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Boys soccer

The throw-in gets a trendy twist

By Jason Mastrodonato
Globe Correspondent / November 1, 2010

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There were 25 minutes left with the score tied 1-1 in Wednesday’s Dual County League matchup between No. 6 Lincoln-Sudbury and No. 13 Acton-Boxboro.

The ball bounced off an A-B player and rolled out of bounds for a throw-in.

It used to be a simple play in high school soccer. Keep both feet on the ground, both arms must come over the head, and then an artless toss to a teammate or down the line.

But things have changed. Most teams now have a designated player to take throw-ins. The player will line up 10-15 yards behind the line, take a running start, and send a hurl that creates havoc in front of the net.

L-S junior Matt Birtwell did just that in Wednesday’s match, launching a throw into the 6-yard box that bounced around before junior Forest Sisk hammered it in off the crossbar for the go-ahead goal.

Not even nine minutes later, the Colonials mimicked their opponents, sending a long throw that ricocheted off the post before senior Alex Goldman flicked it over his head for the score.

Like it or not, the new-age throw-in has become a common play that often results in dangerous opportunities.

“Soccer purists would argue that it’s not good for the game, but unfortunately it’s a part of the game,’’ said L-S coach David Hosford. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had one or two guys who could make the long throw, but it’s a part of the game, so you have to prepare for it now.”

Coaches are beginning to notice the trend. They work on it in practice, developing set pieces with big targets waiting in the box and runners on the outside. They train their players how to defend against it, or at least try to.

“I saw that trend about five games into the season,” said King Philip coach Kip Lewis. “Every team in the [Hockomock League] has a kid who can at least put it to the corner of the 6 or so. It’s almost like hitting a corner. I’m not a big fan of it, but you use it because it’s there.

“And if you don’t know it’s coming, you’ll get scored on in the first opportunity . . . The goalkeeper comes out and if he gets caught up in that crowd and he doesn’t get the ball, they’re in trouble. They’ll look to score off the deflection or off the flick.’’

Perhaps no one does it better than Canton, Lewis said. The No. 8 Bulldogs have scored seven goals off the long throw this year. Junior captain Chris Murray can launch the ball 40-plus yards, giving Canton a chance to score off a throw-in just about anywhere past the half-field mark.

“The purists tend to knock that a little bit,’’ said Canton coach Danny Erickson. “We’ve scored 50 goals this year, seven off the throw-ins. It’s a good weapon and has made a difference for us, but it’s far from what we’ve been able to do offensively.’’

While the developed throw-in has become a staple in high school soccer, it’s seldom seen at the college or professional level. Erickson thinks it’s because the fields are much bigger at those levels, though someone with the ability like Murphy might be able to pull it off.

“In general you only need to be able to chuck it 25-30 yards to get it to the near post in high school,” Erickson said. “More and more kids are able to do that. On college fields you have to throw it 40 yards. Now you’re talking a more difficult thing.”

Canton capped off the first undefeated season in the history of the 28-year-old program with a 2-2 tie against Attleboro Saturday. The Bulldogs won the game in double-overtime, while the two teams were battling for the inaugural Classic Crossover Cup, but the MIAA doesn’t recognize overtime in regular season matches.

Their league counterpart, King Philip will share the Kelly-Rex division of the Hockomock League with Attleboro. The Warriors finished 10-2-4 with the help of central-defender Matt Keys. The offensive-minded senior has scored eight goals this season, despite his role in the back.

“We let him pick and choose when he’s going to make a run,’’ said Lewis. “Sometimes he combines with people and he’s 6-foot-5, but with the speed and skill of a forward. He’s so dominant in the back we keep him back there and if he sees space he’ll just make a run.”

King Philip has battled some injuries, including the loss of Adam Ferrara, the team’s leading scorer. Lewis is hoping his forward will be back in time for the tournament, but an ankle sprain could keep him on the sideline.

Tournament pairings will be released Thursday.

“If we can maintain the type of defensive pressure that we’ve had, we should be OK,’’ Lewis said. “We think we have as good a chance as any other team. We made a run last year and got past some real good teams. I think that we have a shot at it.”

Game of the week

No. 1 Concord-Carlisle at No. 6 Lincoln-Sudbury, Tuesday, 3:45 p.m.: Alex Puchrik and the Patriots roll into town to take on Cole DeNormandie and the Warriors.