By Mike Smith
This weekend I had the great pleasure of coaching a team of 5th graders, most of whom were playing their fifth and sixth soccer games ever. They are working hard and want to improve and are very disciplined in their efforts. So disciplined in fact I had several players open with the ball around the pk spot who instead of shooting, passed out wide because we had just worked on crosses at the last practice and I had said” generating a lot of crosses is the most consistent way to create scoring chances.” Needless to say I clarified some things at the next practice. One of the things I am excited about doing with this young group however, is working on the overlapping defender as a wide target when the shot in the box doesn’t come, as opposed to what they did, which was pass up a shot to hit an attacker too deep on the end line. Too many teams either miss early chances or force things late when attacking, which leads to low percentage shots and / or being countered. An outside back who can overlap or simply push up wide is a great way to reset attacking numbers, continue the attack, keep the ball, keep the pressure on the opponent and release the ball in a way which doesn’t lead to counters if the initial attempt is unsuccessful. Shown below is the basic idea.
A service here may very well work, but serving into a 3 v 9 is low percentage, especially if the defending side is set up. An overlapping defender here will create some time and space to either 1. Add numbers to the attack, 2. Draw out some of the defenders or 3. Simply possess the ball and open up the option to off balance the defenders by swinging the ball from side to side for a bit.
My general philosophy is to have at least one more defender back than the attacking team has strikers up. Many times, especially when teams playing in 4-4-2s face each other, leaving that 4th defender back is simply wasting a player. Allowing this player to over lap into the attack teaches them to recognize those situations where they can move up and help. Try these drills to help your team over lap your outside back.
6 players plus the keeper, work in cone boxes on a half field. Groups of 6 can rotate in and out after each shot attempt. Place two 20 yd x 20 yd boxes in the center of the field as shown working from the top of the penalty box to the half line. 3 attackers plus a target player ( shown below in red ) work against 1 defender in the first box. The target player starts play by passing to another attacker in the box. The other 3 attackers must touch the ball before the target player gets it back. When the target player gets it back, they send it into the second box to a defending player and over lap. ( as shown below) The defending player sends the ball out wide and then drops back to defend the remaining 3 attackers who are crashing the goal. The initial defender comes back to defend her as well ( next diagram ).
The target player sends in a service which the attackers may finish, the defenders may clear, or the keeper may corral as long as the keeper does not come out of the goalie box.
The coach should focus the target player to get up the field quickly, with good body position open to the field towards goal. Hitting a good service is secondary and all players should rotate in as the target player.
Slide the bottom box over to the touch line and add a third box at the far corner as shown below. Play starts as a 4 v 1 in the first box. There is no designated target player as the player who starts with the ball will not get it back until they are in the wide position. Once the other 3 players touch the ball, the ball is played into the center box where there is a 2 v 1. The player who receives the ball in the central box can send it wide to the overlapping attacker as soon as possible. The players from the first box may crash into the central box to create a 5 v 2, however, once the outlet pass is made to the overlapping attacker, 2 additional defenders may enter the drill from the end line at the corners of the goalie box ( as shown ) .
As shown below, the overlapping attacker sends in the ball which can be finished or possessed inside the penalty box by the attacking team. If the attacking team can possess the ball, they may send it out to the wide attacker for repeated services. The coach can determine if the defending side should clear or possess out and if a defender is allowed to step out and pressure the service. The keeper must stay inside the goalie box.
Making a good overlapping run up the field and being in position to support the attack are the key points here. The coach should encourage the attackers to play quickly and cleanly as up until they reach the penalty box they will have a clear numerical advantage.
By Mike Smith
Currently the Head Coach for University Heights Academy Boys Soccer in Hopkinsville, KY , Mike is in his 14th year as a high school head coach with 23 years coaching experience overall and 34 year as a student and fan of the game. He holds a USSF D License.