Soccer and Space Again
In advance of the US-Slovenia game, an interesting echo. Writing for the NY Times soccer blog, Goal, John O'Brien makes some good points about the importance of space to the play of the game. He writes,
With the United States now playing two teams that will sit back, Slovenia and Algeria, they will need to have a good wide game. In the 2002 World Cup many important goals came from good crosses. Tony Sanneh served a brilliant ball to Brian McBride against Portugal for the third goal, and Eddie Lewis to Landon Donavon for the second goal against Mexico.
So who will provide the wide game for the U.S. this time around? If the lineup stays the same Steve Cherundolo is the only starter who truly plays like a wide player. His counterpart at left back, Carlos Bocanegra, is likely to drift forward and assist with some passing, but will not be looking to dribble by players, get to the end line, and serve in a cross. Both Donavon and Clint Dempsy are decent candidates for this role, yet they both tend to migrate from the wide position towards the center of the field, closer to the goal, closer to scoring positions.In some ways, there are echoes of the untutored notes I made a couple of years back when Spain stormed their way to the European Championship:
I've been thinking a little more broadly about space, though, and its relationship to success on the field. More than that, however, it seems like this questions of aesthetics comes in as well: not only playing the game, but playing it beautifully.Also fitting, perhaps, because of this.
There's been a lot of recent news about the links between basketball and soccer, and I'd like to spin out a couple of other things I've been considering. Henry Abbot at True Hoop has published a couple of stories (here or here) about a recent charity game organized by Steve Nash and Claudio Reyna, and they're well worth a read. One of the consistent themes that's stood out to me is the relationship between playing the point and playing soccer. There's something about the field sense that soccer requires, it seems, that carries over onto the basketball court.
There was something similar that came up during the Lakers/Jazz playoff series: Kobe Bryant noted (from Forum Blue and Gold) that a significant number of the Lakers had grown up playing soccer early on; and I feel like I came across mention of the fluid nature of the triangle offense, and how much it depends on movement without the ball. Something similar to soccer, I suspect.