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Non-Goal of the Week: 2/23/22

Sometimes the most inspiring moments you'll see on a soccer field are the most deceptively simple. Take this non-goal pass from Harry Kane into account:

On the surface, we've got a pretty simple two-pass sequence down the field that results in a goal. But the genius of this move is the movement and the timing.

The movement isn't complex--essentially Kane and Son Heung-min just trade places on the field. Kane starts as the most forward player, but instead of running toward goal he comes back toward the midfield to receive the pass.

As Kane moves back, Son moves forward. And as Kane receives the pass, two things happen:

  1. Son slows down and waits for a moment to make his sprint toward the goal. He needs to wait so he can stay onside and catch the defense at a crucial moment.

  2. The defender Ruben Dias then has to make a choice: does he drop back to defend against Son, or does he jump forward to try and position Son offside? He chooses the latter, but he doesn't make his decision soon enough. Kane's pass happens so quickly and Son has timed his run perfectly so that he's onside. And as soon as Ruben jumps forward too late, he's toast.

Even though Kane's involvement is pretty quick, just a split second of a pass, it's still really skillful. Identifying the opportunity to move back and receive the pass, playing a first-time pass with his weaker left foot as a defender closes him down, and hitting the pass with exactly the right amount of power and accuracy to put Son totally free into space are all best-in-class ideas and skills.

How did this happen? I'd assume Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is upset about three things:

  1. No pressure on the first passer. Ben Davies has too much time and space to make an incisive pass to Harry Kane.

  2. Not enough pressure on Kane. Aymeric Laporte is pretty slow in closing down Kane and Kane has enough time and freedom to deliver his pass to Kane.

  3. Dias' decision to catch Son offside comes too slowly. While you can't really blame him as it happens so fast and is perfectly executed, he could have moved more quickly or just made a safer call to defend instead of jumping up.

But for the viewer, this makes for a pretty terrific non-goal. Ideas, simplicity, craftsmanship--what a time to be alive.


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