Pro Soccer News: How a 2-0 Lead At Half Time Impacts The Game
SN new columnist, Scott Juniper, women's soccer head coach at UC Irvine who was recognized as the 2010 Big West Coach of the Year and NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year was at today's WPSL San Diego SeaLions vs OC Waves match. Here are his game notes:
Going in to the locker room at half-time in soccer leading 2-0 sounds like a great situation but it is well known in our sport as the worst lead in soccer! If it were a poker hand you might feel confident to go “all-in” but in our sport it represents a game that is balancing precariously on a knife-edge. It is the score-line and moment in a game that creates a unique cocktail of emotions for both teams and a fascinating mental battle. The team winning 2-0 feel great and enjoy a sense of having dominated their opposition for 45 minutes building a very comfortable lead. The enemy at this point is the evil complacency. Taking your opponent lightly is a natural urge but the biggest possible mistake. We all know it but it is still a tough emotion to battle. In contrast, the team losing 2-0 can play the next 45 minutes with a no fear, nothing to lose mentality.
Momentum is such an incredibly powerful phenomenon in sport and the 2-0 halftime score-line is possibly the most fascinating study of momentum in our sport.
The opening minutes of a second half that starts at 2-0 can dramatically affect a game. If the team leading 2-0 can overcome the natural urge to fall into complacency and drive home their advantage they can destroy the spirit of their opponents but if the losing team can put their opponents on the back foot they can begin to sew more and more seeds of doubt as the game goes on.
Sprinkle these seeds with some passion and some energy and these seeds can grow into a forest of doubt, stress and tension for your opponents. Getting the first goal back can multiply this momentum shift to a point that forces the winning team into a negative, “protect what we have” mentality which can be the defining swing in the game.
A 2-0 game at half-time is a lot closer than is immediately apparent because soccer players are emotional human beings and as a coach you need to understand this kind of human nature and make sure your team can battle against this stuff. Plenty of us have lost or tied games after leading 2-0 so I certainly don’t have the all the answers but recognizing the potential problem is a good first step!
|San Diego SeaLions
I had the privilege of seeing a top of the table WPSL clash between the San Diego SeaLions and the OC Waves on Sunday afternoon. This was a game with a huge amount of talent comprised of seasoned professionals and youngsters with a boat load of promise. It was a passionate game between two very well organized teams and at half-time the San Diego SeaLions had the most difficult lead – 2-0!
The SeaLions had started the game at a very fast pace and created two fine goals. The classy Rosie Tantillo was pulling all the strings through the midfield for the SeaLions supported by UC Irvine seniors Judy Christopher and Sarah Devine who physically dominated many of the early exchanges. Alex Webber and Ashlin Yahr were always a handful and the SeaLions deserved their lead.
The SeaLions started the second half well, which speaks well of the coach's ability to get them focused in the right direction. However, as the game went on and the OC Waves were able to commit more and more players to the attack and create a couple of good chances, the momentum began to shift. The last twenty minutes were the most effective of the game for the OC Waves and it seemed that the more possession they had, the further and further the SeaLions dropped off to “protect the lead.” Having lost the impressive Kristina Larsen to injury in the first half. the OC Waves relied more heavily on Shannon Cross who got better as the game went on. Katrin Omarrsdottir got more possession with time on the ball as the game got stretched out and the SeaLions were on their heels. They stayed disciplined in their width and UC Irvine alum, Tanya Taylor, helped to stretch a team that was getting tired. While the SeaLions looked as if they could play the game out for a valuable 2-0 win, it took a top class header from the impressive Shannon Cross to get the Waves on the board. The momentum accelerated and the last few minutes saw “wave after wave” of impressive attacking play which ultimately drew a penalty with just seconds remaining. OC Waves scored and tied the game.
This was a very good advert for WPSL soccer and it will be a fascinating to see the rematch of this game next Saturday at OCC.
Editor's Note: How the SeaLions vs OC Waves match ended
has been the women's soccer head coach at UC Irvine
since January 2006. In four seasons at the helm, Juniper put the Anteaters
on the national map, leading the program to a historic 19-3-2 season and reaching NCAA
Tournament for the first time in history in 2010. The women's soccer team concluded the season ranked No. 14 in the nation and second in California (NSCAA). For his efforts, Juniper was recognized as the 2010 Big West Coach of the Year
and NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year
. In the last four years, Juniper has compiled an overall record of 50-26-8.
In 2006, Juniper was hired as an assistant coach at UCI under April Heinrichs. Prior to joining the Anteater program, Juniper was an assistant coach for the UC Riverside men's soccer program for three seasons from 2003-05 and an assistant coach at the University of Bristol (England) from 1998 - 2002. Juniper earned his Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Bristol (England) in 1998 and went on to receive his Master`s in sport and exercise science from the University of Bath (England) in 2002. His Master's thesis investigated group dynamics of elite soccer. Juniper's research was published by the English F.A. Coaches Association Journal in 2003 and "The Sport Psychologist" in 2006.
As a collegiate soccer player in England at the University of Bristol, Juniper was named both Freshman and Player of the Year in 1996 and was the leading scorer in 1996 and 1998. During that time, Juniper represented England Universities at the regional level. In 1995, he captained the Colchester Sixth Form College to a high school national title and in 2001 he was part of the National Championship winning team at the University of Bath. He also played for a number of semi-professional teams in England. Juniper holds the U.S. Soccer Federation "A" coaching license, UEFA "B" license, USSF National Youth License, NSCAA Goalkeeper license, and a Speed, Agility and Quickness trainer accreditation. He is also on the Cal South coach education staff, coaches with the Cal South and Region IV Olympic Development programs in addition to local clubs and community programs.
Juniper's Publications: Juniper, S. W. & Mellalieu, S. D. (2003). The Impact of Role States on Team Effectiveness. INSIGHT - The Football Association Coaches Association Journal, 4, Vol. 6, 59-61.