Don't Always Do What You're Told

“Overlap!”  “Little touch!”  “Leave!”  “Switch!”

The sport of soccer relies heavily on communication.  Sometimes, the difference between a goal and a missed opportunity comes down to one player making (or not making) his presence known.  But just because a player calls for the ball or makes his presence known, doesn’t mean you should play him the ball.

There are a few good reasons for not adhering to instructions barked out by your teammates.  For one, many times the player shouting and screaming for the ball makes himself known to both this team and the opposition.  When defenders see a forward screaming for a through ball, they’re much more likely to recognize that player and mark accordingly.

"When you see a good move, look for a better one."  -27-time World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker

In other situations a player may be acting as a decoy to open space for another.  Though he calls for the ball, he doesn’t actually want to receive it.  Consider two scenarios:

Another case for not playing the obvious ball can be made as it relates to a player’s development.  The best players on the field don’t make decisions based on who screams the loudest or who runs the fastest to get to the space; on the contrary, they take in all the information at their disposal and make an informed decision that best helps the team.  A big part of player development centers around the player transitioning from blindly taking direction to the player digesting information from all senses and making his own decisions.

Whether it’s because the pass is too obvious or the run was made as a diversion, it’s important that the player on the ball hears and sees all his options but makes the right decision at the time.  Sometimes the unexpected pass or move is the right one for the situation.

For the good of the game, don’t always do what you’re told.