I don’t get it. The offside trap is one of the most difficult defensive strategies to implement successfully, yet I see coach after coach yelling at their young players to play an offside trap, especially on free kicks inside the offensive third. My recommendation is that no teams U14 and under should ever employ this tactic. I would even question if older teams should employ it. It is simply too risky and more often than not will lead to more and better scoring opportunities for the other team. These are some reasons why the offside trap is a bad idea:
- It takes precise defensive coordination to apply an offside trap. All players must be on the same page and must know and when and when not to push up to put the offense in an offside opposition. Invariably, one or more defensive players will not move up which will keep an offensive player onside. Professional players have a hard enough time playing an offensive trap. Just don’t do it!
- You assume the assistant referee (if there is one) will call the offside correctly. Oftentimes at the younger age groups, the assistant referees (ARs) are just a few years older than the players and they are just learning to be referees. Many of the young ARs don’t follow the second-to-last defender so they will not be in a good position to call the offside. In addition, calling the offside correctly is one of the most difficult calls to make in soccer given the new interpretation of the offside law. Just don’t do it!
- The new offside law makes it OK for an offensive player to be in an offside if they are not playing the ball or are not directly involved in the play. This makes the call of the AR that much more difficult and uncertain. Just don’t do it!
If you are fortunate enough to be playing a team which believes in the offside trap, count your blessings and count on more scoring opportunities. The best way to counter an offside trap is to:
- Test the offside trap. The defense needs to be well-coordinated to pull off a successful offside trap. Test them early in the game to see how well they do. If you have several offside calls made against you, so what.
- Kick the ball across the field into open space. The player the defense is least worried about is the opposite winger. As long as that winger is alert and has some speed, they will get plenty of scoring opportunity.
- Confuse the defenders. Have an offensive player stand in an offside position. The defense will become pre-occupied with that player and will often forget the whereabouts of other players. As long as this player does not play the ball or is not involved in the play, she will not be called for an offside infraction. A few offside calls against you will be well worth the confusion this player generates. If the referee and AR are calling this player offside when she is not, abandon this idea.
- If a player is in an offside position and the ball is passed her way, have her stand like a statue or simply turn away from the ball. This indicates to the referee and AR that she has no intention of playing the ball. Good referees and ARs will not whistle this infraction. While the defenders and other coach are appealing for a call, have another offensive player from an onside position, chase after the ball. Use good referees and ARs to your advantage.