A well-played crossing pass is a weapon of mass destruction in a soccer game — and also a thing of great beauty.
A crossing pass is exactly as it sounds. It is simply a pass that crosses from one side of the field into the middle. As the ball arcs toward the center of the field, the passer’s teammates can typically be seen racing into the goalie box, just in front of the goal, looking to punch the pass into the net with either their foot or their head. Meanwhile, defenders are watching the flight of the ball, too, hoping to knock the ball away before the offensive team can do any damage.
Watch any high-level soccer match and you’ll see crossing pass after crossing pass because of how effective they can be. They come in a flash. Like an alley-oop dunk in basketball or a long-bomb touchdown pass in football, a goal scored off of a perfect crossing pass can completely change the momentum of a game — energizing the scoring team and its fans and demoralizing the opponent.
Bend It Like Beckham
Few have ever done it better than David Beckham.
The video below shows Beckham, one of the most famous soccer players of all time and one of the best crossers in the history of soccer, working his magic. He had an uncanny way of taking the ball from the side of field and placing perfectly where his teammate could head it or kick it into the goal. To watch Beckham kick a corner pass is to see it exactly as it is meant to be done.
Of course, kids in youth soccer can’t bend it like Beckham, but that doesn’t mean the crossing pass isn’t an important weapon for them, too. You’ll see fewer crosses in youth leagues, and often they’ll be far messier than they are precise, but the teams that can execute them from time to time will stand out and likely have a great deal of success.
Headers Or Kicks?
At the professional level, a great crossing pass often results in a header into the goal. As the ball flies toward the center of the field, you’ll often see several players on the attacking team charge toward the goal and then jump up, trying to time their leap perfectly to head the ball into the goal. Few have ever done this better than Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has made a living heading balls into the goal for the past decade, as you can see in the video below:
You don’t have to use your head to score off a crossing pass, though. Plenty of crossing passes in professional leagues around the world are kicked in instead. In youth soccer, it’s even more common for one simple reason: Headers are typically outlawed at the youngest levels of U.S. youth soccer, so players simply have to find another way to get the ball in the goal.
Perhaps the closest equivalent we have to the crossing pass in the other major American sports is the alley oop in basketball. Think about it: In both cases, the passer lofts the ball toward one of his teammates as they rush toward the goal. Then, in one fluid motion, the receiver tries to put the ball in the net. When done effectively, both passes are difficult to stop, beautiful to watch and capable of completely changing the momentum of a game.
The Bottom Line
They won’t often be beautiful in youth soccer, but they’re no less important. If you’re the parent of a kid who plays the game, try working on some crossing passes the next time you’re kicking the ball around in the yard – even if you’re just kicking the ball and trying to hit a certain spot in your yard. You’ll be amazed at how fun, simple activities like these can translate onto the field, both in their ability to make simple passes well and to understand one of the most basic but most important strategies in all of soccer.
Photo credit: Flickr.com/Sharon Terry