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  • The flight of a well-struck ball



    It’s not just a case of running up to the ball and thumping it.

    On and on, in Major League Soccer, you see free kicks hit in the general direction of the opposing net. Some are useful, some aren’t. Quite a few do find attacking teammates, but many’s the time they end up in disadvantageous positions, with no clear chance to create a goal. Many more are lost to defensive hustling, or – at the south end of BMO Field especially – a following wind that sails the ball ineffectively over the crossbar.

    And then you see it done … right.


    “Correctly,” I suppose. Must mind one’s grammar whilst discussing craftsmanship.

    There’s a few things that need to happen. The ball needs to get to a dangerous position, but it also has to find an attacking player. Turns out this is simple: thump it to a height and location no defender can actually reach. Speed is essential, too. Enough height to clear the bad guys, with all the steam coming out nicely so your arriving teammate has … options.

    This takes a certain amount of time and calculation. But that’s okay. Play has stopped, after all. The referee is bundling the other-shirt guys back ten yards (or so). There’s time to size things up, read the wind, send a little signal that a particular play is on.

    It’s a bit like golf, really. Decide how you want to strike the ball, then stand and watch it fly.

    On this night, nothing ended up in the net. Teammates were certainly well-served, but a hot goalie here, a goalpost there …. At least you have the satisfaction of knowing you gave your guys a few decent chances, and did your part mucking in to keep the other guys from scoring, either.

    This was the first time I’d even actually seen David Beckham do his thing live in a stadium.

    And my goodness, does the fellow have a nice touch on the ball.


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