Category Archives: Observations

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Following a college GK coach on a recruiting trip

In this video, originally used for our Mentor program, we follow Yale women’s goalkeeper coach, Marty Walker as he recruits players from Surf Cup in San Diego.


Takeaways from the video include:

  • Marty looks at Goalkeepers two years ahead of the recruitment year
  • Coaches have many players and games to watch – They are unlikely to stay for the whole game.
  • Players playing for MLS teams get the attention of the coach
  • The perception of the goalkeeper in warm-up is important to encourage coaches to stay and watch games
  • Coaches viewing schedule is based on communication from prospective recruits prior to the tournament
  • Although coaches dont just wonder the field in the hope to find someone, they may be at a game looking at someone else ( an outfield player perhaps ) and if you impress, they may inquire about you.
  • The game may not allow you to shine. If you look good when not busy, the coach will make a point of seeing you in a different game.
  • Marty was looking at the goalkeeper’s ability to communicate with defenders as well as show good technique, even with the easy saves.
  • Distribution and starting positions are other areas in which coaches can judge your ability without even making a save.
  • The Surf Cup is ideal for recruiting as it has many fields in the same area – Allowing goalkeepers to catch the eye of recruits not necessarily there to see you.
  • Grades need to be as good as possible as certain grades are needed to get into schools

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The goalkeeper as the aggressor

Following on from the last post named “Goalkeepers should Kill or be Killed” I thought I would share some footage of goalkeepers as the aggressor. Examples I feel that takes the kill or be killed too far.


This first video shows a goalkeeper coming out feet first to a player after his mistake left the ball loose on the edge of the box.


Pine Forest goalkeeper Cassie Sturtz has been banned for two matches after committing a brutal foul in the closing stages of her side’s 4-1 defeat to Pinecrest in a women’s high school game in North Carolina.

The incident happened towards the end of the match, which brought an end to Pine Forest’s previously unbeaten record.

Pinecrest already led by three when Riley Barrett was played in on goal in search of a fifth. The linesman’s flag was raised to signal offside, but that didn’t stop Sturtz from rushing out of her goal and launching into a dangerous head-high tackle.



In this clip, the Algerian Goalkeeper gets mad at a little kick from the forward and lets his frustrations get the better of him.


This is my absolute favorite. Goalkeeper Glenn Verbauwhede uses the front smother to great effect to be the aggressor. I love the confidence as he encourages the forward to come towards him before going head first. I love how he some how tricks the referee into giving the opposition player a yellow card. I’m literally laughing out loud as I watch this again.

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Don’t abuse the leniency of “The 6 second rule”

So after what was meant to be a quick comment on the November incident in which Liverpool Goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet got penalized for holding on to the ball too long in what is known as “The six second rule” – I have found myself full of information about changes to the rules in the goalkeeper’s possession. Having played through many of these changes which took place in the late 80’s and early 90’s I thought it interesting to list them here.

The six second rule came as an amendment to FIFA’s Law 12 back in 1998, which states that “a goalkeeper is not permitted to keep control of the ball in his hands for more than six seconds.

This rule was to stop the goalkeeper, who has the privilege of handling and holding the ball to delay the game and waste time for the advantage of his or her own team.

See what got Simon Mignolet punished. ( below )


Almost all associations agree that the rule was not meant to be strictly reinforced, and as long as the referee deems that the goalkeeper is making a sincere effort to release the ball, there is no need to strictly enforce the 6 second rule.

Some notes for goalkeepers.

  1. Possession refers to holding the ball in the hands.  If a keeper chooses to put the ball down on the ground and kick or dribble it they can take all day, as long as they don’t pick it up again.
  2. The six seconds are to be counted only after the goalkeeper is fully in control of the ball. That is after he/she gathers themselves, gets up and begins to look for a teammate to play it to
  3. As noted by US Soccer, Law 12.8 “Before penalizing a goalkeeper for violating this time limit, the referee should warn the goalkeeper about such actions and then should penalize the violation only if the goalkeeper continues to waste time or commits a comparable infringement again later in the match.”


As you can see from the above video, it’s only when you abuse the rule ( Mignolet takes some 22 seconds ) that you get penalized. As the goalkeeper, you will be the one to blame as there are so many distribution options….. even if you drop the ball on the floor and distribute with feet.

The result in this game and also in the 2012 Olympics USA v Canada which Erin Mcleod finally gets penalized after her 3rd lengthy delay, is in indirect free kick and a goal against.

How can we combat this?

1 ) Speak with your coach about the game tactics. Long or short distribution?

2) Ensure your team mates are aware of the plan and that they immediately get into an open space when you receive the ball

3) Increase your range of good distribution

4) Be comfortable with the ball at your feet so you can drop the ball and play if necessary.

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The goalkeeper possession changes and rules

Upon investigating when the “Six second rule” came into play, I came across this article on the FIFA web site which lists the rule changes that goalkeepers went through prior to the six second rule that we see today. The rule that recently Simon Mignolet got pulled up on which resulted in a goal from the resulting indirect free kick.

Here is the insert from taken from October 31st 1997 post.

Game of cat and mouse
Goalkeepers have of course always tried different tactics (or these have been devised for them by their coaches) to exploit the handling privilege in order to use up time. The International Football Association Board, as the rule-makers of football, have repeatedly tried to counteract this, and it has resulted in a kind of running battle, or game of cat and mouse, between the Board and the goalkeepers over the years. 

It is quite a fascinating story to review, to see how we arrived at the latest rule changes introduced by FIFA on 1 July this year. 

The story starts in the early 1960s, at which time the goalkeeper was still allowed to keep the ball in his hands for virtually as long as he liked, taking as many steps as he wished in the process, as long as he bounced the ball on the ground or threw it in the air and caught again as he moved. In other words, he was free to use up as much time and penalty-area space as he wished, and it was up to the opposition to try to get the ball away from him fairly and safely ­ a virtually impossible thing to do. 

It was around this time, as gamesmanship crept in and the privilege first became systematically abused, that the rule-makers felt it necessary to fire the first salvo in the battle, by introducing the four-step rule. The goalkeeper was given up to four steps to travel while holding, bouncing or throwing the ball in the air and catching it again, without having to release it into play. 

The goalkeepers and coaches were quick to react. The goalies exploited the wording of the new law by using the four steps rule as they liked : they would hold the ball, put it on the ground after one or two steps, dribble it a few metres and still have two or three steps “in the bank” when they picked it up again ­ thus using up valuable space and time. 

The Board hits back
The Board hit back by declaring that if the goalkeeper held the ball with his hands and then put it on the ground, he would not be allowed to touch it again with his hands until it had been touched by another player. 

The goalkeepers responded by holding the ball and then throwing it to a nearest defender, sometimes only a metre or two away, who would pass it back to the goalie, who would repeat the whole process all over again … and again. Another way of wasting time, and against the spirit of the FIFA ruling. 

It was the turn of the rule-makers to react, which they did by saying that if the goalkeeper held the ball in his hands and then put it on the ground, he could not touch it again with his hands unless it was played by another player, of either team, outside his own penalty area. That meant that goalkeepers now risked having their short passes to defenders intercepted by alert opposing forwards. 

But it did not stop some goalkeepers abusing the basic privilege of handling the ball, as they developed a new tactic: that of parrying the ball instead of catching it cleanly, even when they could have done so. They would merely pat the ball down to the ground with their hands, then take their time dribbling it to the edge of their penalty area before finally picking it up and holding it in the true sense of the term. Of course the goalie could always be challenged by an opponent, but he would react by quickly picking the ball up, thus limiting the effectiveness of such a challenge. 

So the Board came up with an anti-parrying rule, saying that such deliberate parrying for the purpose of evading the Law was to be regarded also as holding the ball. That effectively put an end to that tactic. 

But still the goalkeepers continued to defy the aim of the rule-makers to prevent time-wasting, now by use of the infamous back pass. Defenders would pass back to the goalkeeper, sometimes even from the halfway line, simply to exploit his special privilege of being able to pick the ball up with his hands and stifle all movement of the game. This frustratingly negative tactic was difficult to prevent for many years, and struck a very sour note in the minds of all those who loved the game for its real spirit of skill and attack. 

The back-pass revolution
Then came the most potent salvo yet from the Board: the so-called back-pass rule. In 1992, it was ruled that if a player deliberately kicked the ball with his feet for his goalkeeper and the latter touched it with his hands or arms, there would bean indirect free-kick against him. Heading the ball, playing it with the knee, thigh or chest were all still permitted, as it was felt that such situations, deprived of the accuracy of a pass with feet, might create a chance of the opposing forwards stealing a wayward back pass to their advantage. 

Within a matter of days of this revolutionary new rule being introduced, the coaches hit back and there were some absurd attempts to circumvent the Law: players used their feet to flick the ball from the ground into the air in order to head it back to their goalkeeper, or would take a free-kick by kneeling down and passing the ball back with their knees… 

Within days, FIFA responded by making clear that any player thus deliberately negating the spirit of the new rule would be likely to be cautioned for unsporting behaviour and punished by an indirect free-kick. 

This year ( 1997 ) , after long debate, it was decided to extend the successful back-pass rule by applying it also to throw-ins from defenders to their own goalkeeper, but the urge to extend it to all back-passes (with the head, thigh, chest, etc.) was resisted. 

But the battle continues, with an important new element. From 1 July, referees have been given mandatory instructions not to permit the goalkeeper to take more than four steps while holding the ball as stipulated in Law 12, and if the goalie holds the ball for more than five or six seconds the referee must adjudge this as time-wasting and award an indirect free-kick against him.

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The importance of learning from mistakes

The cup games often give an opportunity for coaches to play the reserve goalkeeper.

I have, in the past,  written about the importance of working hard to get back on the team and cup games are often the perfect opportunity to prove your worth.

The FA Cup 3rd round had Liverpool reserve goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan take to the field. Bogdan had recently been given an opportunity of first team football when first team Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was injured. That did not end too well as Liverpool were beaten 3-0 against Watford. Bogdan was to blame for Watford’s opener with a dropped corner. ( See below )

Dealing with mistakes is not easy. No doubt he would have practiced corners to ensure he was fully confident with dealing with them again. All goalkeepers should work on their perceived weaknesses as well as the things they are good at.

Bogdan was given his chance again 3 weeks later in the FA Cup on live TV against Exeter City,  who play 3 divisions below the Premier League, but unfortunately, another corner and another mistake left the Liverpool reserve goalkeeper red faced. (Video below )

With the ball that close to the goal, the goalkeeper is expected to deal with it. The options, are catch, punch or tip, as described in a previous article on corners.

Maybe, with the thought of the Watford corner on his mind, in which he didn’t get to the ball quick enough after his drop, he was keen to attack the ball?

It is important to not make the same mistake twice to show coaches that you have learnt from your errors and that you are coachable. Good match analysis will be able to help with this. Here is my comprehensive match analysis sheet.

Related articles:

Dealing with corners

Dealing with mistakes

Getting back on the team

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AC Milan hand debut to 16-year old goalkeeper

Teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma recently became the youngest goalkeeper to play in Italy’s Serie A League. Beating out Buffon’s previous youngest debut at 17.

Born Feb 25th 1999, Gianluigi is just 16.

See the video below of all the action he had in the game. Much of which involves distribution. Notice also how all his handling was assured, giving confidence to his team, who undoubtedly would be apprehensive with having such a young goalkeeper in the team.

Since the debut which AC Milan won 2-1, Gianluigi kept his first clean sheet three days later against Chievo Verona in a 1-0 win.

He has played games since with a very impressive display against Atalanta. See the highlights of this game below.

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Indoor soccer goalkeeping observations

Here are some thoughts from 9 years ago when I had been playing indoor soccer and wanted to give some tips to the goalkeepers I was coaching at the time.

Indoor tips

Having moved to the East Coast last November, I have been intrigued by the popularity of the indoor game and only having played outdoor or on hard gymnasium floors in England before I had to have a go. Having played last winter and this in both CT and Rhode Island, as well as refereeing and watching many other games in these areas, I see that there are some major differences in the position of goalkeeper. The intent to keep the ball out the net remains the same, but some of the techniques differ and I wanted to share my observations.

My first impression of the indoor game was that it should be easy as no longer do us goalkeepers have to defend a goal 8 ft high by 8 yards across, but in essence the boards ( when playing arena soccer in a rink ) and the speed of play are geared towards the indoor game being more offensive.

Please note that there are three types of indoor soccer. 1) Small sided version of the regular game 2) Arena soccer which is played in a rink with boards 3) Futsal, played on a hard court with slightly different rules to regular indoor soccer. 

Observation 1 is that I have noticed that shooters generally aim high on near post shots and low on far post shots. I have therefore abandoned everything I have taught regarding set position of having hands together in order to be ready for a blocking save in either of these two shooting scenarios. I keep my arm closest to the post up on one side and the arm on the far side low.

Observation 2 – Links with the hand shapes in that during indoor games, we should not expect to make the perfect save and hold on to the ball. The reality is that the ball is coming at us so quick from a short distance and often through players that it is more important to make the initial block or parry. Those of you that have enjoyed the “Imperfect World” sessions I do will remember how I preach that the main objective is to be in the best position to save, and to lower expectations on catching and change to a parry or tip technique.

Observation 3 – It is very hard to make a save and adjust to be in the best position if you are on the floor. I have learnt that by staying on my feet as much as possible I force the shooter to make the play and I can still be in position if the ball rebounds off the boards to another shooter. When playing outdoor, we can take a chance on a diving save knowing that the ball can go out of bounds and we will gain possession.

Observation 4 – Vertical play to close down angles is an important way to stay on your feet and incorporate observation #3. The movements up and down is much quicker than in outdoor soccer and the goalkeepers attitude to moving feet must reflect this. Once you have closed down the angle, you should make use of the point blank save set position or be ready to save with feet.

Observation 5 – You have to be an outfield player with the ability to make saves. If you just stay in your goal, you are essentially playing with one less player. The goalkeeper needs to be the mini quarterback of the team, draw players towards them so that your team can become open. As a goalkeeper you must always be an option to support. These eliminates the need for team mates to force the play forward. Your starting position should also reflect your good support. 

Observation 6 – The counter attack is crucial. By playing the ball quickly you can eliminate players from the other team to give a numerical advantage to your attacking team. This may be a 3 v 2 or 2 v 1 situation. In order to play quickly you need to a) have a game plan for when you catch cleanly b) get in behind the opposition players when you have caught it so they don’t get in your way c) Be prepared to dribble out of your box yourself to start the counter attack.

Here’s some examples of dribbling goalkeepers to inspire you.

Observation 7 – Know the rules. Every version of indoor soccer has variations of the rules and futsal, in particular has a different set of rules such as not being able to play back to the goalkeeper. The rules of each event may affect the way that you play, and you do not want to be responsible for letting up a goal because you were not aware of a particular rule.


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Luis Robles – Great double save. Lots to admire.

This great double save by Luis Robles from New York Red Bulls has so much to admire.

1st – Observe the set up from the free kick. Luis has to work hard to organize. ( See list of duties for Goalkeepers on set pieces here )

2nd – Great “Imperfect World” save having to deal with a deflection

3rd – Great use of the claw ( the 50/50 technique ) when making impact with the ball at the same time as the forward. The claw is when you change your hand shape to be stronger upon impact.

See different ways to collect the ball here

Here is the same save from behind the goal.

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Guzan’s bid for extra inches costs USMNT a Gold Cup Final appearance

August 2015.

There has been a plethora of soccer this summer, and straight after the Women’s World Cup was the Gold Cup which unfortunately the USMNT lost in the Semi Final. The winning goal came from a situation that all us goalkeepers should be aware of as Brad Guzan stepped outside of his penalty box whilst throwing the ball out – The resulting free-kick was scored.

See Guzan’s throw below, with the match highlights below that.

This season, I also had one of my goalkeepers also get penalized for handball whilst punting close to the line. My advise – It’s not worth risking the extra couple of inches as Brad Guzan saw, the reward is far less than the potential risk – In his case a place in the Gold Cup Final. ( 2015 ) 

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Watching an international warm up

See the footage from behind the goal when I recently watched England Ladies play Columbia in the Women’s World Cup.


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