The goalkeeper as the first line of attack

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The goalkeeper as the first line of attack

After watching England play Spain in the new UEFA Nations League game in which Jordan Pickford helped to create two goals with his great distribution, I thought I would highlight how the goalkeeper is not only the last line of defense, but also the first line of attack.

Video 1 – England’s first goal v Spain

Video 2 – England’s second goal v Spain


Video 3 – Belguim’s goal v Japan

For another related article, please see [The Goalkeeper as the Quarterback of the Team] 


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The Full Lowdown on the Goalkeeper’s Warm-Up

As a goalkeeper, you need to prepare both your mind and body before a game. You have to be confident that you are in the best possible shape to play. 

The goalkeeper’s warm-up should be different from that of an outfield player and should ideally consist of four elements.

The first and most important thing is the goalkeeper is in a confident and in a relaxed state. This can be obtained through positive reinforcement and putting him or her in situations where they will achieve success.

The body has to be ready to perform the movements required of a high-level goalkeeper (footwork, movements, contact with the ground and contact with other players).

It is important to go through a variety of technical aspects of goalkeeping that will be used in a game.

Game related situations
This has to do with either a scouting report on how your team or the other team play, the type of surface you are playing on, dealing with conditions and the balls that you are playing with.

The Psychological & Game related situations can be incorporated into the Physical and Technical. Below I will address each.



Physical – Preparing the body for optimum performance

A significant amount of research has shown that performing a proper dynamic warm-up before an activity is a much better route to optimizing performance than simply static stretching. A proper dynamic warm-up has many physiological benefits:

  • Increases core body temperature
  • Increase blood flow to the muscles
  • Stimulates the nervous system and activates muscle groups
  • Improves joint mobility and flexibility
  • Increases coordination and balance
  • Reinforces proper movement patterns
  • Decreases risk of injury (due to all of the above mentioned)

There are four parts to this specific category.

  1. Pre-activation. First, we want to get your stabilizer muscles firing. This includes activating the smaller core muscles surrounding your torso. This is because we all have muscle imbalances and by going straight into exercises, you automatically work your stronger muscles thus creating more of an imbalance.

Examples of preactivation suitable for goalkeeper warm up.

  • Balance drills

2. Mobility / Flexibility exercises. These are exercises geared towards improving range of motion and raising the heartbeat















Examples of mobility /flexibility exercises suitable for goalkeeper warm up.

  • High kicks
  • Open / Close the gate
  • Arm circles

See this video of Courtois doing mobility and flexibility exercises as he enters the field.

3. Moving stretches. This can be done with a ball and coupled with handling.

Examples of moving stretches include

  • Backward reaches
  • Lunges
  • Inchworms


4. Build up & Load acceptance Now it is time to ramp it up if your planned activity involves power, speed, or agility drills to prepare for the game. This final step is preparing your nervous and muscular systems for higher speed, more complex athletic movements. This can certainly be incorporated into the Technical part or your warm up.

See this video of Courtois doing these type of exercises as the final part of his physical warm up.











































































The Psychological aspects needed will be reinforced through completing clean saves, or finishing on good saves, having the GK coach or other GK reinforce good technique. Service would have been hard, but not impossible and sufficient rest in between technical exercises.

The goalkeeper should also be conscious that much of the aim of shooting practice is to give strikers confidence. The goalkeeper should maybe go in for a few shots to get a feel for the speed in which shots may come in and improve reactions, but should certainly not get down if shots go in. The backup goalkeeper should field the remainder of these shots.


Game related situations

During the technical warm-up, you would have dealt with some of the natural conditions. Wet surfaces and skidding balls, turf, grass, mud, wind, sun or ice. 

It is important that you request one or two match balls to practice with ( If the team you are playing against has them) to get a feel. In my experience, different brands of ball feel bigger or move differently in the air.

During the warm-up, you should have got an understanding of how the area and the goalmouth play before you kick off. Make sure between you and the server you really understand how the ball rolls when hit across the ground, how does it bounce? This can often vary drastically between in and outside of the 6-yard box so really do test it out and adjust your play style accordingly if needed.

If a scouting report shows that the opposition prefers to do something, in particular, some additional time may be spent on that in the warm-up. We must realize, however, that the game warm-up should not be confused for a practice session.


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The Benefits of Outfield Training and Playing for Goalkeepers

Inspired by a question on the Goalkeeper HQ closed facebook group and something that is occuring more so in youth soccer. The goalkeeper playing out on field when not in goal.


Here is the question that was posted;

“What do you do when your child has been a keeper since they were 9 years old and you get a new coach for high school who is splitting the keeper position but wants your child to play the field the other half. And during practice and scrimmages puts your child on the field to practice rather than in the other goal. Daughter is a junior and has every intention of playing college. Thoughts?”

I see there being two parts to this question.

  1. Dealing with the threat of not being the #1 Goalkeeper ( Linked article ) 
  2. The benefits of playing out on the field.

The benefits of playing out on the field.

We should all know that the game is evolving and that goalkeepers, amongst other things, are expected to play the ball out like an NFL Quarterback. See the article.

I will provide ( soon, I hope )  an article on how to be not just good, but great with your feet in another article, but for now, let’s look at the benefits of being asked to play on the field.

  1. Premier League stats show that although there has been an increase in the number of passes made by goalkeepers, year on year since 2012, the big increase in the number of goalkeepers being asked to make 800+ passes in a season. ( That’s 20+ per game ). By playing out on the field you will get an opportunity to get the much-needed practice in when passing the ball. 
  2. The speed of decision making for the passes you make will improve as on the field, players are more likely to press you more quickly than when you are the furthest player back.
  3. Fitness is important for any athlete, and goalkeepers in the past have had a reputation of being lazy, just standing in the goal. Use this time out on the field to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Goalkeeping fitness is certainly different but the cardiovascular fitness you gain will be important for those high-intensity games and could make the difference between making a save and not making a save when you would otherwise be tired.
  4. Know your players better. As a goalkeeper, it is easy to be apart from the team as opposed to being part of the team. Use this time to muck in with the team, enjoy jokes and the camaraderie. Just as long as the jokes are not on you!
  5. Appreciate your friends. ie your defenders. By playing as a defender, you will have a better understanding of what a goalkeeper is asking of them. You will appreciate the balls that the goalkeeper expects defenders to get, you will how good/bad communication can affect decision making and you will be able to understand the ways in which defenders are likely to get beat and what that means for a goalkeepers positioning.
  6. Know your enemies! ie the forwards. Much like it is important to know how defenders react in certain situations, it important to get an insight into what it is like to play forward so that as a goalkeeper you are better prepared. Angles of shots, the likelihood of hitting shots first time, ways to beat a defender etc!

Many thanks to the Goalkeeper HQ community who helped answer this question with real-life answers. See below.












































See part one of this article which answers the first part of the question – [Dealing with the threat of not being the #1 Goalkeeper]





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The Threat Of Not Being The Number 1 Goalkeeper

The Goalkeeper HQ community is proving it’s worth with the website and social media platforms acting as a great resource. We recently got a great question which I wanted to share with everyone.

“What do you do when your child has been a keeper since they were 9 years old and you get a new coach for high school who is splitting the keeper position but wants your child to play the field the other half. And during practice and scrimmages puts your child on the field to practice rather than in the other goal. Daughter is a junior and has every intention of playing college. Thoughts?”

I see there being two parts to this question.

  1. Dealing with the threat of not being the #1 Goalkeeper
  2. The benefits of playing out on field

Dealing with the threat of not being the #1 Goalkeeper

There are pros and cons to having to deal with two goalkeepers on a team. In the article – “Best of friends, keenest of rivals – Dealing with being one of two goalkeepers” I list the benefits, which are;

  • Create healthy competition
  • For the goalkeepers to warm themselves up together
  • Takes the pressure off of the goalkeeper if they have to miss a game
  • It allows for recovery of injuries
  • Two goalkeepers allow for an inter-team scrimmage. 

With this being said, there is a psychological barrier to deal with when you feel you are losing your place as the starting goalkeeper. Confidence issues come to play and a feeling of rejection can arise.

As in another article that addresses “Dealing with getting dropped from the team” here are some reasons why you may be falling out of favor?

Some reasons why a coach may drop you. 
  1. Performance. You are making too many mistakes and you do not instill confidence in the team
  2. You have done something very wrong that breaks the club’s code of conduct. The coach needs to stamp authority on the team and prove that it is not ok to behave in that way
  3. Your head is not right! – You are distracted and focus is not as it should be. This often leads to distracting others in training and during games or not being responsive.
  4. Your strengths do not match the opposition or the way that coach wants you to play
  5. Persistent small infringements that undermine the coach. Turning up late, wearing the wrong uniform, talking when the coach is etc.
  6. Playing time needs to be given to another player in order to keep up the strength of the squad.

The same article also provides advice on dealing with some of the emotions if you do get dropped, but the original question does not imply that this has happened so here is advice for a healthy and competitive relationship with any goalkeepers looking to take your spot.

Here is some advice for goalkeepers who are competing for the number one spot.

1 – Do not make enemies with the other goalkeeper. Although they are competing with you for your place, you need them to push you harder, provide quality service, warm you up, provide you with rest during practice drills. A visual resentment towards the other goalkeeper will not go down well with the coach.

2 – Be coachable. The ability to take criticism without looking for an alibi. Not being a “Know it all”, and always looking to improve.

3 – Show that you love the game and the position. Is there a passion in the way that you train? Give 100% every time.

4 – Provide evidence of being mentally tough. Ensure that one mistake does not lead to a mental breakdown causing many more mistakes.

5 – Treat practice like you would a game. Demand great technique from yourself. Communicate with players like you would in a game.

6 – Practice at home. Even if it is small things like strength or speed training. Little improvements add up over time.

7 – Show that you are willing to make sacrifices. Are you available for selection during a friends birthday party – even if you don’t get to play?

8 – Look the part. Correct uniform, shoes tied up, shirt tucked in, socks pulled up – ball pumped up

9 – Befriend the influential players on the team. These are normally the loudest players or the captains. Other influential players are the defenders that play in front of you.

10 – Similar to #9, is the communication you give your defenders. If you just bellow out instructions or commands without any praise, the defenders will get sick of you. Boost their ego. Make them feel good with a “well done” – Defenders will like playing in front of goalkeepers that make them feel good. Coaches will pick up on that chemistry and elect to play you.

11 – Be ready to perform when called upon due to injury. See my post “Waiting in the wings

For the second part of the question please see the article [ THE BENEFITS OF OUTFIELD TRAINING FOR GOALKEEPERS ]


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Forget VAR – I’m watching the World Cup using VR!

Wow… I just watched a very resilient home nation win on penalties against Spain in what has been another amazing chapter in this great World Cup. I have been lucky enough to capture so many of the games in different viewing scenarios, but I have found a game changer in regards to viewing the game. 

Fox Sports has had its critics in regards to the commentary of the games, but from a coach’s point of view, and for you as a goalkeeper, their coverage using their app is truly great and a great way to view the game.

Here is a selection of the ways I have watched the games using their coverage:

  • Match 360 Tactical view
  • Cable cam view
  • Team 1 channel
  • Team 2 channel

The tactical view, in particular, shows a great view of the team’s shape and goalkeepers vertical positioning.

I do, however, have a game changer in the new “Fox Sports VR” app on my Iphone!!














Not only does this app allow me to watch the game and enjoy the good weather, it provides an executive box view from the halfway line of the game, in which you can use VR to view any part of the game that you want. Even better from a goalkeeping point of view is the option to watch the game from behind either goal. 

This behind the goal option is a throwback for me, as my passion and early education for goalkeeping came from this very view when I was a ball boy for my local team when I was around ten years of age. This view provides great goalkeeping insight into angles, positioning for set pieces, movement to support after goal kicks are taken and communication with teammates.

You can watch by holding your smartphone up or by purchasing one of those cardboard or plastic VR headsets. I got a plastic one from a “Five Below” store.

If you are not in the U.S. please let me know if there is a similar option in your country.


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Goalkeepers should be aware that you could get sent off trying to save a penalty

In the recent U17 UEFA European Championship International game between Ireland and the Netherlands, we saw an unfortunate event in which the Ireland goalkeeper got sent off after saving a penalty. 

I previously wrote a popular post on penalty saving methods in the past and been thanked multiple times for its help. I will link to it immediately below. Watch the video though and I will explain how these tactics may now need to change!

Penalty saving methods

All the footage of the actual penalty shootout seems to have been taken off the web lately, but you can see the game highlights with the penalties at the end of this official UEFA video.



You have seen in the video above that the Ireland goalkeeper receives his second yellow card for supposedly stepping off his line prior to the penalty kick to save a penalty. I say supposedly because some still frame pictures show that the goalkeeper’s feet are still on the line when the ball is struck.

In the video below, Kevin Kilbane and Joe Molloy of “Off the ball” discuss the situation.

Upon some research, I do see that the new rules of the game made for the 2016/2017 season does show that a yellow card should be shown for the infringement. ( see below – underlined in red )



What are the takeaway lessons from this event?

1) Know the rules and calculate the risk v reward of stepping forward prior to the kick being made. Prior to the rule change, there was little risk compared to the reward of saving the shot as if the referee deemed that you had moved early all that happened was that the forward had to take the kick again, leaving them nervous and double guessing what way to go for the second kick. Now the risk, if caught, should be a yellow card.

2) Get to know the referee with good communication. Read a previous article about the power of good communication with not only your players, but with officials to get a feel for what kind of person they are. Do they engage in conversation? Are they fair? Are they consistent? Have they told you prior to the shootout that they are aware of the rule? If you are dealing with an inconsistent referee or one that does not communicate their decisions, it may not be worth the risk of stepping forward.

3) Much like when the six-second rule for goalkeepers came into play (Read my article of not taking advantage of the leniency that refs give on this rule), referees will be keen to show off the fact that they know the new rule, and will look to enforce it. This recent incident has highlighted the fact that the rule is indeed to give a yellow card, so it is likely to be fashionable for referees to stick to this. My advice is to not risk the step forward deliberately early in order to avoid punishment.

[Previous article]


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Who makes the cut?

World Cup 2018: Who makes the cut? – A guest article by Luke Morenas-Jones

The following article I read last week and thought it was an excellent read.

Luke Morenas-Jones has given us permission to repost his article which comes from his Goalkeeping blog,

Many thanks Luke.

It’s been something of a tough time for England’s goalkeepers this season.

I’m not convinced any of the currently capped keepers can honestly claim to be heading into the World Cup having had a good season.


Joe Hart, the most experienced of them all, has probably had the worst of the lot as he currently watches on from the bench at the London Stadium. Fraser Forster, Ben Foster, and Jack Butland have endured underwhelming seasons with Southampton, West Brom, and Stoke respectively with some notable individual errors. Jordan Pickford has had some fine performances, but is nonetheless part of an Everton team flailing in mid-table. Tom Heaton (a personal favorite of mine) is yet to properly return from a horrible shoulder injury which perhaps leaves Nick Pope – his young replacement – as the only English goalkeeper in the Premier League who’s playing in a side performing higher than expected.

Admittedly, the performance of the team doesn’t correlate with the ability of the individual – but the numbers don’t look good. In fact, 5/6 aforementioned (and fit) keepers feature in the top 10 teams for most goals conceded, as per

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 19.45.24

Not a great look.

As international friendlies approach, it’s time for Mr Southgate to hone is choices for his first international tournament; one with the obvious weight of expectation that accompanies the Three Lions wherever they travel. But who makes the cut?

Joe Hart

I can’t help but feel sorry for Hart. After a troublesome season in Serie A, where some of his technical and psychological flaws were exposed, his decision to join West Ham on loan hasn’t seen him get back to the goalkeeper we saw before the Euros, or the one who put in perhaps the best performance from an English goalkeeper in Europe against Messi’s Barcelona.

Some of Hart’s technical deficiencies have progressively been targeted by the opposition. Most notably, and as detailed by The Telegraph after the opening of the season, Hart struggles making low saves either side, specifically down to his left. His save percentages in these zones are remarkably poor, at just over 60%—compared to 85% in upper zones. Iceland, anyone?

Hart has also struggled coming off his line, which for me points to a wider issue psychologically…

Now, I’ve got no inside track—no knowledge source that isn’t accessible to everyone. However, Hart has always seemed to be a player who thrives off getting “pumped up,” so tense and agitated that perhaps the balance between bravery/intention and cognition/technique becomes skewed under mental pressure. It’s an area he’s admitted to learning from in an interview before – but the source eludes my memory.

The main worry is his lack of game time this year. There’s no doubt he’s experienced and a leader in the group – and for this reason I won’t be surprised to see him get a space on the flight out to Russia.

Chance of making the squad: 50%

Jack Butland

I like Butland. As someone from a multi-sport background, watching the former county-standard rugby player gives me an insight into what life is like for me in a parallel universe.

He holds his balance and shape well, is strong and decisive in shot stopping and more than capable with his feet. His explosivity is also superb. He had a bit of a mare last weekend against Leicester after pushing the ball into his own net, but a string of fabulous saves afterwards gave us a better account of how good Butland can be—all on his debut as captain.

Whilst Stoke’s defensive record places them at the top of the ‘Goals Conceded’ table, Butland does much better in terms of quantity of saves. In fact, the English stoppers in general make a better show for themselves:

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 21.22.05.png

But, as anyone with an analytical mind will contend, these numbers lack the contextual application to make them worthy decision-making tools.

Being the sad interested spectator I am, I took some of the stats and pulled out a save % statistic, comparing the same set of goalkeepers. Butland drops right down the table to 14th. The same impact is seen by Pickford, who claims a very strong 4th spot in quantity of saves, but drops to 18th place in save percentage.

Nonetheless, I feel that the question for Butland isn’t whether he travels, but whether he starts. He has a huge potential both at club and international level, and has impressed when he’s appeared for England previously. Butland is every bit the modern shot-stopper, if lacking in the hollywood-sidewinder-assist department.

Likelihood of needing to know Russian this summer: 90%

Jordan Pickford

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about Pickford is very unorthodox. Whether it’s his left foot, expressive hand movement during games or love of a parry, watching Pickford in action is an experience of its own. This is a young star certainly not lacking in the hollywood-sidewinder-assist department – arguably England’s only proponent of the ‘modern day’ ability to distribute accurately across various distances at the highest level. He also hasn’t missed a single minute of Premier League football this season.

Against Germany, Pickford was superb, denying Werner twice from 1v1 situations to keep England in the game early on. His performances for Sunderland last year rightly brought him acclaim and whilst his Everton side this year has struggled, he doesn’t look out of place at a club where expectations are higher.

What strikes me about Pickford is his communication – a lot of Premier League goalkeepers – De Gea in particular – seem quite ‘passive’ and quiet in comparison but he’s not been shy to make sure his teammates can hear him. It’s a good lesson for younger players that regardless of your age relative to your team mates, you can help them and yourself by talking.

In my mind, the decision over the starting spot is between Pickford and Butland. My personal preference would be Pickford, purely for his ability to turn defence to attack in seconds – something that might prove vital in tight, nervous group games. My one question mark over them both is that they haven’t had a mentality of keeping clean sheets and winning tight games all season – can they switch in the summer when required?

Subjective probability of trading Liverpudlian city views with the Red Square? 95%

Nick Pope

The wildcard. Here’s where it gets [hopefully more] interesting. Pope, originally brought in to cover for the wonderful Tom Heaton, has been outstanding for Burnley. In fact, according to Sky Sports,  Pope is behind only De Gea in making unexpected saves, keeping out around 8 attempts on target that were expected to result in a goal. That’s a huge deal for someone no one would’ve expected to be playing, let alone thriving. Charlton Athletic fans will be aware of his talent, but I daresay no one would’ve predicted this level of impact. For context, Pickford has made 0 – he’s kept out exactly how many he’s been expected to.

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 13.00.40.pngPope has a fantastic ability to spread and make himself big, using his massive frame to smother attempts. At 25 years old he isn’t the newbie many expect – and this experience at different levels has no doubt attributed to his assured and consistent performances for a Burnley side doing very well for themselves.

Gareth Southgate, attending Burnley vs Everton this weekend, has certainly got food for thought – I feel as though Pope will get a call up for the upcoming friendlies at least where he’ll be given a chance to prove himself.

I feel as though the third spot for the World Cup is up for grabs between Pope and Hart, which admittedly, becomes an easy decision if considering form alone. Taking into account tournament experience however, given one of Butland and Pickford are likely to start, the decision is a bit more complex.

“It’s pronounced Mosk-va”-o-meter: 55%

The Unlikely Outsiders

There’s a few players who deserve a mention in this section. In reality, barring a freak set of injuries it’s hard to see any having a realistic chance but it’s four months until the World Cup – plenty of times for circumstance to chance.

Tom Heaton

As I mentioned before, I love Tom Heaton. He’s been underrated for several years but last season he was superb – a string of brilliant saves come to mind (The starfish to keep out Ibra?). His injury this year was a huge blow – under different circumstances, Heaton in my mind could have a strong claim to going into the World Cup as the number 1.

If you’re as used to tuning in to FATV as I am, you’ll be familiar with the brilliance of Tom Heaton – his balance and agility is superb, making the most difficult footwork and recovery look easy, with neutral, tidy hands. He’s a great example to show kids growing up and looking for someone to emulate. He’s a leader, brilliant communicator and someone I think, personally, could do just as well at a higher stage. What he lacks in modern distribution he makes up for in a wealth of experience and leadership qualities.

The difficulty for Heaton will be getting his spot back in the Burnley side. Pope’s form makes it very difficult to drop him, but a run of games is essential after such a big injury. A lot comes down to what Dyche decides in this fairly unusual circumstance.

Swapping the John Smiths for Smirnoff? 40%

Alex McCarthy & Fraser Forster

McCarthy has done well this year to work his way back into first team football. Fraser Forster, who has subsequently lost his place, has struggled since Pellegrino took over at Southampton. I initially held high hopes for Forster – he’s a huge, imposing force and impressed when he first came to the Premier League. But over the past two years, i’ve questioned his decision making – his method of recovering, decisions to parry and the areas he pushes the ball into. He’s never stood out for me as a distributor either.

I think McCarthy becomes the next in line should anyone else’s form drop considerably or injury strikes, but I don’t think he’ll be expecting to make the trip. In his favour however is that Southgate has called him up before – although he’s yet to get his first cap.

Angus Gunn

As a Chelsea fan, I was able to watch Gunn for Norwich across the two mightily boring cup games over the winter. I was impressed – both games were low scoring, but Gunn was assured, authoritative and made some good stops. His hands were tidy and distribution consistent. Gunn has consistently shown to be very effective claiming high balls – a remarkable 99% success rate.

The main argument is that Gunn has been a constant through the English youth systems. Southgate has shown a willingness to use the relationships developed at younger age groups, but perhaps bringing Gunn is more a gamble on what he may become in the future rather than his current experience. Maybe one tournament too soon for the on-loan City keeper, but one to watch for sure.

Final Verdict

By no means is it a foregone conclusion, and upcoming friendlies certainly give Southgate a chance to see what these different players offer. For me, the decision is quite clear.

The starting spot comes down to Butland and Pickford. Pickford edges it for me because of his superior distribution and my personal view of how he has performed for Everton this year – although statistics would support this over Butland. I’m aware that Pickford doesn’t have a lot of International experience. But he hasn’t struggled to make steps up the footballing ladder before; I don’t expect the World Cup to be any different.

The third spot is the difficult one – do you go with Pope’s form or Hart’s experience? If Southgate values the nous and wisdom of the struggling Hart, especially as neither are likely to feature, it would make sense to take the former no.1. If the decision is made on meritocracy alone – Pope gets the shout. Perhaps the youthfulness of the rest of the squad will make an impact.

What do you reckon? Who gets on your plane to Russia this summer? Let me know in the comments or on twitter!

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GKHQ Media Intern, James Doig gets a position with NY Red Bulls

Back in February 2017, James Doig who was studying Media at Quinnipiac became our intern. Upon taking up the position, he recognized that the glove part of the business had the greatest potential for growth and he went about creating the website

James, for the last year, has continued to market the L1 Goalkeeper brand as well as being a Media advisor for Goalkeeper HQ.

As part of his Masters and, whilst using the L1 Goalkeeper brand as part of his portfolio, James managed to get a position in the media team at the New York Red Bulls. 

James attended the Red Bulls CONCACAF game last week with an all-access pass. He wrote the following article prior to the game – 5 Reasons to Attend Red Bulls vs Club Deportivo Olimpia

James continues to work with Goalkeeper HQ as a consultant and managing further interns. If you would like to get experience using soccer or goalkeeping as the vehicle in any of the following fields, please contact

  • Coaching
  • Sports management
  • Marketing / Advertising
  • Digital / Social Media
  • Communications

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Implications of the US Soccer Player Development Initiatives for Goalkeepers

Back on the 1st of August 2017, the following article came out from US Soccer: “Five things to know about U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives”

I have been meaning to share this article but did not get around to it. Now that the spring season is around the corner, I thought I would dig into the article to see how it affects goalkeepers, especially as this is the last season in which any grace period to transition will be over.

What are PDI’s?

The Player Development Initiatives aim to create an environment for youth players to grow and develop their soccer abilities. The most notable PDI includes small-sided game standards. Small-sided standards are regulations for youth games played with less than eleven players on each team that include field and ball size, game length and special rules. Fewer players on the field will allow players to be more involved and provide more opportunity for development. The PDI for small-sided standards of play will be implemented across the country.



For goalkeepers that were born in September – December and used to being the oldest players on the team, they will find themselves playing a year up and being one of the youngest. 


The implications for these goalkeepers are both physical and psychological. Playing up will, will most likely mean that the goalkeeper will be playing against taller, stronger, faster players with shots coming in harder and possibly further away. These goalkeepers will also find that they will be playing with players in a higher school year, which may affect the goalkeeper’s confidence in communicating and presence. By having a uniform age range across the country also means that tournaments and showcases are played with same age players.


The small-sided philosophy is aimed to develop improved skills with the ball and to develop intelligence with and without the ball. The uniform standard aligns with the physiological needs of the players.


The small-sided games provide more touches for the goalkeeper and encourage the goalkeeper to make more selection of passes when distributing. The goalkeeper also becomes more of an option to pass back to. The goalkeeper should be ready to be the quarterback of the team, an article which I wrote previously.

US Soccer Development Initiatives

The small-sided games also mean smaller fields and smaller goals at the U9 & U10 age groups as goals are changed from the old 8v8 size of 7ft x 21ft to 6.5 x 18.5 This is great for smaller goalkeepers to adapt to.

For the full resource pack on the initiatives from US Soccer, please see this link:

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The road to becoming an “All American”

The recent Philadelphia Soccer Coaches Convention was a great learning tool, but also one to celebrate achievements. For one young man, whom I have had the pleasure of working with, it was an opportunity to pick up his recognition of becoming an “All-American” player.

The United Soccer Coaches ( Previously the NSCAA ) announced in December the 127 players ( 67 boys & 60 girls ) who had been recognized across the country for their efforts and performances throughout the fall of 2017 in their High School season.

The players were formally acknowledged for their accomplishments at the All-America Luncheon on January 20, 2018 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in conjunction with the 2018 United Soccer Coaches Convention.

Mauricio Arango, a senior from Yorktown Heights, NY was one of three goalkeepers chosen for the boys.

I had the pleasure of working with Mo when I was the goalkeeper coach for Everton FC Westchester as part of the Development Academy. We struck up a great relationship from the first session, which I recall was just him and myself as the note had not gone out to the teams that there was going to be goalkeeper training that night. 

Mauricio has some great training qualities that can be emulated by all goalkeepers.

  • He is always on time to practice and prepared
  • He gives 100% to each session, even if he is tired
  • He is good to have as part of the training because of his hard work, other goalkeepers try to reach his effort, making the session more enjoyable for all involved
  • Mauricio communicates with the coach and with the other goalkeepers during the session. Either to ask questions or to encourage the other gk’s with a “well done”or a “good save”

Here is Mauricio’s highlight video.

I asked Mauricio how and why he may have got picked for such an award.

“I play for Yorktown High School in Westchester, New York and as a team, we had a great year. We won the Section 1 championship for the first time in 27 years and for the second time in school history. We won our region semi-final game and reached the region finals, which is the equivalent to state quarterfinals, only to lose to Ithaca High School”

So, it helps that your High School had a good year. How did he do personally?

“Personally, I recorded 11 clean sheets and only allowed more than one goal on three separate occasions. I won MVP of the League, I was voted the Section 1 Class AA MVP of the playoffs, and I won the Section 1 Player of the Year. I received All-Section, All-State, All-Region, and All-American honors as well.”

That is impressive! It’s starting to tie in now… The clean sheets are both good stats and help the team to get points. It is the combination of winning and securing the shutout at the back that starts to get people to take notice. I’m sure that wasn’t the only thing. What attributes did you bring to the team to help you stand out?

“I think what got me recognized was my leadership on the field. I knew I could perform game after game but it was my leadership and my presence on the pitch that elevated my game even more. I was also always one of the most intense players in the field, I cared so much about my teammates and the overall outcome of the game that I couldn’t accept defeat. That’s what really helped me get recognized.”

Mauricio in action with his High School team (left) and at the Goalkeeping Residential Camp with team-mate Cam. Two success stories as one plays High School and the other the Development Academy with NYCFC.

Your team must have been pretty good. Were you called into action much and did you make any crucial saves?

“In the Section Semifinals against Arlington HS at their home, we were up 1-0 with about 10 minutes left. I made three saves about five minutes when they were pressuring us. They couldn’t find the equalizer and I think that motivated the team into closing out the game and going on to win that game and going on to win the Section final. In the season, I probably made between three and eight saves in a game.”

You have played US Development Academy soccer and High School. What would you say are the differences?

“I think the biggest difference is the pace of the game and the intensity of the training sessions. The pace in which the Academy games are played is much faster and it demands quick thinking and quick decision making. The training sessions for goalkeepers are also more intense at the Academy. You usually don’t have a goalkeeper coach at High School so it can be difficult at times to keep that high level of intensity when you are running your own sessions.

Why did you make the decision to play High School soccer?

“All my friends were playing High School sports and I felt that I was missing a great opportunity to make friendships and to make memories. I also knew that my High School team was one of the top teams in the section so I didn’t feel it was a big step down in quality.”

What would you say is the weakest part of your game and how did you deal with it or disguise it during the season?

My weakest part of my game would have to be my distribution and one on one situations. I disguised it by distributing as quick as I possibly could. As long as the ball was out of my hands and into the feet of my teammates I was happy. My distribution did progress as the season went on so it didn’t become a detriment to my game. For one on one situations, I learned to anticipate through balls and that made it easier to collect balls and to cut out attacks.

How was the actual ceremony in Philadelphia?

“The All-American ceremony in Philadelphia was an amazing experience. It was great to meet top quality high school players from all across the country. It felt great getting recognized as a goalkeeper too because we usually don’t get much love. It was also great to see all the college level athletes getting recognized, that really motived me to work hard in in my future endeavors, whether that’s it’s soccer or in life. The ceremony was an unforgettable experience. “

What are your college plans?

“I will be attending Quinnipiac University studying _______________________ I have been offered a spot on the team.”

Mauricio with his father and his award at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia.


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