2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Neutralize the Best Player


One year when I was coaching a U10 Boys team, the team made it to a tournament’s consolation (3rd-place) game. We were facing the same team that had beaten us a day earlier by a score of 7-3 (and it was not that close). They had a super-fast, left-footed winger who must have scored 4 or 5 of their goals. What to do? Another lopsided lose would certainly be a downer. I did what any coach would do in this situation–I called on ‘The Glove’.

Strategically speaking, I did the following:

  • This tournament was a 6-a-side tournament–5 field players and a goalie. Being more defensive-minded, my formation had been 2-2-1. For the 2nd game, I changed it to a 2-2 formation.
  • Having freed up one position, I took my scrappiest player and told him never to leave the side of their best player. I told him to think of that player as a hand and for him to be ‘The Glove’. Wherever that player went, he had to follow. As soon as that player received the ball, he had to be right next to him making sure he had no room to move and no place to go. I also asked my player to lean on or touch the other player every now and then, engage in idle conversation with him, and occasionally nip at his feet just to remind him that he had company. But ‘The Glove’ was too shy so he never applied these additional suggestions.

The result was as follows:

  • The other player was completely shut down. He got frustrated early on, lost his temper, and received a yellow card for foul language.
  • The other players started engaging in some unnecessarily rough and unsportsmanlike behavior resulting in more yellow cards being shown.
  • The other coach and I got into a heated exchange when I asked him to control his players’ tactics and he would not comply.
  • The boys won 6-0! Talk about a simple tactical change making a huge difference.

Countering ‘The Glove’

There are a few things you can do to counter this strategy. The first time this happens to your better player, take him out of the game and explain to him what is happening. Tell him that it is the price for being good and for him to get used to it. Tell him not to get frustrated or lose his cool. Tell him that’s what the other team wants to happen. Then employ one or more of these tactics

  • You could have him move around and try to lose ‘The Glove’. But in all likelihood once the first glove gets tired, another glove will be brought on. Instead, accept the tight marking and slow his game down. Then, when he wants the ball, have him quickly separate himself from ‘The Glove’ in the form of a quick burst.
  • Have him go stand next to the center back and see how the other team reacts to two players covering the one player. If the center fullback moves, have your player follow him.
  • Consider playing your player in the back or midfield. Since you player is considered less of a threat to score, the other coach will likely remove ‘The Glove’ after a while.
  • Have your player play in an offside position–not just a few feet but more like 20-30 yards. See how the other team responds to this strategy.
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3 Responses to “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Neutralize the Best Player”

  1. Tom Brickey Says:

    ahhhhh, the good old days.
    Your Dad had the right idea!…. and you’re right, it does work! Remember that guy at Murray H.S.? got so frustrated he kicked me from behind! I think he got a red? or was it just a yellow?? either way, man! was he pissed!?! ha!….. and then that fun day against Davis!…… that one only cost me my nose and 3 teeth! But we sure showed him, didn’t we? ha.
    You are so right about this technique, Alex. It works…… sometime too well. But, I loved it. I wasn’t as good as any of you guys, but I did what I could, and I loved the game and playing with you and the other guys.
    Thanks for the memories.
    Keep up the good work! I like what you’ve written. Good Luck.
    tbrick “Stopper” aka “Sweeper”

    • Alex Kos Says:

      Ladies and gentleman, Thomas Brickey, the original ‘Glove’ back from the Highland High School days (Salt Lake City). I should have included a disclaimer in the original post. If ‘The Glove’ does his/her or job well, make sure he/she is mature and tough enough deal with frustrated opponents and physical play. The Murray guy was red-carded and we won the game 3-2 (I think). The broken nose and 3 lost teeth were compliments of an opponent’s bicycle kick (unintentional). But all was not lost, although the game was. Thomas’ profession … dentistry!

  2. Norm Says:

    I employed this strategy this past Sunday. Their speedy attacker was faster than my fastest full back and scored one on a through ball / breakaway. This happened after the first 10 minutes of the game where we dominated field position.

    I moved my fastest player back to be the “Glove”. I told her to never be more than two feet from him. She shut him down in the 2nd half and we won 3-1. This team had beaten us twice before, 4-1 and 1-0. She took their most effective weapon and neutralized it. The other coach had no answer for the “Glove” and was extremely upset after the match.

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