Skip to main content

Soccer Positions A Complete And Easy To Understand Guide

·13 mins

Soccer Positions A Complete And Easy To Understand Guide

Soccer Positions A Complete And Easy To Understand Guide

Soccer Positions A Complete And Easy To Understand Guide

The Chapter Two: Soccer changed my life

Both the chaplain at Camp Wolters, Texas, and my lieutenant during basic training thought that I was "officer material" and advised me to accept the ASTP offer--why risk the infantry? We were supposed to be commissioned as officers when we finished that specialized training.


I took their advice, was accepted, and was assigned to the ASTP at the University of Missouri in Columbia. ASTP had curricula for medicine, veterinary, dentistry, engineering and foreign languages. As I knew German already, I was placed in the Italian language program.

That Columbia campus environment was a whole new deal. It was like night and day coming from the desert of Texas to the Garden of Eden that was Missouri.

After North Africa was secured in the summer 1943, U.S.-British armies invaded Sicily. Hitler's close ally Benito Mussolini was thrown out of power and imprisoned for a short time. The U.S. and Britain invaded Italy in September 1943 with landings on the southern tip of the peninsula. Italy declared its neutrality and "officially" dropped out of the war while secretly forming an alliance with the United States and Great Britain.

With the war seemingly swinging in favor of the Allies, I remember that the autumn of 1943 were halcyon days. I was far removed from the fighting and hoped that the war would be over before I was sent off to take part in it. Besides, it was college football season. I recall going to the Missouri-Oklahoma game, which was a biggie in those days. And there were lots of young ladies all over campus who seemed to be attracted to men in uniform. B.M.O.C. - Big Men on Campus - was our name.

There was something else in the works.

Near the Sigma Chi house, there was a field hockey field for women. Barracks 17) where I shared a room with three other guys--George German of Colgate, Tom Shottelkotte of Cincinnati, and Karl Wilser of New York and CCNY. Wilser, Tom Shottelkotte and Karl Wilser were all taking German while the others were studying Italian. (Imagine--a guy named German learning German!) We stayed in shape by playing baseball and touch football after classes.

I was surprised that the Americans, although they were natural athletes, took to soccer and became fairly proficient after only four or five weeks' exposure to this new game. There were no soccer balls available, the basketballs were too large and heavy, and the volleyballs too light and flighty. In 1934, soon after my arrival in the States, I bought a ball from the Sears catalogue. I asked my mother to send it to me. It was ten years old and patched both inside and outside, the leather and bladder.

So I, in my ignorance and naivete, and now the de facto coach, wrote a letter to the two big St. Louis newspapers--the Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch--to see if anyone wanted to play us. My assumption was that St. Louis Soccer consisted of ethnic immigrants who played their sport and these ethnic clubs had recreational teams. I assumed they were older men playing soccer for exercise and fun. My hometown club had an alt Herren team (old gentleman) for men older than fifty. This was my target team.

Dent McSkimming, a sportswriter from the Post-Dispatch, forwarded my letter to Walter Giesler, a St. Louis soccer boss. McSkimming was apparently excited to learn (or to think) that a soccer team had finally been started at the state's top university. But the Missouri winter intervened, precluding any games and forcing us to practice in the gym. By early February, we had returned to the field hockey field. My guys were eager for that match.

We were in the Army, had no telephone access, had to rely on the U.S. Postal Service and attend class until 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. I suggested to my team that we not show up and that I would apologize to the newspapers and Giesler and blame the Army for not letting us play that game, but I was turned down flat by all seventeen guys. They wanted to play that game. I was stuck, in trouble, and really scared.

Now, I was really in trouble. In a second team meeting, I repeated the suggestion that the Army would not let us play. Again, my seventeen men were unanimous. They insisted that we play that game. They asked, "What could the Army possibly do to us?" "Throw all eighteen of us in the brig? Court-martial us?" Yes, they probably could, I thought.

The three ineligible guys still needed passes. Woodward was waiting for me. He already knew what the colonel had told me and advised me to comply. To my surprise, he expressed sympathy, said that he understood my situation, and apologized for not being able to help me. He got up, shook my hand, and slid a pad of passes to the edge of the desk and told me he knew nothing about passes, that it will be the word of an officer against mine, a lowly private first class, in the court-martial that was sure to follow. The pad was slipped into my pocket and I left.

Fairground Park, in North St. Louis, was not your ordinary park. Its 130 acres were the site, during the Civil War, of a Union Army encampment known as Benton Barracks. It also at one time had a zoo, a huge municipal swimming pool, and a horse-race track.

The footwear issue was not resolved. We all wore sneakers except for Antimi. Only one question remained: Army boots or sneakers? We agreed that Army boots were sturdier, gave us some protection against our opponents' kicking us, and the heels would serve somewhat as cleats to reduce slipping and sliding. It was never brought up that shinguards were needed; perhaps nobody knew about them.

We crammed into four taxis, and we headed to Fairground Park. Our driver informed us of the start of the game. We heard the noise from the crowd.

I told the driver to stop. All of us got out and held a meeting on the curb. Now, really scared, I said to the men, "We cannot go ahead with this." We can turn back and return to the station to take the train to Columbia. I said to them, "Let's just go around the corner and back to the railway station." Tomorrow I will write an apology letter to Giesler. No way, Jose, the guys told me. What if we only lose 5 or 10 to nothing? Let's finish what we started." I swallowed hard and said okay.

My whole master plan for the game was to employ numbers, a whole squad rather than just eleven players. The ref told us the rules did not allow substitutions. If someone got injured, we would have to play the game with just ten players. If more than four got hurt, we'd forfeit the game. Once again, I swallowed.

I rushed to the ref and called for time-out. "There's no time-out in soccer," he told me flatly. There are no subs, and there is also no time-out. "Another devastating blow," I said to myself. Soccer is no longer my thing. It's only eighty-eight more minutes until the game is over. Then we'll be down ten to twenty and I won't kick another ball. I will stick with baseball.

He also used some less laudatory terms, such as "mistakes" and "awkward" and "not of high class." His statement that we "were handicapped in that they used regulation Army shoes" didn't do reality justice. It was a necessity. We had no choice.

About a week or so later I received a letter and seven game photos from Joe Glik. He mentioned in his letter that Bill Watson (a Scotsman, and Country Day's coach) told him I could "play on any team in this town." That was heady stuff. Giesler told me with pride that St. Louis consistently provides the majority of players to the U.S. Olympic teams and National Teams. He believed that I should be able play at such a high level. Unreal.

I started dreaming and planning. I knew my life would be changed. After the war I would focus on soccer, play against and with top teams, receive expert coaching. Yikes! A week ago I had sworn off soccer, would never kick a soccer ball again, and now soccer was my obsession, my dream, my ambition to make the Olympic and/or National teams, and I was confident that I could and would succeed. That one game--my first real soccer game--changed my life and altered my plans for the future.

Who would have thought that Dent McCskimming, Walter Giesler, or I, in 1980, could be inducted in the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1950, 1962 and 1980? There was no U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1944.

In 1944, a full-blown war was in progress. And I was about to become part of it.

Joe became an interrogator for captured German soldiers, and after the war, he interrogated high-ranking German officers and Nazi politicians who were to be tried at the Nuremberg War-Crimes Tribunal. Joe had originally hoped to become an interpreter at the Nuremberg War-Crimes Tribunal, but it was not meant to be.

He returned to the U.S. and earned a doctorate in paleobotany. At Indiana University, he formed the very first soccer team. In 1962, he moved to Colorado, where he began the first children's soccer program.

Soccer Positions A Complete And Easy To Understand Guide

Why The Grid'S Rules Yield Triangularity

The shapes that emerge from abiding my JdP's rules are no coincidence. As us engineers do it, understanding complex systems is often easiest if we simplify and then expand upon the fundamentals. If we examine more reductionist examples of grid-like structures with similar rules, we can see how the guidelines urge us to pursue diagonality in our player structure. The diagonality of the player structure, then, results in less orthogonality, and more angular connections.

We start with a tiny "JdP grid" that contains the fewest players possible to have interrelations: 2. In the 2x2 shown, the players start in a non-optimized configuration, with 2 vertical zones and 2 horizontal zones. Both cases have both players, while the second has no player. This positioning is inefficient and wasteful, if you consider the field available. We'll propose that the "rules" here are to have only 1 player per vertical and horizontal lane. They are meant to be both equal and symmetrical.

We can build on this. What happens if we augment the scale to 3 players? Let's use a new minigrid too.

We'll set our rules so that in a 3x2, each vertical strip can have only 1 player. The 2 lanes with 2 players were also capped to 1 player each. We'd suggest a more realistic JdP-like environment for the horizontal rows: no more that 2. This maximum value will not be reached all of the time but still ensures that the correct interspacing is maintained.

The graphic looks like a triangle that is being drawn in sarcastic humor, but it's even worse than the previous one. It appears to be highly inefficient. Only 1 of the 6 available squares is being occupied. It's very easy to defend the three options when we're in the corner. Just one cleverly placed defender is all that's needed between the ball, and the options receiving the ball (more about this later). There is no doubt that we can do better.

We can achieve the same beautiful result as our 2x2 by following our rules and optimizing horizontal and vertical equalness. Diagonal connections between players, with the added triangular base, make a trio that's much harder to defend, single handedly, than our original constellation. Job well done.

The game becomes more exciting when you add more players. Try a grid of 3x3 with 4 and 5. How do the shapes change when you follow those rules? No more than 2 in any vertical or horizontal zone.

We start with our abysmal positioning, above, and move from there. The players could spread out, but still maintain their rectangular shape. We have met the criteria but there is a way to achieve more evenness. Rotating the square on its side lets us move from a 2-0-2 / 2-0-2 to a 1-2-1 / 1-2-1. Here is where we can find diamonds.

Now, what if the team were to approach it slightly differently? There are many diamond shapes that may be the most even, yet lack symmetry. What about 1-1-2/ 1-2-1?

Even in our slight deviations, the shapes that arise are forgiving. We don't have a diamond, but we've got a triangle with a player inside it. Each player has 3 others to play, with 2 diagonal balls each, and only 1 pass that's horizontal or vertical. That's still pretty solid!

What happens if we make it more congested? Let's stuff the same space with 5. The rules remain the same.

The 1-3-1 / 1-3-1 means we've achieved symmetry and have some nice diagonal passing options that evoke a classic rondo left-right-split trio, but our criteria are failed and we still haven't fully optimized the space. The corner space is still a big problem. If we're looking to stretch an opponent and manipulate them, we want to pin them as wide as we can.

Those left-right-split rondo options? Now we've got the same ones, but we've tugged the shape of the opponent much further apart. Recall that one of the primary aims of JdP is to use gravity to pull the defense apart at the seams.

What we might also notice is that this new shape much more closely resembles the defensive structure from the original 442. Red on vertices, white on the spaces in between. Parallels are nice.

Now let's move on to the actual thing.

The new factor that is introduced when we apply these principles to 10v10 fields with goals is the directional bias. We don't want to maximise all space; we just want the area closest to the place where we are trying to hold the ball or hurt our opponent. This adds complexity, but with the surplus of boxes available in the traditional JdP grid, we end up alright. The 26-zone format below will not allow teams to occupy the entire field. The specific zone changes throughout the game but the format of the rules remains unchanged.

The white team has built up from their own halves, which means that zones of importance have been shifted to the sideline, as shown by the blue color.

This changes as white moves down the field.

This blue shift that is visible has a shape of a 5x4. Let's do one final simplification. 10 players, baby. Here we go.

Now, let's get to the actual rules. There can be no more than two in any vertical zone. No more than 3 in each horizontal one. This is JdP everyone. Enjoy the show.

It's beautiful. By abiding by two simple rules, our team organizes itself into lines that provide great evenness, near perfect symmetry (tilted by our directional bias), and an unbelievable wealth of triangles and diamonds. This is genius at work, my friends.

What about those halfspaces that we discussed before? With white starting with a back 2 to defend the counterattack centrally-due to our directional bias-we manage to occupy those exact high-value zones when we arrive at row 3. How perfect.

Remember when earlier we asked the question about original positioning? It is a complex situation when everyone makes individual decisions which impact on the group. Having too much information to process? JdP takes this overwhelming dilemma and simplifies the tasks necessary to defeat it.

Related Links

Ottawa Festivals
Canada Festival Capital