Posts Tagged ‘defender’

Passive Defending

May 10, 2010

Passive defending is when a defender applies little or no pressure on an attacking player. Using this defensive posture in practice is a great way for players to work on fakes and feints with an actual player in front of them. However, passive defending may also be a good strategy to employ in a game as well.

I typically see passive defending used in 1v1 and 2v1 drills. The defender is there to take up space and force the player with the ball to make a move around him/her. Passive defending is great when the focus of the drill is on the offense. Going against an actual player is certainly more realistic than beating a cone.

At a recent camp where I was an instructor, I employed this tactic in the World Cup tournament, small-sided games. Every opportunity I had (I was playing in the games), I would challenge the player with the ball by running at him/her and assumed a passive defensive posture. Once in position, I commanded the attacker to, “Make a move” while reminding him/her that I was only there to apply pressure and had no intention of taking the ball away. Then they did.

With players it will be more challenging to get them to practice passive defending, especially during small-sided games. The trick is to make sure that each player is given a chance to go up against a passive defender whether the player with the ball is an attacker, midfielder, or defender. To help the passive defender, call out “Passive” when you want this tactic employed. The player nearest the ball will know what to do.

One of the benefits of passive defending is that it will give the player who is asked to defend in this manner an opportunity to rest. On a warm afternoon after an hour-and-a-half  of practice, you will have players calling out “passive” themselves.

So how can passive defending be a good strategy during a game? How many players do you see or have on your team who blindly go after a ball that is in possession of an attacking player only to have him/her baited into stabbing at the ball? Attacking players love these types of defenders. Change this defender’s behavior by having him/her stop in front of the attacking player and become a passive defender. Once this has been accomplished and the defender is tired of the attacking player still getting around him/her, have this player start back pedaling as the attacking player approaches. In one game you will have broken the player of this bad habit.

Go ahead; implement passive defending in your next practice or even in the next game.

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2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Passing

February 18, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

Personally, I am a big fan of the pass. It probably stems from having played midfield most of my life where controlling the game and distributing the ball were this position’s primary purpose. When I watch games today, I prefer seeing a nice assist rather than a nice goal.

When passes are made correctly, they look easy and effortless. They are anything but. Passing requires a player to first control a ball that is passed to him/her. Once the ball has been successfully controlled, he/she must know if and where to pass it. This requires playing with the head up (in an up position) in order to see all the players and be able to judge the speed and direction teammates are moving. Most importantly, it requires maturity, confidence, and knowledge of the game. While it is never too early to introduce and teach passing, it is a discipline that won’t become refined and polished until a player is older or has played for many years.

The passing discipline was divided into two categories: accuracy and types. For both categories, ‘Inside’ was the clear winner. ‘Types’ refers to the number of different types of passes that can be made with a surface.


Accuracy

The structure of the inside-of-the-foot is built for accurate passing. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the pass. There is a reason why a tennis racket, a ping pong paddle, and a putter are flat. Imagine trying to hit a tennis ball back over the net using a baseball bat. Or how about putting with the rounded, back end of the putter (see image to the right). In both instances, the required task would become more difficult.

Another factor which contributed to ‘Inside’ having the highest levels of accuracy is the swinging motion of the leg when the ball is passed. When striking the ball with the ankle sweet spot of the inside of the foot (larger red spot in the image to the right), the leg swing should be in a straight plane. It is very much like a golf putt. Ideally, the leg swings straight back and then swings straight through the ball. The straighter the overall swing, the more accurate passes a player will make (green arrow in the image below).

Typically, when passing the ball with the front sweet spot of the inside-of-the-foot (smaller red spot in the image above), the laces, or the outside-of-the-foot, the plane of the swing is more angled. Passes with these surfaces are similar to full iron or wood/metal shots in golf. This angled stroke plane introduces more variables to the swing and, therefore, a higher probability for inaccurate passes (red arrow in the image above).

The top-of-the-foot was the next most accurate surface. To make an accurate pass, the ball had to be struck with the foot’s sweet spot (red spot in the image to the right). Unlike with the ‘Inside’, a pass with the laces required more of an arcing back swing which took away some of the accuracy. An ‘Outside’ pass has a similar arcing swing but this surface is also striking the ball with a convex surface, making it more difficult to control a pass. Passes with the bottom-of-the-foot were accurate but the distances achieved with this surface were short. It came in last place.

Types

Being able to accurately pass a ball to a teammate in a straight line is invaluable. But being limited to only this type of pass is not ideal either. Oftentimes, a defender will stand between a passer and receiver. Except for the bottom-of-the-foot, a player can pass the ball over a defender using other surfaces of the foot. There are times, however, when this may not be possible, especially when the defender is close to the passer. This is where ‘Inside’ has a distinct advantage over the other surfaces.

When the front sweet spot on the inside-of-the-foot is used to pass a ball, it will cause the ball to curve or spin. The technique can be used to curve a pass around a defender. This makes ‘Inside’ the only surface which gives a player 2 distinct options when passing the ball. Most indirect free kicks are kicked with the inside-of-the-foot to deposit the ball precisely to the receiver’s foot or head. David ‘Bend It Like’ Beckman is world-renowned for his precision free kicks and passes.

Conclusions

The ‘passing’ discipline results were not close. In terms of passing accuracy and the different types of passes that can be made, ‘Inside’ was the easy winner.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, receiving, dribbling, shooting, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Role of the Goalie

August 27, 2009

The easiest way to save at least 2 or 3 goals a game is to have your goalie play out of the goal as far as possible. How far you ask? How about when the ball is in the other team’s offensive third, have the goalie at the edge of the center circle. That’s right, the edge of the center circle. At the youth level, many goals are scored on breakaways. By having the goalie play out, she will prevent these breakaways from materializing by getting to the ball first and thereby save countless goal-scoring opportunities. Follow these additional tips and tricks:

  • Consider putting one of your better field players in goal. A goalie who plays out will need good ball control. In addition, they will need to be able to read the game well so they know which balls to attack and when to retreat. If you allow your goalie to play this way, you should have plenty of volunteers.
  • I guarantee your goalie will be hesitant to come too far out. I have bet my goalie (in this case, it was my son) that if an opposing player scored on him when we he as was far from the goal he would get $100. He played in goal up through U13. Not once did he come close to getting the $100. However, he would only have received the money if he was least 25 or 30 yards out of the goal. It would not apply inside this distance because balls are kicked routinely over the goalie’s head in the youth games from closer range. Still this last fact should not dissuade you from playing your goalie out.
  • Assuming your goalie comfortable coming out to the edge of the center circle, make sure that she is not too slow to retreat. It is still the duty of the defenders to prevent the offensive players and ball from penetrating close to the goal. The goalie should always be the last defender. Your goalie should never find herself playing ahead of a field player.
  • By playing the goalie out, you will force your defenders to play further up as well. This, in turn, will result in more players playing closer to the opponent’s goal which will lead to more scoring opportunities.
  • I always liked rewarding my goalie by having them take all goal kicks and free kicks in the defensive half of the field. This made the goalie feel more involved. By taking the free kicks, the goalie played further out from goal.
  • Make sure your goalie never dribbles around an offensive player. If she does and loses the ball, a goal will most likely be scored. Her main role when playing outside the penalty box is to stop breakaways. If she receives a ball with little or no pressure, have her control it first and then make a nice pass. No dribbling!
  • When clearing a breakaway, make sure the she kicks the ball out toward the touch line. You would rather give up a throw-in than risk the clearance hitting off the offensive player and ricocheting toward your own goal.

Offensive Strategy

Playing against a good goalie that plays far out from goal puts an offensive team at a huge disadvantage. However, there are several ways to counteract this play:

  • Since the goalie will usually get to any through balls first, limit those types of passes. Instead have the offensive team dribble more or make shorter passes. By keeping the ball closer to the offensive players’ feet, the goalie will be forced to retreat.
  • Any long balls should be passed down the wings and not up the middle. Passing the ball down the wings will put the goalie in a quandary. If the goalie decides to go after this pass, she will end up much further from goal than a ball passed up in the middle. Make the goalie think twice about going after balls kicked to the wings.
  • Instead of your center forward playing near to the last defender, play him close to the goalie. Naturally the forward will be in an offside position if the ball is kicked to him, but see how the other team counters this strategy. You may get lucky and get the defenders to retreat which will force the goalie closer to her goal. At the expense of a few offside calls, try to get the other team to change their strategy.