A few years ago at the NSCAA Convention, a prominent ACC men’s soccer coach gave a presentation on one of the hot topics of the year: “Development vs. Winning.”
With video, he shamed an opponent that beat his team with a long throw-in. At his program, of course, they teach proper development, not little tricks like that to win games.
A few days later, I saw someone score a Premier League goal off, you guessed it, a long throw-in. So I started to wonder what level of play was above the Premier League, because he’s apparently preparing his players for that.
Yesterday in Portland, Jessica McDonald’s long throw-in was a potent weapon for the Western New York Flash in its shocking 4-3 extra-time win over the Portland Thorns, eliminated the regular-season champion from the NWSL playoffs. The commentators marveled, and I’m sure some purists howled.
Surely no one would tell youth coaches to ditch the “footskills” emphasis and start training U-9s to turn their arms into trebuchets. But beyond the youth level, long throw-ins are simply part of the game.
And it’s not as if the Thorns play on a narrow field — at least, not any more. We see some tiny fields in the NWSL and MLS (see NYCFC at Yankee Stadium), but this field is a substantial 75 yards wide unless someone ordered a surprise re-painting of the lines.
The Flash did a few unpalatable things to reach the final, abetted by a referee who either didn’t see or didn’t care about some of the jiu-jitsu Western New York employed to slow down the Thorns. Coach Paul Riley probably didn’t plan to be sent off, but his efforts to work the refs were certainly not in vain. And we could argue that it’s unfair for the Flash to be in the playoffs in the first place given Seattle’s much tougher schedule.
But long throw-ins are simply something all teams have to defend. The Washington Spirit surely will be aware of the danger when they face the Flash in the final.