Being able to score on set pieces is what separates great soccer teams from good ones. A perfect example: the 2008 MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.
Sigi Schmid, who coached the Crew to the title before leaving to coach Seattle Sounders FC, believes “the most important thing on any set piece, whether it’s a corner kick or free kick, is the service. You can make the greatest runs in the world, but if the ball isn’t served right, you are never going to score a goal.”
Setting the table for Columbus—and taking home league and 2008 Cup MVP honors—was Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who served up 19 assists last season and was the catalyst for the Crew’s set-piece success.
When taking corner kicks, Schelotto has three spots in front of the goal that he’s looking to exploit. The first two are about six yards in front of the near and far goalposts, with a teammate rushing on in hopes of heading the ball past the keeper. The third option is the penalty spot, where another teammate will be waiting for the ball.
Where the ball is going to be placed is determined by how the opposing team matches up against the offensive players. “[Schelotto] is looking for matchups with the players to see which one is better,” Schmid says. Mismatches in size, speed or positioning are what the player taking the corner is looking for.
Players making the runs typically partner up two-by-two to get open. “[For the first two] one knows to get to the near post, [while the other] gets to the back post,” Schmid says. “The other two know that ones guy’s job is to get to the near post at [the six-yard marker] and the other guy’s job is to basically float a little bit behind and get to around the penalty spot.”
By working in tandem, offensive players can lure defenders out of position. This allows space for screens and can give attacking players an extra step, which, according to Schmid, “is all you need to score a goal on a corner.” And good service, of course.