Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
2-0 The Most Dangerous Score in the Game
Recently I was watching our Men’s National Team compete in the Gold Cup. It was the quarterfinal match versus Canada and we were up 2-0. Canada to their credit continued to press and scored a goal. Now at 2-1, the Canadians had new life in their game and the Americans become hesitant. Due to the growing professionalism of our national teams that vacillation did not last. The USA went on to win the match and indeed to be crowned champions of the Gold Cup tournament.
Yet the scene reminded me of one of the oldest ‘truths’ in our sport…beware a 2 to nil lead. Newcomers to the game may wonder why being ahead two goals to none could possibly be considered a “dangerous score.” After all given the low scoring in soccer being up by two goals is a comfortable lead. And therein lays the problem, a comfortable lead. With a 2-0 score-line the winning team often gets a mindset of well surely the other team must know they are defeated. They haven’t even scored a goal. In this way the mentality is different than with say a 3-1 score-line, as the team with the lead knows the opposition is capable of scoring against them. So with the 2-0 score-line, the winning team will sometimes let up the pressure a bit. This gives the losing team some breathing room and a chance to get mentally back into the game. Given this opportunity sometimes the losing team scores a goal, as did Canada. Now with a 2-1 score-line new confidence comes into the losing team.
They can sense the chance to tie the score and from there…who knows? The winning team now with only a one goal buffer in the score-line sometimes panics. They may begin to play too aggressively in defense, running the risk of giving away free kicks and maybe having some players booked. Or they may press forward in numbers on the attack trying to get back a goal. Now they have created chances for the counterattack by the losing team and run the risk of the score being equalized.
These scenarios of course give coaches ulcers. On the field the unity within the team can begin to crack with players yelling at one another and pointing fingers if costly mistakes occur. It may be that only after players and coaches have lived through a few of these types of matches that they gain the poise to deal with the 2-0 lead. Even if the opponent scores one the well managed team with experience and confidence will overcome their uncertainty quickly and regain control of themselves and the match. This the USA Men’s National Team did with aplomb in the Gold Cup. In the Send-Off Series the Women’s National Team held onto the 2-0 lead against Brazil. In different circumstances both of our full national teams dealt well with the most dangerous score in soccer.