For a long time, I feel like I've been stuck in a rut when it comes to how I watch soccer. For probably the past year, I've kind of lost track of how good or bad a team is. This came to a head as I watched Sporting play and tried to understand why I didn't think they were doing very good despite being near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.Where they really bad at attacking, or was I just watching it wrong? In a game that has 90 minutes full of incidents, how can I judge better what I'm watching? How do I stop it from being one big muddle of men running around on the pitch and kicking a ball different places. Who is making an outstanding impact on the game? What phases of the game are teams working best in?
To try and understand the ebs and flows of what I'm watching. I've started to break down the different parts of the field and watch specific battles and the decisions that are made that result in changes.
I simply broke the field down into thirds and watched specific things in each segment of the field. Keeping tracking of these different battles and stages has helped me quantify a game and judge who really has the best decision making skills.
When either team bring the ball into the final 3rd of the field, I watch to see what they do with their attack. What decisions are they going to make with their attacking possesion? When a team gains control and cycles the ball around or makes an attacking thrust they may have the ball for 15 secounds to a minute or two maximum (usually). What is the final out coming of their decision making progress?
Each team gets between 20 – 50 different attacks during a game. Since most attacks do not result in a goal, decision making matters. Think of two weeks ago when Seattle played Vancouver. The Whitecaps far fewer attacks, but the decisions they made when they had their turn on attack trumped Seattles many attacks.
If a team moves the ball all the way up and then cycles it all the way back to midfield or farther I still think of that as one attacking move / judgement of their decision making skills.
When the ball is in the middle of the field, I don't count any small movement forward as an attack. It's the time when the midfielders get to battle it out and we see who can win the dirty battles in the middle.
So in summary, I realize this is pretty simple but it's helped me.
- Cut the field into thirds
- Judge teams based on the outcomes of their attacks and their decision making skills when they attack in the final third (purposeful movements and good ideas or 3 minutes of possesion that results in a cross to no-one?)
- Watch the midfield battles and enjoy. Give teams mini points for winning battles.