Flip-throws are considered a novelty act, which is why you don’t see them often (if at all) at the professional level. College players still do them on occasion, but it’s generally in effort to make up the difference for a weak regular throw, as opposed to gaining an advantage over the traditional method.
However, this is not that. This comes to us from a USL game last night between the Oklahoma City Energy and the Sacramento Republic, and features OKC players Michael Harris and Mario Gonzalez teaming up to, well, just watch:
— USL (@USL) April 12, 2017
Okay, so that’s a laser of a throw-in from near the halfway line from Harris, forcing a poor defensive header, leading directly to what I’m going to call a bicycle kick from Gonzalez. (There are purists who might insist it be truly over the head, but come on, this is a bicycle kick.)
Though the finish is excellent, it’s that flip throw that truly stands out. We’ve seen players like Rory Delap in England change games with their throws, but Harris’s technique is so good that at the professional level it could seemingly be a real weapon.
He’s been doing this for a long time now. Here are some highlights from his college career at Washington (as with many soccer highlight montages, the soundtrack is incredibly loud dance music, so maybe turn down your volume):
Harris wasn’t drafted by MLS out of college. In the run-up to the draft, he mentioned that he had every intention of bringing this throw-in to the professional level:
Harris is one of the few players in American competitive soccer history to use a flip-throw—that is using a somersault on throw-ins to launch the ball half-way across the field, usually into the opposing 18-yard area.
It’s effective: Harris’ 10 assists led the competitive Pac-12 in that category and was 7th in Division I and tops among all defenders. But it didn’t come without its share of critics from message boards, opposing fans, players, and coaches.
“Other teams, their fans, their players, and bench would be yelling, complaining, saying things like, ‘It’s not soccer, you’re slowing the game down, you’re using your hands to score,’” Harris told American Soccer Now. “But look, it’s a weapon that I have—that we as a team had—and I’m not going to not use it just because some people don’t like it. Whatever. It helped us win.”
This skill may have boxed him in a bit; teams likely focused on the gimmicky nature of the flip throw, and as an MLS team is unlikely to consider it a viable tactic, that might have been enough to eliminate Harris from consideration. But Harris predicted his potential career path from that same 2014 piece:
“I’m going to get to MLS somehow,” Harris said. “If I don’t get drafted then hopefully I get invited to a camp. But if I don’t I’ll go to a USL team and show I belong. There’s a place for me, and what I bring to a game, in MLS.”
Based on last night’s play, I’d agree, although what we don’t see are the instances where Harris has his team move down the field and gather in the box, only to fail to deliver an accurate throw. That could get annoying, and MLS games suffer from a choppy nature as it is. However, if this is a skill Harris can continue to refine, it could really be a useful weapon.
We just saw evidence of that at the professional level.