Whether you are an attacking minded or defensive minded coach or player, defensive tactics in soccer needs to be thought of. My college soccer coach, Butch Lauffer is one of the best coaching minds. He put focus on offensive and defensive tactics, but defense was the first focus. Our goal as a team was to press the whole game! Coach Lauffer said that in the college level and under there are not many, if any teams who can handle nonstop pressure. I agree with this opinion. The key to high press is that you have players who buy in to the plan. You can’t have a few players who don’t work with the teams tactical plan. Below you’ll learn a few ways to build your team and win more games.
High press defensive tactics in soccer
A high press is where you want your forwards to press/push up and pressure the opponents defenders when they have the ball. The opposite of this would be to sit back/not pressure and have your forwards stay around the halfway line. There are advantages to both. When it comes to pressing high, your team has to be disciplined and fit (in good shape physically) as well as good shape formation wise.
When pressing high it’s important that when your forwards step up, that the mids and defenders also do. Midfielders should be about 10-20 yards behind the forwards. Defenders should be about 15-20 yards behind the mids. This way there are no gaps or space between the lines of defense. It’s important that the players step and cover to apply pressure and support.
When regarding defensive tactics in soccer, the last thing you want is for your forwards to step high and the mids & defenders to not. If the shape of your defensive unit is not together, the other team will find space between your forwards and defenders. Therefore, making it easier for them to keep possession and score on you.
Knowing where to force your opponents when defending
There are 2 ways you want to force a player or team. Either force them inside or outside. This highlight of me on Vancouver Whitecaps vs Montreal Impact shows my team Vancouver in blue forcing players wide. Montreal in white forced us inside/middle. Both are good defensive tactics in soccer, as long as the whole team works together in this. Score ended 0-0, so both teams played well defensively.
When pressing high, the forwards need to not only put 100% pressure on the defenders with the ball, but know where to force them. You can’t just mindlessly sprint at the player with the ball and not know where to force them. You need to have a plan. Whichever you choose, the key is the whole team needs to know and be on the same page. You have two options here… 1) force them in the middle/inside or 2) force them wide/outside.
Once you decide where to force the other team to go, your mids and defenders need to be ready to do their part. If you force them in the middle, your midfielders need to be like hungry lions ready to pounce. Defenders need to be ready for the long ball #1 and then #2 be ready to close in on a short pass.
Deciding if you should press high or not
A lot of this depends on how good of shape (condition) your team is. If your team is not physically conditioned you probably don’t want to press high very much. You can always choose certain times/parts of the game to press high or drop off. Again, this comes down to 2 main things in regards to pressing high. 1) Is your team fit? and 2) is your team disciplined to do the hard work/running? If so I would press ALL game long. The reason is because it will force the other team to make mistakes, leading you to capitalize and score more goals.
High pressure defensive tactics in soccer
Get 4 defenders (whether actual defenders, mids or forwards) and put them in the middle of a 30×30 grid. On the outside have say 8-12 players. Really it’s a game of monkey in the middle with 4 “monkeys/defenders”. The 4 coaching points are 1) communication, 2) knowing where to force, 3) step and cover and 4) work your tail off.
When selecting the defenders, I think it’s good to use your 4 midfielders together, then defenders and last but not least the forwards and attacking mids together. The reason for this is because in a game they typically will be working together to step and cover in the specific part of the field. You want your team to know and understand each others tendencies, speed, communication style and more.
Communicating from the center back position
One thing you don’t want is for your team to burn out by running like a chicken with your heads cut off. Meaning running blind. You need teammates behind you to directing and communicating. The best player for this is the center back because they can see everything. Goalkeepers can also see, but they are sometimes too far away to hear them.
How good ball control helps you defend better
As a former players in youth, college and pro I can tell you that sometimes your confidence goes down. Just like in any sports or even life in general. There are many players who are hesitant to steal/win the ball, because once they get it are scared to lose it. So what happens is they just try to look like they want they ball, but really don’t.
A soccer player needs to be confident to play better and enjoy themselves more. Many of you who read my blog are not in the same city, state or country, which is why I developed 3 levels of online ball control courses. This helps players all ages/levels grow in skill and confidence, plus help guide you in your journey. It teaches good habits and discipline. Bonuses are the health and injury guidebook and easy planner.
Explaining defensive tactics in soccer to youths
One things coaches need to know and remember is how smart kids are. Kids brains are like sponges, therefore have the ability to learn more than most adults think. Of course youth soccer players need to be reminded of all these things, but let’s at least introduce it to them.
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