Corey Giacovelli, Contributor
On a September night, Amanda Pawlikowski scored a fantastic goal that led the Utica College women’s soccer team to their first Empire 8 victory of the season.
This goal was set up on one of the more strategic and yet chaotic plays in soccer – the corner kick.
The corner kick was introduced to the game of soccer in 1872 by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA.
Corner kicks are chaotic because the box is filled with as many as 16 and possibly more players all fighting for the same ball. Therefore, teams put in set plays off corner kicks in practice so that their players are organized when these situations occur. Utica College men’s soccer coach Brian Marcantonio and women’s soccer coach Eileen Blumenauer both stress practicing these situations all the time.
“You definitely talk about these situations in practice because of how important they are to the game,” Marcantonio said. “We spend about 15-20 minutes twice a week in practice, especially before games.”
Blumenauer stresses practicing corner kicks even more with her team in practice.
“I would say it is a huge part of our game especially the day before a game,” Blumenauer said. “The day before a game, I would say we use half of practice practicing corner kicks and set pieces.”
Teams come into a game with a list of plays available to run off of corner kicks. Marcantonio and his team have about five or six plays that they can run off a corner kick in almost any game that they play. The formations may like the same on the field but the target off the corner kick varies depending on what play is called.
“We run both a far post and a near post corner off the same setup,” Marcantonio said. “It’s going to look the same off the ball regardless but the difference is who we are trying to get the ball to off the kick.”
With all of this practice and work that goes into practicing corner kicks, coaches have an image in their head of that perfect one that would result in a goal every time, Marcantonio and Blumenauer are no different.
Marcantonio pictures that perfect corner to be where everyone is perfectly timed and in unison on the field. The exact time the ball is delivered into the box, a player is finishing their run into the box making perfect contact with the ball to score.
Blumenauer has a different picture in her mind when thinking of this perfect corner. She sees a ball curving beautifully into the box on delivery. On the receiving end is a player with the perfect header to get her team on the board.
Marcantonio’s team is still looking for the perfect corner as they have failed to score on 47 corner opportunities. Blumenauer’s squad on the other hand, has converted two corner kicks with 37 opportunities.
There is also the issue of how to defend these kicks. Goalies have the toughest job because not only do they have to organize their own players in the box, they also have to keep an eye on the ball while dealing with a large amount of people fighting for it.
The men’s team have allowed two goals while facing 93 corner kicks. The women’s team have allowed four goals while facing 87 corner kicks.
Utica’s women soccer team has been playing two goalies this year in Allison Wagner and Jamie Enders. Each have their own perspective on defending these kicks. Wagner says one of the issues that goalies have off corners is dealing with all of the thoughts that run through their minds.
“We have to watch the weak side, make sure the field players sort out their marks, look out for the short pass, be aware if the ball bends in, deciding to come off our line or stay on, and so much more,” Wagner said. “All of these thoughts happen within the time it takes the kicker to set the ball up and when she actually kicks it.”
Enders also stated that as a keeper once you make a decision on how you are going to play a corner kick, you have to stick with it or else it will mess up your whole defense.
“I have to make a decision whether to come out for the ball or stay back on my line…I tell the players that it’s out on my call, meaning they listen to me,” Enders said. “My thought process is that no matter what my decision is, I have to stick with it. If I call players off the ball, I have to make sure I’m there to grab it.”