Soccer Goalkeeper Training - Tony Englund - ebook

In Soccer Goalkeeper Training the authors explain and show through detailed photos and coaching points the physical and technical skills required for novice goalkeepers to improve their current level with easy to follow progressions. Another topic is how to make decisions in tactical situations on the soccer field, for example using communication as a tool for organizing the field player of one's team. The authors also delve into the more advanced and scientific areas of periodization and mental preparation used by the most accomplished goalkeepers in Major League Soccer and the US National Team to achieve ultimate success at the highest levels of the game. Hereby, some psychological aspects covered by the book are the relationship between goalkeepers and their coaches and giving feedback. Also, readers will find a training guide which is divided into exercises by various themes. Whether you are an aspiring young goalkeeper or a more advanced collegiate player, regardless of the level of goalkeeper you currently coach, Soccer Goalkeeper Training will have something to help bring out the best in you and your most important player.

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Soccer Goalkeeper Training


For Beth and Lisa

The contents of this book were carefully researched. However, all information is supplied without liability. Neither the author nor the publisher will be liable for possible disadvantages or damages resulting from this book.

Tony Englund I John Pascarella




The Comprehensive Guide

Meyer & Meyer Sport

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library


Soccer Goalkeeper Training

Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78255-437-0

All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced—including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means— processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher

© 2017 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.

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Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)

ISBN: 978-1-78255-437-0

Email: [email protected]

















In 2015, I enrolled in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Master Coach Certificate program. This was an outstanding program, featuring the opportunity to network with and learn from elite coaches from around the world. The greatest takeaway for me, both professionally and personally, was the opportunity to meet and work with John Pascarella of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City. Coach Pascarella is a coach’s coach: bright, charismatic, visionary, thoughtful, inquisitive and dynamic. Through the NSCAA’s program design and Coach Pascarella’s remarkable generosity, I have had the opportunity to observe many first-team training sessions and matches, enjoyed tremendous access to the first-team and academy staff and, most critically, a chance to learn much more about the art and science of goalkeeper coaching through many lengthy conversations with John. He is a valued colleague, mentor and friend, and I will always be thankful to him for undertaking this project with me in spite of his busy schedule.

Jeff Cassar and Daryl Shore of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake graciously agreed to write the foreword to the book and I am thankful for their contributions. Mateus Manoel, the outstanding Head Fitness Coach at Sporting Kansas City, and Patrick Mannix of his staff, as well as Josh McAllister of Swope Park Rangers added to and reviewed the fitness-related information in the book, and their assistance is gratefully acknowledged.

Ian Barker at the NSCAA encouraged me to register for the Master Coach course, steered me away from several other project ideas and assigned John Pascarella as my course mentor, and I am very appreciative of his guidance in the course and his leadership of the NSCAA’s coaching education in general.

Kristina Oltrogge at Meyer & Meyer has been a consummate professional in working with John and me throughout the writing process, and we appreciate her patience and diligence. Thanks to Manuel Morschel as well for his willingness to publish our work.

Nathan Klonecki and my colleagues at Sporting St. Croix Academy and Soccer Club in St. Paul have supported this project from its inception, and I am indebted to Nathan and the goalkeeper coaching staff for their feedback and the ideas that have been incorporated into the book.

Payton Spencer, Oscar Mulvaney, Lauren Thormodsgard and my stepdaughter Tess Wilder gave considerable time to appear in the photos for the book. They are outstanding people and goalkeepers, and I am thankful for their help.

Karen McCullough gave permission to use her photos in the book. Thank you, Karen.

Tony and Carole Englund, my parents, continue to be life’s best coaches, and their influence is paramount in my coaching and life. Thank you both, as always.

My wife Beth has been a constant source of support and inspiration during the writing of the manuscript. From endless trips and hotel stays across the country with my teams to the late-night clattering of my keyboard, she has cheerfully adopted the soccer life. My love and thanks to her for making the journey so much more meaningful and enjoyable.


In finishing this book (and our season coming to a premature end), I’m finally able to give some prolonged thought to how much help I’ve had and sacrificed the most while I was writing this book were my wife Lisa and my four children, Kara, Cassie, John-Patrick and Jordan. During my time as a player, coach, presenter or author, Lisa always provides the support and guidance needed, especially when things aren’t turning out the way I had hoped. She always gives me perspective and makes me a better version of myself than I could hope to be on my own. Each of my children have qualities that make me proud and during the writing of this book I’ve found myself wishing I had a little more of those qualities that they possess in spades.

Whenever I was fighting against time and feeling tired and sorry for myself, I’d think of Kara’s work ethic. Although a senior in high school, she plays club soccer and has a minimum of two jobs at any one time, sometimes leaving at 5:00 in the morning to start her first one…on Saturday morning, no less. What high school kid does that?! She always likes to say that I love her the most out of all my children—any parent would tell you that you love them all equally and for different reasons—but I’d like to say here, for the record, that I’ve loved her the longest!

Cassie is our perfectionist. At times, when I was writing and frustrated with the process of trying to get my thoughts onto paper I would often do the bare minimum and think it was good enough. Eventually, my thoughts would turn to her and the way she is constantly revising and tweaking her projects and homework, striving to get it done perfectly, which would then cause me to come back to my writing and try to make it better and more worthwhile to the reader.

John-Patrick is my only son and plays for our U14 academy team at Sporting KC. Whenever I think I’m becoming a better coach I try explaining something related to the game to him and get the same look my dogs give me when they hear something strange and tilt their heads to the side. That’s when I know I need to reconsider how to get my point across. On those occasions, he never ceases to amaze me by eventually grasping the concept and then repeating it back to me in much simpler terms and language. That quality has been especially helpful to me during this project.

Jordan, my youngest, is the most energetic and brutally honest kid you’ll meet. That combination always keeps me in check when my motivation to write waivers or the quality of my writing is poor. She is also the one that enjoys hugging the most. Often, I’d sit at the table and start writing only to get up 15 minutes later frustrated that I couldn’t get down on paper what was in my head. Jordy would ask, “Are you done already, Dad?” Invariably I’d say to her in various ways, I’m not enjoying this and really, not very good at it. She’d look at me in that cute and conniving little way that all youngest siblings do and say “Do you want to snuggle on the couch?” I didn’t need another excuse to walk away from the writing. Eventually, while sitting with her, she would repeat to me something along the lines of “Dad, you always tell me when I get frustrated just to stick with it” or “Dad, you always say ‘action comes before motivation,’ so just start writing again and you’ll get motivated as you go…right?” Suffice it to say, this book would never have been finished if it weren’t for my wife and kids!

For the past eight seasons, I’ve been blessed to work for the most forward thinking (and one of the most successful) clubs in Major League Soccer. I want to thank our manager Peter Vermes for the opportunity to work with him and for the trust he has in me to allow me to coach in a way that I see fit, allowing me to become a better coach along the way. It takes a very secure head coach to allow you to work with true freedom, and he has given me all the freedom I could have asked for in implementing my ideas. Many of the training activities in this book have been tweaked and improved from my previous work because he has created the environment and allowed me the freedom to experiment and try to find the best formula for each of our goalkeepers.

I’ve also been spoiled to work with three tremendous conditioning coaches at Sporting Kansas City. Over the last few years I’ve relied on Mateus Manoel, Patrick Mannix and Josh McAllister to create functional training exercises and activities that mask the fitness component while bringing about the technical and tactical aspects we are trying to improve. Over time they’ve helped me become a better and more efficient coach as well as contributing greatly to the areas of physiology, warm-up, cool-down and nutrition in this book.

There are so many good people working and volunteering their time for the NSCAA. Their conventions, coaching courses and various forums have given me an outlet to share much of the information I’ve gathered over the years with others seeking to exchange ideas on the game. These exchanges have provoked many thoughts on the game that I may not have realized without their help and input. Some of the ideas presented in this book have literally been stolen from some of these folks and adapted for my coaching purposes with the various goalkeepers I’ve had over the years. One of those people is Tony Dicicco. He has been a consistent influence in my life since college, when he hired me to work for his Soccer Plus Goalkeeper Camps around the country. Working with him helped me form my outlook and philosophy on coaching goalkeepers as I’m always try to catch them being good!

I would also like to thank both Jeff Cassar and Daryl Shore for contributing the foreword for this book as well as insights into our league and our profession since I was hired by Sporting Kansas City in 2009. Both have played in Major League Soccer as goalkeepers. Both were goalkeeping coaches in the league and Daryl currently continues in that role with Real Salt Lake. Both have also been head coaches, Jeff currently with RSL in Major League Soccer and Daryl with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL. Daryl and I have known each other since college and hopefully the things he knows about me will go with him to his grave.

Finally, I’d like to thank Tony Englund. This book was his idea and he was truly the inspiration behind it. I’ve had a chance to work with him on two occasions and I’d do it again. Why? Because every time we have a discussion, regardless if it’s about the game, raising kids or anything else, I learn something. You can’t get enough of people like that in your life.


Alabama, 1988. I was an incoming freshman set to attend Birmingham–Southern College (BSC) on a soccer scholarship. During the summers, our coach held soccer camp, and this year, for the second year in a row, our coach had secured Tony Schumacher (my idol growing up) to headline the “Excellence Through Fundamentals” soccer camp. I had hoped to be able to attend the camp and learn from one of the world’s greatest, but since I was enrolled in summer classes, I was not allowed to participate. So in the evenings, I’d watch the camp action from afar. One night when I was sitting in the stands, I saw a young goalkeeper working the camp, “hamming” it up with Schumacher and the others. I watched this guy closely because his goalkeeping techniques were similar to mine–particularly his quickness, reactions, and smart attitude. Intrigued by his qualities, it was then I decided that I was going to get to know this guy.

This was my first introduction to John Pascarella, professional goalkeeper from Penn State University, now plying his trade in Peru. I didn’t really get to know John that well until the following year when he returned to BSC to work the camp. I was now on my college team as an up-and-coming goalkeeper with dreams of playing professionally. John’s contract stated that he could return to BSC to work the camp for a week, especially since Tony Schumacher was scheduled to return. Unbeknownst to us, Schumacher didn’t show up. As our coach tried to figure out how to handle the situation, John took control and said, “Don’t worry, boys, we’ll run the goalkeeper part of this camp, and no one will miss Tony.” I spent that entire week coaching with John, training with him in our off time, and picking his brain at night. John was a confident guy, but one thing was for sure, he told it like it was and didn’t hide from the truth. He was honest and worked his butt off when he trained and coached the campers, but most importantly, he was always in good spirits and made sure that he and everyone around him were enjoying themselves both on and off the soccer field. It was then that I knew John was going to have a long career in coaching after his playing career as a professional goalkeeper.

Florida, 2009. Time passed, and we went our separate ways. As I continued to chase the dream of becoming a professional player, John finished up his playing career in 1997 and climbed the ranks of becoming one of the best goalkeeper coaches in in the US. John put his time in coaching the US Soccer semi-pro and pro circuits as well as the college game. With his background, not only in goalkeeping but in exercise science, it was only a matter of time until he would get his chance to work in America’s top league, Major League Soccer. When John joined the Sporting Kansas City staff in 2009, as both the goalkeeper coach and the strength and conditioning coach, I was on the staff with the Chicago Fire. Though we had not talked for quite some years, we reconnected during preseason in Bradenton, Florida, and it was there I remembered what I thought back in 1989: This guy was good at what he did. It takes loyalty and perseverance to stay on a coaching staff for eight years, and those are two of John’s strongest attributes.

While I was an assistant coach with the Fire, I was also the director of Soccer Operations for a soccer combine company called InfoSport. Upon reconnecting that preseason, I asked John if he would be interested in joining our staff, and he immediately agreed and has been a mainstay on the InfoSport coaching staff since 2010. He was instrumental in assisting us, adding a goalkeepers-only portion to the combine—another example of how John takes leadership responsibility and runs with it. Once again, he reminded me of why he has been and still is a very successful goalkeeper coach. John’s ability to work with goalkeepers of all ages meant it was just a matter of time before he would coach an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (Jimmy Nielson, 2013).

2016. John Pascarella has coached goalkeepers at all levels. He has now partnered with NSCAA Master Coach and author, Tony Englund, and together they have written Soccer Goalkeeper Coaching: The Comprehensive Guide for past, current, and aspiring goalkeepers to read. John and Tony set out to address the need to provide an accessible, thorough book on goalkeeper coaching that would appeal to specialists, team coaches, and parents, and they’ve done a marvelous job. It is clear that they have thought through every aspect of goalkeeper coaching and drawn together the very best material to write this volume. The book has hundreds of exercises and tips, as well as many thoughtful analyses of the goalkeeping position. Soccer Goalkeeper Training: The Comprehensive Guideis an important asset to our staff and those interested in improving their goalkeepers at every level.

I am honored to call John Pascarella not only a colleague in the sport, but more importantly, a friend. He and Tony have raised the bar in goalkeeper coaching with this new and important book.

Mark up and don’t lose your man!

Daryl Shore, Director of Goalkeeping, Real Salt Lake (MLS)



Frequently, goalkeepers are classified by coaches and teammates as a breed apart. Many think one would have to be crazy to volunteer to play goalkeeper in soccer. However, virtually everyone involved in the game would concede that without an accomplished goalkeeper, a team’s potential is extremely limited. Indeed, the current men’s World Cup champions Germany are led by their goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, arguably the best at his position in the world at the time of this writing.

Goalkeeping is a very specialized position and there have been increasingly impressive efforts in recent years to assemble thorough coaching and training plans for goalkeepers of every level. Indeed, Tim Mulqueen’s The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper (Human Kinetics, 2010) is the most recent and well-written example. The current effort, the authors hope, will be the most thorough and accessible effort to date. This book, it should be noted, is written with the goalkeeper specialist, team coach and parent in mind. Whether one trains goalkeepers every week or has a child interested in trying the position, this volume is designed to be easy to follow and packed with information and training ideas. Specialists and team coaches will find thorough explanations of tactical concepts and a wide variety of training ideas to enrich their planning. Parents will find the technical descriptions, many photos and diagrams helpful for working with their children as they learn to play goalkeeper.

Topics covered include all standard technical movements, saves and distribution, tactical concepts from dealing with through-balls to defending set-pieces, a chapter on the psychological challenges of playing and coaching the position, fitness, and more. Finally, the last chapter of the book includes dozens of exercises organized by topic and designed to provide interesting, varied and challenging training to goalkeepers at every level.


Not everyone can play as a goalkeeper. It takes a different temperament to play the position than that of an outfield player, which is probably why many people say that goalkeepers are crazy. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It takes such a varied set of physical and psychological skills as well as a deep understanding of the game to achieve success in the goalkeeper position that the reality is many goalkeepers are the most cerebral player on the team.


As an approach to the question “Who can be a goalkeeper?” it is useful to break down the four pillars of the game and show how they relate to the goalkeeping position and ask questions that parents, players and coaches should ask to determine if the position is right for them. Obviously, the weighting of many of these characteristics changes based on the age and level of the player. For example, height isn’t necessarily important to a 13-year-old goalkeeper but his size will become increasingly important as he gets older and enters the collegiate or professional game.

1.Technical profile: Can the goalkeeper keep the ball out of the goal and can we play through him?

At the end of the day the goalkeeper is most strongly evaluated on his ability to keep the opposition from scoring goals. Can he handle shots cleanly regardless of catching or deflecting them? Does he have good rhythm and timing in crossing situations so he can confidently catch and punch crosses? Is he able to spread at an attacker’s feet in 1-vs.-1 situations?

In addition to dealing with shots and crosses, goalkeepers who are competent with their feet can also help their defenders play out of tough situations if they are good enough to deal securely with back-passes and participate in build-up play instead of just kicking the ball long, down the field.

These are some of the questions and areas that need to be evaluated when looking at whether a player can handle the technical aspects of the position.

2.Tactical profile: Can he read the game and make good decisions?

The fact that the goalkeeper plays behind everyone and has a view of the entire field is a great advantage to those that understand what’s unfolding in front of them. Does he understand the game well enough to direct players in front of him with clear, concise and accurate information? Can he make correct decisions under extreme pressure, and can he read the game quickly and accurately enough to put his own players in positions to shut down the opposition’s opportunities before they become dangerous chances?

This requires that the goalkeeper understand the game and will find it to his advantage to spend time as a youth player in positions other than goalkeeper so as to gain an understanding of the mentality and strategy of attacking players. This insight is an advantage to those who put the time in to learn the game as a whole, not just from the perspective of a goalkeeper.

To summarize, if a goalkeeper can be the eyes and conscience of the team as things are happening in front of him he can diffuse many difficult situations before they occur.

3.Psychological profile: Does he have a presence?

If a goalkeeper can instill a sense of confidence in his teammates he is worth his weight in gold.

Does he have a strong and positive body language? Is he mentally strong? Is he brave enough to put himself into situations where there will likely be contact to make a save? Does he have the leadership qualities to direct the players in front of him and take command of situations through action and communication? Can he recover from an error to make a crucial save when the game is on the line? These are questions that players need to be able to answer with a resounding “Yes!” if they are to play with courage and conviction going forward in attack.

These intangibles are what often set the best apart from the rest.

4.Physical profile: Does he look the part?

The physical presence of the goalkeeper becomes a critical element at the advanced levels of the game. Taller, stronger goalkeepers find it easier to control their area, defending crosses and heavy-paced shots. The demands of the position require that the goalkeeper have the ability to move powerfully, especially over short distances and in their jumping and diving actions. Good balance, coordination and agility are also a requirement because of how many times he needs to change speed and direction as he is following the action. His ability to contort his body in space (kinesthetic sense) can also be a major help to the goalkeeper, especially if he is already in motion to make a save and the ball is deflected and changes direction.

So, Who Can Be a Goalkeeper?

At the younger ages, virtually any child can try goalkeeping, and indeed, this is a fundamental means of learning about the game for all players. Serving as a goalkeeper adds appreciation for the challenges of the position, as well as a radically expanded skill set. As children advance within the game, the elements emphasized here become a more stringent formula for measuring the potential of a goalkeeper. As mentioned earlier, the qualities listed in these profiles are all important but what is most crucial is the combination and complementary nature of the qualities. For example, the goalkeeper may lack some top-quality athleticism but may be able to make up for it with a superior ability to understand, read and anticipate action in the game. The composite makeup of the goalkeeper and how he fits into the team’s overall playing style is the overriding factor.


Before the age of twelve there should be very little focus on specialization training as a goalkeeper. At younger ages it is more important for the players to play and train in a variety of positions and even a variety of sports. Why? The reason for playing multiple positions is to develop an understanding of the game as a whole and not just how to defend the goal. Playing and training as a field player will engender in a goalkeeper a different and more varied perspective of the game than if he simply plays as a goalkeeper from day one.

The photos below share ideas for some possession games or games to goal that can be varied to include goalkeepers playing either centrally or as bumpers. When the coach includes restrictions such as passes into feet needing to be played with feet and balls passed in the air needing to be caught, he can now arrange activities and games that incorporate goalkeepers into the session to play and understand the bigger picture of the entire game while incorporating the goalkeepers into team training.

4-vs.-4 plus three with goalkeepers.

2-vs.-2 plus three with goalkeepers (neutral players on one touch).