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Post Thoughts on Breaking the Tie in Soccer
Created by John Eipper on 07/14/21 4:07 AM

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Thoughts on Breaking the Tie in Soccer (Francisco Ramirez, USA, 07/14/21 4:07 am)

Ah, el juego bonito!

I had a very close friend no longer with us who also did not ‘get" soccer and why the rest of the world did not seem to be negatively affected by its low scores and its tie-breaking penalty shootouts. The latter, of course, is also how professional hockey ties are settled, but I do not hear that raised as an issue.

Tied games were not always settled by penalty shootouts. In some leagues the team that had more corner kicks won a tied game. That seems to be even more problematic to me. Bear in mind that by the time we are in penalty shootouts a team has played ninety minutes of regulation play (plus whatever additional minutes the referee has added on) and an additional thirty minutes (again with some added minutes). We are talking about two hours minimum. Further bear in mind that once substituted you cannot come back; this is not basketball. Until very recently only three substitutions were allowed. For most players the physical demands are extreme. Ever seen a an overweight soccer player at this level? An overweight soccer ref? Even the mangers tend not be overweight. Think baseball and how much fun it is to watch the manager and the umpire belly up to each other. Not happening in soccer.

An alternative to the dreaded penalty shootouts is indeed the sudden-death solution offered by JE. This was called el balón de oro and tried. I do not recall why it was discontinued. We have tinkered with the format of deciding how to break a tie in the Super Bowl. But there is still some advantage to winning the toss coin. In regulation time some teams opt to play defense in the first half but not in overtime when there is a "first mover" advantage. The Americans can explain this advantage.

I do not like the shootouts because it is indeed a very static way of deciding a very fluid game. I would prefer to restrict the off side rule to the penalty area. But the arbitrariness in soccer reminds me of the arbitrariness in the real world. And as in the real world, in soccer you ran up and you ran down and you ran to your right and you ran to your left. And, you rarely score! But just for JE, the last World Cup finals score was France 4 Croatia 2. Like a baseball game but easier to do the Times Crossword while watching baseball.

Truth be told, I enjoy all the sports referred to above, I confess that hockey I do not know and if someone shouts icing, I am apt to look for the cake.

I have a number of memories linked to these different sports: rooting for the Dodgers in Yankee-centered Manila, identifying with my collegiate Green Archers (Cheer Cheer for Old De La Salle in lieu of Norte Dame) verses the Ateneo Blue Eagles who culturally appropriated the Battle Hymn of the Republic, my annual Super Bowl party that started with the 49er's first victory), and the years I coached my son and my daughter's soccer teams. In the more competitive parochial school league I coached a seventh grade team against the eight grade team of the same school. Taking a page from the Italian playbook I had 1 forward, four halfbacks, and five full backs and for most of the game we had a tie, and getting a tie with no penalty shootouts was the goal. The strategy almost worked but toward the end of the game the eight graders scored and won.  On the way out of the field a parent made some negative remark about my defensive strategy. I turned to the eight grade coach and asked: "Mike, in my position what would you have done?" His response: "Exactly what you did." I looked at the whining parent and thought to myself, "if you do not know what you are talking about, why comment." Of course, I knew better than to say that, since being informed is not a prerequisite for sharing an opinion.

Other pages from the Italian playbook are best not shared. But yielding a goal in the first two minutes in "enemy" territory put a lot of pressure on the defensive-minded Italian squad. The game itself featured a clash between the English preference for long ball to the wings soccer and the Italian short passing game that became very fashionable when the Spanish (mostly Barcelona) team finally won a World Cup in overtime but not via penalty kicks. Italy deserved to win but England did not deserve to lose.

Like it or not, soccer will get further rationalized. When in doubt the referee can now turn to technology to decide whether to uphold an on the field decision. Should a goal be nullified due to a missed offside call? There will surely be less blown calls but the game will be more frequently interrupted.  Announcers now can report how many passes were attempted and how many completed. Also time of possession is now revealed. (Spoiler Alert: the short passing game adds up to ball control and thus more time of possession). Maybe shots from outside the penalty area will count more (like 3 point shots in basketball). This should result in higher scoring games and greater appeal within The Empire.

In an ever demystifying world, the mystique of soccer is an anomaly.

JE comments:  The Balón de Oro option, despite my earlier endorsement, has the potential of leading to an endless match, as in baseball.  Such extreme fatigue would also increase the likelihood of injuries.  I'll rethink my proposal.

The worst part about coaching children's sports must be the armchair-"coach" parents, who question your every move.  "Why isn't little Zoey getting any game time"?


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