Passing the ball in futbol is deeper than most of us think! I would always hear this phrase, “No square balls in the middle of the pitch!” from my college coach at West Texas A&M Butch Lauffer [who would yell at us for passing square balls in the middle of the field]. A square pass is a direct-line pass going side to side. This is one thing that will raise your soccer IQ and coaches eye brows. Let’s dig in to learn more.
Learn from the best soccer players
Watching teams like Manchester, Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich you will notice the little details on passing.
Notice that most often you’ll see the players moving that extra 1 or 2 steps. They do this just to get in position so that they are not playing ‘square’ balls. You see diagonal balls going forward or you see balls dropped back, which are at a slight angle or a straight drop-back.
There are so many ways to pass the ball, find out how many I came up with. I bet you can think of more!
The next time you watch top flight fútbol on TV, notice how many ball are played square in the middle.
Almost the only time you see a square ball is in the attacking third. It’s usually a 1-time pass that was laid out into space for the teammate to run on to.
Why avoid a square pass in soccer
One reason to avoid square passes [especially in the middle of the field] is that, the other team can intercept and quickly have a counter attack.
If you think about: if you and a teammate are side by side and the other player intercepts the ball, they are already running the other direction.
However, if you or your teammate already dropped off and you lose the ball, at least one of you will be deeper. One of you being more goal side, compared to the flat square pass is the safety line.
Why Offensively a square pass doesn’t help much
Two reasons the square ball is not something you want to do:
- Because you are not breaking down the defense if you pass a square ball. More important is if your pass is intercepted the opposing player is already past you, possibly in scoring position.
- You’re not getting past any line of the defense which is what they want. It’s easy for the defensive unit to just shift over when you play a square ball, compared to a diagonal ball or a ball straight up the field. Even if you play a ball back, that will at least make the defense step up which gives you more space in behind. This allows your team to play a ball in behind to finish instead of having to take shots from distance.
Defensively a square pass can cost you goals against
Defenders, make sure you drop off a yard or two in support. You will see many youth players make square passes often because they have not been taught or they haven’t set good habits yet.
Even when we have possession of the ball you have to be thinking about your defensive shape as a team.
It’s kind of the same as when you see teams or players making a 3-yard pass more than once. Every now and then it is fine, but players who only make those small 3-5 yard passes need to improve their awareness.
I’m not saying don’t ever make a square pass; just think about it and try to teach yourself and your teammates.
The little adjustments will make a huge difference.
© efks / Depositphotos.com
There is an exception on the soccer pitch
Yes, the title says “Never make a square pass” but just know that it is okay if that is the only option at the time. Although, if a teammate can drop off to be safe, in case of an intercepted pass or move up to break a line of defense it is better.
In the game of soccer is great to have a plan, but it’s not like other sports where the plays are so precise.
At the end of the day, if you don’t lose the ball your coach probably won’t have many things to yell at you for.
Triangle passing to have better shape
Triangle passes or diamond passing shapes are great because, if there is a player at every corner of that shape then you should have someone open.
If teams are not getting into good formations and then moving to keep a good shape, it’s going to be hard to find players open for the pass.
One way to get good at this is to play 3 vs 1 in a small 10 x 10 box.
If the players are younger or not as skilled then make the box bigger.
Once the 3 players can make 10 passes easy, then make the box or grid smaller. If you can get the box to be only 7 yards that is the desired distance even for college players.
When the players are connecting passes easier, make it to where it’s only 1 touch for the 3 players. Once the ball goes out of the grid or the 1 defender steals the ball a new player goes in the middle as the defenders.
How to breaking down the opposing defense
Like mentioned above, playing square balls does make players shift over. To break down a defense easier, you want to get them stepping up to get them unbalanced.
Just one defender having to step up to the ball, or to a man requires the other defenders to cover for them. This means one less defender the forward needs to beat. That is if you can get the ball past the defender who steps up.
If you can get the outside backs and the center backs to step up individually it exposes the other back.
So make passes that are diagonally back or forward to make them step up. Then you can play a ball forward to break a line of defense.
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