"Brief" background: I've taken over as varsity head coach for a small urban high school in Minnesota. We have a small school with many students from other countries, with the most dominant backgrounds being Latino (mostly Mexican-descent) and Liberian. The kids have grown up playing pick-up soccer their whole lives, but for many of them, this is their first time playing team soccer. After meeting with the kids and seeing some of their skills, I knew that there was a lot of potential for their talent to be on display if they could adhere to a system and learn the intricacies of team play. I use a "hybrid" 5-3-2 formation - we play with a sweeper, two marking backs, two wingbacks, two central mids, an attacking mid, and two strikers. When we need a defensive style, the wing backs are limited on their forward runs, but in normal game situations, they push up when we have possession to provide the width to the midfield. Throughout the pre-season (and at this point, the regular season), we stress possession and the Tiki-Taka style. My thinking between these two ideas was simple: the school I was coaching at was traditionally a push-over for other schools (very rarely having winning seasons), but the players had excellent individual skill. With the Tiki-Taka style, I felt that many of the schools that we faced would struggle to contain the pass-and-move strategy... I felt that most of the teams we would play could potentially be in a similar boat to us. The 5-3-2/3-5-2 provides triangles all around the pitch (when played properly) that allow the players to have plenty of passing options no matter where they are on the field. Fast forward to today (9/13), and we are six games into the season. Here are the results: Game 1: 1-5 Loss Game 2: 5-1 Win Game 3: 9-1 Win Game 4: 3-2 Win Game 5: 9-1 Win Game 6: 11-1 Win We currently have the highest scoring player in the state with 13 goals (including two goals and an assist in the 3-2 win, with the winner coming with 2:00 left to play). In Game 1, our starting sweeper wasn't at the game, and many of the goals came off of mishits/poor clearances/bad decisions. In Game 2, the goal given up was a PK by a bench player with 1:00 remaining - it should've been a shutout. Game 5 and 6 saw a similar situation - we had the bench players in and the backup goalies in, and we gave up extremely soft goals. So with our starting defense, we've given up a total of 3 goals in five games (not including Game 1 since we didn't play with our starting defense). One thing to keep in mind is that out of all of our games, only Game 2 has been against an opponent that currently has a winning record. The others were played against teams that we would traditionally have close games against (last year, the Game 6 opponent played us closer, and lost 2-1 instead of the thrashing we gave them this year). Clearly, we have more talent this year, but I don't know how we'll play against the top teams. Typically, we play with two marking backs. They are assigned a forward, and are given instructions to mark that player tightly for the entire contest. This limits their ability to get the ball, but if they do get the ball, the back then tries to prevent them from turning. If they do manage to turn, the back then contains them and plays contain defense, trying to send them to the sideline. During some games, the opposing team would send an additional attacker forward, or they'd have a player dominating the midfield. We respond by having a CM become a holding midfielder, and they are given the job of shutting down the opposing midfielder. They limit their forward runs and put more emphasis on stopping the midfielder from receiving the ball. Going into this week, we start conference play. Minnesota is ridiculous, and allows private schools to play public schools. As a result, we have a few private schools in our conference. Our game Tuesday is against a team that we've never beaten, and that is currently ranked 47th in the state (we are 70th). Later this month, we play the #7 team in the state and the #20 team in the state. Now, my questions: 1. If you were in my position, would you come out with the same tactics that we've played with and roll the dice, or go with a more conservative approach? 2. My backs aren't tall, but they have decent speed, strength, and agility. They also don't have a great amount of experience. When we play some of the upcoming schools, they have some great forwards. How would you handle them? Start off with the single-marking, or double-team them right off the bat? And then to double-team, would you use a wing-back, and then have them limit the amount of forward runs? Or would you use a CM? I've been thinking of using a CM and play them in front of the opposing player, so that direct passes to the player are blocked off, and anything over the top would be picked up by the sweeper or marking back. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm cautiously optimistic about our team so far, but what makes me nervous is that I don't know how we compare to these other teams aside from looking at common opponents and records.