Goalkeeper: When To Come Out – Playing Off The Line

For a goalkeeper when to come out, and force a 1v1 play is in many ways a life or death decision. In fact for a goalkeeper when to come out in any sense is an important decision. When it comes to crosses for example if you get caught in the middle or you’re out too far without being able to affect the ball trajectory you’re pretty much leaving an open goal. At the same time playing too far back at all times and relying on your ability to dive to the far post even if the shot is taken from just a few feet away doesn’t make a ton of sense. On this site I’ve talked about positioning before, and this article is certainly going to have some of that. However, in this particular case I want to focus on the exact moment. 

In life and in football you’re taked with making decisions that are going to influence the outcome of plays or scenarios. Really the best that you can hope for is to be well equipped physically and mentaly to be able to make the right decisions when the time comes. When you can do this consistently you’re are more likely to have success. The thing choosing as a goalkeeper when to come out and play off your line is that you’re likely going to have to screw time and time again before you find the right timing. Also, depending on your height, and your recovery speed you may have to play further off the line or closer to the cross bar. There’s not a right answer when it comes to this. 

How Far Off The Line Should You Play?

There’s usually never a middle ground for this. I really struggled with coaches, particularly at the you level that wanted to force me to play further off the line. I didn’t want to play too far off the line for 2 reasons. Number one I didn’t feel I was tall enough to be able to provide myself that luxury and still make certain high saves. I also didn’t have that much confidence to keep coming out on corner kicks. As I’m writing this I realize they may have been right. It’s a trial and error process, and so what you want to do is test the waters from time to time. Particularly when you’re in training. 

For example if the ball is right outside the box you may want to be stepping up pretty much to the middle of the small box area.That’s going to give you a decent spot to run up from if you need to come out to a 1v1, and a spot to make saves between the sticks from. When the ball is on the other side of the field you do want to be just outside the box so that you can run up to clear a ball if it passes the last man in defense. 

At the same time you don’t just want to stand there without a care. If you’re scared about getting chipped from long distance, and that’s why you don’t want to play far off your line what you want to do is always be standing in the right angle to were you can run back towards goal in case that happens. You don’t want to ever back peddle towards the goal from that far out. Good footwork is going to help you play off the line a bit more.    

Goalkeeper When To Come Out Corner Kicks

If the ball is in the 6 yard box it’s your ball right on a corner kick? A lot of coaches that don’t know goalkeeping can blame certain goals on you from in close on a corner. The way that the cross comes in though really dictates what you’re going to be able to do or not. I’ve spoken about this in another article when the corner is being taken by a lefty on your left side of the goal, and a righty on your right side of the goal you have to play on the line. From that angle they are able to curl the cross in towards goal. If those balls fall right in the middle of the 6 yard box you probably need to come out. 

You may not want to be caught trying to do too much though like trying to find a ball at the near post. These are really hard there’s a lot of traffic and a wiff almost always results in a goal. When the kicker taker is a righty on your left, or a lefty on your right then the ball is going to be coming out towards the field. You may have more room to step further off the line and come out and collect the cross without as much traffic. Again the 6 yard box is a good parameter, but not necessarily an automatic bid for you to have to come out. I would suggest really training this, and setting your own marks so that you can get a feel for what you’re comfortable with.    

Goalkeeper When To Come Out Forcing A 1v1

As a goalkeeper when to come out and force a 1v1 is one of the hardest decisions that you’re going to have to make. I had an issue with this one recently because you see the attacker coming still flanked by the defender. So if I come out I’m essentially providing an invitation to shoot. That’s not necesairly a bad thing, but if he catches me in the middle of my trajectory he’s going to have a clearer shot, and all I’m doing is negating the effort by my defender. So I would say in those instance, particularly when you feel that the defender has been beat you need to sprint to the ball like a bullet out of cannon. What you’re trying to do is caught off the angle, but if you’re there too late you leave a lot of openings.  

When it’s a clear 1v1 I’m usually of the mindset that one possible you want to obviously face the attacker inside the box. In these cases though, you have to flirt with the middle ground that I hate. Because what you want is to be far out enough to where you can sprint out as they reach the box, but far back enough to were they can’t just easily chip you. If you’ve had trouble with this I would recommend that you tape your games, and that you try and time these runs by the attackers, and by yourself. So you know that there are levels to the play if you will. First you have to come out to that middle ground which is usually the edge of the 6 yard box. To then really make the thrust out towards the ball when they reach the box. 

How To Come Out & Face A 1v1

Knwoing as a goalkeeper when to come out is as important as how to come out. We’ve probably all been guilty of this, you come out almost sliding on your keens and with your arms stretched to try and make yourself as big as you can. Only to have the attacker cut back and continue the play. If they do this successfully then you’re more than likely out of the play and it’s an easy goal. That’s hard to grade because trying to make yourself big on your knees is potentially the best way to face a shot from close range in an incoming 1v1 situation. However, if the person is not getting ready to shoot just yet what you need to do is make sure that you are able to keep your legs under you. This is going to allow you to conitune putting pressure on the attacker even if they cut back and try to continue dribbling. 

So it’s really about judging the intention of the attacker. A lot of the good ones are great at hiding that intention, and then maybe just touching the ball past you when they see the small space that you’ve left open for them. It’s trial and error, and it’s a lot of decision making that takes place. I would say though that judging where you are within the box, as well as the intention of the attacker are the two things that you need to account for in these types of plays.  

Making The Decision Is The Key

There’s an argument to be made that, in goalkeeping you’re going to be better off making a decision and going along with that, than kind of staying still and not acting on the play. This can get a bit complicated because you’re decision may be to stay still, and not do anything, but at least you’re standing your ground. What you don’t want to do is start taking those small steps that take place when you clearly are not sure of what you want to do. That’s when you can get caught in what I call no man’s land. You don’t want to be there. It’s like when there’s a corner kick and you thought about coming out, but you made it half way and the header comes in. 

Even if it’s a bad header you’re so out of position that you may not be able to make a play on the ball at all. In that case it’s really better to go all out and even whiff on the ball. There’s a chance though that your recklessness has an effect on the attacker and they miss the header. If you stay in the middle they can head the ball cleanly, and you’re still so far out of line that there’s nothing you can do about it. The same thing goes for the 1v1 situations. If you’re going to go, go if you’re going to stay wait it out don’t put yourself in the middle.  

Finding Your Own Comfort Level With This Topic

I’ve always contended that there’s no one right answer to when you should come out, and how far off of your line you should be playing. It comes down to how comfortable you may be playing off of your line. How tall you are can play, a role in the decision. Also, do you have good footwork to be able to get back to a spot where maybe you can make a play on the ball? If you don’t and you want to play further off the line than maybe this is something that you truly need to work on. Ultimatly though we can’t say one idea is necessarily better than the other. It’s important to develop the right timing. That is potentially way more important than anything else.  

If you know for example that you like to play further back then you need to have the speed to make up for that when you do have to get up in the box. If you just stay back all of the time you are going to be giving your oppononet certain advantages. At the same time though, you can adapt your defensive line to your style. I do think that this is something that not a lot of coaches take into account. If you have a goalkeeper that you know plays up in the box then maybe you can afford to press more with the rest of the team. If it’s the other way around then you have to account for that. 

Goalkeeper: When To Come Out Conclusion 

Don’t get too down on yourself for those chip goals that you give up. Particularly if you give those up in training. Those chips are something that in my experience more players are actually developing, and that’s certainly something that you’re going to have to account for. It’s better though to test those limits in training and concede those goals for you to find that spot that you’re going to be comfortable with. Goalkeeper coaches on the other hand maybe shouldn’t make the guidelines so strict for their goalkeepers. In saying things like you have to reach a specific spot, and have that be the spot for all of the keepers that you train. Each player is going to have their own marks, and that’s actually a skill that is worth developing in my opinion.