Developing Anaerobic Endurance and Finishing Skills with a Simple 2 v 2 v 2 Small-Sided Game

By Justin Cresser Author of Total Soccer Conditioning: A Ball Orientated Approach

I was speaking to a coach earlier in the season and he said his team was playing really well but was having problems finishing. I thought to myself: “that’s a problem for so many teams”. Over the past few weeks I have been to, and analyzed, several games, and finishing really does seem to be a problem for so many teams. I have seen some spectacular displays of dribbling and combination play, but the players just can’t seem to get the ball into the back of the net.

In today’s exercise we will address the above problem with a simple 2 v 2 v 2 small-sided game that focuses on finishing. As with any other technique or skill, I believe the key to improving your player’s ability to finish is repetition. The format and structure of the exercise also allows your players to develop their anaerobic capacity. This is an excellent activity to use during the competitive season when match-preparation takes a high priority.

Set-up and Directions:

Divide your players into two groups of 6 players and then further divide each group into three teams of two. Make certain to give each team of two a different colour shirt. Set up a grid 40 yards long and 25 yards wide with a regular-sized goal (or large net) at both ends of the grid. There should be a goalkeeper in each net. One group of 6 plays at a time. The coach should stand on one of the sidelines with a large supply of balls (Figure 1).

Play is initiated with the coach playing a ball into any of the six players. It is each team for themselves. Players can score on either of the two nets and from anywhere on the field. Players can either combine with each other or take it to net themselves (Figures 2 and 3).

The teams not in possession should attempt to win the ball and then go to net. Ensure you encourage these defending players to work as hard as possible.

As soon as the ball goes out of play, the keeper makes a save, or a goal scores; the coach should pass a new ball into the field of play. So the play is always re-started with the coach playing in a new ball (Figure 4).

Continue this sequence for a total of 2 to 3 minutes (1 sequence) and then have the players rest for 3 to 4 minutes. Each group should complete 3 to 4 sequences. Because a major emphasis of the exercise is to target the anaerobic system, the coach must try and play a new ball in as quickly as possible and encourage their players to work at a high intensity for 2 to 3 minute period.

The coach should also make certain that the group of six that are not playing are helping to gather the balls that have gone off the field/behind the goals.

To encourage your players to shoot from distance, you can place a row of cones across the field, 10 to 15 yards from both goal lines (Figure 5). Players are not allowed to enter the space between the cones and the goal line and therefore have to shoot from distance.

In this exercise, players are given several opportunities to score that have been created from a variety of different situations and from various areas on the field. Like every other aspect of the sport, repetition is essential for developing a high level of competency.

Best of Luck,

Justin Cresser has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). He is currently the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his Advanced National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach. You can check out Justin's best-selling books here.


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