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Despite criticism, Sporting KC points to effectiveness of long throw-in

Matt Besler

Photo by Gary Rohman/USA TODAY Sports Images


KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Soccer’s long throw-in didn’t originate in the nation’s heartland, but Sporting Kansas City has certainly staked a claim as perfecters of the play in MLS.

However, with it has come criticism.

Prior to Saturday’s scoreless draw between Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran called the play “garbage” while also admitting its effectiveness on the attacking end.

“They’ve got a lot of dangerous attacking pieces,” Beltran said in a preview video for Saturday’s game. “Obviously on set pieces they’re dangerous, and with this garbage long throw-in that they do, it’s dangerous. They’ve got a lot of good attacking players.”

Real Salt Lake manager Jeff Cassar said after the game that the frustration is primarily due to the havoc the long throw-in causes inside the penalty area.

“We talked about all week knowing what they were going to do and not getting frustrated,” Cassar said. “I get frustrated watching it, but you have to deal with it. It’s a dangerous ball at the top of the six-yard box at times, and a lot of times it’s the second ball that causes the big commotion. It just causes havoc. And on top of that we have to bring our whole team back to deal with it. If we kept three people forward, we’d probably catch them on the counter, but we’d also leave ourselves exposed.”

Also on Saturday, former Real Salt Lake manager and current New York City FC head man Jason Kreis spoke out against the long throw-in after his team’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union. His side dropped three points at home a week prior to Sporting KC on a long throw-in goal headed in by defender Ike Opara.

“We talked a little bit about how we wanted to defend long throw-ins, so it’s a shame that we have to spend more time and energy talking about that, but it is the game and it’s the league we’re in, and there seems to be a few teams that are focused on attacking that way,” Kreis told reporters. “Organizationally, we need to solve it, since we gave away that goal that cost us the match against Kansas City.”

Why the disdain for the long throw-in? Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said he’s not sure, but that the answer doesn’t faze him much.

“I’m not frustrated with it,” Vermes said showing a slight grin on his face.  “Honestly, you’d have to ask them (rest of the league), because I’m not frustrated with it. It’s another opportunity to put the ball in the box and see if you can make something happen.”

Sporting KC didn’t score on any long throw-ins Saturday. In fact, the home team opted to play for shorter throw-ins and quick restarts from out of bounds throughout the match as Real Salt Lake threw numbers in the box.

The few times it did utilize the long throw-in, though, two or three blue jerseys were around the ball eyeing contact toward the back of the net.

“It’s been big. We’ve won games off of it,” Sporting KC captain Matt Besler said. “We feel like we’re a very dangerous team on set pieces, and we feel like that’s a true set piece. That’s why we do it. You saw tonight that we change it up as well. We can throw it short, we can throw it quick. Whatever’s on that’s what we do.”

Whether its the unorthodox nature of the long throw-in that seems to upset opposing teams or simply the effectiveness the play has had over the last two years, Besler and company are not about to change their ways.

“We feel like it’s something that helps us win,” Besler said. “That’s why we do it, we try to win.”


What do you make of the long throw-in? Are you a proponent of the play or not a fan of it?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Eh.
    I’m sure the subject wasn’t initiated, was little more than a flippant comment made in passing, in response to a question with little pre-thought and less concern after. I highly doubt Kreis cares in the least or loses sleep about this.

    The rules for throw-ins won’t change and KC won’t change their tactic as long as it works./makes something/ a threat out of nothing. Defend it like a set piece and move on.

  2. Another good place for a long through is when the ball is out deep in the defensive end and the opposition is pressuring. Often times the throw breaks the pressure and opens the field up for an attack. I’ve seen Todd Dunnivant do it for the LAG a few times a while back and it was very effective.

  3. Actually I think it is more often not an illegal play becuase both feet are not on the ground outside the field of play at the moment the ball is delivered. Rather, one foot is off the ground and in the field of play when the ball is delivered. However, this garbage play is never called by the official

    • I would point out that they only need to have contact with the ground with both feet, not both feet planted, and that they can have part of their foot in play as long as any part of their foot is touching the line. You have to have your foot all the way over the line or a foot completely off the ground for it to be illegal.

      I’m not sure if you are trying to say differently or not, just felt like clarifying for those who may not be aware.

      The few specific times I’ve had people make this claim I’ve looked and it’s been OK – though that’s only like 3 or 4 times. I can’t be sure that it doesn’t happen in the times I haven’t looked specifically outside of that and often have no access to an angle which was sufficient to determine one way or another.

  4. So I don’t mind Cassar’s comments because he was asked explicitly about it. Beltran said something stupid and Kreis is probably frustrated because his field is so narrow they will have to face it constantly.

    Though the thing is – perhaps Kreis should start thinking about seeing if they can train one of his players to throw it long, they have to play there more than anyone else.

  5. It’s possible the problem people have with it is it creates a goal scoring opportunity with your hands. Instead of the feet, head, body.

  6. The throw in can be effective anywhere but it’s going to more effective on the smallest field in the league more so then anywhere else. Most places you know it’s probably going near post but at NYCFC you can get that throw almost anywhere.

    • And NYFC has to suffer the consequences of their inability or unwillingness to find a proper home not named Yankee Stadium… I want a team to be in the 5 boroughs as well but land aint cheap and baseball fields are not ideal for anybody… DEAL WITH IT…

  7. Could there be a dumber complaint? Was, they run faster, they pass better, they can throw the ball in farther… These are two of our up-and-coming coaches and a player on the fringes of the national team? Saw at least one throw in the weekend’s EPL games (can’t remember which one) that was just about as long and the commentators merely applauded the distance. Some people should never be allowed to talk to reporters.

  8. Coach Jurgen better start watching some SKC games. I hear he doesn’t even work on throw-ins in practice! It’s like this guy doesn’t even know how to score goals in soccer. He could learn a thing or two from our playbook.

    • Klinsmann has is own little plays like the one where everyone stands in front of the keeper near post and doesn’t let him get out as one player goes far post. We seem to do that at least once a match now.

  9. Hockey players can pass the puck with their skate but do you really want to go see a game full of that? We already have enough crosses in MLS as it is.

    • You do realize that not everyone has to play liek Brazil and Barcelona right? I guess you never grew up watching English soccer in the 80’s and early 90’s….

      FIFA was seriously considering chaning to a kick about 10 -15 years ago.. they experimented with it several times…

      A long throw is darn near the same as a corner for SKC… their job is to win games… more balls in the box win games… I can promise SKC is not gettting less ticket sales and viewership over Besler’s throw ins..

      • Yes, when JK was hired he charged himself with the responsibility of defining the USA’s style of soccer. So we wouldn’t want there to be anything actually American about that style.

  10. Side boundaries have to end somewhere folks. If they wanted you to put the ball far back into play you wouldn’t have the two feet two hand rule but a corner kick type re-entry all the way down the freaking field.

    • Your comment makes no sense. In fact, this whole discussion makes no sense. It is within the rules of the game. Its another play just like any other set piece. If teams have trouble defending it, SKC should continue to use it. Learn how to defend it and they will stop using it. Plain and simple. Look at Houston, they (with Tally Hall) would clear the box and he would just go catch the ball. Problem solved. It just makes defenders think more before they mindlessly clear the ball into touch in their own end, nothing wrong with that.

      • “It just makes defenders think more before they mindlessly clear the ball into touch in their own end, nothing wrong with that.”

        Well played…

      • Exactly. Why should there be no consequence to kicking the ball out of play ?

        I can’t believe that more don’t throw the flip throw ! Crazy that they don’t. Watch in ten years. I bet you will see it. A guy in college was thowing them in the box from near mid field.

      • mostly because there isn’t enough room. College and high schools tend to have more space due to lack of ads.

      • the flip throw in is also pretty difficult to do. Most of he players who do it have some gymnastics background

  11. My only issue with the long throw is that every one of Besler’s should be called for a foul throw as he is not directly over his head but favors one arm. The picture pretty clearly illustrates this.

    Lots of guys can throw it just as well with better form though.

    • The ball doesn’t have to be directly over his head, nor does it have to be thrown with even force with both arms. The laws covering throw ins state

      “At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
      • faces the field of play
      • has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the
      touch line
      • holds the ball with both hands
      • delivers the ball from behind and over his head
      • delivers the ball from the point where it left the fi eld of play”.

      Besler’s clearly holding the ball with both hands, and the ball starts from behind and goes over his head. No transgression.

  12. This is an incredibly stupid complaint. Brain Guy above got it 100% right. It isn’t any worse than any other restart play.

    • Remember 10-15 years ago when evryone was clamboring for indirect kicks in from the sideline instead of throw ins… I can promise if that rule took effect nearly every team in the world would opt to put the ball “in the mixer”… SKC just happens to have a guy (who happens to be one of the better players in the league, mind you) who can catapult a throw in 40 yards on a line much like a cross…

      SKC is so dumb to use the rare talents (long throw and amazing leaping ability) of their players to try and score goals which are hard to come by… SAID NOBODY EVER…

      • I don’t remember that. I’m pretty sure it’s not something “everyone” was clamoring for in any case.

  13. It’s not illegal, or unsportsmanlike, or “gamesmanship.” So what’s the basis for criticism? You can’t call it “garbage just because it works. Unless it’s because Vermes takes joy in tormenting opponents with it, cuz he does have a way of getting under your skin . . .

      • It’s considered garbage because it goes uncalled even though a good portion of long throw-ins are illegal. The photo for this article pretty clearly shows Besler favoring the one hand and almost bringing his one arm forward like a QB throwing a football. The rules state it must be delivered from behind and over the head. If Besler can launch it and do it legally, I think you’d see this talk die down.

      • I used to think this also, but unfortunately there is nothing written about the holding of the ball, just that the ball must go behind the head and be released forward…

    • It’s not in the spirit of the game. The game is based on using your feet to score/get in scoring position. The throw in is not supposed to a scoring weapon, it is supposed to be a way to get the ball back in play so that the feet can be used. If the game was meant to create scoring opportunities every time the ball goes out of bounds, the rule would state that the restart when the ball goes out of bounds is a kick in.

      • That is why you can’t score directly from a throw-in. Long throw ins still need to be headed or kicked in for a goal so they are completely within the spirit of the game.

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