Soccer Goalie Geometry
Soccer Goalie Geometry
The geometry of the soccer goalkeeper, or goalie, position can be summarized by the expression "playing the angles." Other than possessing the ability to catch a ball struck toward the net, as well as being sufficiently agile to dive to block or cover shots, a goalie's understanding of the angles at which balls will be directed at the goal will usually decide goal-tending success or failure. The goalkeeper, the last line of defense on the soccer field, is responsible for the protection of a goal that is 24 ft wide and 8 ft high (7.3 m and 2.3 m). As a basic geometric proposition, the closer the goalie can get to the shooter, the less net area the shooter has available as a target.
The understanding of goalie geometry is not restricted to the horizontal angles of a shot toward the goal. The goalie must also appreciate the vertical geometry of the flight of the ball, an understanding of the fact that the ball can be directed along a horizontal and a vertical axis. When the goalie may cut down a shooter's angle by moving closer to the shooter, the goalie may then become vulnerable to a shot lofted above the goalie, known as a "chip."
There are three specialized situations in which goaltender angle play is of particular importance: the corner kick, the free kick, and the breakaway.
A corner kick arises on a number of occasions in the course of a soccer game, where the ball is kicked or directed past the goal line by a defender. The corner kick is an offensive set piece, with the offensive players moving in a coordinated attack as soon as the ball is struck. The goalie must be positioned at the place in the goal crease where he/she can move most efficiently to block either a kick, a volley, or a header that will be attempted on the corner kick.
A free kick is awarded on a defensive foul that occurs outside of the penalty area. A defending team will usually set up a wall of five or six defenders; the offensive player will either attempt to bend the ball with a spinning kick around the wall for a direct shot on goal, or fake the direct kick and pass to a teammate who has a better shooting angle on the goal, avoiding the wall. The goalie's optimum position will depend on the angle between the ball placement and the goal; commonly, the goalie takes up a position where he/she can see around the wall, without entirely eliminating his/her ability to move laterally along the goal line to respond to the kick.
A breakaway is the greatest challenge faced by a soccer goalie. If the goalkeeper is positioned at the goal line waiting for the shooter to make a move, the shooter will control the angle and be able to move to his/her most desired position to take a shot. If the goalie rushes at the shooter to cut down the angle, the shooter may elect to "chip" the ball over the onrushing goalie's head. A goalie must take a position that reduces the shooter's angle without entirely compromising the goalie's ability to stop a lofted shot.