37 Soccer Attacking Tips, Tactics & Strategies
How to Score More Goals
How to Determine Why Your Team Isn't Scoring More Goals
7 Ways Most Soccer Goals Are Scored

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A. Diagnosing why your team isn't scoring more goals
- 2 reasons why you aren't scoring more goals
- Increasing your number of shots
- Increasing your scoring percentage
- Evaluating your style and type of attack
- Evaluating whether a different formation would work better

B. The 7 ways most soccer goals are scored

C. 37 soccer attacking tips, tactics & strategies (breakaways, penalty kicks, free kicks, throw ins, far post play, wing attack vs. frontal attack, corner kicks, types of shots, movement off the ball, direct vs. indirect attack, target forwards, support, rebounds, passing to space vs. passing to feet, using decoys to pull defenders out of position, how too much emphasis on a possession style of play can harm your attack, and more)


  1. If you aren't scoring many goals, it is due to one of two reasons:
    1. You either aren't getting enough shots on goal or
    2. You are getting shots but they aren't scoring.

  2. If the problem is No. 1, ask yourself these questions:
    1. Are you getting enough players into shooting range (i.e., into the Penalty Box)?
    2. Are your players "crossing" or "centering" the ball into the Penalty Box to create scoring opportunities?
    3. Do you have someone off the far post? You will get 3 or 4 opportunities per game if you have an attacker (a F or MF) play off the Far Post.
    4. Do you teach the concepts of "First Attacker", "Second Attacker", and "Third Attacker"? (The First Attacker must have support).

  3. If the problem is No. 2, ask yourself these questions:
    1. Are shots from too far out? (It is tough to score with long shots against a good, tall goal keeper, but shooting at the top of the goal can be a good tactic against a short goalie and can create opportunities off rebounds).
    2. If close in, are shots low and to the corner? (See "Finish").
    3. Do your players follow the shot for rebounds? (See "Rebound").

  4. Consider the style and type of attack you use and whether it is effective. Consider:
    1. The Style and Pace of Your Attack -- Is it a "Direct" or "Indirect / Possession Style" attack?
    2. The Direction of Your Attack -- Is it from the Front (Frontal) or from the side (Wing)?
    3. The Width of Your Attack -- Is it "Narrow" or "Wide"? (Too narrow is bad but too wide can be ineffective if players are too far from the ball).

    You should use a style and type of attack that is realistic and will allow your team to be successful. For example, most Rec teams can be more successful using a "Direct" attack than an "Indirect / Possession Style" attack.

    Every team should avoid an attack that is too "Narrow" because it is too easy to defend. Adding "width" can greatly help some attacks. (A "Narrow" attack is when attackers are too close together. An example of a "wide" attack would be to have the First Attacker (e.g., the Right Forward) on the right side, the Center Forward out from the Near Post and the Left Forward out from the Far Post).

    The type of attack that is most effective also depends on the circumstances. For example, against a good, quick goalie, a "wing" attack which crosses the ball from the side to the center will be more effective than a "frontal" attack. This is because it is more difficult to defend. A "wing" attack is an excellent option if your team is capable of executing it.

  5. Consider the Formation you use and whether a different one would work better. (See "Formations").
    1. Are you able to clear the ball off your end of the field? ("your end" is the end your Goalie is in and is called your Defensive Third)
    2. Are you able to move the ball into the Attacking Third?

See "Attacking", "Attacking Plan", "Finish", "Formations", "First Attacker" & 23 Of The Best SoccerHelp Tips & Tactics for more ideas. Also, see the section titled "Evaluating Your Teams Play".


Obviously, for any goal to be scored there must be a shot from within scoring range. Thus, as discussed above, a simple way to increase your chances of scoring is to increase your number of quality shots. It can be useful to think about how most goals are scored. By this I mean the build-up or actions that lead to goals. From the list below, you can think about which might work for your team.

What your team can do depends upon the age and skill level of your players and the amount of time your entire team practices. If you have a typical Recreational team with some skillful players, some unathletic players and limited practice time, it is unrealistic to expect your team to play like a select team that practices 4 hours per week. However, you can keep in mind that most goals are scored by getting players into scoring position and then passing, crossing, or centering the ball into the other team's Penalty Box. In any case, you can only win if your players hustle and win the ball. At Forward, an alert, quick player who will fight for the ball may be better than a faster, more skillful player.

1. Goals Scored From In Front Of The Goal That Don't Fit In Other Categories (Obviously, to score from in front of your goal, your team must be onside, which means the defenders are defending deep, or you have moved the ball near the other team's goal line).

  1. Crossing Passes. A "cross" is when the ball is kicked from the right or left side of the field toward the area in front of the goal. A cross is often not a pass to a specific person as much as a kicking of the ball to the space in front of the goal with the expectation that one or more teammates will be there. Advancing the ball down the sideline is a good tactic because it allows teammates to move toward the other teams goal without being " offside". Thus, it can allow attackers to move into scoring position. It also has the advantages of "Spreading the Field" and creating "Width in Attack". "Long Corner Kicks" are a type of "cross". (See "Creating Space", "Cross", "Spread the Field", "Pass to Space", and "Width in Attack").

  2. Centered Balls. When you make a "cross" you are "centering the ball". Thus, the two concepts are similar. However, the term "cross" means to center the ball from the side of the field, whereas the ball can be "centered" from any place on the field. (See "Center The Ball", and "Pass To Space").

  3. Rebounds. If your players will follow shots and be alert, they will get several good scoring opportunities per game from rebounds. Encourage one-touch shots on rebounds. (See "Rebound").

2. Breakaways. Often, these occur when an attacker runs onto a "Through Ball". This can be especially effective if the other teams FB's push up on their attack. (See "Breakaway", "Counterattack", "Attacking Plan", "Through Ball", "Formations", "Push Up", and "Spread the Field").

3. Combination Passing In The "Attacking Third". You should encourage passing in the Attacking Third. Teach your players to pass if they have a pass and to only dribble if they don't have a pass or can dribble and score. The exception to this might be if you have a brilliant dribbler, but even then it is a bad habit to try to dribble through all the defenders because it doesn't encourage teamwork and a good dribbler can be stopped by assigning a defender to "shadow mark" him. (See "Combination Play", "Creating Space", "When To Dribble", "Give and Go", and "Finish").

4. Free Kicks and "Corner Kicks". "Free Kicks" and "Corner Kicks" are two types of "set plays" that result in scoring opportunities. Both create good rebound opportunities and free kicks (both direct and indirect) give the opportunity for direct shots on goal (although a player must touch the indirect kick first). (See "Free Kick" and "Corner Kick").

5. Long Shots. Long ground balls rarely score in Rec soccer, but long air balls can be effective, especially against a short or slow goalie, or if the ball is wet. The key to these long air balls is accuracy; chips usually score more than hard drives. Long shots can also result in rebound opportunities, either off the goalie or off the goal. A mistake many youth make is playing too close to the goal for rebounds with the result that the rebound bounces behind them. It is better to stay 5 or 6 steps from the goal.

6. Dribbling. A great dribbler can be very effective in scoring and in creating scoring opportunities by pulling multiple defenders toward him, which leaves teammates open. In the past two seasons my team has only lost one game and we lost that one because a great dribbler scored 4 goals. I coach a Rec team and don't like to assign a "shadow marker", but I should have in that game and will the next time we play against a dribbler of that skill. If you have a great dribbler on your team, a very effective tactic is to have him attack the goal, but have a Second Attacker trail him to be ready for a Back Pass and have another Second Attacker go to the goal front or The Far Post (ideally one to the Near Post and another to the Far Post). Teach the dribbler to look for an open teammate or to center the ball. (See "Combination Passing" above, "First Attacker", "Formations", "Creating Space", "Finish", and "When To Dribble").

7. Penalty Kicks ("PK's"). You will not get many chances to score on Penalty Kicks. However, there are 3 things to teach your teams:


Scoring goals isn't all about skill, it has a lot to do with hustle, teamwork, winning the ball, the formation and style of play you use, and your ability as a coach to motivate your team and to put players in a position where they can help your team score. You can't turn unathletic players into great athletes or greatly improve the skill of players who don't come to practice, but there are some things you can do:

  1. Encourage hustle and alertness. This is critical. The easiest and most effective way I know to motivate hustle is by using motivational incentive patches - that is what I did when I coached. You can click here to read about the patches. Motivation is critical for any team in every sport.

  2. Teach your team to hustle, play tough & win the ball & reward this behavior. If you don't, you will lose to teams that do. I coached boys teams & gave out small red soccer ball patches (which they called "Blood Patches" and could iron on their jerseys) to those who played with toughness & bravery or really hustled to win the ball. This patch was coveted. We now sell these patches.

  3. Encourage teamwork and support; teach the concepts of "First Attacker", "Second Attacker", and "Third Attacker". (See "First Attacker" and "Support").

  4. Encourage following shots for rebounds. (See "Rebound" and "Finish").

  5. Encourage your Forwards to aggressively pressure the ball when they lose it in the "Attacking Third" and try to win it back. If they are called for a foul, it won't hurt you since the ball is far away from your goal.

  6. Bring up "numbers" on your attack and try to get several Forwards into The Penalty Box and two midfielders just outside The Penalty Box for support. One way to move Forwards up is to attack down the side and then try to cross the ball into the "center" (i.e., into The Penalty Box). As long as attackers stay behind the ball they aren't "offside".

  7. Encourage the "Far Forward" (i.e., the Forward farthest from the ball) or the Far MF to play off the "Far Post)" when you attack. In every game there will be 3 or 4 good scoring opportunities off the Far Post. The key is to hold position and to be patient, alert, opportunistic and to take quick one-touch shots before the Goalie can recover. Another advantage is that this player has a better view of the field than any defender since it is impossible for a defender to be between this player and the goal and watch the ball & the Far Post attacker at the same time. This is why crosses to the Far Post are so effective and are one of the most effective tactics against a great, quick goalie. NOTE: On a cross, if you play 3 Forwards, you should have the Far Forward play off the Far Post and the Center Forward play the Center of the goal, but if you only play 2 Forwards, you should have the Far Forward play the Center of the goal and the Far MF play off the Far Post. At very advanced levels, an attacker such as the Center Forward can play off the Near Post, but it's better for Rec players to play the Center because it's easier to score there.

  8. Encourage one-touch shots in front of the goal. Your attackers will often have an opportunity to score on a one-touch shot but will be shut down if they try to dribble or even two-touch.

  9. Try "short corners" 50% of the time. Your chances of scoring on short corners are better than on long corners and you will improve your chances of scoring when you try a long corner by keeping the opposing defense off balance. See "Short Corner Set Play and Corner Kick Attacking Strategies".
  10. In certain cases, encourage long shots at the top of the goal. Long shots, and even long chips, can be effective in the following cases and can result in rebound opportunities:

    a. Against a short goalie

    b. Against a slow goalie

    c. On a wet day or if the grass is wet (i.e., if the ball is slick a high shot is hard to hold)

    d. If the defenders aren't pressuring long shots (e.g., if they are packed into the Penalty Box). In this case, put some attackers in the Box for rebounds.

    e. If the goalie comes out of the goal a lot (i.e., "off his line").

    (See "Long Shots" in "The 7 Ways Most Soccer Goals Are Scored").

  11. On the other teams Goal Kicks, Punts and Throw Ins, teach your players to mark up behind an opponent and step in front and steal the ball. This tactic will help your team hugely and result in more scoring opportunities. It helps both your defense, since your players will be in good position to defend if the opponent gets the ball, and it helps your offense by creating turnover opportunities. By marking behind the opponent, your players can see what the opponent is doing and if the ball goes over their head (e.g., on a Goal Kick), they can box out the opponent and have an advantage, or if the ball is short they can step in front of the opponent to win it. (See "Coaching Rules No. 1, 2, and 3").

  12. Big Throw-Ins can create scoring opportunities. In one of our pre-season practices I always line everyone up to be sure they know the proper technique for an Advanced Throw-In (See "Skills" for how to teach an Advanced Throw-In). At this time, we also have a contest to see who can make the longest throw-in. If you have a player who can make a long throw-in, consider saving them for 2 occasions:

    a. To create a breakaway. This is possible if you are near the halfway line and the other teams FB's are pushed up. Have a fast receiver start close to the thrower and then quickly run down the line. As soon as the receiver breaks, have the thrower make a long throw down the line. Other Forwards should run toward goal for a "cross". Remember, a player is not offside if he receives the ball direct from a throw-in.

    b. Throw into scoring range. This is possible if the throw-in occurs in your "Attacking Third". Try to do this quickly before the other team is in position. Simply put 4 or 5 players in scoring position and have the thrower throw the ball toward them. Your attackers must fight for the ball and win it. If they have the opportunity for a quick one-touch or two-touch shot, they should take it. My team scored a goal last season this way. As a diversion, you can put a player down the sideline which may pull several defenders away from the goal.

  13. Teach "Movement Off The Ball". Two simple things to teach are:

    1. Attackers should stay a pass apart to "create space".

    2. Receivers should move away from the ballhandler as he approaches them in order to "create space". (If they don't move, then their defender is in a position to pressure the ballhandler as the ballhandler gets closer to the receiver). (See "Creating Space". This is critical to a good attack).

  14. Teach "Passing To Space", as opposed to "Passing To Feet". Passing to Space:

    a. Allows a quick counterattack

    b. Encourages "movement off the ball"

    c. Is a more creative attacking style and encourages players to think about how to use open space to advance the attack.

    d. Teaches attackers to be alert and opportunistic and that they must go to the ball and not wait for the ball to come to them.

    (See "Pass To Space", "Formations", "Attacking Plan", "Styles of Play", and "Creating Space").

  15. Teach your players how to "chip" and "loft" the ball. This is important for long shots, to "clear" the ball, and for "over-the-top" passes. For an easy way to teach this see the "Chips / Lofted Passes" Practice Game.

  16. Have an Attacking Plan. See "Attacking Plan" in Premium.

  17. Use a Formation that works for your team. See "Formations".

  18. Use a "Style of Play" that works for your team. See "Style of Play" and "Formations" in the Dictionary.

  19. Assign players to positions where they can be successful and help the team. See the section titled "Assigning Positions".

  20. When your goal is under attack, be sure your Offensive MF's and Fowards stay the proper distance from the ball, shift with the ball side to side, and position themselves to win a pass or a cleared ball. (See item 4 of "Attacking Plan" and "Shift and Sag" in the Dictionary). This will help ensure your MF's and F's are in position to win many of the cleared balls and your chances will be increased because you will have several players in the area to which the ball is most likely to be cleared. Another advantage of shifting is that even if the opponent wins the ball, your players should be in good position to defend.

 21-28. Teach Coaching Rules No. 7, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 21, and 22. See "Coaching Rules".
  1. Dribbling. A great dribbler can be very effective in scoring and in creating scoring opportunities by pulling multiple defenders toward him, which leaves teammates open. In the past two seasons my team has only lost one game and we lost that one because a great dribbler scored 4 goals. I coach a rec team and don't like to assign a "shadow marker", but I should have in that game and will the next time we play against a dribbler of that skill. If you have a great dribbler on your team, a very effective tactic is to have him attack the goal, but have a Second Attacker trail him to be ready for a Back Pass and have another Second Attacker go to the goal front or the Far Post (ideally one to the Near Post and another to the Far Post). Teach the dribbler to look for an open teammate or to center the ball. (See "Combination Passing" above, "First Attacker", "Formations", "Creating Space", "Finish", and "When To Dribble").

  2. Penalty Kicks ("PK's"). You will not get many chances to score on Penalty Kicks. However, there are 3 things to teach your teams:
    • First, tell your players to stay out of the Penalty Box until after your shot is taken. If they go inside the Box early, you lose the ball and the shot doesn't count.
    • Second, tell your shooter to keep the ball on the ground and to aim for one side of the goal. In rec soccer, most missed penalty kicks are due to the shooter trying too hard and missing the goal. It is better to try to pass the ball into the goal then to try to kill it. A shot low to the corner is very difficult for the goalie to stop.
    • If you are defending a PK, I suggest having your goalie set up one step toward his left side (toward the shooter's right post). This will encourage the kicker to kick toward his left post. Have your goalie move to his right as soon as the shooter starts his run (once he starts he can't stop). The goalie will have a chance to block the shot and his movement might make the shooter pull his shot and shoot wide (This is especially true since most shooters are right footed and a shot toward the left post will have a natural curve). Also, tell your players to stay out of the Penalty Box until after the kick so the shooter doesn't get a second chance.

  3. Consider Trying One or Two "Target" Forwards. A "target forward" is a very fast striker who you leave pushed up at all times and who shifts from side to side with the ball. This will hold 2 or 3 defenders & keep them away from your goal. The target forward should try to win cleared balls and be alert for "through balls" and breakaway opportunities.
  4. Hydration & Carbohydrate Intake. Studies show that players who drink Gatorade-type drinks before a game, at half-time and on the sideline perform significantly better in the second half. I have tried this and it works. It can be worth a goal. This is especially true if you have fewer players than your opponent, play on a big field or have out-of-shape players. Like most coaches I used to rely on the players to bring their own water to the games. Studies that found that players who drank Gatorade type drinks before a game did better in the second half of a game than when they didn't drink the Gatorade before the game. The reason was simple: they had more energy left. My recommendation is to have them drink Gatorade before and during the game, both when it's hot and even when it isn't hot (i.e., at all games, hot or cold). For more about this read Good Hydration and Carbohydrate Intake Can Be Worth A Goal On a Hot Day.
  5. Against a good, quick goalie use a "wing" attack. Attack down the side and cross the ball to the front of the goal. This is more difficult to defend than a "frontal" attack.
  6. Choose a CMF or COMF with good dribbling skills. Your CMF or Center Offensive Midfielder is a very important position, especially if your formation only has 2 Forwards. Ideally, choose a CMF or COMF who has good dribbling and passing skills. They don't have to be fast. This player will get several opportunities per game to dribble toward the goal from 25-35 yards out. This will force the defenders to pull out to defend, which will open up space for your forwards to exploit.
  7. FreeKick From 20 Yards In Front Of Goal (Advanced). If you have this type of free kick, try to put a player with good heading skills in the defenders "wall", loft the ball straight at him and have him try to get his head on it to re-direct it a little. Re-directed balls are very tough for a goalie to stop.
  8. A lack of scoring can be an offshoot of too much small sided play & too much emphasis on a possession style of play. This is particularly true if your Attacking Plan or Style of Play is complex and causing your players to be hesitant or indecisive (read "Possession Style" in Dictionary). It can also happen if your players objective becomes to control the ball instead of attacking. In that case, what can happen is a lack of aggressiveness and attacking creativity; your team may become very good at "keep away", but not good at scoring. If you are dominating but not scoring, read "Assigning Positions" & "Evaluating Your Teams Play". Try the "3 Man Direct, Wing Attacking Game", "Kick A Crossed Ball Game" and "Run To Ball & Shoot With Side Of Foot Game", which are three important skill building games that teach crossing the ball and one-touch shots. Keep in mind that to score, you must get players into scoring position, and that having several players in scoring position is better than having only one. Teach your F's & MF's to "GO TO GOAL" & to get in the Box when the opportunity occurs & to 1-touch finish. The "3 Man Direct, Wing Attacking Game" is a great way to teach this. Instead of small sided, try the "Small Sided Scrimmage Without A Goalie" game, but only for about 15 minutes per practice; it is a type of small sided game that emphasizes working the ball to within scoring distance, but also teaches everyone to be a tough defender.
  9. How to Distract the Defense and Get a Small, Quick Forward Open to Score. If you have a Forward who is small and quick, and can score if he or she isn't double-teamed, put a big, fast, intimidating player as the other forward to draw attention and gave the small, quick forward some space. I have a small forward like that. He has a natural talent for being in position, a great one touch shot, explosive quickness, can beat a single defender off the dribble, and plays with controlled aggression. He scored 4 goals in our last game because the opposing defense was focused on the big intimidating forward who I put up front with him to "pull" the defense away from the small forward. From Coach Sean, middle school coach

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