FCCincinnati showing that soccer is not unlike other American sports

Not much different in the strategies in football, basketball and soccer
After the Philadelphia Sound game, FCCincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch said that soccer was a game of moments.

As I finished up my high school days at Pendleton County High School, I worked with Ladycat Basketball Head Coach Sharon Fletcher and Falmouth Outlook Editor and Publisher Warren Schonert to cover the high school girls basketball games. I would attend the basketball games on Monday night and work on shaping my story during the bus rides home from Gallatin County, Bracken County or whomever the opponent had been.

Working on a manual typewriter, I would type up the story when I got home finishing sometimes after midnight and slip the story into the door at 210 Main Street, the longtime home of the Outlook. It would be in print on Tuesday evening.

Fast forward to my first year teaching and Coach Fletcher came to where I was seated during a professional development and told me, not ask, told me you are my new assistant coach for girls soccer. Be at the field at 3:30 today.

I did and I was for the next few years. I knew nothing about soccer but I learned from her and Bob Knapp. I found that strategy and many of the foundations of soccer is not different than the sports I knew and loved.

In American football, the offense is consistently probing the defense looking for the opportunity to go deep with an attack. Whether it is a handoff to the runinng back for 2-3 yards or a short dump off pass for a short gain, there are short gains while the quarterback is looking for the opportunity to bust one long either with a bomb to a wide receiver or a runnning back finding the hole for a long gain.

Soccer is no different. The offense is constantly probing and switching fields looking for the opportuntiy to attack deep. The main difference is the ball is nearly always in play during a soccer game. Some complain about the ball being kicked side-to-side in the backfield but how is that different than the time between pitches in a baseball game, a point guard walking the ball down in basketball, or in between plays in a football game when the teams are in a huddle calling a play? It's a downtime as the team is sitting up for the ability to attack the opposing team.

The strategy in basketball in beating a zone defense is to get the defense to commit to a side and move the ball quickly and catch the defense shifting either via the drive or a pass. If the defense does not cover the shooters quickly, you could see a barrage of three-pointers raining down on the goal from the weak side.

The Blue and Orange missed just such an opportunity 25 minutes into their game versus Real Salt Lake. Roland Lamah #7, played the ball down that the sidelines and had the defense and goalie shifted to that side. He crossed the ball across the field to his teammate, #15 Allan Cruz. His header while the goalie and defense was shifting rolled just wide by inches of the far post.

While American football has one quarterback like a Tom Brady, Andy Dalton or Pendleton's Matthew Campbell, a soccer game has multiple quarterbacks. They could be one of a handful of defenders or a midfield player that has the ball on their feet when the opportunity arises to attack the defense. You have to be watching, if you're a fan or  if you are a coach, have several players who can initiate an attack. 

Real Salt Lake scored two first half goals on just such plays. A quick attack in a five minute span after FCCincinnati had dominated the action. The initial saves were made by FCCincinnati goal keeper Spencer Richey and defenders but eventually the rebound found the foot of Albert Rusnak and Sam Johnson and FCC trailed 2-0 after 45 minutes of action despite having dominated the first half.

Like basketball and football, soccer overloads a zone of the playing surface with cutters to draw the defense away and then cut an offensive player behind them. You see this in press offenses for basketball or pass plays for football. Similar strategy whether you are playing the ball with your hands or your feet. FCCincinnati just missed a goal towards the end of the game when an offensive player slashed behind a defender guarding the ball. After receiving the pass, his shot was saved by a diving Real Salt Lake goalie.

One more thing they all have in common is the magnificence of the athletes. It could be the juggling, high flying antics of a wide receiver in football, a basketball player soaring through the lane for a monster slam or a soccer player with the back heel pass/shot while running full speed or completing a bicycle kick for a goal.

Many fans complain about the offsides in a soccer game. But it is no different than offsides in football. Offensive players cannot cross an imaginary line of scrimmage till the football is hiked. That is the same in soccer. An offensive player cannot cross an imaginary line that is created by defensive positioning till the ball is played forward. Similar to a hike in football.

Some complain about low scoring and admittingly you won't find any 98-96 games in soccer like basketball. But where a 1-0 score in baseball could be labeled a pitching masterpiece, soccer will have similar scores with a lot of scoring opportunities that went amiss. Football fans may like a 21-14 final but decry a 3-2 score in soccer. Is that not the same score? There were three touchdowns by one team in the football game and two by the other team. If soccer awarded six points for a goal and allowed a shot from the penalty line as an extra point, would a 21-14 score be more appealing than 3-2?

One thing is identical whether it is football, baseball, basketball, or soccer. When there is a dubious call by the officials, boos from the fans will raise to the rafters or heavens as they express their displeasure with the call. Eleven minutes into the second half, Real Salt Lake converted a penalty kick to open up an insurmountable 3-0 lead after Jefferson Savarino drew a foul. The boos surely could be heard throughout Cincinnati. 

After the Philadelphia Sound game, Head Coach Alan Koch said that soccer was a game of moments. 

That is so true but all sports are games of moments. It could be the 80-yard strike down the field in football. It could be a bases loaded, two out with a 3-2 count in the 5th inning of a baseball game. It could be a 3-2 fast break in basketball. All moments that sometimes the offense wins and sometimes the defense wins.

I have spent many days in my recliner enjoying a Sunday filled with the action of NFL games while grading papers. A nice summer day at the baseball park watching the Reds while dining on Cracker Jacks and a ballpark hot dog is a great day with the family or friends. I have watched and coached my share of basketball games and experienced the highs and lows of that sport. And ever since Sharon Fletcher told me on that August day in 1990 that I was coaching soccer I have enjoyed the likes of the Grissom sisters (Jeannie and Robin) as they scored goal after goal for the Ladycats, or the entire Harper family who have provided so many great soccer moments for Pendleton County, or the team successes from the Ladycats regional runner-up finish in the fall of 1993 to the Wildcats many runs to the state tournament in the early 2000s. Now, I am enjoying an inaugural season for professional soccer in Cincinnati.

Whether you completely understand the game or are a little unsure, you should visit Nippert Stadium on the campus of University of Cincinnati and share in the moments being made by FCCincinnati. It's a great environment and you can be a part of a historical first season. Take in a FCCincinnati game like the 26,416 did this night. They are home again on Saturday May 11 versus Montreal and follow along on the MLSsoccer.com website for game action during their next three games all on the road. It has a running timeline of the action, videos from the game and complete game coverage.