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Soccer Support

You want to have “support” on both offense & defense. “Support”
refers to having teammates who are properly positioned near the ball (i.e., within passing range on offense and within 5 – 10 steps of the First Defender on defense):

A.  On Offense, there should always be 2 or more teammates within passing range (7-15 steps, depending on age) who are open for a pass. One of these can be following the ballhandler (a “trailer”). The key concepts are “First Atacker”, “Second Attacker”, and “Third Attacker”. (See “First Attacker”, “Push Up”, “Support Distance & Relative Position”, “Attacking”, “Attacking Tips” in Chapter 1, & Chapter 2, “How To Teach Offense & Defense”).
B.  On Defense there are 3 key concepts:
  1. “First Defender” – The player closest to the ball must challenge the ball & try to slow down the attack or block a shot, and
  • “Second Defenders” – The second closest player must be the Second Defender and back up the First Defender and stay between the ball and the goal. The Second Defender should stay about 5-7 steps behind the First Defender and should become the First Defender if the ballhandler gets by the initial First Defender. (In this case, the initial defender should drop back to help the defender who was backing him up).
  • “Shift & Sag” – As soon as the ball is lost, your team should quickly “transition” from offense to defense; the closest player should become the “First Defender” the next two closest should become the “Second Defenders” & all the rest should “shift & sag”. What this means is to shift so they are generally between the ball & the goal & sag back to create multiple layers of defenders (which is called “Depth”). There are 2 rules that you can use to teach your players how to “shift & sag” on defense:
    • The left & right players (e.g., the LMF & RMF or LFB & RFB) should not go past the center of the field.
  • Don’t go past a teammate unless it is an emergency & never go past two teammates. These rules apply to defense but not offense because more creativity is allowed on offense. (See “Shift & Sag“, “Shape“, “Depth“, “Cover“, “Width In Defense“, “Support Distance & Relative Position“, “Zone Defense“, “Defense” & “Flat Defense“).
  • C.  All players should shift toward the ball whether on offense or defense. Ideally, there should be multiple layers of support on both offense & defense.

    Soccer Shift & Sag

    A convenient term for describing what you want your soccer players to do on defense. It has 2 meanings:

    First, as attackers move the soccer ball around the field, defenders should be constantly shifting to maintain good defensive coverage and the soccer players farthest from the ball should “sag” back so they are in position to stop an attack on goal (this provides additional “depth” & concentration of defenders between the soccer ball & the goal). This creates “multiple layers” of defenders in a position to stop an attack on goal. For example, if the soccer ball is on the left side & the LF is the First Defender, then the LMF should be a Second Defender, the CF should also be a Second Defender, & the LFB should be the Third Defender. The CF should shift so he is within 5 – 7 steps of the soccer ball & “sag” back a little so if the onball attacker tries to go to the left of the LF the CF is there to stop the penetration. The CMF should also “shift & sag” so he is between the CF & the goal (i.e., 10 – 15 steps behind the CF), & the CFB should do the same behind the CMF. On the right side, the RF should sag behind the CF, but not go past the center of the field (i.e., the imaginary line between the goals), etc. These relationships are shown in the diagram below. If the soccer ball were on the right side, it would be reversed. Note that all defenders don’t try to stay precisely between the soccer ball & the goal (if they did you would have no “width” & your field “coverage” would be poor); however, they are in position to “recover” in time to stop an attack on goal.
    Second, when a team loses the soccer ball, the players nearest the soccer ball should stay & try to be “First or Second Defenders” & slow down the attack. But all others should quickly “sag” back toward their goal (i.e., “Recover”) to create multiple layers of defenders. This doesn’t mean that everyone runs back in front of the goal; if they do it just makes it easy for the attackers to reach your Danger Zone. A rule of thumb is that the Fullbacks should drop back far enough that a long chip pass won’t go over their heads. Also, keep in mind that even when the FB’s have sagged back near their goal, you must leave some MF’s & F’s outside the Penalty Box in a position to win cleared balls & to receive passes so you can counterattack. If all your players are in the Penalty Box you won’t be able to get the ball off your end of the field.
    (See “Defense“, “Depth“, “Support“, “Support Distance & Relative Position” “Formations“, “Zone Defense“, “First Defender“, “Recover“, “Funnel” “Mark” & “Pressure“).

    Soccer Shift

    Attackers & defenders should constantly be shifting (as the soccer ball moves) so they are in a position to provide “support” or “cover”. (See “Support“, “Cover“, “Shift & Sag” & “Support Distance“).

    Soccer Shield

    (aka Screen). When a soccer player legally positions his body so the defender can’t touch the soccer ball without fouling. (e.g., The ballhandler shifts the soccer ball to his foot that is farthest from the defender, stays low with his knees bent & feet apart so he can’t get easily pushed off the soccer ball & stiffens the arm nearest the defender; the arm can’t be used to push the defender but it can point down & slightly out so he’s ready to withstand a “Shoulder Charge”). See “Strength On the Ball” & “Shoulder Charge“.

    Soccer Second Defender

    There should always be a Second Defender. (See “Support” & “Shift & Sag“).

    Soccer Second Attacker

    An attacker who is within a short to medium passing distance from the First Attacker. (See “First Attacker” & “Third Attacker“).

    Soccer Rebound

    When your soccer team shoots, it is important for the F’s & MF’s to “go to goal” & get in position near the goal for a “rebound”. A rebound will occur when a shot hits the goal or when the goalkeeper blocks a shot. However, your soccer players should not go too close or the rebound will bounce behind them. When this happens, they not only don’t have a shot, but they actually are in the way of their teammates who are trying to take a shot. (i.e., They are between the soccer ball & the goal & blocking their teammate’s ability to take a shot. It’s almost like giving the other team a defender). Tell your soccer players to not run into the Goal Box until they see where the rebound is going (remind them that they can run forward a lot faster than they can run backward). Also, teach them to aggressively try to win the soccer ball back if an opponent other than the goalkeeper gets the soccer ball near the other team’s goal (e.g., from a rebound or a turnover). This can be a great scoring opportunity if you can steal the soccer ball back &, if you accidentally foul, the free kick is too far away from your goal to score. (See “Finish“, & “Attacking“).

    Soccer Push Pass

    The most important and most frequently used pass. Made with the
    inside-of-foot & called a push pass because of the long follow-through which sometimes looks like pushing the ball. The soccer ball is struck with the part of the foot under the anklebone. This is the most accurate pass but best for short passes that stay on the ground. This pass is accurate because it is easy for the passer to lock his ankle. Key teaching points are to have the player face the target and square up so he, the soccer ball & the target are in a straight line, keep both knees slightly bent, pull up the toes so the kicking foot is parallel to the ground, lock the ankle on contact and follow through toward the target. An advantage of this pass is that when receiving the soccer ball the leg will stop the soccer ball if it takes an unexpected bounce. (See “Toe Kick“, and “Inside-of-Foot Pass“).

    Soccer Push Up

    Read “Should You Push Up When You Attack’ Or Should You Defend Deep’” The term “push up” refers to fullbacks or midfielders moving forward toward the halfway line. In certain formations and if your soccer team has speed and stamina, you should “push up” when you attack or any time the soccer ball is near the other team’s Penalty Box, even if the other team has the soccer ball, so you can support your attack or put pressure on the soccer ball. To build an attack (especially on a large field) it is an advantage to have everyone, including the defenders, shift with the soccer ball. This allows your soccer team to keep “shape” so there is “support”. Moving the fullbacks up also has the advantage of keeping the other soccer team away from your goal because they will be “offside” if they go past the last defender before the soccer ball passes him. This keeps the attackers out of scoring range, but defenders must be quick to fall back if the soccer ball gets past them. This is why some soccer teams use a “Sweeper”. A Sweeper is a very fast soccer player with good endurance who is not afraid to make contact to stop the soccer ball & clear it. The Sweeper will play slightly behind the fullbacks or as a Center Fullback with a “Stopper’ in front of him. (The Stopper doesn’t have to be as fast, but must be tough and able to stop the ball). The Sweeper will run down any through balls or breakaways and kick the soccer ball out of bounds over the side line to slow down the other soccer team’s attack so your soccer team will have time to recover. If your fullbacks are slow and you want to push them up when you attack, consider using a Sweeper. Another alternative is a 3-2-2-3 formation, as described in “Formations” and “Attacking Plan”.

    Once a soccer team is “pushed up”, the FB’s won’t automatically fall back when they lose the soccer ball but may stay pushed up to apply pressure & try to steal the soccer ball back. This is kind of like a defensive “press” in basketball & it is hard to dribble thru these FB’s when they are pushed up. The way to break thru & beat the “press” is by playing “through balls“, “give & go’s” & “passing to yourself“. If your opponent’s FB’s are pushed up, it creates the opportunity for a fastbreak counterattack. In recreational soccer it is best to not push up if you play on a long field and the other soccer teams Forwards are faster than your Fullbacks. An alternative is to use a formation that creates more depth, such as a 3-2-3-2 and to “defend deep”. This is described in detail in “Formations” and “Attacking Plan”. (See “Attacking Plan“, “High Line“, “Last Defender“, “Through Ball” “Pass To Yourself“, “Give & Go“, “Formations“, “Defending Deep“, “Styles of Play“, “Sweeper“, “Stopper” & “Defending to Win“).

    Soccer Pullback

    (aka “Drag Back”). A pullback is executed by placing the bottom of the foot on the soccer ball, rolling it (or flicking it) backward, and turning with it. It is a way to quickly reverse direction. Every soccer player U-8 & older should know how to do a pullback. A “Stop/Turn” also uses the bottom of the foot to stop the soccer ball but doesn’t pull the soccer ball back. (See “Stop/Turn”). Other primary methods of turning include the Outside-of-foot Hook and the Inside-of -foot Hook, which is also called a “Cutback”. (See Practice Games, “Dribble Across a Square”).

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