All you need to know about watching soccer

Oi! Do you realize what’s about to happen? Soccer is coming to Austin and you’re going to be right smack in the middle of it. If you, like many Americans, have been ambiguous at best to the world’s most loved sport then you’ve just been called up to the big stage.

Don’t worry though, Capital City Soccer is here to walk you straight to the pitch and get you ready for the set-pieces, the derbys, the pens so stressful that you lose your $10 pint in a blink of an eye. If you DO know soccer, then buggar off – you’re set!

Leagues, tables, points and how 0-0 is a good thing

Assimilating into Major League Soccer (MLS) is easy. There are two divisions: the Western and Eastern conferences. Each conference will battle it out through the season (lasting from March through December) and accumulate points from both wins and draws. Did you read that? Drawing a club, which happens often, still gives you a point. Victories award clubs with 3 points, and losses – obviously – award nothing.

The length of the season allows for a multitude of scenarios to pan out. In 2016, MLS club Seattle Sounders were at the near bottom of their league come June but by switching up their tactics, bringing on new talent, and with some interim coaching they were able to win out their season and make it to the postseason. This is the same year they won the MLS Championship from a penalty shootout. Soccer is unpredictable, with an immeasurable number of situations, so don’t stress about the losses!

A score-line of 0-0 is a point of humor for a number of anti-soccer people out there, but these almost never tell the full story. A match that has 40 shots with 30 on goal is crazy exciting, but it can still end 0-0. A match that has 3 shots and 1 on goal, and in goal, can be incredibly boring but still yield a positive result. Soccer is as much a technical game as it is a game of scoring.

Keep in mind that it’s a game meant to be played over the course of 90+ minutes – managers play to the strengths of their club, even keeping skilled players as substitutes until late in the game. With matches being so diverse it’s a good idea to keep realistic expectations in each contest.

Supporters

 

This is you, all of you! A club is only as good as its supporters – and that’s no easy task. Soccer supporters are the most faithful in the world. The supporter groups formed by locals (like Austin Anthem in our city) are the most pernicious forces in a soccer match because of their relentlessness in keeping the energy up.

From the first minute to the last, up 3-0 or down 3-0, you’ll be there chanting and cheering for the full 90. You want a rally? Make it happen. You want to disrupt the momentum of the opponents? That’s in your power. A soccer match is a two-way effort between supporter and player (and a little of the ref).

Some lingo of the sport

Absolutely it’s important! Let’s look at some terms that you’ll hear for the rest of your time as a soccer fan.

 

soccer field basics

Pitch: a soccer field, ex.  “The clubs have taken the pitch and we’re underway!”

Red, Yellow: These are two cards that can be incurred after fouling another player. A yellow is a minor foul that you can still play with – but if you acquire two yellow cards in one match then you are disqualified. If you acquire a yellow in successive games then you are suspended for the following game. A red card is a major foul that usually is indicative of malicious intent. This will have you ejected immediately and the corresponding club will not be able to sub on another player. The penalized club will have to play the remainder of the time with 10 men.

Header: when a player attempts to score by using his head in lieu of his feet. Ex. “What a magnificent header!”

Top ninety: the sweet spot, the hard to defend, the top 90 degree corners of the goal. Ex. “Oh my, he’s put it in the top ninety for a goal!”

Nutmeg: a sweet ass moment where the player with the ball is able to successfully slide the ball through an opposing player’s legs. Ex. “That was a splendid pass that nutmegged Smith!”

Free kick: these are awarded after a foul outside of the goal box; the awarded club has the ability to kick from the spot of the foul. Usually clubs will use this opportunity to either put a shot on goal or work a set-piece.

Set-piece: formations/plays used to create legitimate scoring opportunities for clubs preforming corners or free kicks

Corner: this is awarded when a ball goes out of play over the goal line, without a goal being scored, and having last been touched by a member of the defending club. The kick is taken from the corner of the field of play nearest to where it went out.

Offsides: honestly you just need to pick up a copy of FIFA 19 and play a match. The rule states that a player is in an offside position if any of their body parts except the hands and arms is in the opponents’ half of the pitch and closer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. Look, if you’re trying to cherry-pick goals then you’re going to get called for offsides, mate.

Additional time: since time doesn’t stop in men’s professional soccer, the ref has this strange power to delegate how much additional time should be tacked on after the 45-minute regulation passes. Often times you will see a +2 to +3 range as a safe account for light injuries and delays. A +5 or (good lord) up to +10 comes when there is a substantial injury or delay of time. Goals scored in the extra time are usually overwhelmingly emotional.

Extra time: During elimination rounds in tournaments, clubs are unable to tie. If both contenders are equal on the score-line at the end of regulation, then the game will go into extra time. Extra time consists of two fifteen-minute halves.

Penalty/Penalties: A penalty is awarded if an “obvious scoring chance in the box was hindered,” or a use of the arms outside of a “natural position” (aka right next to your body) directs the ball. A penalty is an opportunity for the offended club to take a shot from the penalty spot (36 ft or 12 yards from the goal line). It’s a 1 on 1 matchup between striker and goal keeper – and it is wild. A game, if still unsettled after extra time, will go into the final stage known as “penalties.” This stage is a best-of-five penalty shootouts between both contenders. If the score is even after five then it will go one for one until one club supersedes the other.

Manager: this is the coach. Very few people say “coach.” The managers are often referred to by simply their names and “(X) club manager, (name)” in a professional setting. They do a lot more than just coaching; they manage the whole club.

FC: short for Football Club. Ex. Austin FC. British call the sport football; Americans call it soccer. According to the Total Soccer Show podcast, the term “football” wasn’t derived from the notion that you kick a ball with your foot, like I thought. Instead, it goes back to the 1300s when British nobility played sports on horseback, while peasants played sports on foot, like football. 

Soccer is more than just a sport; it is a massive foundational piece to a multitude of cultures all across the world. It is meant to bring fans together, to bring cities together. Supporters don’t turn on the tube just to watch their club win. They’re in it for the pints, the chants, the comradery; they don’t want to ruin soccer with the poison of instant-gratification.

So what do you say – are you in?


Jeramey Gillilan is a contributor for Capital City Soccer and is absolutely mental for the sport. He’s always down to share a pint. Follow Jeramey on Twitter

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