The Quakes have back to back games against teams with two of the most accomplished divers in MLS. Last week we saw a well-executed, albeit a relatively low degree of difficulty dive by Alvaro Saborio. On Saturday, Charlie Davies arrives with DC United, preceded by his reputation as one of the nation’s more gifted divers. I’m anticipating a polished display, given the proximity of the USC’s Sullivan Aquatic center for his pre-game preparations.
Saborio's dive has huge impact for the Quakes this week, with Bobby Burling and Brad Ring suspended. Burling was red carded having been implicated in the ‘foul’ of Saborio and is due a $250 fine. In the spirit of fighting the flop, The Casbah will be selling raffle tickets at their tailgate on Saturday to raise money to pay the fines of Burling, Ring (fined $250 for his fifth yellow card) and Jon Busch (fined $500 for showing Saborio his new one-fingered goalkeeper glove). Please consider helping this worthy cause and join the increasingly popular movement among soccer fans to “Fight the flop”.
In the meantime, I wonder if with a little background knowledge of this esoteric sport, we might learn to appreciate the skill involved in diving. Since Quakes fans are unaccustomed to watching diving, here are a few pointers to enhance our appreciation of its complex techniques.
In competition, divers perform a number of dives consisting of somersaults, pikes and twists etc. Judges consider the approach, the flight, and the entry of the entire dive, with the following factors taken into consideration:
- The height of the diver at the apex of the dive, with extra height resulting in a higher score.
- Properly defined body position of the diver, including pointed toes and feet touching at all times.
- The proper amounts of rotation and revolution upon completion of the dive.
- Angle of entry – a diver should enter the water with minimal splash.
A possible score out of ten for technique is multiplied by the degree of difficulty (DD) factor, which is derived from the number and combination of movements attempted. The most commonly performed dive in soccer has a DD of 1.2 (a forward dive in tuck position). The maximum degree of difficulty (4.8) is awarded for a reverse 4½ somersaults in pike, and is considered by many as the unattainable holy grail in soccer (it requires a three-meter springboard). Naturally the diver with the highest total score after a sequence of dives is declared the winner. Reviewing recent dives from Davies and Saborio using these criteria, it's possible to determine which diver has thus far achieved the greatest reputation:
Charlie Davies: Davies’s diving performance against DC had a much higher degree of difficulty than that against RSL. In this case, the increased distance between Davies’s feet and those of the defender, makes it a much harder sell on the referee, so warrants a DD of 1.9. Notice, in the slow motion replay the pointed toes, neatly tucked arms during the 1½ somersault flight and minimal splash on the grass; consider also the elegant revolution and good height. His final score was adjudged at 7.3, and multiplied by the DD of 1.9, his final score was 13.9.
Alvaro Saborio: Saborio’s positioning in the box was key here: he used two Quakes defenders to block the view of both the referee and the assistant. Although this was a relatively simple dive (pike with a 1½ twist) the difficulty of this approach earns a higher degree of difficulty – 2.4. His overall execution was, however, not quite as refined as Davies: entry into the box was slow and his body position was compromised by a trailing left arm and dropped toes that gouged the grass. However, the lower technical score was overcome by the greater DD, giving Saborio a final score of 16.8.
Saborio has thrown down the gauntlet – will Davies rise (or plummet gracefully) to the challenge to reclaim the diving championship in this weekend’s game against the Earthquakes? I have to think that Davies's stock with the USMNT has risen significantly this week with the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann as coach.