4 Degrees of Goals



Over this last week, we’ve seen some amazing goals scored. Goals, especially important ones, tend to be the moments that really stick with us as soccer fans. I remember some very vividly.Dempsey’s spilled goal against England in 2010, Aguero’s goal against QPR to win the league,Götze’s amazing 113th minute chest-trap and volley to win World Cup 2014, and JackWilshere’s goal (oh yeah, that goal) against Norwich.

In broad terms there are two types of goals, team goals and individual goal. Those also break down into two types, goals based on luck/the other teams mistakes, and goals when every player did their job but the goalscorer’s/team’s brilliance unlocks the defense. Obviously we all should love attack over defense; that’s a given. I think, soccer being a team sport, we should praise the team goal also over the individual goal. Just as, in my book, passing is better than dribbling (although both are necessary and awesome and deserve a place on the pitch), team accomplishments are better than individual greatness.

This is part of the reason I have a grudge against Ronaldo, who a couple weeks ago appeared to be disgusted when his teammate scored because he didn’t get credit for the goal. A individual player scores goals but a team sets them up and a team wins the game.

I have a big problem win FIFA names the best player in the world or the individuals who make up a team of the year. It’s a popularity contest and it ignores the team they’re on. What is Messi without Barcelona? What is Ronaldo without Real Madrid? Nothing. If you stick Messi in Stoke, he’s gonna score a ton of goals and be awesome but is he singlehandedly gonna win you the league? No. It’s a team game and passing is the team aspect that allows that, not dribbling. Read a book, you stupid dribble-lovers!

Thus, the level of goals are, in ascending order: individual goals based on luck/error, team goals based on luck/error, individual goals based on skill, and finally team goals based on skill.

This guy isn’t a footballer; he’s a criminal.

This guy isn’t a footballer; he’s a criminal.

Everyone, this weekend, lost their minds over Charlie Adam’s goal against Chelsea (in all honesty, I did too, even though Charlie Adam is the little shit that tried to choke the beautiful and talented Alexis Sanchez to death. I pretty much love anyone who scores against Chelsea). It’s certainly an astounding goal that involves a lot of skill. BUT it is an achievement that is only possible because Thibaut Courtois makes an error in judgement in coming much too far out of his box and no Chelsea player closing Adam down.

Again, that goal is amazing, as is ever 40 yard strike (I know his was 60 yards out) but most of these goals are luck. How many times have you seen a player wind up and slam it into the stands from even 30 yards? According to Opta, in the EPL shots taken outside the 18 yard box result in goals in less than 5% of the time. Which is awesome when they do go in, but more often than not they represent selfish wastefulness.

Next up is the team goal based on errors. This was brought to mind by Vancouver’s equalizing goal verses Crew SC. In this goal Jimenez, who is one a yellow and thus tentative, misjudges an overhead ball and allows the winger to run onto it (to be fair, the right back checks his run) If he wasn’t on a yellow he probably would have fouled Manneh outside of the box, but because he was, he couldn’t risk getting sent off. Manneh cuts inside and Parkhurst abandons his marker, Mattocks, in order to close Manneh down but is tentative and puts himself in no-man’s land. He could close down either Manneh or Mattock, probably preventing the goal, but chooses neither and is caugh ball-watching. Easy assist to the onrushing Mattock for a goal. On top of all this Clark, the keeper, could have done slightly better to stop the shot, the ball sliding under his knee. A good goal, a team goal, but based on three (ok, two and a half) errors by Columbus.

Here’s the video of all the error goals from that game. Skip ahead to 2:25 to see the Mattocks goal.

Third are amazing individual goals. I chose Götze’s goal because it was special not because it was perfect example (a better one might be this Ramsey goal. I know I’m biased). Mario receives the ball with help from his team but he still has it all to do. Every Argentinian player does their job well enough but they are beaten by Götze’s sheer skill in that moment.

You could very easily argue that if a defense is doing it’s job properly, there aren’t any goals scored. I think this ignores so many goals where it’s hard to fault any individual for the goal. This is also what makes those goals great. The defense is committed and has kept its shape and the keeper is just beaten. Often the only way to prevent these goals is to foul the attacker (which is why people foul Messi so often).

Often the goal of the season goes to this type of goal. Rooney’s goal against City. Kasami’s against Palace. Neymar’sagainst Flamengo. These are all goals that mostly rely on the supreme skill of the individual to make the goal happen.

The greatest goals, the absolute pinnacle of soccerness in my book, are the goals that involve passing by a whole team through a crowded, switched-on defense. When these goals are scored often the defenders themselves are left slack-jawed in amazement at what just happened. I’m speaking specifically of Jack Wilshere’s goal against Norwich (“Fing about Arsenal is, they always try an walk it in.”)

Norwich didn’t really do anything wrong. The precision of the one-touch passes make it impossible for them to even reach the ball, much less defend against that type of attack. I’ve probably watched this goal 50 times and I don’t think I’ll ever  get tired of it. It has everything you need.

Soccer is, at it’s core, a team sport. We should cheer the great players and their achievements but the absolute best that can be accomplished in this sport, and almost any sport, is only possible with the whole team. That’s why LeBron and Peyton Manning had to get their rings and why Dan Marino, Karl Malone, & Ted Williams will always have that smudge on their amazing records. Players might have the skill to individually win some games but whole teams win championships and champions are who we remember.