Passing in the Final Third

By Chris Kouns
USSF A License (USSF Coaching Education Instructor) – NSCAA Premier Diploma (NSCAA Coaching Education Associate Staff Coach) – Head Women’s Soccer Coach – Georgia Gwinnett College

These activities are designed to offer the players opportunities to work on the types of passing that is necessary in and around the box.

Exercise 1

In these activities we are working on the speed of combinations and the pace & weight of balls in and around the goal area.

WCC 18 #1

Exercise #1

Five (5) players are involved with four (4) set up in a half moon, each with a ball, and then one player who will be working and rotating. The pattern will go as follows:

The player at the top of the moon will play the ball to the person in the middle and it will be returned to them in two touches. Once they get it back they will stop the ball and then sprint around the outside of the half moon. While they are sprinting around the outside each of the other players will be playing a ball to the player in the center, having it returned in two touches, stopping it and then they will move up the moon to the next ball. When the first player gets around the half-moon they will get the next ball played to them by the person who moved up to take their place… then the pattern repeats.

Coaching Points

  1. Make sure the person in the center uses both feet for their two touch.
  2. Don’t move up to the next ball (or go around the half-moon) until you have stopped the ball passed to you.
  3. The next ball in line should be played to the person as soon as they take their second touch to return the ball to the player before them.
  4. When the player comes around the outside of the half-moon and into the center the ball should already be on its way to them so they will not stop and wait to receive it.


A) Advance to 1 touch for the person in the center of the half-moon so that the speed of play and fitness components will increase.
B) Advance to a pattern of two touch – one touch – two touch – one touch so that they will have to think as they play and it will also speed up their play
Exercise #2a: Five (5) players are involved at a time with four (4) set up across the top of the 18 yard box and one beginning an entry pass.
The player on the ball will make eye contact with any of the four players on top of the box. That player will check for the ball and that will trigger the movement for all five (5) players. The other players across the top will drift wide, check or slash across the area while the player who initiated the pass will overlap either the player receiving the ball or one of the slashing runners.

Coaching Points

  • All movement must be crisp and sharp
  • Ball should be received on front foot and with body facing goal is at all possible.

WCC 18 #2a

Exercise #2b

Five (5) players are involved this time at a much tighter proximity at the top of the box. This time the trigger is the first player dribbling at a player who will “pop out” to open their body for the ball. At that time the opposite player at top will check for a ball and take an attacking touch to the center where they will skip in one of the two slashing players for a shot on goal.

Coaching Points

  • Player popping out must be at angle and not straight onto the runner with the ball.
  • Player receive on the dribble must take the ball with the front foot and go at pace on the angle.
  • Players slashing should work to check off their players and slash in at different levels to receive the slip pass.

WCC 18 #2b  WCC 18 2c

Exercise #2c

Three (3) players are involved this time with the two at the top of the box beginning by checking away from the mannequin defenders. The player with the ball will come towards one who checks sharply and the opposite player will look to time their run so they can take a first time shot (2 touch as most) between the defending mannequins.

Coaching Points

  • Balls and Runs must be at FULL GAME SPEED in order to replicate pressure of finishing in and around the box

WCC 18 #3

Exercise #3

Two teams are set up in a 4-3-1 (plus GK) formation going in a specific direction. In front of each goal will be a cone line set roughly 18 yards from goal. There can be no more than three defenders behind this line at any time. However, the number of attacking players is unlimited. This should allow for more quick passing and combination success leading to more attempts at finishing.

Coaching Points

  • Utilization of the same movements of defenders and midfielders as the last two exercises. Each one should pay attention to the body position (availability) they are offering to keep possession, as well as, the ability to quickly change the point of attack to eliminate lines of defenders when we are numbers up.
  • Attacking midfielder should work with striker to recognize if “leaving” a ball is the right choice or if receiving it and then dribbling or playing is the right choice. Each option is based on space and communication.
  • In the final third attack should be full out since it will be a numbers up advantage.
  • Look to find the runners coming from behind or away from the defenders as one of your first options.
  • The timing of the passes from backs to midfielders and midfielders to strikers should be made as the player with the ball is “engaging” a defender as this will make the other defenders hold their shape and allow the player on the ball to see the space that we can successfully attack through.

By Chris Kouns: USSF A License (USSF Coaching Education Instructor) – NSCAA Premier Diploma (NSCAA Coaching Education Associate Staff Coach) – Head Coach Georgia Gwinnet College Women’s Soccer (GA)

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