Midfielder Karla Pineda’s unique skill from setpieces proving beneficial

Midfielder Karla Pineda’s unique skill from setpieces proving beneficial

Midfielder Karla Pineda’s unique skill from setpieces proving beneficial
September 24
02:51 2015

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

A handball foul was whistled during UNT’s soccer match against Texas Christian University on Sept. 13.

On the ensuing free kick just outside the left side of the 18-yard box, senior midfielder Karla Pineda stepped up to the spot, sized up the defensive formation and prepared for the attempt.

Despite nerves settling in, she struck the ball as she had many times in the past, adding her signature curve to the strike.

“It just felt like it was going in,” Pineda said. “I know when it’s a good hit and when it’s not. That is a great feeling.”

The shot nestled itself into the right side netting, precisely where she aimed. The goal would win the game against TCU, one of three game-winners she has had this season in addition to the 11 in her career.

Byron_Soccer_091815

Karla Pineda poses on the soccer fields at UNT. Byron Thompson | Contributing Photographer

Pineda has been a threat from set pieces, free or corner kicks, since joining the Mean Green in 2012. The Houston native led North Texas with seven assists in her freshman season and was named to the Sun Belt’s all-conference first team.

She has even directly scored from corner kicks twice in her career, a feat rarely seen at any level of soccer.

Head coach John Hedlund said he recruited Pineda because of her ability to get her teammates the ball, whether in open play or from corners. She’s done this effectively over the past three years, as Pineda currently sits tied for second on the school’s all-time assist list with 29.

“We noticed when we were recruiting her just what she could do with the ball,” Hedlund said. “The way she could bend it and the feel she has for the ball anywhere on the field. She can take balls that are far out and loft them to find our key players in the air. That’s why she has so many assists.”

Hedlund could only compare Pineda’s set piece ability to North Texas Athletics Hall of Fame member and former forward Marilyn Marin. Marin held every offensive record in the school’s history by the time she graduated in 2003.

When watching a Pineda free kick, it becomes clear. Taken with her right foot, the ball spins in almost a curveball way, dipping and knuckling toward where she aimed, a talent that throws goalkeepers off when they try to get a good read on a free kick shot.

“I have practiced ever since I was little,” Pineda said. “I don’t think it’s natural. I have always been playing outside with my brother practicing, and I feel like that has helped me a lot.”

Pineda also attributes her unique ability to watching professional soccer at a deeper level, and her favorite player is Lionel Messi.

“He doesn’t score a lot of free kick goals, but when he does they’re amazing,” she said. “I try to kick it like him, but I have used the technique of Ronaldinho. He was my role model growing up. He’s really good at free-kicks, so I think he’s the main one.”

In soccer, there can be a lot of build up to a corner or free kick, she said, as the referee sets the players up and determines when to allow the ball to be played. This can leave time for players to think, or overthink, what they need to do with the ball.

Pineda said she has to combat every time she stands over a dead ball.

“When I put the ball down, I look at the goal and see what angle is better for me. And that tells me how to kick the ball,” Pineda said. “If it’s on the right side, then I know to curve it in, and if it’s on the outside I know to hit it with the outside of my foot. I try to relax as much as I can and focus on the ball and goal.”

Junior forward Rachel Holden, Pineda’s teammate for the last two years, has been the target of many of her corners.

Holden said finds solace in knowing Pineda can deal consistent balls to cause danger to an opposing team’s defense.

“Everyone is confident in Karla,” Holden said. “Not all the time do they go in, but there’s a really high percentage that they will or that we will get a chance on goal.”

Proper execution from set pieces is something Hedlund said he preaches to his team consistently in practice, especially if the team is to meet its preseason goal of advancing to the NCAA tournament.

Fortunately for the Mean Green, they have a unique talent in Pineda to take advantage of opponents’ mistakes.

“Many great teams win off set pieces all the time,” Pineda said. “I know how important it is for us, and knowing that we scored from there, we know John is proud of us. It’s a great feeling knowing we execute something we practice all the time.”

Featured Image: NAME, originally from Houston, started her North Texas freshman season with seven assists and was named to the Sun Belt’s all-conference first team. Caitlyn Jones | Contributing Photographer 

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