I'm coaching a U12 level team, coed, at the recreational level. Some good players, some not so good. I have playing time rules and the like, but I need a little advice on building a strong backline. We won our first two games 3-2. We played a basic 4-3-3. All the goals we gave up were because once the ball was in our box, we simply didn't clear it efficiently. It happens at this level, but it didn't seem at the time to be any real defensive breakdown, other than young kids, at the recreational skill level, not clearing a ball. Eventually, someone is going to bang it in. We trailed in both games, but generally have enough offensive skill level to respond. Last game however, was different and makes me wonder if the issues the first game were more because of an overall defensive weakness, than simply a function of the level of play. No really good player at this level wants to play defense, so if the ball is down there a long time, the better players--pushed up on offense--eventually poach one. On Tuesday however, with me out of town, we got worked 5-0 by a team I've seen play and was not very impressed with. Our backline, for whatever reason, remained hesitant about pushing up the field when we had possession deep. The ball would then be cleared and their offensive players then had acres of space with no player coming out to challenge them until they were way too close to our goal. We are pretty much *always* going to have some weak links in the back, just due to playing time rules. They are slow and scared of pushing up and meeting the player higher up the field. But hanging back isn't working either because there's just too much space. All that to say--what are some other shapes I can use that will facilitate what I want--players attacking the ball earlier. I can't play one lone striker at this level. We'll never score, but I was thinking of going to a 3-5-2 and using 2 DMs that stay out of the attack but are much higher upfield than my defensive backline. I can find some kids that have some quickness and that will allow them to disrupt an attack that previously had 30 feet of grass in front of them. Any thoughts on alignments I could try? I have a practice tonight weather-permitting, and a game against a decent team Saturday.