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The goal is soccer's fiesta: the striker sparks delight and the goalkeeper, a wet blanket, snuffs it out.
    —Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow
The Sliding Save
Quick Summary/Mistakes to Watch For
Related Blog Entries
Basic Breakaway Principles
The Sliding Save

The breakaway save requires all that a goalkeeper can muster - technique, timing, toughness, and courage. A successful save can turn the tide of a soccer game and lift the whole team, but it has to start with a solid technical foundation. Proper technique also serves to keep the goalkeeper from injury in what can be an extremely dangerous situation.

There are three key components to a breakaway save:

  • Positioning Proper starting position is critical, since leaving the goal from a bad spot will either strand the keeper in no-man's land or leave a wide-open net for the shooter. As the opponents bring the ball into the goalkeeper's defending third, the keeper should already be backing up towards the goal (see Tactics: Coming Off the Line). As the ball gets within shooting range (35-40 yards; less for younger players), the goalkeeper should back up to a few yards off the line and check their position relative to the goal. Now they are in good starting position and set to come out and challenge a breakaway if necessary.
  • Timing A perfectly executed save at the wrong time can make a keeper look foolish, but a well-timed attempt, even with imperfect technique, has a chance of stopping the attacker. The keys to timing the save are:
    1. Time the attacker. Coaching Point Be ready to charge the moment the attacker makes a mistake. Wait for the attacker to make a long touch, and try to get to the soccer ball when it is as far off the attacker's foot as possible. Barring that, the keeper should start the challenge just as the attacker touches the ball, so that they get there before the attacker can get another touch. For more discussion on when to come out, see the tactics section.
    2. Match the attacker's pace. Coaching PointIf the attacker is coming in slow, the goalkeeper should approach slowly. If the attacker is moving quickly, the goalkeeper should too. If the keeper charges a stationary attacker, the attacker can easily cut around the keeper; if the keeper is too slow, a fast moving attacker will be by them or get a shot off before they can react.
    3. Leave a cushion. Once the keeper has closed down the attacker, they should slow and Coaching
Point leave a cushion of a couple of arms' lengths between themselves and the attacker. Slowing down at this point will make the goalkeeper better able to react to a quick shot, and the cushion prevents the goalkeeper from being easily dribbled. Keepers Mistake who get too close too soon will often "pull out" of a save, standing up out of their low ready position and allowing the attacker an easier shot.
    4. Stay up as long as possible. Coaching PointOnce the goalkeeper is on the ground, they're committed, so they should stay up on their feet until the save is as sure as can be. This is especially true of a slowly moving attacker who can easily dribble around a fallen keeper.
    5. Once committed, come hard and don't stop. MistakeA keeper who second-guesses themself gives the attacker the advantage. It's all or nothing in this situation!
  • 422K Movie422K Movie The Sliding Save

    Fig. 1: Low Ready Position
    To start, approach the attacker in a slightly modified, lower ready position with the hands close to the ground (Fig. 1). The keeper needs to be close to the ready position because a shot could come at any moment, but modified because at close range the keeper is vulnerable to the quick, close shot right along the ground.

    When the moment is right, start the slide. The goalkeeper should slide with their feet towards the center of the goal, with their body square to the attacker, and centered so the ball is around their lower chest or midsection. An attacker will be more likely (less afraid) to try to cut the ball to the hands/head side of the goalkeeper, so by sliding with the feet to the center of the goal an attacker who goes this way will go wide. Coaching PointStaying square provides the longest barrier possible; centering the ball provides equal barrier on either side. MistakeDo not allow the goalkeeper to slide feet first! Not only does this provide very little barrier to the attacker, but it exposes the whole lower part of the keeper's body to the attacker.

    Fig. 2: Modified "Cobra" Catching Position
    Finally, smother the ball with the hands. In fact, throughout the slide the intent of the keeper should be to get their hands on the ball before the attacker can touch it again. Coaching Poing Having the "hands first!" attitude will also help keep the slide from going feet first. If necessary, the keeper can use a modified catch involving the forearms to act as a shock absorber. The ball is caught with a bent wrist, between the palm and the forearm. The hands are hooked over the ball, in a sort of "cobra" position (Fig. 2). This position provides maximum protection, especially if the attacker is about to strike the ball.

After the save is made, the soccer ball should be securely held in front of the goalkeeper. MistakeThe keeper should not roll over on or curl up around the ball, since this puts body parts between the ball and the attacker who is swinging at it! The ball is the keeper's shield in this case. Under Law 12, Decisions of the International FA Board, it states "The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms." The referee should be reminded of this if they allow an attacker to kick at the ball after the goalkeeper has their hands on it.

Finally, Coaching Pointnever give up on the ball, especially on a breakaway! Even if the goalkeeper does not smother the soccer ball completely on the slide, they will often deflect it, or at least push the attacker wide. If they can recover quickly, they may have given themselves enough time to make a second save.

Quick Summary - Breakaways:

Mistakes to Watch For:

Good starting position
Time the shooter
Match the shooter's pace
Stay up as long as possible
Approach in a low ready position
Stay square with the slide
Center the soccer ball at the midsection
Hands to the ball first!
Approaching attacker with wrong pace
Not getting low enough on approach
Sliding feet first
Catching the ball at head level
Turning over on the ball after the save
Not recovering after a deflection or after the attacker gets by

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