Soccer Formations and Styles of Play
Soccer Sweeper vs Flat Back Defense
Anson Dorrance's soccer formation, defensive system and how he positions his Forwards for Penetration
An 11 v11 formation that provides Depth in the Midfield
and 6 for offense and 6 for defense
Pushing Up Fast Fullbacks to Support your Soccer Attack
Tips for youth soccer coaches from some of Anson's players
9v9 Soccer Formations

To the Premium Forum,

I got to watch a bit of a tournament game tonight. One of the teams we will be playing this year was playing, so it worked out nicely for me. They played a 3 - 3 - 2 soccer formation and seemed to be an OK team.

I went to try and work on what to watch for when I am coaching my own girls. A lot of the time I get wrapped up in what my team is or isn't doing and I don't start watching for what the other team is or isn't doing until later in the game. I had a chance to really see a lot of what both teams were doing and what was working and what wasn't. Also, I've got to say... it was fun to simply watch a game.

I've been thinking of testing a 3 - 3 - 2 soccer formation myself. For my back 3, I have two great defenders that I can play on the outside with good speed and another girl that I've played at both Midfield and Forward who is tenacious and just flat out fast that I'll play at Center Fullback. The team I watched tonight played the back 3 deep, with only the Center Fullback drifting a bit outside the Penalty Box... a few yards at most. With my girl's speed that I'm planning on using for my back 3, I think I could push them all the way up to midfield. We have a practice game on Monday and I'm going to try it out.

I'll keep you posted.

Coach Al


Hi Al,

It's very hard to watch what your team is doing and watch the other team too. I think scouting your opponents is smart, and you can learn a lot from it.

Obviously, if you can Push Up some Fullbacks without giving up goals on counterattacks, then that is what you should do because it is better than Defending in the Penalty Box. You're lucky you have the speed to do that.

As you know, you can Push Up your RFB and LFB and still leave your CFB behind some as a Sweeper with the job of slowing down your opponent's attack by breaking it up or kicking the ball out of bounds in order to give your team time to Recover. If you leave her a little behind (say 10 steps behind) as a Sweeper, you might want to keep it at first by telling her to just kick it out of bounds or kick it back toward your opponent's goal if there is any threat - that's the safe thing to do. As she gets comfortable she can try to control the ball more. If it was me, I might tell my Sweeper to stop at the inside of the Center Circle (on your side of the field). I think I might tell her to stay in the center rather than shifting with the ball because that way you are protected against attacks straight down the center toward your goal - if your opponent attacks down the sideline, they still have to turn it back to goal to score. All your Sweeper has to do is slow down an attack in order to give your other FBs time to Recover to help defend, SO, the biggest danger is if she is TOTALLY out of position and isn't in position to slow down an attack. You will win most of your games if you don't give up any goals on breakaways.

Our local High School team plays a Sweeper (a CFB who stays about 10 steps deep when the RFB and :FB Push Up) and they are usually ranked in the Top 10 in the U.S. Don't believe that because Pro teams play a Flat defense that a Flat defense is best for youth teams - usually it isn't. The pros are, well, Professionals. They are fantastic athletes who train 5 days a week and have played for 12 years or more at a high level. They can do things youth teams can't.

I thought you might be interested in the formation and Style of Play that Anson Dorrance uses. As you probably know, Anson is the most successful college coach in history, and I think a great coach. As of November, 2008, Anson's teams had won 19 of the 27 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships and his record was 625-28-20 (a 94% winning percentage) over 29 seasons. He led his team to a 101-game unbeaten streak and coached his players to a total of 20 National Player of the Year awards:

1. Formation. He uses a 3-1-2-1-3 which creates a star-shaped midfield, with an "Attacking Mid" and a "Defensive Mid", who some might called "Stopper". Obviously, this gives him layers of Depth in the Midfield and he can bring 6 to attack or 6 to defend. I think it's a very effective formation if you have all skillful, fast players (which, of course, he does) and don't need to hide any players.

2. Style of Play:

3. Practice Management - Coach Dorrance says his training sessions only last 90 minutes. His reasoning for short practices is that "what the players lose in repetitions, they will gain in enthusiasm for their next practice". Here's a great quote: "The challenge in training players is to keep the practice short enough that by the end of practice they can't wait to come out the next day." I agree 100%.

More excellent advice: Anson says he tries to keep a balance between serious practice and a light-hearted environment. He says practice should be as enjoyable as possible.

4. Advice from Anson's Players - Most players recommended that coaches of younger girls should make learning fun and avoid high-pressure. Lorrie Fair says she wishes she had done more foot skills work as a youth. Debbie Keller says the same thing and that she wishes she had played more 1 v 1. I agree with these comments.

The detailed review of a DVD set that talks about the North Carolina System is at the review of DVD No. 3 at the review of "Training Championship Players and Teams 3-DVD Set". We don't sell that DVD set any more because we sold too few of them, but we sell another great DVD by Anson.

Yes, please let us know how you play it (Sweeper or Flat defense), your Style of Play (how far you Push Up the FBs when you are attacking and if you leave your Forwards Pushed Up when your goal is under attack), and how it works out.

David at SoccerHelp

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