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Euro Trip Day 5 and 6: Wrapping Up The Netherlands

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — After four straight days of working and learning bell-to-bell, Saturday and Sunday offered a bit of a lull in the action for NorCal Premier Soccer’s Directors of Coaching in terms of instruction.

It was time for the the Directors of Coaching to become the instructors as they attended Dutch first division match AZ Alkmaar vs. Heracles and were assigned by coaching legend Frans Hoek to break down the set pieces from the game and give a full scouting report Sunday morning.

But first, on Saturday, FC Volendam manager Misha Salden provided analysis from his match Friday night — a 2-1 victory over Jong FC Utrecht in the second division the previous night.

Salden had earlier briefed NorCal’s DoC’s on the match, so his recap provided an opportunity for those present to understand the full process of preparing for an opponent at the professional level.

“It was really cool to get an in-depth look from preparation both in regards to the opponent, preparation for your team in particular in reference to what the opponent does and what their tendencies are, and then implementing it to the game,” said Davis Legacy Boys Director of Coaching Jesus Mata. “Getting an analysis to what happened — did your game-plan work, did the adjustments work? It was amazing to have people spend their time and energy into helping us through those aspects of the game.

“It gives us a little bit of perspective into if we play an opponent multiple times, we can see what they like to do or what they did against us and plan and prepare to play them a second time,” Mata added. “Since we don’t all have the luxury of video to analyze opponents, we have to use prior games or prior knowledge to do that.”

From there, the weekend was dominated by the vast knowledge of Netherlands National Team goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek, who has previously held that same post for legendary clubs Manchester United, FC Barcelona, and Ajax.

Hoek would join the DoC’s at the AZ Alkmaar – Heracles game, compiling his own analysis of the set pieces during the game to compare with that of the Directors, who were split into four groups, each tasked with a different aspect.

The following morning, the Directors of Coaching met over breakfast to compile their reports, using video sent by Hoek, for what would ultimately be four 10 minute presentations that the course attendees were given feedback on.

After the Directors presented, Hoek took to the podium and spent nearly two hours explaining each set piece in the game, going as far to show the importance of aspects seemingly so unimportant as throw ins and kick offs.

“Why do I want to see the kickoff? Hoek asked. “Because the kickoff is how you start the game, either you start well or you start poorly.”

Hoek’s presentation showed how AZ’s center forward, whom he referred to as a “lunatic,” pressed the ball immediately off the kick off, and yet Heracles didn’t adjust to him, almost resulting in a turnover directly following the opening whistle of the game.

The level of detail Hoek provided was truly world class as he even explained that when he was at Manchester United, his goalkeepers would kick the ball about 35 times per game, with the intention to place some of those kicks (goal kicks, free kicks, etc…) at the same certain distance every time.

Because he knew this, he worried that his goalkeeper might fatigue and not be able to hit the ball the same distance towards the end of the game, resulting in a likely turnover.

The solution: overwork the keeper during training and make him take three times as many kicks so that he wouldn’t tire.

“Hoek’s presentation gave us a lot of insight in terms of what we lack on how we see a game, how we interpret situations, how situations can dictate a game,” Mata said. “There are things that are simple in terms of execution but so complex and so in depth in terms of analysis dissection. Ultimately using it as a preparation tool and a tool to improve things that you do as a team both offensively and defensively.”

Following Hoek’s presentation, the Directors got a true treat — an Ajax home game against top-of-the-table PSV, where the hosts knocked off the previously-undefeated visitors to make NorCal Premier Soccer 4-0 in visiting home games so far on the trip.

Be sure to rejoin us tomorrow as we head to Germany to visit some of the top clubs in industrial West Germany.