Awhile back one of my roommates told me ‘four is the magic number.’ I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but then he told me, ‘say any number and I can make four the magic number!’
So I said, ‘Eight.’
He said, ‘Eight is five. Five is four. Four is the magic number.’
I was confused and tried another. ‘Nine’ I said.
‘Nine is four. Four is the magic number.’ He responded.
‘THIRTEEN!’ I yelled at him.
‘Thirteen is eight. Eight is five. Five is four. Four is the magic number.’
I spelled it all out of for you guys, so maybe you’ve caught on already. I didn’t catch it right away. My roommate let me think about it for quite awhile before telling me.
Where am I going with this though? How is this soccer related?
Well, a friend and I attended a local junior college match here in town earlier tonight. It was sort of a rivalry game- as much as a junior college rivalry could be I guess. One team coming from Santa Maria, CA and the other from Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara being the stronger of the two teams throughout the history of their meetings. I was lucky enough to take part in this rivalry back in my playin’ days (2007) and even scored a goal in SB when I came on as a sub late in the second half. I primarily played outside back that season and only came on as an attacking sub because I convinced my coach that I could score. VIOLA!
Back to the magic number.
About ten minutes into the second half, I told my friend to start counting the passes each team connected in a row. We made a little game out of it.
‘One, twoooooo….!’ Then, we’d laugh at a stupid mistake. ‘Onnnnnnnne…….!’ And laugh again. And so on and so on.
What I realized was that four was sort of the magic number, again. Each team hit the magic mark once in the second half. Yes, each team connected four passes in a row only one time in the entire half. SB outdid their counterparts by connecting five one other time actually. But it seemed like they could get to three and then just couldn’t get over that hump. Four had some sort of force field around it. Almost as if an internal self destruct button was set to go off at four. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Actually, I am. Because there were other self destruct buttons built to go off at one, two, and three as well. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many one time clearances go back and forth… okay… you caught me! I’m exaggerating again. We all know that MLS is notorious for that shit, too.
Needless to say- the match was quite a shame to watch. Neither team took hold of the game. Each decided to rush forward immediately after winning the ball from the others lame mistakes. No one tried to set a tempo, besides the English center back on SB who was going 100mph from the first whistle.
It boils down to this:
In order to be considered a good team, you have to be able to keep possession.
In order to be considered a good player, you have to make decisions that keep your team in possession.
Too many times we think of good players as ones who have a presence on the field. Like the English center back for example. He was all over the place! He was yelling and pointing and tackling and sliding. But each time he set the ball down for a free kick, he would blast the fuck out of it and not a single one was converted into anything. Good player? No. Good field goal kicker? Maybe.
So, if you’re looking for anything to measure a teams or individuals skill on- try possession. Try to count how many passes a team can connect in a row. Or if you’re looking for individual skill, try counting how many times a player turns the ball over. I’m warning you… you might get upset.
Side note: In today’s World Cup Qualifier match between Spain vs Georgia, Xavi connected 160 passes. Georgia, as a team, connected 120.
“PASS! PASS! PASS!” -The Pig