FanPost

Defending Set Pieces Isn't Rocket Science

Look at the picture below you. Count the number of black shirts in the box. Next count the number of baby blue shirts. Finally ask yourself a question, "Under what circumstances should the baby blue team score a goal from this position?" Hopefully the answer you came up with was "zero circumstances", but if you can't see what is wrong with this picture just by looking at it along with my bootleg photo-shopped arrows, then please, click the jump.

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Teal Bunbury scored on this particular play. He was being marked by Chris Pontius; not a great match-up for Pontius, but not terrible either. Pontius did everything right, the ball just happened to be delivered behind Bunbury, and Bunbury was able to use his superior athleticism to move backwards while still getting enough power on the header to put the ball in the back of the net. I don't have an issue with Pontius, and neither should coach Olsen.

I do have an issue with Branko Boskovic (number 8) and Chris Korb (number 22). D.C. United was marking man-to-man with an extra man (Long Tan) on the near post. The six United players in the box are all marking up with their Kansas City counterparts, Andy Najar is marking a player at the top of the box who is not pictured in this shot, and Long Tan is standing two yards off the line in case the corner is very short.

First, the issue with Boskovic. Boskovic isn't very strong in the air, but still has decent size, so he has been assigned to try and win the ball if it comes to the near post. The role that he is playing is fine, and useful, but his positioning is all wrong. Boskovic is standing inside the six-yard box, an area that can easily be covered by Bill Hamid or Long Tan. If Boskovic had pushed up two yards towards the center of the field, he would have been in a much better position to receive a ball in the area that players usually run, and in this case, where the ball actually went. Maybe I'm being too nit-picky, Boskovic certainly wasn't at fault for the goal, but his positioning could have been much better.

The player who could have most easily prevented this goal though is Chris Korb. Korb is actually guarding no one, and is in an area of the field that is completely useless. The only person within six yards of Korb is the Edvin Jurisevic, the referee. After Jurisevic, Roger Espinoza is the closest player, a good 10 yards away from Korb. It's possible that Espinoza could have gotten the ball on a deliberate pass, but someone else would have had time to step to him. I'm really not sure why Korb is in this area. If he had been further up the field, he could have provided an outlet in case D.C. won the ball, but more importantly, he could have been on the far post and easily have prevented the goal.

There has long been a debate on weather or not teams should put defenders on one, or both posts, but if the opposing team is only sending six into the box, you might as well utilize the extra four players (minus the keeper) that you have. The best way of doing this is putting men on both posts.

Skip to 2:00 in the video below to watch the full play, and then ask yourself if you would position your defenders differently. This was an easily preventable goal; something that can be fixed in training, but for now, it cost United at least a point in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.




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