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Rotations, rotations, rotations

The American game is now evolving rapidly. Since the Regional event in March, the increase in clubs implementing three and four player rotations is head spinning. This is the clearest sign yet of Spain’s influence. In recent years numerous Spanish coaches including Andreu Plaza, Xavi Closas, and Andres Sanz among others have provided clinics and camps at numerous West Coast clubs. Rose City, Futsal 415, and Bulldogs used to be the outliers, but as of this tournament, rotations are now part of the main stream. None of the rotations are overly complex as training time for US based clubs is still heavily impacted by the outdoor schedule. That said, it was impressive to see how many new teams implemented rotations to unbalance opponents.

Might makes right

No matter the improvement in overall tactics, there were still teams hoisting silverware based on strong, fast players playing at a high tempo. Booting the ball long in the hopes a strong Pivo outmuscling an opponent or keepers heaving the ball randomly forward were all too common. In this style of play the game becomes one more of chance than purpose. It’s often a winning strategy, but the reality is these players are being cheated out of a playing education as the decision making and skill that comes from building from the back is ignored.

The death of dribbling

The stereotypes of Spanish and Brazilian futsal go like this: the Spanish pass into oblivion and are tactical geniuses. The Brazilians are masters of the Ginga arts and can dribble past opponents while handcuffed and blind folded, and they don’t overly care for tactics. Exaggerations for sure, and yet, there’s a small amount of truth found in each. Spain’s pro league, LNFS, is loaded with exceptionally talented and imaginative players from Brazil. FC Barcelona has no fewer than 7 on their current roster. And yet with the exception of the most recent World Cup, Spain has consistently met Brazil in the finals with teams comprised of lesser players, at least on paper. Yet Spain’s tactics often leveled this difference and at times gave them an advantage over the Brazilians. But one was always left with the curiosity, why were the Spanish players not as creative and dynamic as the Brazilians especially in 1v1 duels? At a pre-tournament clinic, FC Barcelona’s head coach, Andreu Plaza, alluded to this. The consensus among Spain’s top coaches is that the over emphasis on ball possession by way of multiple passes and movement has strangled the dribbling ambition of its players. Plaza’s candid assessment was in complete character with the humbleness I’ve witnessed from many of Spain’s top coaches. These intelligent, knowledgable men and women have a culture of self reflection and assessment that allows for growth and change.

Refereeing

This was the most experienced and knowledgable group of referees in this tournament’s history. For the first time I can remember, the spacing on kick-ins and corners was enforced consistently. Yellow cards for improper subbing were common and games in general were called very tightly. My only mild complaint is not all referees were consistently raising their hand to count down four seconds digit by digit on kick-ins, corners, and goal clearances. But overall a solid showing.