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Cross Management


By Amy Snider - May 15, 2017

This edition of Tech Tuesday is a longer read related to Cross Management and Taking an Effective Starting Position.
 
If you have any questions after reading through this information and sharing it with your goalkeeper, please feel free to ask me or any of our Storm GK Coaches.
 
For our youngest goalkeepers, these scenarios will not be common to their environment and level.  At those ages, due to the smaller field dimensions, the developing strength of field players, and the growing technical ability - true "crossing" is not a significant factor of the game.  In fact, in a study done by Swansea City FC with their U9-U12 goalkeepers in the 2015-16 season, dealing with crosses accounted for only 2% of all actions they performed over the course of the season.
 
However, at the competitive level (U11+) goalkeepers MUST be willing to exit their goal mouth to intercept or interfere with crosses, high through balls, and set pieces.  Their ability to do that will be based on several factors:  Starting Position, Athleticism, Timing, and Technique.  The most crucial piece to ensuring an opportunity to make a play on a cross is Starting Position.
 
Goalkeepers should start by adopting good body shape:
  • Hands held in front of the body, feet shoulder width apart, weight on the balls of the feet, legs loaded with energy and ready to act based on the flight of the ball.
  • Goalkeeper starts in an "open" stance - meaning he is not facing square to the ball, nor square only to the field.  He opens his hips so that he can be aware of the area in front of him and the area behind him, without taking his eyes of the ball.
  • This stance allows the GK to move forward or backward easily, avoiding backpedaling and off-balance movements.
The goalkeeper must take into consideration several factors when dealing with balls played from the wings. How the goalkeeper understands and uses these factors will greatly improve his chances of success.
 
The first thing the goalkeeper needs to consider is the position of the ball on the field of play. When the ball is positioned on the wings, the goalkeeper must utilize his wing play tactics and adjust his position accordingly. The goalkeeper must consider "where exactly" on the wings is the ball positioned?  
 
The ball could be located in three general areas on the wings:
 
1) Wide and Far Away from the Goal
2) Wide and Within shooting distance of the Goal
3) Wide and at a tight angle to the goal (close to the end line)
 
Where the ball is positioned will act as a visual cue to indicate where and how the GK should stand in the goal area.
 
One of the things the goalkeeper can do to ensure that he is positioned perfectly in the goal is to imagine a straight line running out from the center of the goal towards the penalty spot (Green Line) below.
 
The goalkeeper should stand somewhere along this line when positioning himself for balls being played from the wings (crosses).
 
Once the goalkeeper is positioned on this line the only thing he must do now is read the position of the ball to determine how 'Far Out' along this imaginary line he should position himself.
 
Inline image 1
 
To determine how far out he should stand the next thing the goalkeeper must do is imagine three additional lines running directly from the center of the ball towards the goal. One of these lines, the "Ball Line" will run directly from the ball to the center of the goal (Blue Line) while the other two lines will run directly towards the goal posts (Red Lines). These are often referred to as "Angle Lines", but for crosses, they are used a little bit differently than if this were a situation where the goalkeeper was expecting a direct shot on goal.
 
Inline image 2
 
For balls that are being served from:
 
1) Wide of the goal and not within shooting distance...
 
The goalkeeper should position himself along the central line (Green Line) and the additional line drawn towards the far post (Red Line) should be used to determine how far out to stand.  Adjustments may be made due to the GKs size, athleticism, and mobility.
 
Where this Red Line intersects the Green Line is where the goalkeeper should position himself in the goal area.
 
The goalkeeper can afford to position himself further out of the goal with little concern about being beat by a ball played directly towards the open net. The goalkeeper should have plenty of time to react to the flight of the ball and cover the net if the ball is heading there.
 
Additionally, a higher starting position will allow the goalkeeper to manage a ball that is crossed/served into the area between the 6 yd line and the penalty spot.  Goalkeepers should be prepared to catch/punch balls in that area so that they do not bounce within 6-8 yds and create problems for the goalkeeper and his team.
 
Inline image 3
 
 
For balls that are being served from:
 
2) Wide of the goal and within shooting distance...
 
The goalkeeper should position himself along the central line (Green Line) and the "ball line" (Blue Line) should be used to determine how far out to stand.
 
Where this Blue Line intersects the Green Line is where the goalkeeper should position himself in the goal area.  Adjustments may be made due to the GKs size, athleticism, and mobility.
 
The goalkeeper must position himself closer to the goal in order to be able to cover both the near and far post if a direct shot is taken.  The goal is the primary concern, as the goalkeeper cannot allow goals from distance because he is "guessing" that it will be a cross.  Take a good starting position and make adjustments if the situation changes from a shooting angle to a crossing angle.
 
Inline image 4
 
 
For balls that are being served from:
 
3) Wide of the goal and at an acute/tight angle...
 
The goalkeeper should position himself along the central line (Green Line) and 2-3 steps out of the goal. Because the angle is so tight, there won't be any additional lines to the posts creating the angle.  Most of the time, this ball position will result in a cross.
 
He will have to call on his instincts and experience to determine what an acceptable distance for him will be.  Adjustments may be made due to the GKs size, athleticism, and mobility.
 
The goalkeeper can position himself further out of the goal because it will be very difficult for an opponent to shoot the ball at the open net from such a tight angle.  A more likely scenario is that the opponent will try to cut the ball back, in the air or on the ground, towards the goal area in front of the net for a teammate to try and direct at the goal.
 
However, goalkeepers shout also be able to determine the foot of the kicker and the conditions (specifically, wind) which may affect the flight of the ball.  For example, when the player on the right side of this image is kicking with his right foot, the ball will likely be an "outswinger" (moving away from the goal mouth).  When the player on the left side of this image strikes the ball with his right foot, the ball will likely be an "inswinger" (moving in towards the goal mouth).  Inswinger vs Outswinger will impact the goalkeepers distance from the goal line as an inswinging ball is more of a scoring threat.
 
Inline image 5
 
These positioning considerations would also apply to corner kicks.  Here is a quick video from FourFourTwo with Joe Hart describing his thought process on corners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WubDA5GCVSM
 
In closing...
 
Goalkeepers that have the ability to manage wide play and consistently handle crosses will be better prepared for the "next level" of play.  Being accomplished at taking crosses can take a lot of work and weight off the defense in those moments, and a confident catcher of the ball can boost the confidence of the entire team.
 
Be confident, be assertive, and command your goal area!
 
Have a great week and best of luck in your games this weekend,
Coach O.
 
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