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Why Off Ball Movement Matters

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So this might seem odd, but this is for the truly hard core soccer fans, and those that are just now giving the sport some love. How can one post satisfy both? Well, quite simply by again going where most blogs don't or won't, while providing some context that many non-soccer fans say is lacking in US coverage of the sport.

That context is showing that there are in fact plays and intentions. That the game isn't one of just luck and reaction, but planning and tactics. In this case I'm going to demonstrate why Nate Jaqua didn't suck last Thursday, he in fact deserved an assist on a ball he never even touched. For without Nate's off ball movement Brad Evans never nets goal #2.

Watch the following compressed highlight of the Evans goal.

Nate Jaqua Off Ball Movement

The announcer basically makes it all about Evans great run from distance and the lack of marking by NY Red Bulls. But there is another key player in Rave Green - Nate Jaqua. Jaqua is the tall man drifting in front of the goal.

Let's watch again, maybe even pausing at times. Notice that as the throw-in is entered into Montero, Nate Jaqua is standing at the left corner of the 6 yard box. As Montero holds the ball there are two things that happen simultaneously - Jaqua drifts to the top center of the 18 yard box and Evans makes the run.

At 3 seconds Jaqua drifts up top pulled the centerback with him, and Montero's earlier skills forced two defenders to close on him. Past Jaqua and further to the right is another RBNY player, but if he had switched to Jaqua as the other moves to impede Evans run that would free Evans to send an easy tapper to Nate. In fact you can see that eventually that switch occurs, but so late that there is no man on Brad so he takes the shot.

Watch these nine seconds again, and don't focus on the ball, but instead on Jaqua's movements inside the box, and how that forces Red Bull to make hard choices on defense. Currently Nate Jaqua is second in the poll on this site as to which player should sit when Ljungberg is healthy, as Nate didn't get any glory. No goal, no assist.

But his off-ball movement was responsible for Goal #2, and as a coach could you really sit the workman who gave up personal glory?