Like most sports, soccer has unique terminology. Below are common terms and their definitions.
|- A move where a player uses his heel to dribble or pass
As a backheel is sent to an area of the field a player can not see, it is considered an advanced and dangerous play.
The forward found his teammate with a wonderfully-timed backheel.
- A center midfielder with equal responsibilities in attack and defense.
The center mid, deployed as a box-to-box midfielder, appeared exhausted after the match.
|- Penalty area
A beautiful pass resulted in a shot inside the box that the keeper was just able to push wide.
|- A sequence of passes
The goal was created through nice build-up play from the midfielders as they strung together a couple of passes to free a teammate.
|- The governing body of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean
Each region has a ruling organization. In terms of the United States’ government: FIFA, the world-wide governing body of soccer, is the national government, CONCACAF the state, and US Soccer the local.
|- Soccer’s version of a basketball fastbreak
Counterattacks occur when the opposing team pushes many players up field and then loses possession of the ball.
Counterattacking after the Brazilians gave away possession just outside the penalty box, the USA improbably went up 2-0 on the favorites.
|- Awarded when the defense kicks the ball past their own end line
Corners often lead to goals. Defenders will even come forward to participate in a set play off of a corner in the hopes of scoring.
The corner led to a goal when the attacker struck the ball just so and found the net.
|- A pass sent to the middle or opposite side of the field
Crosses are most often used by midfielders to set up a striker for a headed shot on goal, though crosses can also be sent along the ground.
The midfielders picture-perfect cross found his teammates head and the back of the net.
|- The boundary line running behind each goal
If a team kicks the ball over its own end line, their opponents are awarded a corner kick, but in the opposite situation a goal kick is given.
League games, which can end in ties, do not have extra time. In tournaments, extra time is used if a match is tied after 90 minutes.
Extra time consists of two 15-minute periods. In some competitions the team that scores first wins (referred to as golden goal), but most play the full 30 minutes regardless of which team gets the first goal. If a match is tied at the end of extra time, it proceeds to a penalty shootout.
Though the home side managed to tie the game after going down 3-0, the visitors were able to find the net again in extra time to the obvious displeasure of the home fans.
Carlos Bocanegra, the US captain, will likely be the oldest US field player when the United States takes the feild in the 2010 World Cup.
|- The governing body of soccer
Each region (CONCACAF for North America) and country (US Soccer) has their own governing soccer organization, but FIFA issues mandates that all must hold to. In terms of the United States’ government: FIFA is the national government, CONCACAF the state, and US Soccer the local.
FIFA showed its faith in South Africa’s infrastructure by naming the country host of the 2010 World Cup.
|- Term used by announcers to point out the linesman has called offside.
A breathtaking goal looked to have been scored, but the flag was up.
|- A measure of a player’s performance
Someone who has been playing well will be said to be in good form. Form may also apply to teams.
Leading his team in goals, he has been in fine form for much of this season.
|When the referee determines an infraction has occurred, he awards a free kick to the opposing team. There are two types of free kicks – direct and indirect. Direct free kicks are awarded for penal fouls (a late tackle, handball, etc) and indirect free kicks are granted after non-penal fouls (offside is the most common). Goals can be scored from direct free kicks, but indirect free kicks require at least one pass before a goal.
Following a very late tackle by Mexico, the US was awarded a free kick.
|- An exhibition match
The United States and Mexico try to schedule one friendly every year, but, as with most rivalries, this exhibition is hotly contested by both teams.
|-Maintaining possession of the ball while pressed by defender(s)
Large strikers are known for their hold-up play. They receive long passes and seek to maintain possession of the ball until teammates move up the pitch to support them.
After collecting the pass, the striker held-up the ball until a midfielder was in position for a pass.
|- A player or team performing very well
With 5 goals in his last 7 matches, the in-form striker has helped his team push for the top spot in the league.
|- An official
The linesmen are the two officials who run along the sideline. Each lineman stays on only one side of the field. Their main tasks are to call offside, indicate possession when the ball rolls out of bounds, and assign corner kicks or goal kicks. Due to the importance of the offside call, they normally stay in-line with the defenders on their side of the field.
They may also call fouls and assign free kicks, but a referee can overrule any of their calls.
To indicate their calls linesmen use a flag. The various positions indicate both the infraction and the location of the pitch in which an infraction occurred.
The striker looked to have scored, but the flag was up – the linesman had signaled offside.
|Club teams can loan players to other teams. This generally occurs when a wealthy club has an excess of players at one position. The team the player suits up for in that season will pay his salary.
Landon Donovan spent a successful 10-week loan at England’s Everton during MLS’ offseason.
|- The painted line running horizontally across the middle of the field
Very few players have scored from their side of the midfield line, and those that have did so due to a goalkeeper’s gaffe.
|- The available players for a national team
The United States has many players to choose from in their national team pool, but manager Bob Bradley has to pare the list down to 23 before the World Cup.
|- A move where the player with the ball kicks it through a defenders legs.
A nutmeg was the last straw in a long line of poor efforts by the defenseman.
|- A rule to prevent forwards from simply standing in front of goal the entire game
Unlike basketball, soccer players cannot receive a pass from any position on the field. In order for a player to be onside he has to be behind the location of the ball or, if in front of the location of the ball, in-line with at least one defender when the ball is passed to him. The confusion arrives because the linesman has to judge where the player receiving the ball was standing when the ball was kicked by another player, meaning the linesman has to be able to observe multiple players located in various parts of the pitch.
The forward broke through to find himself in a one-on-one with a goalie, but he had left too early and was correctly judged to be offside.
|- The means to decide a tie
While league matches can end in a tie, some tournament games have to be decided by a penalty shootout. The teams choose an order for their penalty takers (generally best to worst offensive player) and alternate turns. The shootout begins with best of five, but if after 5 rounds the teams are tied, it advances to sudden death.
One of the most famous penalty shootouts occurred in the 1994 World Cup Final – Italy’s star player Roberto Baggio missed Italy’s 5th penalty to gift Brazil the title.
|- Soccer lingo for field
Remarkably, after two weeks of heavy rain, the pitch was in great condition.
|- The official who judges play while running on the field, as opposed to a linesman.
The referee has last say on all calls and can overrule a linesman at any time. Most leagues only assign one referee to each game.
The referee correctly ruled that a foul had been committed and awarded a free kick.
|- A win or draw
In most soccer games, excepting the knockout round of a tournament (link), the match can end in a tie. In a league or group stage game, a win awards 3 points and a tie awards 1 point. Result is often used when an inferior team ties or beats a powerhouse.
The United States were pleased to get a result against Brazil, as the Brazilians were expected to dominate the match that instead ended 2-2.
|1) An attacking move where a player tries to advance through the opponents’ defense (can be made with or without the ball)
The goal was set up by a great run from Clint Dempsey; he dribbled past two defenders and passed to Jozy Altidore, who had no problem shooting past the keeper.
2) A positive or negative streak by a team or player in a given set of games (often used with form)
In his last five games, Landon Donovan had a great run of form, scoring 3 goals and assisting on two others.
|- A coordinated play on a free kick or corner kick
Set pieces are an excellent way for teams to score. Players will run towards the goal in a fashion designed to disguise where the ball will be sent, with the goal being for one player to head the ball into the net.
The striker was able to head home the ball during a well-designed set play.
|- A shot saved by the goalkeeper that otherwise would have gone in
The United States may have won, but El Salvador put in the better offensive performance, as indicated by their 7 shots on goal to the US’ 1.
|- Soccer lingo for team
The United States put on a show against Mexico: the American side won 2-0.
|As soccer has a running clock (matriculating from 0 to 90), the referee adds additional time at the end of each half. Throughout the course of the game the referee makes note of various events that cause play to stop. These could be injuries, substitutions, or goals. The referee announces injury time as ‘no less than x additional minutes.’ This is because during injury time there could be breaks in play, and the referee will add even more minutes as needed.
Injury time has been known to cause quite the roe between opposing fans and managers, with many a game infamous for a goal scored past the initially allotted time period.
The game ended in a draw since neither team could score a goal in the 3 minutes of stoppage time.
|- The per game rate at which a player scores goals
Romario, one of Brazil’s most famous players, has one of the highest strike rates of all time.
|Teams are only allowed 3 substitutes per game, and, like baseball, once a player is subbed out, he may not return. Depending on the competition, teams are allowed to carry 5 – 7 substitutes on the bench.|
|- A player who often makes a positive contribution as a substitute
This role is often given to younger players with the physical skills to make a difference but tactical deficits that would be exposed in a full game. It can also be applied to the opposite – older players with skill who can no longer play a full 90 minutes due to age.
The former star may be past his prime, but last night he put in a super sub performance, assisting on one goal and scoring the winner after coming on in the second half.
Barcelona were the best team in Spain last season, and their place at the top of the table reflected their fine play.
|- A large striker who holds-up the ball
A target forward’s main responsibility is to maintain possession of the ball. He doesn’t necessarily look to beat defenders off the dribble. Instead, midfielders/defenders send him long passes, and the target forward will keep possession until his teammates arrive. Some smaller strikers are so skilled that they can play as target forwards.
|- Dribbling skill (can also refer to skilled passing)
Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the best player in the world, with his technical ability cited as one of the many reasons for his transcendent play.
|- An instance where a player either passes or dribbles the ball
A series of positive touches from the two center midfielders created a shooting opportunity.
A series of fancy touches saw the forward skip along the touchline without the ball going out of play.
|- Closer to the opponent’s goal
The midfielder inched ever upfield with a great dribbling display.
|- The area near the opponents goal
Standing up top with his fellow striker, Jozy Altidore found himself part of an excellent scoring opportunity.
|- United States Men’s National Team
The USMNT had a great performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup, finishing 2nd behind Brazil.
|- Passing ability
The midfielder, displaying excellent vision, found a teammate flying down the opposite side of the field.
|- Outside area of the pitch, close to the touchline
After dribbling down the wing, the fullback sent in a cross to his striker.
|- A midfielder who plays close to the touchline and further upfield than is the norm
Inspired dribbling freed the winger, who promptly sent in a pass to the waiting forward.
|- Soccer vernacular for hustle
The midfielder may not be as skilled as his more famous peers, but his work rate makes him almost as valuable to his club.