Fast feet make for solid attack
and who can forget Diego Maradona's goal against England.
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of defenders as much as the dribble with speed. Going straight at the opponent takes away almost all of the defender's options. Delay falls by the wayside because the attacker is forcing the issue. Cover gets eliminated because the player is going at speed and does not allow cover to develop. Balance also goes out the window because the defense is concerned with retreating as fast as possible.
The only thing that works is to win a tackle. The defender will hesitate doing this because if he misses, the attacker is gone. The defender also wants to try and slow the attacker down in the hopes of someone coming back to help. But the advantage is all to the offense.
The other hope for the defense is that the attacker messes up the play. He could over-dribble, he could outrun his offensive support, or he can make the choice when faced with the question of making a pass -- which ends up being the wrong one -- instead of continuing to dribble.
The final hope is to commit a foul. But that might bring a red card, which most players want to avoid. The tactical obstruction foul could also be used and that will bring a yellow card. Of course, two yellow cards and you are gone, and so this might not be the best option, although at times it might be the only option a defender feels he has.
This past weekend there were some great examples of this skill.
D.C. United's Freddy Adu intercepted a pass intended for Kansas City's Preki and off he went. He committed three Kansas City defenders - Sasha Victorine, Jimmy Conrad and Nick Garcia. His teammate Christian Gomez made a great run into space, Freddy dished it off, and Gomez cut the ball back once and had an open goal to shoot at. The winning goal was a result of driving at the defense with the ball.
Earlier in that same game Gomez ran at the defense with speed. Jaime Moreno made a great overlap, the ball was laid off and Wizards 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi made a great kick save. It was the powerful fast dribble by Gomez that allowed Moreno to make the overlap and for this chance to develop.
Justin Mapp of Chicago drove down the left side of the field with speed and launched a shot that was saved by Joe Cannon. When Justin runs at speed he is one of the most dangerous in the league. He has an ability to keep it close while he dribbles and maintain his speed.
Prior to the Galaxy first goal on Saturday, Landon Donovan went at speed bearing down on the San Jose defense and then laid it off after drawing two defenders. The final shot by Jovan Kirovski was easier due to the speed dribble.
Landon draws double coverage and unbalances a defense when he dribbles at speed. His speed opens up space for his teammates and he goes at the defense, so quickly mistakes happen. Landon is one of the best at finding the space in front of the back four and behind the midfield four. When he receives the ball in this gap he can then turn and go. Dribbling at speed opens everything up.
If you look, all the players I mentioned are what I would consider in the exciting category: Donovan, Adu, Gomez, Mapp. They all are dribblers who also have good speed and close ball control.
Dribbling at speed requires close control, speed and feinting ability. You need to keep the ball close to keep the defense guessing -- what comes next, pass or dribble? You need speed to cause defenders to panic and force them into bad decisions.
But you also need to be aggressive and willing to take a chance and risk. When you go at speed you let it all hang out and there is a chance you could look silly. But when it works it is beautiful. When it works the defender is overwhelmed. Finally, when it works it creates excitement in the stands and on the field.
But all outstanding players who can dribble are also great passers of the ball. Look at Ryan Giggs, Figo, Laudrup, George Best -- and yes, Landon Donovan. Dribbling is the icing on the cake and dribbling with speed the most exciting part. But it is nothing without passing ability to keep the opponent honest and open up the dribbling lanes.
Keep dribbling and go for it. The game is better because of it.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at email@example.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.