There’s a lot of talk about possession style football [soccer]… To possess the ball you need to know how to switch the field. There are different ways, but the most common is using the defenders. Whether in the defensive or middle third, the defenders can switch the field by either playing through the center back or mid. Another option is hitting a long ball from left to right or vice versa. If players are not encouraged or taught it won’t happen much. When in the attacking third you could also switch the field, but it’s not as common – unless it’s a very skillful team. Most teams in the attacking third are crossing or playing through balls.
Player positions who switch the field most
Every position allows it and plays a key role. Some the center mid and backs get more touches just because they link to both sides.
The outside players off the ball movement is vital in staying wide because it opens up space in the middle.
When things get congested in the attacking third it’s a good idea to play the ball back to switch or play the long ball across.
There are many ways to switch the field…
3 common situations
- It could be outside back, to center back, then to the other outside back or mid.
- Outside mid to either of the backs or even a big switch to the other outside mid.
- Any outside player passing to the center mid, who then switches the field [passes the ball] to the other side of the field.
When your opponent “parks the bus”
Parking the bus means when the other team keeps most of their players back. When there are 8 players close together guarding the goal it looks like a bus full of people:)
Switching the play/field is needed because it draws the defenders out wide. When the ball goes wide some of the defenders have to go, while others stay in the middle. Those who stay in the middle have to mark up, but when the ball is wide it’s hard to see the man and ball at the same time.
Patience is needed for the attacking team… There’s no rush. The key is to keep possession of the ball and get quality crosses and combinations in the box.
Training players to switch the field
One way to train players is having them switch the field at team practice in an unopposed drill.
Then after spending time with no pressure [unopposed] add 1 or 2 defenders to make it more game-like.
Players need to know and be reminded that it’s okay to make mistakes and that to be a really good team you have to take risks. The reward is more possession and shots on goal.
How one player can set the tone
In case you’re a player and don’t have a coach who encourages or teaches possession, you can be the one to do it.
If you watch youth soccer [any age] you will hardly see teams switching the play… Part of it is a player who panics and just kicks the ball up – ruining any type of flow.
At the end of the day, the players have more power because they’re actually on the field making the decisions.
In my 7 years playing pro soccer, 4 years in college and growing up as a youth – most of my coaches allowed us to play and make our own choices in games. As long as you’re not losing the ball a lot, you should be fine to do what you want.
So here’s what you do… A few times a game make the choice to pass it back to the center back or outside back and tell them to switch the field. In doing this, you’ll help train your teammates to trust the process.
Scanning the field before getting the ball
Remember to constantly scan the field. Players who do this give themselves a huge advantage.
If you know who’s open before you get the ball it’s less stressful and you can release it sooner if needed.
Scanning also allows you to evade defenders without having to look up after you get the ball because you already know where to pass.
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