By Chad Zimmerman
Bradley University goalkeeper Chris Dunsheath has a serious game. So serious that the L.A. Galaxy snatched him in the third round of the 2006 MLS draft, even though he still has a year of school to finish.
The All-American soccer player is in his fourth year of Bradley’s 3:2 accounting program, which will award him both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. Dunsheath says, "I spoke to several MLS coaches before the draft. They told me they wouldn’t hold anything against me if I finished school. Right then I knew I should stay. It’s a tough program to get into, and MLS coaches said they’d wait."
Bradley’s head soccer coach, Jim DeRose, has been helping Dunsheath refine his goalie skills since his regional days. "Chris used to be a great athlete who happened to be a goalkeeper. Now, he is an excellent goalkeeper who’s also a great athlete," DeRose says.
Improving his footwork was the key to transferring Dunsheath’s athleticism specifically to soccer. "Everything builds off footwork," DeRose says. "As a goalkeeper, you need a strong base to do anything, and good footwork provides that base."
DeRose emphasizes two points to improve a goalie’s footwork-positioning the feet and reading the offense. Positioning your feet slightly wider than your shoulders provides a solid foundation from which you can slide, dive or adjust to angles.
As for reading the offense, use the following three visual cues:
1. The ball is off his foot
When an opponent is not within striking distance and the ball is off his foot, work to make up ground or change your angle. You never want to be moving forward when the player can strike the ball. If you’re going forward when a player strikes, your momentum works against you.
2. He has a target in sight
Before any player can strike the ball, he needs to have the goal in sight. Shortly after he sights a target, his head goes down.
3. He establishes a plant foot
When a player’s head goes down, he’s establishing his non-kicking foot-the plant foot. He needs to plant his non-kicking foot to establish a good base before he can strike.
To work on reading these cues while keeping a sound base for proper footwork, DeRose implements the following drill. It has four progressions, each of which introduces another element to simulate a game situation. Spend 8-10 minutes on each progression for a total of 30-35 minutes of work per practice session.
Step, Set, Catch
• Stand in front of goal with feet slightly wider than shoulders
• Take one step forward
• Take one more step to even feet and set
• Receive ball from partner and catch
• Take step forward
• Make sure partner takes lower, middle and overhead shots
Coaching Point: We teach our players to take a step forward after they catch the ball to work on taking the pace off the ball and getting in a good position to distribute the ball.
Step, Set, Catch II
• Add second partner to drill
• New partner stands in place as passive defender
• Original partner moves ball around passive defender
• Goalkeeper makes up ground while ball is off ball handler’s foot
• Goalkeeper sets as ball handler establishes plant foot
• Goalkeeper receives ball and catches
Coaching Point: A lot of goalkeepers jump into their bases when someone is about to take a shot. You don’t want to use this jump-stop. When you jump, both feet are in the air, so you can’t adjust to any changes. Instead, step into your base with one foot always in contact with the ground.
Step, Set, Catch III
• Add a third partner to drill
• Ball handler touches ball around passive defender, then passes four to five yards across goal to new partner
• Goalkeeper shuffles across goal to respond to pass
• Goalkeeper sets as new partner receives pass and establishes plant foot
• Goalkeeper receives ball and catches
Coaching Point: The pass across the goal teaches the keeper to shuffle horizontally across goal. Make sure you don’t cross your feet during the shuffle.
Ducks In a Gallery
• Establish an eight-yard square area in front of goal
• Four or five players jog around inside square
• Partner kicks ball between players at goal
• Goalkeeper steps, sets and catches shot
Coaching Point: The first time you try this drill, you’ll forget all the things you just worked on—the step, set, catch and reading visual cues. As soon as all those people are around, your base will widen and you’ll start jumping rather than stepping. This drill adds the “fog of war” and incorporates some functional elements that replicate game conditions. Work on maintaining your fundamentals—even with everyone moving around.