is in the summer months and every professional coach agrees that a team could not sustain an entire match of playing high pressure in the heat. Nor could a team survive the up and down chase of playing a long ball forward and then defending a long ball. Forget about the college level (though I still do not like the ugly soccer it has become) because those coaches have to win or they get fired. Many of them start their careers trying to play, but quickly get pinned in by a high pressure team and end up searching for results by way of the long ball. What really upsets me are the youth coaches. I hear all of us sit around and talk about development. Then we go out on match day, thump it forward, and high pressure for a result. If a player wants to pursue a college career at a place that plays very direct soccer and resembles a track meet, it is their business. If a player wants to play at a school that keeps the ball and plays good soccer but can’t because they were never taught it, that is our business. It is bad business, if you ask me. You are robbing a player of his or her potential and opportunities. The sad thing is the parents don’t know any better. Shame on us!

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2 Responses to “Substitutions are Killing the Beautiful Game”

  1. Rob says:

    Great article.

    It’s a question of ethics, really. Is the coach doing something that is good for the players in the long term? Or, is he looking to make himself feel and look good in the short term?

  2. Bob says:

    The team that I am an asst. on preaches position for the week of practice then on gameday we tell the girls to take a touch then deliver the long diagonal. Then we sub most of them every few minutes. A disgrace really. The game is so much about feel and tempo. Just when these girls get going on the field, its time to come off. “Fresh legs”. Its rotten.

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