Imagine you’re in goal and an opposing striker gets the ball. You’re one-on-one with the striker and they take a heavy touch on the ball, sending it farther than they thought. As the goalkeeper, you’re left with a decision to make: do you stay in net, or come off your line to grab the ball?
Being able to judge space is an important skill for any goalkeeper. Judging space and making a decision — coupled with being committed to that decision — can prevent a goal and give your team possession of the ball.
Erik Eisenhut, a Division I goalkeeper coach, says that your ultimate duty is to stop the ball.
“Goalkeepers need to judge space quickly when playing in net,” Eisenhut says.
KEYS TO COMING OFF YOUR LINE
Coming off your line refers to making your way outside the goal area looking to play the ball. Remember, though, if you leave the penalty area, you cannot play the ball with your hands. This violates a rule and will be called a foul. To familiarize yourself with the goal and penalty area, check out this Pro Tips guide to the soccer pitch.
“When you decide to come off your line to collect the ball, be sure to fully commit. Getting halfway there and deciding to retreat can leave you in no man’s land and give your opponents an easier chance to score,” Eisenhut says.
When going for the ball, judge the amount of space you have. For example, can you get to the soccer ball before the opposing player? Also, be sure to gauge the situation. If you have enough room, go ahead and kick the ball away from the opposing player and toward a teammate. However, you might need to put yourself in a position to block the ball.
Eisenhut says to make yourself big and bend your knees when making a blocking save. Put one knee near the opposite ankle and spread your arms wide in a V-formation, with your hands pointing toward the ground.
“This position is different than your normal [or] neutral position when referring to your set [or] starting position,” Eisenhut says. “Doing this will help you block more area and be more intimidating to opposing players.”
In a different situation, Eisenhut notes you might be tasked to scoop up the ball inside the penalty area. Remember to scoop the ball with both hands and secure it to your chest. “Protect the ball with your arms and body, preventing your opponent from making contact,” he says.
Remember to always stick with your decision. Coming off your line is a decision the goalkeeper solely makes and not one that teammates should influence. Eisenhut says the most common instances where you will come off your line include defending against a long ball or one-on-one breakaway.
Looking for more Pro Tips to improve your goalkeeper skills? Distributing the ball can happen in three different forms. Learn how to roll, punt and pass the ball to your teammates with more insight from Eisenhut.