Yes, Virginia, you can pull the keeper

I’ve always wondered, and now I know.

I never grew up playing soccer. I may have been the only one in my demographic never to have even stepped onto a soccer field as I was coming up, but I’ve covered the sport since college.

Still, I had always thought that a team should pull the goalkeeper late in a game and send in an extra attacker to try to score a tying goal and send a match to overtime. But after never seeing it, I figured it couldn’t be done.

I should’ve asked long before now, but when you work on deadlines, the time for idle chatter comes and goes in a hurry. That said, I should have made the time to ask the question to any number of soccer coaches I’ve come in contact with. 

Can you pull the goalie like they often do in hockey?

On Tuesday night, I got my answer.

With Southern Lee Cavaliers down by a goal with just 6 minutes remaining in their first-round playoff match against Bartlett Yancey, coach Jason Burman was ready to make the move. Deborah Bolden was ready to go in and keeper Jazmin Sotelo was set to come out if the score didn’t change in the next minute.

But then it did. Colleen Pisano made a clutch goal in the 75th minute and Sammi Palme later connected on a penalty kick late in overtime to send the Cavaliers into the second round.

But Burman was ready to do it. “I grew up in Indiana,” Burman said. “I love hockey. It’s a part of me.

“I idolized Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr growing up. I loved those guys. Sure, I was going to do it.”

Alas, it didn’t happen and I didn’t get to see it, and I guess that ultimately it’s a good thing because the local team won. 

But in over a decade of never seeing the move done in a varsity high school game, what’s more remarkable is that in talking to Burman about it more on Thursday, I found out that the Cavaliers had actually made the switch earlier this season.

In the waning moments of a critical league game on April 23 against Western Harnett, the Cavaliers took Sotelo out and sent in another player in an effort to knot a 4-3 game that had conference title implications.

“I knew it was a big game,” Burman said. “We were getting beat and all of a sudden I thought about it, that maybe an extra player might shake them up a little.”

It didn’t work that night, but after talking more about it that night and tinkering with it in the following practices, the Cavaliers now seem comfortable with the idea.

Because Palme is so adept playing on the back line, and because she also has keeper experience, Southern Lee’s plan would be to bring Deborah Bolden and her 12 goals on the season into the game. Coming in, Bolden would bring to Palme a penny practice jersey, giving Palme a distinguishing color jersey and “goalie rights”, which basically allow Palme to use her hands.

The move can also be deceptive because offsides rules would still be in effect, as Palme is the last defender before the goal. 

“There’s a good chance that the move could throw somebody off,” Burman said.

Sure, and why not? I haven’t seen it in 10 years. And there are probably quite a few players who have never seen it either.

Unless they are big hockey fans.

1 Comment

Filed under Designated Hitter, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

One response to “Yes, Virginia, you can pull the keeper

  1. Brian Joura

    I appreciate your honesty.

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