Single-Digit Soccer: Flunk the 2-3-1?

After a long day on the field, I came home and found this video on possible 7v7 or 8v8 formations:

So basically, anything other than a 2-3-1.

In the U.S. Soccer curriculum handed down a couple of years ago, the recommended 7v7 formation (see p. 31 of the PDF) is … a 2-3-1.

Uh oh.

When I started with U9s this season, I went with the curriculum. Even showed my team a little photo gallery explaining how to make it work.

The curriculum, on the other hand, does not explain how to make it work.

And that raises the question of whether can make it work. Or whether I should try to shift gears midseason.

I get Mr. Video’s complaints about the 2-3-1. The defenders and wing midfielders have a lot of space to cover. The center midfielder has a complex role.

On my team, though, coverage isn’t a problem. The center mid is everywhere. I take the players with uncontainable energy and play them there.

The other issue, less specific to my team’s idiosyncrasies: Do we really want to take four players (three defenders and a goalkeeper) and tell them they’re not playing offense?

Yeah, yeah, I know — the outside backs can move up the field. Some kids will get that, some won’t.

So what would you do?

2015 update: This post remains popular to this day. If you enjoyed it, please check out my book, Single-Digit Soccerwhich you can get for roughly the price of a latte and a tip. (You DO tip your baristas, right?)




Cricket player aims to make soccer club farewell pay off

Ellyse Perry has represented Australia in cricket and soccer. But to play for Australia in the World Twenty20, she had to say goodbye to her soccer club, Canberra United.

A few months later, she found a new club, Sydney FC. But before then, she has some business in Sri Lanka.

Perry gave up six runs per over in Australia’s World Twenty20 opener as her team won handily over India.


Ryder Cup reality check: Shouldn’t USA adopt underdog mentality?

Here’s the fallacy of the Ryder Cup: Europeans generally expect to lose, and Americans generally expect to win.

Maybe it’s some variant of American exceptionalism, where we in the land of apple pie and gridiron football just can’t process any sport we don’t win. That’s changing in some sports such as soccer, where we’ll gladly watch leagues and tournaments in which Americans aren’t even participating.

But it’s not changing in golf. We think we should dominate this event. We’re the country that closes business deals on the golf course. We didn’t invent this sport — the Scots apparently did it either in a fit of boredom or a far-sighted move to boost tourism — but we turned it into a giant business.

Europe also paints itself as the underdogs, with its band of plucky souls facing the big-name Americans like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson … um … the dude who won The Masters …

So the narrative is always that of a determined group of good friends from around The Continent against a bunch of spoiled superstars, winning through sheer hard word, camaraderie and passion. It’s the kids from Hoosiers against the Miami Heat.

Maybe the Americans are spoiled superstars — if you’ve read John Feinstein’s A Good Walk Spoiled, you’ve met a group of people who relate to the middle class about as well as the Saturday Night Live caricature of Mitt Romney — but there’s a much simpler reason why the Europeans are winning.

They’re good.

See the World Golf Rankings. Four of the top five are from the country sometimes called the United Kingdom. The USA dominates the next tier, but it’s not a steep drop to the lowest-ranked European — #35 Nicolas Colsaerts, who’s also their lone Ryder Cup rookie. The USA has four Ryder Cup rookies.

You can’t look back at Ryder Cup history and say, “Well, we used to dominate.” Sure, back when it was the USA vs. Britain (with or without Ireland). Since the competition expanded to include the rest of Europe, bringing a succession of superb Spaniards into the fray, it’s been nearly even.

And so it can be and should be an engaging competition between two evenly matched sides. With a rooting interest in every pairing, the Ryder Cup draws crowd engagement that you won’t see a typical golf event. Perhaps this sport has an Olympic future after all, depending on the format. (Though, again, it’s ridiculous to add such a costly event to the already expensive summer Olympic program.)

But how much more interesting would it be for Americans if, instead of being the big favorites, we treated this event as Rocky vs. Drago?

Challenging places to ride a bicycle

From the “things I would do if I were in better shape” department, world-class mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop has produced an entertaining look at a beautiful ride in the Appalachians. Love the scenery, but I could feel my legs aching just by looking at it.

From the “things I might considering doing if I were immortal or at least had a support crew for medical and security needs,” British adventurer/filmmaker Dominic Gill toured Egypt with a tandem bike during the country’s upheaval of 2011. Universal Sports will show us the results.

Why Lance Armstrong isn’t done with international authorities yet

The short answer: Because his associates’ cases are still active.

And that leads to this:

Translation of Travis Tygart’s interview with L’Équipe « Tour De José.

A few highlights:

– Travis Tygart talks about USADA’s reaction to death threats.

– Again, Tygart says Armstrong could’ve made things a lot easier by cooperating.

– Statute of limitations? Not so simple.

– The L’Equipe interviewer thinks the federal investigation into Armstrong must have stopped because it’s an election year. What?

American women in Europe: Champions League soccer update

Can’t promise I’ll do this every time we have UEFA games, but with the round of 32 starting this week, it seemed like a good time to check out the Women’s Champions League and see how U.S. players and a few players with U.S. ties are doing.

(I’ve surely missed people. Please add them in the comments.)

These are first-leg games in the standard two-leg format. Home teams listed first:

Zurich (Sui) 1-1 Juvisy (Fra): Only one notable name — Germany’s Inka Grings, now playing for Zurich, has moved closer to the great Hanna Ljungberg’s European scoring record. (Update from comments: Zurich’s Sonja Fuss played at Hartford.)

BIIK Shymkent (Kaz) 0-4 Roa (Nor): Easy win for the Norwegian side. Lene Mykjaland (Washington Freedom) wasn’t in the lineup yesterday as Roa apparently dressed only 14 players, including Norwegian stars Siri Nordby and Caroline Knutsen. BIIK has a surprisingly diverse squad, with players from Brazil, Serbia, China, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria.

Birmingham (Eng) 2-0 Verona (Ita): Two second-half goals for the hosts, whose lineup includes Karen Carney (Chicago). Eniola Aluko didn’t dress for Birmingham.

Spartak Subotica (Srb) 0-1 Goteborg (Swe): The winning side started Americans Christen Press (Stanford/magicJack), Yael Averbuch (North Carolina/WPS), Camille Levin (Stanford) and Ingrid Wells (Georgetown), with WPS vet Anita Asante coming off the bench. Levin had the lone goal. The Serbian side is mostly Serbian, with a couple of players from Cameroon and one from Montenegro.

Apollon (Cyp) 2-3 Torres (Ita): American Sinead Farrelly (Virginia/Philadelphia) opened the scoring for the hosts but left the game before halftime. Apollon extended the lead to 2-0, but Patrizia Panico scored a natural hat trick for the visitors in 19 minutes to take the win. American goalkeeper Arianna Criscione (Boston College/UCLA) was on the bench for Torres. Michelle Betos (Georgia/Atlanta Silverbacks) played in goal for Apollon.

PK-35 (Fin) 0-7 Lyon (Fra): Ouch. Americans Liz Bogus (Arizona State/WPS), Casey Berrier (Loyola) and Megan Chapin (Washington State/WPSL) were on the field for PK-35 against the bulk of the French national team, including former WPS stars Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily. Sweden’s Lotta Schelin and Japan’s Ami Otaki weren’t in the 18 for Lyon. Their other big-name foreign player, Switzerland’s Lara Dickenmann (Ohio State), scored Lyon’s fourth. As Richard Farley says at Pro Soccer Talk, the defending champions may simply be too good. Lyon outshot PK 37-2 (hey, subtract 2 from 37, and you get … 35!).

Olympia Cluj (Rou) 1-1 Neulengbach (Aut): One of the round’s most anonymous matchups but one of its most dramatic so far, with the Austrians getting a late equalizer and vital road goal. Neulengbach has Canadian defender Gillian McPherson, but she wasn’t listed on yesterday’s lineup. Cluj’s only foreign player is from Cameroon.

Stabaek (Nor) 2-0 Brondby (Den): Jasmyne Spencer (Maryland), the only foreign player on Brondby’s roster, got a couple of late minutes for the visitors in a mad dash to get an away goal.

Standard Liege (Bel) 1-3 Turbine Potsdam (Ger): The good news for Standard: They somehow shut down Equatorial Guinea star Anonma. American keeper Alyssa Naeher (Penn State/Boston) was on the bench for Potsdam; a few reliable people on Twitter have told me she typically plays the Bundesliga games and sits out the Champions League games. Alex Singer (Virginia/Washington) went the distance for Potsdam. Keelin Winters (Portland/Boston/Seattle) is on Potsdam’s roster but wasn’t in the 18. Standard lists American forward Carleta Arbulu (Ohio State), but she also wasn’t involved yesterday.

Barcelona (Esp) 0-3 Arsenal (Eng): Two of the biggest men’s clubs in the world, but you’d have to say Arsenal has a bit more experience on the women’s side. Still, the final score here flatters Arsenal. Barcelona put eight shots on goal, and Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne was superb. Arsenal had several familiar names — Katie Chapman, Rachel Yankey, Alex Scott (Boston), Gemma Davison (Western NY) — but Kelly Smith (Seton Hall/WUSA/WPS)  remained on the bench. Barca’s squad is all Spanish except for one player for Argentina.

Glasgow City (Sco) 1-2 Fortuna Hjorring (Den): Tiffany Weimer (Penn State/WPS) and Lisa-Marie Woods (U.S. collegian/W-League) played the full 90 for Fortuna. Nadia Nadim got both goals and missed a PK that would’ve given her the hat trick. Casey Ramirez (Syracuse) wasn’t in Fortuna’s 18.

Stjarnan (Isl) 0-0 Zorkiy (Rus): The biggest name here was probably the referee — Sweden’s Jenny Palmqvist, who sent off Stjarnan captain Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir in the 38th minutes. The Iceland side does include Mexican Veronica Perez (Washington/St. Louis/Seattle) and American Ashley Bares (Marquette), each of whom came on as a second-half sub. (Update: I overlooked Kate Deines, who played with Washington and the Seattle Sounders. She’s listed as Icelandic at Zorkiy has two Mexican players — goalkeeper Anjuli Ladron and midfielder Fatima Leyva — who also played at FC Indiana.

THURSDAY’S GAMES (will update with quick recaps)

Sarajevo (Bih) 0-3 Sparta Praha (Cze): Sparta has only one non-Czech player — Slovakian goalkeeper Lenka Gazdikova. Sarajevo has only one foreigner as well — American Jelena Vrcelj (Jacksonville). Neither played in this game.

Unia Raciborz (Pol) 1-5 Wolfsburg (Ger): Viola Odebrecht (Florida State) is in the lineup for Wolfsburg. Rebecca Smith (Duke/New Zealand) isn’t in the 18. The Polish team has three Slovakians and one player from Equatorial Guinea, Chinasa, who scored their lone goal in this rout.

MTK (Hun) 0-4 Malmo (Swe): Malmo starts Ali Riley (Stanford/New Zealand/WPS), goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir (Iceland/Duke) and mercurial Swiss forward Ramona Bachmann (Atlanta Beat). MTK’s squad is all Hungarian.

Den Haag (Ned) 1-4 Rossiyanka (Rus): No lineup info yet. Mexico’s Teresa Noyola (Stanford) and American Brittany Persaud (Dayton/Dayton Dutch Lions) are listed on the Den Haag roster along with my fellow Athens Academy alum Libby Guess (North Carolina/W-League). Rossiyanka counters with a couple of players from Sweden and Nigeria along with Brazilian Fabiana (Boston Breakers). Noyola and Guess went the full 90, while Persaud came on in the 88th. The Russian team must be pretty good.

Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer faces the voters

When Drew Carey was indulging his soccer fandom in his pre-ownership days, he learned about the concept of fans voting to keep or dump a club president.

He vowed to do the same thing as an MLS owner. And he’s a man of his word. General manager Adrian Hanauer — also a co-owner — is facing a fan vote on his job.

Technically, a “no” vote is a “lack of confidence” vote. From the official voting site: “A lack of confidence vote signifies that season ticket members are not pleased with the job of the general manager and direction of the team.”

But it doesn’t look like he’ll have to worry about it.

The Sounders are promoting the Twitter hashtags #AdrianIN and #AdrianOUT, and most of the OUT tweets are essentially saying only an idiot would vote OUT.

And that sentiment matches the comments I received when I asked aloud on Twitter. Also the comments on the Sounder at Heart blog.

Finally, the Emerald City Supporter feed has already made its feelings clear:

We probably don’t need Nate Silver to run the numbers for us. Four more years.

Soccer shocker in Richmond

Richmond, Va., isn’t just the home of a lot of Civil War history and Carbon Leaf. It has been a legitimate hotbed of U.S. soccer for a couple of decades.

The Richmond Kickers won the 1995 U.S. Open Cup. And they’re still around, making a strong run in the 2011 Cup. They’ve also built one of the strongest youth-through-pro clubs in the country.

And the Kickers are one of TWO U.S. Developmental Academy teams in town. The Richmond Strikers are also in youth soccer’s big show.

So this news is a little shocking:

SoccerAmerica – Men’s soccer dropped for … lacrosse 09/24/2012.

And no, it’s not women’s lacrosse. This isn’t a Title IX issue.

Let this sink in: A college in a town with a long, strong history in soccer has ditched its soccer team for a lacrosse team.

Soccer fans have been crowing recently about MLS overtaking the NHL and NBA in attendance (never a fair comparison, since MLS plays few weeknight games and plays in larger venues). Should soccer fans be worried about lacrosse instead?

EA Sports and soccer: Are video games boosting sport’s fan appeal?

Must-read for soccer fans: How video game is changing face of soccer – ESPNFC.

On the surface, it seems to prove what we’ve already known about soccer — Americans like to play more than they like to watch.

And yet this story provides a good bit of anecdotal evidence that the game is turning people into soccer fans. Mostly European soccer fans, apparently.

Now if only the Wii version offered a bit more movement …

Monday Myriad: Death threats and pregnancy

The weekly look at stories you may have missed from the world of Olympic sports, MMA, soccer and whatever else pops up this week starts with …

Beach volleyball: Kerri Walsh Jennings was pregnant during the Olympics. For some people, this is startling news. For soccer fans, it’s a Christie Rampone impression.

Cycling: Philippe Gilbert is your new road race world champion, making a well-timed late breakaway. Germany’s Tony Martin held off the USA’s Taylor Phinney to win the men’s time trial.

Olympic champion Marianne Vos added the women’s road race world title (USA’s Amber Neben was fourth), and Germany’s Judith Arndt won the women’s time trial ahead of the USA’s Evelyn Stevens.

Meanwhile, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart says he has received death threats. Can you guess why? Bet you can.

Soccer (European): They’re in Germany, but they’re American. They play for Hoffenheim, but the stadium’s in Sinsheim. But they can both find the goal — Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams scored in Bundesliga play this weekend.

Track and field: From today’s Track Super Fan roundup – Matt Centrowitz pulled off an unusual indoor (Millrose) and street (Fifth Avenue) mile double this year. And the sport may be hit with some labor strife.

Curling: Three events, two titles and an 18-2 record for a team of Olympic vets: Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick, Jessica Schultz and Ann Swissheim.

Cricket: Unseeded Ireland was knocked out of the World Twenty20 tournament when their match against West Indies was rained out after West Indies posted a higher net run rate in their previous match, which was decided on the Duckworth-Lewis table after rain interrupted Australia’s innings with Australia posting a higher run rate than West Indies but not so much higher that the net run rate between West Indies and Ireland … no, this doesn’t make any sense.

England got absolutely thrashed in their second match, getting bowled out for 80 to lose to India by 90 runs. They had already advanced to the next round, but that hurts.

Archery: The USA’s Brady Ellison finished second in the World Cup Final but won the season prize for scoring the most 10s.

MMA: UFC 152 was a terrific card. So why is Dana White in such a feisty mood? And what’s up with yet another injury in a main event (this time in UFC corporate sibling Strikeforce)?

And this week’s recap of The Ultimate Fighter:

– Looks like a new house or possibly a heavily renovated house, though they still cram several beds into one room. A laughing Igor Araujo provided the best summary of TUF existence in the show’s history: “This is the best place that I’ve lived in my life. I wish I could bring my wife and my two kids here and then could stay here forever. But with those guys, I just want to stay the six weeks and leave.”

– To illustrate the point, Matt Secor and Julian Lane start showing their peacock fighters. Lane’s Mohawk is turning pink. Secor says that’s like (bleep). Lane says it’s the color of (bleep). Secor says it’s really the color of (bleep). I have no idea whether to be offended. Later, they turn to more traditional fare like who fared worse in his prelim. Secor got beat up a bit but finished his fight. Lane is proud he wasn’t marked up. Lane thinks Secor has run his mouth. The rest is bleeped. (Oh, and they happen to sleep next to each other.)

– Lane and Colton Smith pulled a pretty good flour-over-the-door prank. All well and good, but Colton Smith somehow tied it into team-building exercises in the military. After that segment came an ad with Marines “running toward the sound of despair.”

– Michael Hill and Mike Ricci are buddies. Ricci says he can’t have conversations with others because they’re not at the same level mentally. That’ll go over well.

– Shane Carwin reads his academic resume (two advanced scientific degrees), and that somehow leads to his accomplished coaching staff of Trevor Wittman, Pat Barry and others. Barry is one of the funniest guys in the UFC — can he get some screen time? In general, Carwin is taking the Georges St. Pierre approach of assembling an all-star team of coaches and letting them be the experts. Carwin went a step farther and let his assistants do the cornering during the fight.

– Roy Nelson, who has been through TUF as a fighter, doesn’t want to do two-a-days. They’re going to train in the afternoon because that’s when they’ll fight. Some of the fighters are a little surprised to have such an easy schedule. Shocked, even.

– Nelson made a puzzling fight announcement. Neil Magny looked great in his prelim. Cameron Diffley is a jiu-jitsu expert. Nelson thinks Magny was in tough spots that Diffley can exploit. Carwin and his fighters think Nelson blundered. Bristol Marunde doesn’t like Nelson’s pick, Nelson’s diet, Nelson’s hair, Nelson’s beard … we get it, dude.

– Meet Neil Magny! Used to get in trouble a lot, then joined the Army and did the combatives program.

– Meet Cameron Diffley! He became a teacher before he became a fighter, and he grew up in the fight capital of the world. Now he’s the student, as Colton Smith tries to work on his wrestling.

– The fight always looked like it would go Magny’s way. In the prefight hype, Diffley sounded like a guy who had studied a bunch of stuff that could work in theory. Magny sounded like a confident fighter who had been well-drilled on how to avoid Diffley’s jiu-jitsu.

– Round 1: Three minutes of Magny looking much sharper on the feet, despite Diffley’s half-decent leg kicks. Then two minutes of Diffley nearly submitting Magny on the ground, transitioning quickly between a couple of submission attempts and threatening a kneebar for a while.

– Round 2: Magny came out strong, then foolishly dropped to the mat with Diffley, who threatened a heel hook. Magny finally got the message that he didn’t want to give Diffley any openings, and he simply jabbed at Diffley the rest of the way, standing up as quickly as possible when Diffley got him to the mat again.

Not the smartest fight. Easy to pick on Nelson for the fight pick, but Magny spent far too much time in the danger zone. It easily could’ve gone to the sudden-victory round, but judges rarely give submission attempts the respect they deserve. Unanimous decision for Magny.


Golf: It’s Ryder Cup time.

Australian rules football: It’s Grand Final time.