Trust Your Instincts...If You Can
Andrew Wenger, Houston Dynamo forward
The stumbling block for me to write this story was settling on a topic, an interesting topic for me. What would capture my interest and compel me to write a thoughtful piece? My thinking was if I were interested, maybe a few others would enjoy reading it. Well this dilemma had me thinking and over thinking each possible topic and ultimately writing each off and delaying my introduction further. Why overthink and poke holes in each topic though, just write it, anything is better than nothing.
Soccer is very similar; yes it is a thinking man’s game. Modern soccer involves complex tactical game plans, shifting and sliding in defense and intelligent running on offense to unlock defending teams. It takes understanding but most importantly it takes instincts. Instincts honed over years of trial and error and practice. As complex as the game has become it is still beautifully simple. Score more goals than your opponent. This is best accomplished by playing to the tune of your instincts. Let them dictate your performance. Analyzing and overthinking soccer is a detriment to success. The old adage holds true, play within yourself.
This mantra is reminiscent of the first goal I scored for the Philadelphia Union. A goal I don’t really remember to be honest. One that just happened, one my sub conscience dictated. Only looking back at it afterwards was I able to see what happened. In the moment I just did. The ball turned over in our half, our right back completed a great forward pass to our attacking midfielder just over half field on the right side. Seeing this I started moving towards our opponent’s goal but also drifting away from their defenders who were moving towards the ball. My teammate was able to impeccably pick me out with a sublime pass right into my path. Then my instincts said to settle the ball in front of me and slip it past the onrushing goalkeeper. It hadn’t been drawn up like that but several thousand instinctive decisions made by our team that day resulted in success.
Being a professional soccer player can be a gruesome marathon. It is a long season with ups and downs. A bad run of momentum can turn a team upside down and leave players, coaches and the organization asking questions that there is no real answer to. Should the team be playing five at the back to limit the opposition’s chances? Should we be pushing forward to impose our will on the other team? As a forward should I take an extra touch in the box to steady myself before shooting? These types of questions are self fulfilling. Soccer is not a game solved by post game deconstruction and simple answers. It is a game of millions of small decisions by players that are made instinctively. Instinctive decisions that are easily made when games are resulting in three points but can be made with hesitation when results are the lesser. The long of the short of it is trust your instincts and do what comes to mind.
As these musings come to an end I must find an appropriate conclusion. A finish. Does it end with a perfect pass that one hops into my chest and a second touch to finish, followed by a goal celebration? Or should it have been three touches?