I’m sure many of you will agree Defending & Finishing are the 2 ways to win games or at least not lose games… Yes, to win games you have to be good at both but to not lose games you have to have a strong defensive unit and this means the whole unit from the forwards to the back line have to stay switched on the whole game.
Below I have listed 10 ways to help prevent more goals from being scored on your team. This past weekend I watched the #1 U17 Team in America play and below I share my thoughts & perspectives on the game, including thoughts on their defense but even more important how the other team defended and how it could have kept them in the game. The game is 90 minutes but if you’re not working 100% mentally and physically it only takes a few seconds for several goals to get put in the net.
The hardest thing for a defender in soccer
First, here are some thoughts on what I believe is one of the hardest thing to do as a soccer player. The hardest thing for a defender is keeping tight on your ‘man’ in the 18 yard box. If you let your mark get more than arms reach for 1 second it could cost your team the game. Especially when your opponent has smart skilled players who can pass the ball between and over a good shaped defense.
By far the hardest thing, in my opinion, is marking your man while the other team is dribbling down the sideline at full speed & you ‘man’ is on the other side of you running full speed to keep up with the play. The tricky part is you can’t possibly see your man & the ball all at the same time, so the moment you turn to see your mark the ball could be crossed onto your man’s foot or head for a quick goal.
The Secret in good defense
The secret is you have to turn to see your man when the player with the ball out wide takes a big touch to run on to. This way you can turn back to see the ball before it is crossed. But at the end of the day, if the ball is crossed perfect & the player making the run is perfect all at the same time there is no way to defend it. But during this game the defenders playing against FC Dallas just were not tight enough as the ball is crossed in and all I’m talking about is 2 or 3 yards.
[Tweet ” The hardest thing for a defender is keeping tight on your ‘man’ in the 18 yard box.”]
So the reason I went to this game was because I was assessing one of my players I have worked with since he was 10 years old and now he is 16 and plays for Solar’s USSF Academy U17’s. I was excited before the game because I haven’t seen him play a game in a long time and he was playing against the #1 Team in America: FC Dallas. After hearing & reading about FC Dallas USSF Academy from different sources and even reading the popular article by Randy Waldrum on the importance of continual Player Development I remember him saying that he watched FC Dallas and how they are an exception to the rest of the country right now.
The best youth soccer in the U.S.
For those who don’t have boys or follow ages 13-18 boys, the USSF Academy is the cream of the crop (the same as ECNL for girls) and in North Texas there are only 3 clubs in the USSF league. Every MLS Club has a USSF Academy Program so in Dallas its FC Dallas and Houston it’s the Dynamo. FC Dallas U16, 17 & 18’s are the best in the U.S. right now – and everyone will attest to this – which is remarkable. Out of all the MLS Academy programs and other clubs in Academy, FC Dallas is producing the most talent and producing results on the pitch. FC Dallas’ Pro team has signed several youth academy players to a pro contract and I know at one point they had the most home grown players signing pro.Out of all the MLS Academy programs, FC Dallas is producing the most talent and producing results on the pitch.Click To Tweet
The composure of the soccer team
So, for me, being a technical soccer trainer, it was a treat to get to see the best U-17 boys play and see what they are doing as a team. The whole team was very disciplined and every player was composed on the ball under pressure. It’s not like they were passing the ball around several times in the opponents half or dribbling around players. Its more that they could finish well when given the chance. So what I would say I learned the most in this particular game was that the defense has to do a better job as individuals. The score was like 5-1 but as you know sometimes that doesn’t reflect the way the game really went.
While this game did reflect the score, at the same time it could have been 2-1 or 7-1. I know that sounds funny but if the opponents players would have marked up tighter in the 18 yard box there would have not been the shots on goal. You’re probably thinking, “Yea, that’s every game” but it’s really not if you think about it. Almost all of these goals were from a long cross that would go to a player that was not marked tight.
Different ways soccer teams score goals
If every player is in good position and marked up in the final third of the field, their team will have a better chance to win. Everyone wants to talk about Skills Skills Skills but defending needs to be in the conversation more. BEING GOOD TECHNICALLY & STRONG ON THE BALL IS ONLY EFFECTIVE IF YOU CAN PLAY THE GAME. If a player is younger with the great skills then they will probably be able to go through all the defenders but at the higher levels of play, players & others ***should*** know how to defend & this penetration of the defense should not be so easy. This is especially as the kids get older or more organized because 99% of the time, an organized defense is going to have more players vs. the opponents’ attack. You want to have at least 1 extra man while defending the attack. A good team can kill you on possession but if you don’t let them get a shot off then you’ve got a chance.Everyone wants to talk about 'Skills!' but defending needs to be in the conversation more.Click To Tweet
10 Ways Defense Loses Games
REMEMBER that the forwards are also defenders so they need to help the team’s defensive unit.
- Early Cross from outside the corner of the 18 yard box
- Corner Kicks (Lots of goals scored from corners)
- Combination down the middle of the pitch
- Dribbling through the defenders down the middle
- Dribbling down the line and crossing the ball in near the 6 yard box or end line
- Lazy Attacking Players (Forwards/Mids) who don’t defend leave the Defenders out numbered. The Forwards are the 1st line of defense and when they don’t pressure the other teams defenders who have the ball it’s not fair to the midfielders and defenders. So the WHOLE Team is a defensive Unit and must work together when the other team has the ball.
- Defenders or Mids lose an easy ball and cause a counter attack
- Defenders don’t mark tight enough before their player gets the ball which allows the opponents to be comfortable and turn
- Long balls down the pitch with poor defending (50/50 balls) causes the quickest goal because 1 pass can beat all 3 lines of defense. Bad positioning and defenders who can’t head or control are the 2 main reasons this happens.
- Fouls inside or outside the 18 causing free kicks
1 Common BAD defensive habit
In the defending third or half of the field when the other team is connecting passes, the game slows down which means defenders relax more. This is where you start to see the defenders lose their mark or just not being tight enough with the forwards & attacking midfielders.
They need to stay in arms reach most of the time especially on the dangerous players who score or set up lots of goals. Defenders need to ‘pass players on’ but stepping and covering faster is what I did not see in the U17 match. A good team will play zonal defense but this doesn’t mean you don’t get tight on your mark at the right time.
Correcting common defensive mistakes on the pitch
Team Coaches work on this or at least they should, so check if your coaches are helping in this area. I recommend you quiz your child on some of the topics on this page and make sure they are educated in this area. The reason I write so much is to help the parents & coaches know more ways to communicate things that are not brought up to the players.
Team Coaches are going to work more on tactical situations because there is so much to learn, which is one reason at GFT we focus so much on the technical components. You can also book your own Private Group and we can put the players in game like situations and teach the things coaches are leaving out.
Quick Fact: Over 75% of Goals are scored between the 6 yard box and the PK spot, so this is not the time or place where you let your man get free from you and most of the goals scored are because the goal scorer had space as they received the ball.
I hope this helps you guys prevent more goals from being scored and you win more games this season!