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Breakdown: Ingredients for a successful Kansas City Current break

An effective attacking break is not a foregone conclusion. Messi fails. U.S. Women’s National Team Legend Michele Akers failed. Mia Hamm failed (although I rarely saw her do so). Kansas City Current and Temwa Chawinga fail… a lot.

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Thad Bell Photography

An effective attacking break is not a foregone conclusion. Messi fails. U.S. Women’s National Team Legend Michele Akers failed. Mia Hamm failed (although I rarely saw her do so). Temwa Chawinga fails… a lot. Encumbrances are many: Lots of green to navigate. Desperate, yet determined defenders. And a goalkeeper who can see it all coming.

Near success and clear success on the break requires certain ingredients. One of the most important is coordination (let’s call it conspiring) with others. In the 52nd minute, Kansas City Current scored the lone goal on a break in their 1-0 win over North Carolina Courage last Sunday afternoon to run their record to 6-0-3 and take sole possession of the top spot in the NWSL table. Let’s get to the breakdown.

The Current’s goal begins at 51:19 with a knockdown of a pass by forward Debinha and subsequent interference from forward Alexa Spaanstra. That’s two forwards doing defensive work to deny another ball into the Current’s box after a corner was surrendered. Here, basic ingredient one – to gain possession – is a conspiring.

But the ball is not yet won. Enter 18-year-old Claire Hutton. From behind, the does-everything midfielder strips the ball away from a Courage player and wisely leaves it for Spaanstra (who can see the field) and breaks up pitch.

Related – Breakdown: A Heist for the Kansas City Current – KC Soccer Journal

Ingredient two: eliminate defensive numbers. Spaanstra carries for three touches to draw two defenders to her, and away from Hutton. Once Spaanstra returns to the forward running Hutton, a 4-on-4 break is on.

Not. Not. Not is also critical to a successful attacking break: not killing momentum, not limiting possibilities.

Thus, Chawinga plays the most important role. Even as the Malawi native is being watched by three markers, Chawinga’s eyes only leave Spaanstra and Hutton as Hutton receives, then only briefly. She is fully aware of what is happening so she can complement it. Key in creating possibilities is that Chawinga runs between two of the three defenders, essentially eliminating one who decides she must help with the wide run of Debinha. Yet, as Hutton drives forward diagonally and draws pressure, Chawinga is now one-on-one. And don’t no defender want that.

Credit: NWSL+

It is now decision time for Chawinga. The Current’s instinctual play and heady awareness have caused necessary decisions for the defense. What now? How best to take advantage?

70%. No, 80% of strikers the world over would at this point probably make this one decision: to run wide and turn forward towards goal with body facing the defender to stay onside to give herself or himself an opportunity to get a shot. The problem with that move is it requires a perfect pass from Hutton, or, if she chooses instead to beat her defender (and does), probably results in a low percentage long-range shot from Hutton.

But Chawinga is selfless (ingredient three). And she reads the situation well, realizing that Hutton’s attacking angle requires a “button” run to pull Chawinga’s defender away from space and to come back for a pass from Hutton. The biggest result is that Hutton can now simply run past her mark instead of having to beat her with the ball or play a perfect pass. Chawinga’s quick turn of her body keeps the defender from interfering, creating space for a return pass to the now free Hutton.

But, yikes! Hutton’s touch puts the ball between her feet. Awkward.

Credit: NWSL+

Ingredient four – composure. Despite two coming defenders and a third in front of her, Hutton stays calm, all while realizing she better get rid of this ball quickly! Chawinga, who knew she would get the ball back, darts to goal and receives a perfectly weighted, peach of a ball from Hutton’s left foot and smartly shoots far post.

Enter Debinha. At least two times during the match, Chawinga goes on a run and plays across the Courage’s box. And no one is there to knock the ball home. Not this time. Debinha has been watching the play develop because she knows ingredient five – know the ending. Cleverly, she runs inside a retreating defender at the far post and positions herself for possibilities. The Courage ‘keeper – having to change her momentum before being fully set because of Chawinga’s quick release – parries the ball into Debinha’s path. Easy. Debinha has her first goal of 2024.

Gain possession. Eliminate defensive numbers. Do not. Be selfless. Be composed. Know the ending.

Takes a lot, huh? But internalizing the ingredients can make a soufflé instead of scrambled eggs.

 

 

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