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I consider the goalkeeper the last defender but for the sake of the article and to eliminate confusion when defender is used in the article it refers to the field player. Also all directions that are talked about in the article are as if you were in the goal so when left is said it is to the goalkeepers left as they are looking down the field.
Many areas can be examined in the 1v1 save: spacing of goalkeeper to back line, attacking player in possession of the ball, 50/50 ball, goalkeeper winning the ball outright, angle and distance the attacking player beats the last defender. I am going to go over the goalkeeper dealing with a forward who has broken down the last defender just outside of the 18 yard box and is attacking the goal while in possession of the ball.
The first area we will examine is the communication and starting spot of the goalkeeper. Once the attacking player is going at the last defender the goalkeeper needs to communicate to the defender which way they should be forcing the attacking player. Generally the goalkeeper wants to force the player further away from the goal. So if they are attacking from the right side of the goal (remember we are talking from the goalkeepers point of view) the goalkeeper would communicate to force the player to the right so if the defender is beaten the attacking player has a tougher angle to attack the goal. If a player is attacking down the center of the field at the youth level if you have not scouted the team and do not know the attacking players dominant foot the goalkeeper should force them to the right as there are less left footed players. Also at the same time the goalkeeper needs to start changing where they are standing in the goal. At this point the goalkeeper should begin to creep out of the goal (walking heal to toe of half steps) anticipating the defender getting beat so they can quickly close down space and possibly eliminate the 1v1 before it even begins.
The second area we will examine is now the defender has been beaten and the goalkeeper has creeped out but the attacking player kept good possession of the ball so the goalkeeper now must close down the space. As soon as the defender has been beaten the goalkeeper must see how far the attacking player has pushed the ball to beat the defender. At this point the goalkeeper must close down space by being in an upright sprint until the attacking player is reestablishing control of the ball. The goalkeeper must be looking at the forwards feet so when they draw back their foot to shoot they must immediately get into their set position so they can stand the shot up or move laterally. How the set position looks will depend on the distance between the goalkeeper and the attacking player if it is below 9 yards they will be in a stalk position anything above this will be a normal set position.
Now we will look at the stalk position. The stalk position is the goalkeeper having their weight on the balls of their feet with their chest slightly forward and legs under the shoulders but not wide enough for the ball to go between them and the hands down at the sides so the fingers are level with the top of the ankle and the palms are facing out and the finger are stretched out and taught. The goalkeeper is in this position because the attacking player is going to be shooting at close range and the goalkeeper is trying to be as big as possible and protect the space in tight to the legs as it is the most difficult spot to get down for a save. If the attacking player has not pulled their shot and continues to dribble in the goalkeeper will close down the space in the stalk position. When closing down the space in the stalk position the goalkeeper should have strides of heal to toe so they can get set quickly. If the goalkeeper is taking big strides and moving to fast when the attacking player pulls back their foot to shoot the goalkeeper will not be in control of their body to get into the proper stalk position.
Next we will look at the goalkeeper sliding through the ball and the attacking players feet to make the game changing save. Once the goalkeeper has gotten into the stalk position and is closing down the attacker they want to slide through the ball in between the attacking players touches. Once they have chosen the proper moment to slide through the ball the goalkeeper from their stalk position will lead with the hand and foot that is closest to the ball. All the weight will transfer to the lead foot and the goalkeeper will be low to the ground and push off this foot to drive through the ball with their hands. The trail hand (the hand further from the ball) will come across and go to the top of the ball while the lead hand will be behind the ball. The head is behind the arms with eyes on the ball and the forearms are there to protect the goalkeepers face. The goalkeeper will be diving into their armpit and hip so that they are a big barrier behind the ball. It is important that the goalkeeper pushes their body through the ball as this will make it much more difficult for the attacking player to cut around the goalkeeper and if anything is not held the ball will have a much greater chance of coming back into their body.
Sample training activities
Good luck in your goalkeeping endeavors and hopefully this will help you in making the game changing save!
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A breakaway occurs when the attacker with the ball has penetrated the last defender. The goalkeeper becomes the only opposing force available to stop the attacker from dribbling the ball into the net. The save requires a great deal of courage, but it is a key game situation that can leave the goalkeeper with total respect from his teammates and a frustrated opposition. Knowing the proper methods and practicing them can help improve your odds of success.
There are three stages at which the save can be made in a breakaway situation.
To deal with the breakaway situation the goalkeeper must rely on the following visual cues: the speed and angle of the ball, the speed and location of the first attacker, and the presence and location of any other attackers. The keeper should also consider the nature and conditions of the game prior to the breakaway. Who's ahead? By what margin? How much time is remaining? What are the field conditions? Who has the momentum? How skilled is the attacker with the ball? Is there a defender closing in?
The save can become a foot race if the lead pass to the attacker is too strong or if the attacker's first touch is too far ahead of her. The keeper can get to the ball before the shot is taken in this case. The save that is made during the shot is a smother save. The keeper smothers the ball at the shooter's feet before the shooter can get off the shot. The final type of save requires knowing which way to dive and reloading quickly.
There are some areas to consider when making the breakaway save. The first is to look for visual cues that the attacker is providing and mirror them. If the attacker is coming at speed then the goalkeeper must respond at speed. Likewise, if the opponent is attacking with patience, then the goalkeeper should respond with patient defense. Often when patient, the ball will find its way to the keeper, because the attacker will run out of time before making a good decision.
The goalkeeper should also master the concepts of angle play and correct positioning. This can be practiced with a logical progression of intensity. The first phase of training should start with no pressure. Then the second phase should contain some, but not all, of the competition to build the keepers confidence and ensure they are using the proper technique to protect themselves, the ball, and covering the best angle. The final phase should be as close to match conditions as possible.
To ensure that the keeper is protected it is important that they have the grass cutter or low ball save technique mastered. Driving the hands low and through the ball, catching the ball out in front of the body, arms crooked, and arms parallel will create the barrier to protect the face behind. The mid section is protected by the top leg and knee, which is also used for momentum during the dive and to reload to a standing position. Keepers that are not confident in breakaways or the grass cutter technique will often slide in leading with their knees or feet. Not only does this expose a significant amount of the goal, reduce the likely hood of controlling the ball, it also exposes the face and often results in harsh collisions. As a keeper takes the power step to lower the body and hands during a breakaway save they are driving to and through the ball with their body weight giving the keeper the advantage in force in the event of a collision.
A final note...The goalkeeper's primary focus should always be on the ball, not on the opponent's eyes. React don’t anticipate. Stay up as long as possible. Force the attacker to make a good shot.
The Ball Doesn’t Lie!
About Coach Christian Benjamin:
Christian is the owner of keeperstop.com; Central Connecticut Mens Assistant and Goalkeeper Coach; CT Olympic Development Staff and Goalkeeper Coach; Director for Star Goalkeeper Academy; as well as goalkeeper coach for high school, premiere, maple, town, and college goalkeepers in MA, CT, NH. NSCAA National Goalkeeper Diploma and USSF C.
Questions or comments are welcome - contact www.keeperstop.com
Whether it is a through ball behind the line with an offensive player running on or a player who has broken through the defensive back line and is dribbling in at you, the one thing in common with these situations is you are the only thing between the player with the ball and the goal. The other thing both of these situations share is that it requires you to come off your line to deal with the player and the ball. Lets talk about both of these in their simplest terms.
You have three basic choices:
These choices are in order of preference. (The above 3 concepts where formalized by Tony DiCicco)
Shutting a play down when feasible before the shot is taken is always the best choice. Having said that, your first considerations is can you win the ball before the approaching player? Or can you win it off a poor touch ? If so you need to attack and smother the ball quickly and decisively.
Determine the speed and distance of the attacker, you will need to “close them down” by taking space ,try to match the pace of the attacker as you come out. Rule of thumb is to take as much space as you can when the ball is off of the players foot.
Avoid “ no man’s land” that is where you find yourself not close enough to the player to influence the shot and too far from the goal to make the save, usually, an easy chip shot over the head.
That is the breakaway in its simplest form. See part two for more advanced considerations.
There are 3 techniques that are all tools for the keeper on a breakaway, each one is suited for a different situation.
We discussed at length in part one the considerations for coming out under control, this is used when the attacker is in solid control of the ball.
Let’s revisit our first choice of “making the save before the shot”. Often in a breakaway this requires a “Sliding Save”. As the name implies this is a save made while moving forward and sliding on the side of your body, hands first towards the ball. This save requires timing and toughness.
Considerations to perform a sliding save:
A modified sliding save is the same in almost all respects to the sliding save, except for a couple of technical changes. This save is used for choice number two from the part I “making the save as the shot is being taken”. If you can visualize getting to the attacker just as the ball is being struck or a fraction after. Your consideration now is to make your self large as you are sliding in to the ball. Shoulders square, coming in with the central part of your body, arms a bit more above the head, hands cupped over elbows bent to help contain the ball.
Your chances of success using any of these techniques will improve with a correct starting position. Which means if you are moving with the flow of the game and not just sitting on your line, then you may gain a step or two advantage in 1v1 events.
Last but not least….. You have tactical considerations these require an ability to understand and “read” the game. You need to be aware of where your defense is in relation to this breakaway/ through ball you are dealing with.
Can your defender recover in time to head the player off? Is there a player who can come across and intercept the ball/player? If so are they in a better position than you to make the play? Can you combine with your defender to “pinch” the player out of optimal scoring position? By this I mean that a defender giving chase should take up a goal side position and force the player wide while the keeper cuts the angle working in tandem with the defender; this usually results in a poor shot or bad touch by the player giving the GK the opportunity to make the save.
All of these considerations both technical and tactical take lots of practice and game time. When you are working at game speed you don’t have time to think about your choices they need to be automatic, and this only comes from repetition in the proper form.
Catherine Gordon is the Founder and Director of Net Edge Training, http://www.netedgetraining.com/. Since 1999 Net Edge Training has specialized in goalkeeping training for players of all ages, from youth to collegiate. A former USL W-League goalkeeper for the New Jersey Wildcats. Gordon boasts over 25 years experience between the pipes. A graduate of Purdue University. Catherine Gordon is a Division I Asst. Coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University with primary responsibilities for goalkeeper training and development. Gordon holds a USSF “C” License and a NSCAA Advanced National Goalkeeping Diploma. She also serves as a goalkeeper evaluator for the Olympic Development Program and is a certified Trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).