Dear professional soccer players, please stop slide tackling opponents in the box


I feel like I'm beginning to use this website for two main things: Sacramento Republic FC columns and complaining about the stuff I hate in soccer.

First it was the build out line, then the camera angles that broadcasts cut to during live play. Today it's defenders at the highest level slide tackling their opponents in the box.

This morning I was watching Borussia Dortmund play host to Borussia Moenchengladbach, the second and fourth place teams, respectively, from last year's competition.

17-year-old American starlet Giovanni Reyna proved stellar on the day, scoring the winner for his first-ever Bundesliga goal in what was ultimately a 3-0 victory for Dortmund.

It wasn't the goal that struck me, though. It was the play that led to the second goal, also made by Reyna. You can view the play at the 18 second mark in the below video. Also, apparently I'm a boomer and can't figure out how to better embed this video on my website, so you can just watch it here.

Penalty. Goal. 2-0. Game over.

My question is: why?

Not why was the call made, but why did the defender leave his feet to challenge for this ball?

All summer during the MLS is Back Tournament, this happened. It happened when attackers were going towards goal or when they were away from goal. It happened in the center of the box and the very edge.

And no matter what, I don't understand why or how players who get paid to play soccer for a living continue to make this mistake. What's the chance of Reyna scoring from that angle with two defenders and a keeper to beat (provided both defenders stay on their feet)? 10 percent? 20?

Well, the defender's tackle took all those odds out of the situation and instead gave Dortmund a 75 percent chance to score (roughly the odds of a successful penalty kick).

You may be wondering why I led this column with a picture of Claudio Reyna's (and Mike Wotaila's) excellent book More than Goals: The journey from backyard games to World Cup competition.

Well I did so because in it, Reyna, you know, Giovanni's dad, talks about this exact type of play.

This is long but worth it from page 187 of what is truly an interesting read. The play in question happened at the end of USA vs. South Korea in the 2002 World Cup when Reyna missed a slide tackle that helped create a chance for South Korea in the 90th minute.

Reyna writes:

My bad judgement at the end of the South Korea game didn't cost us. It did underscore how important it is for a defender to hold his position to avoid making a badly timed lunge that offers the attacker a clear path.

I don't think I would have attempted the slide tackle earlier in the game. In fact, I had defended well for 90 minutes. I won a lot of head balls and generally kept them from storming down their left flank.

But with time running out, fatigue played a role. I had sprinted at least 70 yards on the play, gambled that I'd get the ball on the slide, and I lost. I should have stayed on my feet and mustered the energy to cut off his route towards the penalty area. When a player gets past you and you're still on your feet, it's possible to recover and force him to beat you again. Or you can at least get back to support your teammates.

When you're on the ground, you're useless, and you've given the other team a numerical advantage. Players often place too much importance on stealing the ball when cutting off a dangerous pass--keeping the opponent at bay should be the priority.

The emphasis there is mine, but the words are Claudio Reyna's. From the written word of one Reyna to the play today of another, slide tackling in the box appears to be, well, not a good idea.

Stop doing it, please. I don't want to watch more dumb soccer.

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