Soccer Team Tactics Question

Finn's Dad

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Hey guys. I'm the varsity coach at a pretty large school, and I am thinking about tactics for the coming season. The team has traditionally been middle of the road in terms of record and playing, with most seasons being around .500. Last year was my first year in charge, and along with the assistant coach, we really hammered home a different style for the team and it lead to great success. Most high school teams in our area tend to play long ball, and sure enough, our players were thinking of that when we started.

We played a base 4-2-3-1 that morphed into 3-3-1-3 on offense and 4-4-1-1 on defense. In possession of the ball, we really emphasized patience and moving the ball around to open up the defense. We typically ended games with 15-20 shots, but didn't always find the back of the net as often as we should have found it. Our record was 14-4-1, and we made it to our section finals for the first time in school history (previously, they never won a playoff game). The run included beating the #4 team in the state 5-4 in PKs (after going 0-0). At the end of the season and into the playoffs, we incorporated an offsides trap since so many teams relied on the long ball. This was brutally effective - in the playoffs, we had some teams offsides over a dozen times, causing major frustration.

The last two years, I've been researching and thinking about utilizing gegenpressing with the teams I coach. In the coming season, I have players that are extremely dedicated to being fit, and I'll be working with them essentially all summer in preparation for the season. We'll be doing major fitness activities and soccer tactics the entire time. The majority of the returning varsity players fit the mold for successful gegenpressing. The ones who don't either need to figure it out, or they won't play since it'll be a team tactic.

That leads me to my question: does it make sense to incorporate both the gegenpressing and offsides trap? I feel like gegenpressing will force the early turnovers, while the offsides trap prevents a long ball escape. I have a forward that is extremely vocal and is being looked at by a few DI schools, and he has an incredible work rate. He would be a great catalyst for this. But I know that the offsides trap requires major organization, so I don't want the gegenpressing to expose the backline.

Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Thanks!
 

Cellar-Door

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I can't think of anyone who plays a pressing style without an offside trap incorporated. The whole point is the compress the area the opponent has to operate, and force long balls or bad passes. Now on the high school level you might get burned just because of the risk involved, but a high pressing line helps in that it gives you room for your fastest players to catch back up on a blown trap.
May also want to play an aggressive sweeper keeper to help out on cutting off long balls.
 

Finn's Dad

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That's kind of what I was thinking, but wanted to make sure that I wasn't setting myself up for doing too much. In some of my readings, it talked about dropping players deeper to protect long balls, and so that made me pause to think maybe it's too much to do both in unison.

I think our keeper last year would've been great as a sweeper keeper. I can work on it with our new one this year, since he plays in the field for one of his clubs.
 

DJnVa

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I love the idea. A high line frustrates undisciplined teams, so most high school and club teams will get caught over and over. Have some speed back there to cover the occasional long ball that works and an aggressive keeper and that should work.

The press should be popular too. A high work rate is needed, so in theory, even your subs should realize they’ll get some time on the field, and quick turnovers can lead to quick scoring chances, keeping everyone engaged.
 
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Finn's Dad

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Last season, we purchased some GPS units (PlayerTek) that we use to monitor intensity, among many other things, so we can clearly identify with players the level that they need to play at for this tactic to work. We can isolate times that subs are in the game to make sure their intensity level matches the starters. It'll be a fun adventure. I'll post updates on how it goes in a few months.
 

Dummy Hoy

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I’ve always thought pressing would work well in HS with your unlimited subs, and frankly it would be motivating for a lot of bunch players who knew they would get some burn.

What I’ve read of the gegenpressing, the main way it differs from more traditional counter presses is that for most teams, the press it largely defensive in nature- used to regain possession. For Klopp and disciples, it’s an offensive ploy- immediate attack against teams that are out of their preferred shape.

I don’t know how this would make a big difference, but given that you’ve described your team as a possession team, maybe you’d rather implement the press the way Pep does. Full admission I don’t understand the tactical nuances of this as well as some, but it seems there is a philosophical difference there that may be a factor.
 

Finn's Dad

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Yeah, I hear what you're saying. I know that when they lose possession (Liverpool), they immediately look to win it back in order to quickly pounce when the other team is transitioning to an offensive shape. With our team, we played two general styles, labeled gold and blue (based on school colors... simple enough). When we were up and/or wanted to assert our dominance, we would play gold, which was maintaining possession. Our 6 and 8 would regularly check to the ball carrier and we played the simple, easy pass. This was extremely dominant at times, and what we really focused on for the most part.

On the other hand, if we were down OR if the game situation called for it (we saw that we physically overmatched our opponents, we saw a lack of speed on their part, we wanted to get a quick strike before halftime, etc.), we would switch to blue. Blue was the counter-attack, high-tempo offense where we looked to transition from one end to the other in a few passes.

(side note: we also played a third style to pack it in and effectively kill off the game for our opponents. We did this in one game that we played down a man - our starting keeper - for 75 minutes, and still managed to win 2-1.)

My vision of how gegenpressing fits for us is that if we lose possession, we immediately pounce to force the mistake and retake possession. If the opportunity for the quick strike is there (like we win it within 25 yards of goal), we go for it. If it isn't, we back it out and switch back to our possessive style and make the other team run and run and run and run...

Offensively this year, we're looking to exploit Zone 14 as often as possible when in our possessive style. That's the dead space between the midfield and the defense for the opponents. That's where the False 9 can find space. We're going to work with our 9 to drop into that area and look for the immediate distribution into the box for a winger to get a chance. There's also a lot of fluidity within the positioning, so players will be shifting around regularly on the pitch. This is based on a playoff game last year, where our semifinal opponent man-marked our striker, who was an all-state player. During the game, I shifted the kid out to the wing, and his marker was extremely confused, even asking his coach in the middle of the game, "Now what do I do?" So we'll be looking for lots of fluid movement out of our players on a regular basis to cause confusion, because high schoolers don't know how to cope.

I think it'll work, because we should be winning the ball in opportunities that would continue to create chaos in the minds of our opponents. Say our 9 pressured a back to the right side and the ball is won by our 10, who is in the middle. That leaves a vacancy in the 9 spot, so the 7 (on the side the 9 is now on) can move into Zone 14 to receive a pass and temporarily take on the 9 role. That frees up our real 9 to cut in for the shot on the defense (OR, alternatively, if he's being man-marked by a CB, that pulls the CB completely out of position, leaving a potential 2v1 with the 7 and 11 on the other CB). That's just one of the many rotations that we can utilize within the game.

With the idea of unlimited subs, as you suggested, we'd use that to our advantage for sure. We have a ton of depth this coming season, outside our top few players. Most of the next 15 or so guys will be essentially the same player, so it should be easy to sub in and out. And the constant pressure on another team can be absolutely demoralizing and psychologically unnerving, causing them to make tons of unforced errors as well.

That's the grand scheme, in a nutshell. Make sense?
 

Dummy Hoy

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I’m impressed you’ve got HS kids able to follow those rotations so well.

I realize we’re getring off track here but:

1) what do you say the percentage is you divy up practice time between skills and tactics? Also, how long are your practices?

2) what drills do you use for these tactical situations and retaining shape (O and D) and/or rotations? Do you do a lot of front 6 v back 6 small area games?
 

Finn's Dad

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The rotation is a work in progress. I got this job last season a week before the season started, so we discussed it but it was too much for the team to get at the time. We nixed the idea last year, but with the idea we will implement this coming season.

At the varsity level, I focus solely on tactics and not skills. Most players at this age have their motor patterns developed, so we don't spend much time on it unless something is significant. For example, our striker last year kept trying to blast the ball through the net, even from six yards out. We spent several practices working on repeatedly passing it in instead. I'd say overall, 90% of all practices were tactics since I was implementing a brand new system for them. Practices were 90-120 minutes, depending on what we did the day before and when the next game was going to be (lighter practice before games). Film sessions helped a ton as well, because we broke down when players were in the right vs. wrong spot.

In a quick nutshell, here's what we taught for the system.

I'm going to use #'s, since it makes most sense to me. 1 is GK, 2/3 are LB/FB, 4/5 are CB, 6/8 DCM, 10 ACM, 7/11 Wingers, 9 striker.

From the base 4-2-3-1, the movement goes like this:

2/3 push up to midfield in line with 8, 4/5 spread wide to the spot behind 2/3, 6 drops to the middle between 4/5, 7/11 move up to join the striker. That makes the 3-3-1-3. There's a buttload of space in the middle, and the play is dictated by the 8. They have to be a constant presence, always being a target for a pass and then making smart decisions. They can't lose possession. Once our team understood this, it was lights out. Last year, we rotated the 6/8/10 based on what happened in the game. Say the 6 had it, they may do some give and go's, and the 8 would drop to cover, and if they press further, the 10 drops to the 8. I had our 6 score goals based on this, which was nice.

Defensively, they settle into a standard 4-4-1-1, but in the process of getting there, the defenders play a ton of containment to slow the initial attack if we're caught out of position.

2. The plan to teach it this year is to start small, then develop complexity. We will start with two player swaps, which should be simple. We are teaching the 18 zones this season, and pushing play through zone 14, with the idea that if the pass goes into zone 17 (18 yard box), we want a shot on target. So depending on who checks into zone 14, that sets up the rotation. Our 7/2 can swap, 9/10, 9/11, 9/7, 10/7... It's limitless. We have four squads at our school - varsity, JV, B, and C. I've instructed our coaches to teach these swaps with their team, even if it is one scripted swap. The hope is that C squad learns to do two player swaps, B learns 2 and 3 player swaps, JV learns 3 and 4 player swaps, and Varsity goes nuts with 4+ player swaps.

To teach the movement, we start with shadow play first. Literally just pass the ball around, and then begin movement on verbal and non-verbal cues are given. Do this many, many times, and then start slowly inserting opposition. Keep the numbers in the offensive favor at first, and then build to 5v5 drills. For the offense, the key needs to be how we approach it with explanation. It could be, "Your position is the 7 to start, but at any point, you could be playing 2, 10, 9, 8, 11. As your teammates check back and get back to their spot, you're released to return to your starting position." We really emphasize scoring from the top 4, and for that reason, we have the wings playing different from what they normally do. I had lefties on the right side because I wanted them to score, and vice versa. As they move around the field, they need to understand their responsibility in the new roles. To make sure they get that, our film company has a new feature that allows coaches to give quizzes when players watch film. That gets them to think and really focus on what we want during s session, and I envision that is how we will drive it home.

(I'm sorry for the ranting. I get excited about this stuff!)

Finally, to really drive home defensive shape, the assistant coach is a great defensive mind. He really was the key to getting our guys to get organized in the back for the trap. He just responded to me about implementing gegenpressing with our team, so he's going to dig in deeper to get it down. During our season, we will dedicate practices weekly to pressing, fluidity, or traps. The kids picked up our instruction really quickly last year. I know this will be extremely complex, but I'm very hopeful that it can go well. From a recruiting aspect, it will be a great sell for some of these kids to play at the next level. This won't be an easy system, but if they get it down, it can really up their game.
 

Finn's Dad

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I forgot to mention... With gegenpressing, we want to win the ball back in 4-6 seconds (off the top of my head, I think that's the time). If they don't, they should then check back to their 4-4-1-1 positions and wait for the next time to press. That will help eliminate space for the opponents as well, like how a full-court press settles into a half-court defense if it is broken.
 

CPT Neuron

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I coached at the HS here for a few years and really tried to bring up the level of play as best I could. The biggest draw back I found was that we had the wrong ratio of athletes:soccer players - so we could press and run and be physical, but lacked the technical skill and tactical awareness to keep up a pressing style without being exposed. Now, I coached the girls team, and I've found after spending time coaching both boys and girls at a variety of levels, including HS, that the tactical side seemed to be more intuitive for the boys, and that girls tended not to make the threatening runs and movements without the ball that really needed to happen to make that pressing/counter-attacking style as dangerous as it can be. I did a ton of technical, possession based small sided training sessions to bring that level of play up, with pretty good success (we defeated the 2x defending state champions on their own field my last year in the playoffs, so that was a real coup).

For the high line/offsides trap, I worked extensively on 2v2 pressure/cover defending drills with my central defenders - if the center backs don't get that, the trap is broken before it gets deployed and you're in a world of trouble against the vertical game that HS teams tend to employ. If the central defenders get it, the outside backs can be trained to never see the numbers of their center backs, and you can make that work.

I always stressed the idea of 5 seconds - if you lose the ball, you work harder than anyone else on the field to get it back for the next 5 seconds, and the team as a collective follows suit with good pressure/cover/balance based defending.

It is amazing that you have the funding for GPS devices and a film company.....we had a hand held camera and a volunteer tethered to the roof of the announcing booth! But it is Maine!
 

teddykgb

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Been meaning to respond to this for a few days. You've presumably got coaching badges and I do not but my initial thought on reading your post was that it would be a bad idea to seek to implement the press for two reasons. Firstly, the press relies upon speed, particularly in closing down the opponent, and I just don't think HS boys can shrink the space the way grown men do. Secondly, the press works best against teams who are trying to play it out, but most HS games I've seen are long ball fests as it stands. So you're spending a ton of energy forcing hopeless long balls you were going to get anyway. It seems to me to be a decent tactic if you have an opponent or opponents who try to play it out a little bit more and if your team really is fast enough to create havoc with the rapid closing of space but in general I don't think it's creating many opportunities you wouldn't already have due to the generic nature at this level.

In any case, yes, you need a high line as you don't want to leave a massive gap in front of your defenders for the other team to exploit.
 

Finn's Dad

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Yeah, you bring up a few good points, teddy. That's why I like bouncing ideas off of people. Most of the teams do play a long ball already, which is terrible in it's own sense. Some of the better teams will play the possession style, but it isn't often that even they play it. Our team does have speed and athletes in general, and the thinking is with some extra time working with them this summer, we can get some basics down on pressing, communicating, etc. I've opened up discussions with the coaches I work with as well so we can throw ideas out there. I should watch the clips of Liverpool/Leicester, since Leicester plays more of a direct style, and see what happened there.

My main reason for wanting to do something like this is, ultimately, to make teenagers REALLY nervous, force terrible mistakes, and create opportunities that way. Many teams tried to find their couple of players that were legit, wether it was a midfielder or striker, within a couple of passes. Then, that player would be forced to dribble and make plays. By causing chaos when we lose the ball, the plan is that they don't have time to see this person and force lots of terrible decisions. But we'll see. I have two pre-season opportunities to try it out - one against some poor teams, so we can see if it is effective vs. long ball, and one against two of the top teams in the state, so we can see if it is effective against the possession teams. From there, we go into our season and we can continue to make adjustments as necessary. I don't think teams will be as deep as us, so if we can keep running them into the ground, we should have more and more opportunities as the games progress.

CPT - yes, having the resources for those things are nice. We made $9000 last year in one fundraiser alone. It's been a huge benefit. Using the GPS and tape helps us really break stuff down. I can show you some of the taping that we did. We recorded the game, but then another company breaks it down for us after we upload it to their site. It's incredibly helpful.
 

SocrManiac

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Things may have changed since I was in high school, but we found our offside trap being broken all too often by the referee. Even the best will miss a couple a game, but the lower quality referees can absolutely murder you. It can even change half to half, building a pattern of play and a lead in the first only to have it squandered in the second by a bumbler.

I think it's a great and effective tactic against the bang and chase sides, but there has to be a backup plan in case of ineptitude on the lines.
 

Humphrey

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What officials' system does your state run? Traditional (and obsolete) 2 man system, or 3 man? 3 man shouldn't matter where your back line is, the AR should be even with it and all should go well.
In a 2 man there are a lot of missed calls with an aggressive trap...and the other problem is that the official who's on the back line is way up the field...makes for guesswork calls on breakaways.
 

SocrManiac

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It was 2 man when I was in high school (Class L in NH, 1996-1999), as well as PVSSL for as long as I've been playing there. It's pretty awful for offside in particular, but authority in general. I've had penalties called from the "trailing" referee, 50 yards away. The guy on the spot can't (or, more likely won't) overrule, even if he disagrees.
 

Finn's Dad

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We use a 3-man system in Minnesota, which helps. We've had blown calls with our JV and other lower teams since they use a 1-man system (which is horrendous). Obviously, you have good refs and bad refs, and sometimes they miss calls or overrule an AR for fouls.

For example, we had a player slide tackled from behind in the penalty box in a rivalry game, the AR raised their flag for the foul, and the center ref waved it off. You run into that from time to time, but you can't let those decisions affect the way we approach the game. If we spent all of our time concerned about how the refs would call the game, we'd miss out on opportunities to learn and develop our skills for those games where we have the ref who will be on top of things.

We've also run into refs that are amazing ARs and absolutely horrible centers. Another example... we had a guy who was on top of our offsides trap and did a great job as an AR. A few games later, he's our center, and I've got high hopes. 15 minutes in, a player on our team jumps for a 50/50 ball and comes down with blood pouring from his nose. I complained that he was elbowed, and the explanation given to me was something like, "These are high school kids. They're not always in control of their body." I was pretty livid, but tried to stay as composed as possible so the team didn't see me lose my shit. I get that refs miss calls, but when injury is the result of a play and players are hurt because of no calls, that creates dangerous situations. By the end of the first half, that game was so chippy that the AR near us came up to me and said, "He needs to get control of the game or it's going to get ugly."
 

Humphrey

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You're lucky you're in the 3 man... I guess at the JV level it's good training for the defenders to keep playing even when the offside offense is egregious. If the defenders are moving up and back like they should, 80-90% accuracy on offside calls is probably as good as you are going to get.
 

Finn's Dad

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Yeah, it helps. We want our JV (and B and C squads) to practice it for those exact reasons - sometimes it isn't called, and you can't stop. You have to keep playing, otherwise you're giving up an easy breakaway.
 

wiffleballhero

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A question:

12U girls who normally play nine aside soccer playing in a 7v7 small field jamboree tournament.

How do you configure it, especially when the team is a co-joined 'all star' team of kids who know each other from school but don't play together on the same teams currently?

I am leaning on two configurations:
1-3-2 with that one as a sweeper in the back, and thus two strikers.

I am also considering playing a 3-2-1 with a three back set that will be intuitive and conventional for them coming from a 9v9 regular team.

We will not practice beforehand -- just can't do it.

I do not want to play them in a 2-2-2. They just won't gel and we'll either all fall into the middle, or we'll get split on those 'flat' two backs, or both.
 
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nayrbrey

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Hi @wiffleballhero, I coach on both a G4 (head) and G6 (asst) boys team, and your thought about the familiarity of the 3 backs is what I would do in your situation.
Let them have a comfort level with the formation, I know bouncing between the 7v7 and 9v9 formats is a bit of a challenge I assume it’s on the smaller 7v7 field. Depending on how the talent level of the opponent is, you could even go 3 up front (3-3) if needed, down late or maybe to start the game.
Best of luck to your squad.
Edit - added the field size difference.
 
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wiffleballhero

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Hi @wiffleballhero, I coach on both a G4 (head) and G6 (asst) boys team, and your thought about the familiarity of the 3 backs is what I would do in your situation.
Let them have a comfort level with the formation, I know bouncing between the 7v7 and 9v9 formats is a bit of a challenge I assume it’s on the smaller 7v7 field. Depending on how the talent level of the opponent is, you could even go 3 up front (3-3) if needed, down late or maybe to start the game.
Best of luck to your squad.
Edit - added the field size difference.
I am leaning on two configurations:
1-3-2 with that one as a sweeper in the back, and thus two strikers.

I am also considering playing a 3-2-1 with a three back set that will be intuitive and conventional

OK, so this tournament got pushed way back to today, so we finally got it in, and because of the weather, it was moved indoors.

We played a hybrid system: 3-1-2 and then transitioned to a 1-3-2 in possession.

It essentially worked like a charm, especially with the super small indoor field. We came in second for the tournament and, if not for maybe a bad coaching calculation about my line-up in the last game, would have won it all.

One caveat: We lost the last game because, with the small indoor field, the league dropped the off-sides rule for the tournament. One team managed to exploit this effectively and we got caught with break aways and a couple 3 on 1s. Two goals involved off-sides players.

Those were though. If I were to do it again, I would have put a stronger player in goal in the last game and played my fastest player as the center back against the team poaching. Even with the loss we controlled field position and possession.

In the future playing 7v7 I would do this again in a heartbeat.
 

graffam198

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Floating this up since it seemed like a good thread to resurrect.

Currently, I am coaching a U12 team. Due to league dynamics, we are forced to play up for league play, age at tournaments. So, 11v11 league play, 9v9 tournaments. I wasn't planning on playing up, so only have a roster of 13 and didn't have much time to develop a coaching plan for the season. (League I was in dissolved, had to join another at last minute, so like a week of heads up....)

When we play age, we started 3-2-3 but transitioned to a 3-3-2 over the summer; one b/c my forwards hate scoring goals, and 2, I needed to get rid of bunching and stretch the pitch. I have one more season of 9v9 then onto real soccer forever more.

My question is on 11v11 formation. I have been using the 4-4-2 configuration with moderate success. We won one game against a team 2 years older, lost a handful by 1, tied, and then blown out for the remainder 2. Why did I chose 4-4-2? I dunno, I liked the diamond formation, I have a couple super strong mids, and, as mentioned, my forwards hate scoring (more on that later). What I've come to learn is 4-4-2 is considered outdated. I was buying this until the WC tournament and I've seen more than a few teams deploy this. They play it flat and not w/an AM and DM stacked, so I should adjust that way, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it being used with some success. Now, my part time assistant, who played with success through college, has been gently suggesting a more "modern" 4-3-3.

Looking for thoughts, how that plays, etc. I like 4-4-2 b/c it's easy for me. Wings press up on the attack, CMs provide support and balance. Fullbacks move up into the mid area or overlap on attack. (Saw Galaxy beat the quakes doing this, hence my "knowledge"). Also, my mids are the only girls that have the courage to go 1v1 in the box and take shots. So...it works.

4-3-3 I don't know if I understand the shape as well. Same principle? Outside mids up? Fullbacks up to mid? Doesn't that get a bit crowded up top?

full disclosure: I am a youtube coach. I NEVER played the sport as a kid, haven't watched many games (until recently), and am working on my D license (have all my grassroots done). I have a VERY good team. Top 3 in the area, 9th in the state. These girls, despite my best efforts, kick ass.

Disclosure 2: My forwards are terrible. Hot trash. Lazy. Terrible shot, not a great first touch. That's why I only use 2, I don't know where else to hide them. I will be recruiting for some strikers this spring. My problem is 1) I'm not good at recruiting (talking to parents) and 2) value team chemistry probably too much. I am an excellent judge of talent; girls I've taken in the past from the "scrap heap" are some of my top performers. I would put my 2 CMs up top but then I lose them in the middle where they do a great job of controlling the game, winning the ball, breaking up attacks. When they work together, we get a lot of 1-2 goals or shots and finishes. Just hate to play them up top and lose that skill in the middle...Am I being dumb here?
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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Have you ever tried the game Football Manager? I think it would really help you see how different formations play and the different roles each player can have.
 

graffam198

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Have you ever tried the game Football Manager? I think it would really help you see how different formations play and the different roles each player can have.
I have not! Thank you for the suggestion, I'm going to give it a try for sure! Similar vein, any good resources? I have a subscription to the coaching manual provided by my club, as well as US Soccer exercises from the grass roots licensure, but any books, websites, etc. I should be utilizing for drills, theory, sessions? Not having a background to draw from can be a benefit as I am open to just about everything...
 

nayrbrey

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Good luck on the D license @graffam198, I just did mine last spring, the biggest issue I had was figuring out that online lesson planner. Feel free to PM if you have any questions.

I’m at the U13/U14 level with my sons team and our forwards sound like yours. Hesitant to get in the box and put pressure on the GK. Mostly it’s an age thing, our best forwards are the younger kids and at this age level the size difference is very pronounced if kids haven’t hit their growth spurt yet.
We usually play a 1-4-3-3 and it is as you mentioned: MF move up to join the attack and WB move to midfield to cover or join the attack if needed. The CM usually plays back a little as a holding MF just as an option to pass back, or sometimes as a true CAM and joining the attack. All depends on the opponent’s strength. If you take one of your solid CMs and put them as the center striker, that could add a true goal scoring threat to the front line.
We’ve also done a 1-4-2-3-1 with 2 CDMs against some of the stronger teams just to get a box 4 formation with the 2CBs and CDMs in front of our GK. The WBs in that case play more forward and use the CDMs as a pivot to switch the field when needed.

I think with any formation you need to take into account the skill level of the players and what their strengths are, which you already have done. Good luck!
 
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BrazilianSoxFan

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Apr 11, 2006
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Good luck on the D license @graffam198, I just did mine last spring, the biggest issue I had was figuring out that online lesson planner. Feel free to PM if you have any questions.

I’m at the U13/U14 level with my sons team and our forwards sound like yours. Hesitant to get in the box and put pressure on the GK. Mostly it’s an age thing, our best forwards are the younger kids and at this age level the size difference is very pronounced if kids haven’t hit their growth spurt yet.
We usually play a 1-4-3-3 and it is as you mentioned: MF move up to join the attack and WB move to midfield to cover or join the attack if needed. The CM usually plays back a little as a holding MF just as an option to pass back, or sometimes as a true CAM and joining the attack. All depends on the opponent’s strength. If you take one of your solid CMs and put them as the center striker, that could add a true goal scoring threat to the front line.
We’ve also done a 1-4-2-3-1 with 2 CDMs against some of the stronger teams just to get a box 4 formation with the 2CBs and CDMs in front of our GK. The WBs in that case play more forward and use the CDMs as a pivot to switch the field when needed.

I think with any formation you need to take into account the skill level of the players and what their strengths are, which you already have done. Good luck!
You don't need to mention the goalkeeper when "numbering" a formation. For a second I thought you were playing with a sweeper and 12 players...
 

graffam198

dog lover
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Dec 10, 2007
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Good luck on the D license @graffam198, I just did mine last spring, the biggest issue I had was figuring out that online lesson planner. Feel free to PM if you have any questions.

I’m at the U13/U14 level with my sons team and our forwards sound like yours. Hesitant to get in the box and put pressure on the GK. Mostly it’s an age thing, our best forwards are the younger kids and at this age level the size difference is very pronounced if kids haven’t hit their growth spurt yet.
We usually play a 1-4-3-3 and it is as you mentioned: MF move up to join the attack and WB move to midfield to cover or join the attack if needed. The CM usually plays back a little as a holding MF just as an option to pass back, or sometimes as a true CAM and joining the attack. All depends on the opponent’s strength. If you take one of your solid CMs and put them as the center striker, that could add a true goal scoring threat to the front line.
We’ve also done a 1-4-2-3-1 with 2 CDMs against some of the stronger teams just to get a box 4 formation with the 2CBs and CDMs in front of our GK. The WBs in that case play more forward and use the CDMs as a pivot to switch the field when needed.

I think with any formation you need to take into account the skill level of the players and what their strengths are, which you already have done. Good luck!
Thanks, glad (?) to hear that we have the same problem...

Funny, watching Welcome to Wrexham, and the gaffer yelling at his team to get wide. I turned to my wife and said "Hey, he has the same problem as me! I guess that's comforting but also sad it never goes away :) "

It's odd because I have absolute GIANTS on my team. They regularly get mistaken for 2010/2009's. I do have some "normal" sized kids, but for the most part, a lot of big girls. Where I find a lot of struggle is touches. They touch the ball to death. I've been working on two touches in the box...One touch in, shoot. That's it. I don't care if it sales or goes in, I just want them pounding shots.

When your mids move up, how do you keep spacing across the pitch? I feel like 5 gets bunchy; but that could just be my problem.
 

nayrbrey

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So in theory the L/R mids would form the peak of triangles with the front 3, as a giant W, however that rarely happens.
We have the same challenges with having them keep wide, and them trying to dribble it into the goal. For the excessive touches, eventually their in game experience with the Defenders consistently winning the ball will give you plenty of opportunities to reinforce the one touch then shoot. Make sure you take those key words from the USSF lessons and put them into the game.
For spacing, I don’t like using “channel” type practice lessons but sometimes will break that out for a few reps just for them to feel comfortable out there. run it with the 3 fwds, 2 MF against 4 Defenders if you can. Stop play when it looks right to let them visualize how it should be. using key words can help here as well.
 
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graffam198

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Dec 10, 2007
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Here's another one. Throw-ins. At the pro level, they tend to be short with a give and go approach. At the youth level, everything seems to be long, in the air, try to win pitch space. When do you start transitioning your players to the former approach?
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Jul 2, 2006
22,657
Philadelphia
Here's another one. Throw-ins. At the pro level, they tend to be short with a give and go approach. At the youth level, everything seems to be long, in the air, try to win pitch space. When do you start transitioning your players to the former approach?
I'm not a coach but I would think its all about whether your players have the technical ability to control the ball in a tight space under pressure and then find a teammates to get out. If they're just going to turn the ball over in that situation most of the time, then you might as well just throw it down the line and gain territory instead.

It might be worth experimenting with some simple set plays in these situations, like winger starts deep and breaks back toward the ball (taking the opposing fullback with them one assumes) while a central midfielder drifts over then sharply runs down the line into the vacated space.
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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Apr 11, 2006
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Floating this up since it seemed like a good thread to resurrect.

Currently, I am coaching a U12 team. Due to league dynamics, we are forced to play up for league play, age at tournaments. So, 11v11 league play, 9v9 tournaments. I wasn't planning on playing up, so only have a roster of 13 and didn't have much time to develop a coaching plan for the season. (League I was in dissolved, had to join another at last minute, so like a week of heads up....)

When we play age, we started 3-2-3 but transitioned to a 3-3-2 over the summer; one b/c my forwards hate scoring goals, and 2, I needed to get rid of bunching and stretch the pitch. I have one more season of 9v9 then onto real soccer forever more.

My question is on 11v11 formation. I have been using the 4-4-2 configuration with moderate success. We won one game against a team 2 years older, lost a handful by 1, tied, and then blown out for the remainder 2. Why did I chose 4-4-2? I dunno, I liked the diamond formation, I have a couple super strong mids, and, as mentioned, my forwards hate scoring (more on that later). What I've come to learn is 4-4-2 is considered outdated. I was buying this until the WC tournament and I've seen more than a few teams deploy this. They play it flat and not w/an AM and DM stacked, so I should adjust that way, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it being used with some success. Now, my part time assistant, who played with success through college, has been gently suggesting a more "modern" 4-3-3.

Looking for thoughts, how that plays, etc. I like 4-4-2 b/c it's easy for me. Wings press up on the attack, CMs provide support and balance. Fullbacks move up into the mid area or overlap on attack. (Saw Galaxy beat the quakes doing this, hence my "knowledge"). Also, my mids are the only girls that have the courage to go 1v1 in the box and take shots. So...it works.

4-3-3 I don't know if I understand the shape as well. Same principle? Outside mids up? Fullbacks up to mid? Doesn't that get a bit crowded up top?

full disclosure: I am a youtube coach. I NEVER played the sport as a kid, haven't watched many games (until recently), and am working on my D license (have all my grassroots done). I have a VERY good team. Top 3 in the area, 9th in the state. These girls, despite my best efforts, kick ass.

Disclosure 2: My forwards are terrible. Hot trash. Lazy. Terrible shot, not a great first touch. That's why I only use 2, I don't know where else to hide them. I will be recruiting for some strikers this spring. My problem is 1) I'm not good at recruiting (talking to parents) and 2) value team chemistry probably too much. I am an excellent judge of talent; girls I've taken in the past from the "scrap heap" are some of my top performers. I would put my 2 CMs up top but then I lose them in the middle where they do a great job of controlling the game, winning the ball, breaking up attacks. When they work together, we get a lot of 1-2 goals or shots and finishes. Just hate to play them up top and lose that skill in the middle...Am I being dumb here?
Just found this channel that may be useful for you. It breaks down the tactical matchups of some high profile games, including some of those in the World Cup.

https://www.youtube.com/@FootballMadeSimple/videos

Edit: Thought this one about the Brazil x Servia game was particularly interesting.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7V8xIy39vY
 
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graffam198

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Humphrey

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Whatever you do, stress possession. My biggest complaint about high school teams I officiate is too many of them at the slightest hint of pressure throw (kick, of course) the ball up for grabs. When you don't have the ball, you work so much harder as a team to get it back.
 

DJnVa

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Dec 16, 2010
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Whatever you do, stress possession. My biggest complaint about high school teams I officiate is too many of them at the slightest hint of pressure throw (kick, of course) the ball up for grabs. When you don't have the ball, you work so much harder as a team to get it back.
The sooner you can get a keeper comfortable with his or her feet, it opens up a lot. Defenders confident enough to play the ball back to the keeper is so helpful. Be prepared for a horrible miscue once in a while, but it can make such a difference.
 

graffam198

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The sooner you can get a keeper comfortable with his or her feet, it opens up a lot. Defenders confident enough to play the ball back to the keeper is so helpful. Be prepared for a horrible miscue once in a while, but it can make such a difference.
It's so key. It's driving her crazy, but I have forbidden picking up the ball in practice/games for the winter season (unless it's caught in the air). I'm also having her play deep into the field. Sure, we have been burned a couple times, but like mentioned, I'm really trying to get her comfortable w/her feet. Plus, I remind her, every time they score on you it's Defense's fault. They shouldn't have let them squeeze the shot off :)
 

graffam198

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So slight bump!

Just got back from ODP in Arizona. I was not coaching, just a turd parent. Was super fun/educational to just watch and absorb the game w/out having to manage it. That said, question on 3-2-3 formation. Lots of shifting to ball side, sliding outside backs all the way to the middle. When I play my girls, I have them shift, but not fully; I like to keep that outside edge covered. Is that old tactics? None of the other teams were taking advantage of that wide open space, but, our team also wasn't switching the play either ( how can you when everyone is in the middle?).

With or without the ball I generally try to stretch the field (keep the middle tight). Am I coaching old school strategy? Is it just that these are 11 year olds and they don't have the strength to accurately send across the pitch so I don't need to protect?

I generally play my 11 year olds 3-3-2 when we are playing age but then go 4-4-2 when playing up. Obviously 4-4-2 is OLD school, but hey, Argentina used it once or twice as did a few others in the World Cup...
 

SocrManiac

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Apr 15, 2006
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Way late in responding, but I’d have them shifting until the other team could demonstrate that they could take advantage. You’re gifting far more valuable space in the middle by covering an area of less value (and maybe none of the other team can’t exploit it anyway).
 

graffam198

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We recently got a new Director of Coaching for the club and I posed the same question to her. Some interesting insights:

  • "Bunching" is a huge problem for the US game right now, at least through the collegiate level. Players are not likely to switch the field so everything is mid-touchline. Kind of feels like a chicken and egg scenario based on how she and you are describing it.
    • She spends a ton of time "re-teaching" them on switching play
    • She also spends a lot of time getting her players to pull their heads up and read the pitch. (D1 girls)
  • For sure understand what you are saying too, basically giving up a double team opportunity by covering a girl that isn't "in-play" so to speak.
  • This I think poses an interesting tactical question/game dynamic. If you have a strong mid, and can win the ball quickly, then effectively switch, it makes sense to have a body over there to take advantage of the space being granted.
The DOC is pretty well papered. D1 coach, former pro player, etc. I've gotten to meet with her a couple of times and am pretty excited to have that wealth of knowledge available. She's leading a workout on Tuesday; excited to take notes, steal her workouts, etc. Plus, the fact that she is a she is pretty great. My girls are pretty stoked to have that kind of role model available to them.