Author\’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how \’Inside\’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.
Personally, I am a big fan of the pass. It probably stems from having played midfield most of my life where controlling the game and distributing the ball were this position\’s primary purpose. When I watch games today, I prefer seeing a nice assist rather than a nice goal.
When passes are made correctly, they look easy and effortless. They are anything but. Passing requires a player to first control a ball that is passed to him/her. Once the ball has been successfully controlled, he/she must know if and where to pass it. This requires playing with the head up (in an up position) in order to see all the players and be able to judge the speed and direction teammates are moving. Most importantly, it requires maturity, confidence, and knowledge of the game. While it is never too early to introduce and teach passing, it is a discipline that won\’t become refined and polished until a player is older or has played for many years.
The passing discipline was divided into two categories: accuracy and types. For both categories, \’Inside\’ was the clear winner. \’Types\’ refers to the number of different types of passes that can be made with a surface.
The structure of the inside-of-the-foot is built for accurate passing. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the pass. There is a reason why a tennis racket, a ping pong paddle, and a putter are flat. Imagine trying to hit a tennis ball back over the net using a baseball bat. Or how about putting with the rounded, back end of the putter (see image to the right). In both instances, the required task would become more difficult.
Another factor which contributed to \’Inside\’ having the highest levels of accuracy is the swinging motion of the leg when the ball is passed. When striking the ball with the ankle sweet spot of the inside of the foot (larger red spot in the image to the right), the leg swing should be in a straight plane. It is very much like a golf putt. Ideally, the leg swings straight back and then swings straight through the ball. The straighter the overall swing, the more accurate passes a player will make (green arrow in the image below).
Typically, when passing the ball with the front sweet spot of the inside-of-the-foot (smaller red spot in the image above), the laces, or the outside-of-the-foot, the plane of the swing is more angled. Passes with these surfaces are similar to full iron or wood/metal shots in golf. This angled stroke plane introduces more variables to the swing and, therefore, a higher probability for inaccurate passes (red arrow in the image above).
The top-of-the-foot was the next most accurate surface. To make an accurate pass, the ball had to be struck with the foot\’s sweet spot (red spot in the image to the right). Unlike with the \’Inside\’, a pass with the laces required more of an arcing back swing which took away some of the accuracy. An \’Outside\’ pass has a similar arcing swing but this surface is also striking the ball with a convex surface, making it more difficult to control a pass. Passes with the bottom-of-the-foot were accurate but the distances achieved with this surface were short. It came in last place.
Being able to accurately pass a ball to a teammate in a straight line is invaluable. But being limited to only this type of pass is not ideal either. Oftentimes, a defender will stand between a passer and receiver. Except for the bottom-of-the-foot, a player can pass the ball over a defender using other surfaces of the foot. There are times, however, when this may not be possible, especially when the defender is close to the passer. This is where \’Inside\’ has a distinct advantage over the other surfaces.
When the front sweet spot on the inside-of-the-foot is used to pass a ball, it will cause the ball to curve or spin. The technique can be used to curve a pass around a defender. This makes \’Inside\’ the only surface which gives a player 2 distinct options when passing the ball. Most indirect free kicks are kicked with the inside-of-the-foot to deposit the ball precisely to the receiver\’s foot or head. David \’Bend It Like\’ Beckman is world-renowned for his precision free kicks and passes.
The \’passing\’ discipline results were not close. In terms of passing accuracy and the different types of passes that can be made, \’Inside\’ was the easy winner.