The dearth of goals and excitement in some games of the recently completed World Cup has brought into focus the demand by many soccer fans for more offensive play.
In many games, including West Germany's drab 1-0 victory over Argentina in last Sunday's final, there was simply too much emphasis on defense and not enough offensive effort or thought.
Several teams favored such a style, resulting in too many unattractive games. There is a technique and science to defensive soccer; the strategy is to draw the majority of players into their half of the field, thus denying their opponents space in the vital areas in front of the goal and eliminating penetrating passes.
Many people involved in soccer take issue with the merits of a strategy based on fear of losing.
For obvious reasons, some teams seem more intent on trying not to lose than trying to win. Pressure from fanatic fans, team officials, government leaders and the media all combine to force even the most aggressive coaches to adopt a defensive strategy.
In the recent World Cup, Cameroon excited the world by displaying a brand of soccer uninhibited by the fear of losing. Cameroon placed an emphasis on an open, skillful brand of soccer that took the so-called sophisticated, conservative teams by surprise.
Cameroon could play such an innovative brand of soccer because there was no pressure on its players or coach. The fans loved the "Lions of Africa."
Other countries, including the United States, should take note of Cameroon and emulate and encourage such an open style.
The United States is hosting the 1994 World Cup finals. We have a wonderful opportunity with our recent experience in Italy to build a more competitive team.
But we need to have more athletic, creative players. We need to show more flair and guile, such as displayed by Cameroon. But how to achieve this?
For starters, the U.S. coaches need to get more black players interested in the game. It needs to attract more diverse athletes as well as fans. Black athletes in this country are marvelous in such sports as football, basketball and baseball (although that sport is losing its appeal in many inner cities). Soccer needs to do a better job of getting black youngsters involved.
I believe increased participation by black youngsters would add a new dimension to the game in this country and improve our chances of fielding a better team in 1994.
The U.S. team, which lost its three games in the World Cup, needs a better balance of offense and defense. Its goal should be an offense of the skill and improvisation of Cameroon or Brazil, and a European-type disciplined defense such as Italy's.
The emphasis on offense will grow with FIFA's change in the offside rule (the first offside change since 1925), which will enable an attacking player to be level with the last defender without being offside.
I foresee this change will bring about more goals, which will help what is still a wonderful game.
Gordon Bradley, who coached Pele and the Cosmos in the late 1970s, as well as the Washington Diplomats of the NASL, is soccer coach at George Mason University and general manager of the Washington Stars of the ASL.