By Kenny Johnson
Radek drops his arm. One beat later, Rudy makes a curling run to the front post, Dawson fakes in and drops back to support, and Sam powers his way through opposing defenders and leaps to get his forehead onto the ball to smash it into the net. The score gives Kayhi a late 2-goal lead in their first win of the season.
“I love corner kicks, they’re always really fun,” said senior captain Sam Weston. “As a defender, I don’t get many chances to score, so I always love getting in the box on corners. I’ve already scored three goals off of corner kicks this season.”
The corner kick is the most dangerous of set plays, but it isn’t always so fluid and purposeful. Corners constantly end up with botched clearances, sloppy tackles, and crazy deflections. Most goals from corners don’t come from the initial cross, but result from the ball bouncing around in the mess of players before falling onto a player’s feet with just a second to get the shot off. Opportunistic players salivate at the thought of a corner, while defenders cringe at the inevitable insanity from the set play. In soccer, a set play is a play where either a foul occurs or the ball is put out of play, and the team either throws or kicks it back into open play.
The 2016 Kayhi Kings soccer team (5-5) has already scored ten more goals than they did in the 2015 season, with seven coming off of set plays. There are countless ways to score in soccer, and set plays provide teams with great opportunities to put the ball in the net. Teams that take advantage of set plays tend to score more goals, and tend to win more games, i.e. the Kings surpassing their win total from last year in less than half the time.
Set plays include many different situations, some more dangerous than others. A penalty kick is the easiest goal in soccer, whereas teams just about never score off of goal kicks. Throw-ins are essentially a formality, and direct free kicks and corner-kicks are arguably the most dangerous plays in the entire game. Free kicks and corners can be a very dangerous weapon for teams with players who can whip balls into good spots and players who can get a head on the ball. Free-kick goals are usually beautiful balls into the corner of the goal and corners tend to be sloppy scrums that lead to deflections and ugly goals, but a goal is a goal.
“Free-kicks and corner kicks are some of my favorite plays in the game,” said senior Alec Miller. “I love getting in there, pushing guys, and getting sloppy goals. I foul a lot and make a lot of slide tackles so corners are perfect for me.”
Set plays usually start with the taker setting the ball down as his teammates get their runs ready. The players who are good in the air set up to make runs into the box. The taker drops his arm and the runners fight their way through the defenders to get into a dangerous position. The ball comes flying in and insanity occurs.
Set plays provide weaker teams with opportunities to keep up with the better teams, but also provide the stronger teams with even more chances to pummel their opponents. Set plays can either be a valuable ally or a terrible foe, depending on which side you’re on.