Lewiston girls soccer goalie Gemma Landry looks to make a save on a corner kick during preseason practice at Joseph Deschenes Field in Lewiston on Monday, Sept. 14. Wil Kramlich/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


The ball deflects off a defensive player and past the end line, giving the offensive team a corner kick.

What happens next will look a little different in Maine high school soccer games this fall.

Traditional play calls that coaches have perfected over the years need to be adjusted. Players, coaches and officials will have to start counting heads before the ball can be inserted, to make sure the penalty box isn’t overcrowded.

During the process of getting fall sports approved for play during the coronavirus pandemic, the Maine Principals’ Association created sports-specific guidelines, and near the bottom of the Soccer Return to Play Guidelines are changes to corner kicks and throw-ins.

“Throw-ins and corner kicks will have restrictions to help prevent physical contact to play the ball. At the time of a throw-in or corner kick into the penalty box (including the arc at top of the penalty box), there may only be five offensive players and five defensive players plus the goalie in the penalty box at the time of the throw or kick,” the guidelines state. “Other players may enter the box once the throw or kick has been played.”


Those guidelines were finalized and presented two weeks ago, and therefore coaches and teams haven’t had much time to adjust to the new rules.

“It will definitely affect the natural play of the game, but it could hold some advantages for us,” Poland girls coach Katrina Seeley said. “There are disadvantages, but it is a learning curve we will have to figure out.”

Saint Dominic Academy girls coach Tyler Shennett sees the corner kick rules affecting both teams.

“It’s going to change the way teams attack and defend. Only allowing five players in the box before the kick gives teams an equal chance at defending and attacking,” Shennett said. “In a normal corner, the defending team has the advantage if they bring their entire team back to defend, whereas now corners are defended and attacked evenly. In terms of our team, I think we will create more scoring opportunities off corners, which will benefit us this season.”

Mountain Valley girls coach Jeff Pelletier, who said he’s accepted the rule change because it allows Maine’s soccer players the chance to compete, also sees the rule having more of an impact on defenses.

“I don’t really expect any challenges offensively. It will force the girls to space and put more emphasis on their runs,” Pelletier said. “I do worry that, especially early on, it will be a challenge defensively, the girls will have to man-mark more effectively.”


“Honestly, I’m OK with (the new rule),” Buckfield girls coach Larry Thornton said, “as I think it’ll open things offensively and make the defense work even harder to clear the zone.”

The new rule might create more offense, but it could make late comebacks harder to come by.

“Offensively speaking, if a team is losing and they are really pressing the other team’s goal with just a few seconds left, they won’t be able to flood the area with a large number of players,” Lewiston girls coach Jeff Akerley said. “The kick would need to be replayed if there are too many players in the area. This takes away from the pressure that the winning team would be feeling before the end of the game, when the losing team is ‘crashing the goal area,’ flooding the goal area.”

Wol Maiwen of Edward Little heads a ball into the hand of Lewiston goalkeeper Dido Lumu during a boys soccer game in Auburn in Sept. 2018. Corner kicks won’t look like this in 2020, with only five offensive players and five defenders plus the goalie being allowed in the box prior to the kick. Sun Journal file photo





Other new rule changes for soccer with an eye on social distancing:

• No slide tackling when other players are within 6 feet of the would-be tackler.

• Players must be at least 3 feet from each other on direct and indirect kicks, which eliminates walls and jostling for position in front of the goalie.

• No drop-ball restarts, with the team deemed to be in possession by the referee being awarded an indirect kick.

Pelletier said that Mountain Valley, which has been shut down until about the middle of October while the school district and community deal with a rise in COVID cases, could be at a disadvantage when it returns to play.

“I do worry that if/when we get to play, that other teams will be a little more prepared for the rule change,” Pelletier said. “That being said, bring it on, we will just be happy to be on the pitch.”

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