In soccer, restarts from corners or free kicks are the only place where coaches can truly design plays. By studying an opponent’s personnel and tendencies, alert coaches can spot weaknesses and areas to exploit. When every goal in a game is critical, improving the chances to score on a restart can make all the difference in the world. In getting ready for the quarterfinal match against El Salvador, the staff used that approach to perfection.The first and third goal for the United States in the in the 5-1 win against El Salvador came from short corners, a strategy developed by the coaches to force the Salvadoran defense out of their shell and give the U.S. attackers room to maneuver.
“We had that planned out to play constantly short corners because it usually pulls two guys out of the box,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the game. ”The teams that we face so far often were with eight or nine defending around the six-yard box, so we almost made [short corners] mandatory. If the players make their runs and come from the 18-yard line and not being in too early, it will give you opportunities.”
With that idea in mind, the U.S. used two different approaches on the goals. On the first, the short was taken by Jose Torres to Landon Donovan, who passed to Michael Parkhurst at the corner of the 18. With the ball going backwards, the defenders pulled up towards the top of the box. Donovan then made a run in behind, and off a fantastic chip from Parkhurst was able to collect the ball close to goal and find Clarence Goodson.
On the USA’s third goal, Donovan took the corner and passed it to Torres, who teed up Donovan for a cross into the area. Once again the Salvadorans were forced to react, and the perfectly-timed run from Eddie Johnson was rewarded a fantastic ball into the area that EJ powered home just 15 seconds after stepping onto the field as a substitute for Chris Wondolowksi.
Two different approaches to solving the same issue, and both with lethal effectiveness. Sometimes it does work exactly how you drew it up on the chalkboard.