7v7 Soccer Formations
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Stopping Soccer Breakaways
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(The following is from the Premium Forum. It has been edited.)

Hi SoccerHelp,

I usually play a 3-1-2 or a 2-2-2 soccer formation with good results (7v7), however I want to cut down on breakaways in which my midfielders have pushed up too far leaving my fullbacks exposed against 2 or 3 attackers. I read here that a 2-1-1-2 or a 1-2-1-2 formation adds more depth. I have 3 more 1.5 hour practices scheduled before our tournament. That being said, I don't want to drastically change what we've been doing so much as to cause confusion. Any suggestions would be helpful!

Results over two seasons were 11-4-1. About half the girls have been together for 2 seasons, the rest have come from other teams for the upcoming tournament. All have either played a 2-2-2 or a 3-1-2.

I'm leaning towards a 2-1-1-2 with one defensive midfielder and one offensive midfielder. Any thoughts on this?

Coach M

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Hi Coach M, This is Coach S.

Hmmm...on one hand I'd say...your record speaks for itself...stick with the horse you rode in on...

Also...it seems your problem is that your "midfielders have pushed up too far leaving my fullbacks exposed"...I would suggest you work with the mid-fielders so that they learn not to push up so far...

On the other hand...all I know about the situation is the little bit you've mentioned, SO you as the coach undoubtedly have a better feel for the team and it sounds like your gut is telling you to switch formations.

One of the teams I coach is a U10 co-ed team. We usually play 2-2-2. I have 3 fullbacks that are extremely good.

When I am in a tight spot and need to generate offense I will tell one of them to 'push-up' and let the other one defend deep. This gives me a 1-1-2-2.

Other times I'll tell one of my forwards to 'camp out' by the other team's fullbacks...this gives me 2-2-1-1.

I like this approach of sticking with the formation the kids know, but coaching one or two of them to play slightly out of position rather than changing my formation entirely.

A U12 team I 'co-coach' switched up their formation the week before a tournament. My co-coach went from 2 fullbacks to 3, trying to defend against another team we were familiar with that had some great scorers. The kids ended up confused and we lost 6-2.

So, there's my 2 cents.

To summarize:

1) Make sure changing up is due to a REAL need, not just due to you trying to do SOMETHING (sounds like you're already doing a LOT right)

2) Consider making the switch subtly rather than making it seem like a MAJOR change to the girls.

Coach S

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Hi Coach S,

Thanks for the input. We have 2 scrimmages against 2 other teams we share our practice field with. I'm going to try the 2-1-1-2 with one defensive midfielder and one offensive midfielder (supporting my left wing and right wing) I'm assuming if I assign a defensive midfielder, my 2 fullbacks will always have an extra defender as needed. Now I'm trying to figure out how to shift and sag the defensive midfielder along with my two fullbacks. I usually have one fullback push up no further than the field mid-line (when we have possession on opposing side of the field) while the other drops back about midway between the center of the field and our goal.

Coach M

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Hi Coach M,

Thanks for writing. This is David at SoccerHelp.

I think Coach S has a good idea:

"When I am in a tight spot and need to generate offense I will tell one of I like this approach of sticking with the formation the kids know, but coaching one or two of them to play slightly out of position rather than changing my formation entirely".

You're doing well and your only problem is that you're giving up some goals on breakaways because your MF's aren't slowing down the attack and aren't recovering to help your FBs.

SO, those are the 2 things to focus on:

1. How to slow down those attacks so they don't become breakaways

2. Your MFs MUST recover to help out (or at least one of them must)

You say: "I usually have one fullback push up no further than the field mid-line (when we have possession on opposing side of the field) while the other drops back about midway between the center of the field and our goal."

Here are some ideas:

1. Think about leaving your fastest FB as the Deep FB to play as a Sweeper. Tell her to shift from side to side with the ball and to either only kick the ball back upfield toward the opponent's goal OR just kick it out of bounds. The important thing here is to slow down or stop the attack to give teammates time to recover to defensive positions. Ideally, this "Sweeper" will be brave and not afraid of contact. She should slow down the attack by clogging it up and getting in the way (not just running back to the front of your goal, but a slow retreat that slows the attack). Her objective should be to slow the attack to give your other FB and your Stopper time to "recover" to help defend.

2. You're right, you can basically designate one of your Mids (a Fast one) as a Stopper who doesn't Push Up as far when you attack (aka as a Defensive Mid - but "Stopper" is a term that kids like better and "Stopper" makes the point that that player's job is to "Stop" the attack), to stop at the inside of the Center Circle on your opponent's half. I would tell this Stopper to shift with the ball from side to side so she is in position to win balls that are cleared straight ahead and to stop or slow down a attack that goes straight ahead. I would have my "Pushed Up FB" stop on the Halfway Line and shift with the ball so she stays in an imaginary line between the ball and my goal. I would also have my Sweeper FB shift to stay in an imaginary line between the ball and your goal. That will give you a Stopper in position to stop an attack that goes straight ahead and 2 FBs in position to stop an attack that goes straight toward your goal. That should make it very hard to get breakaways against you. Let me clarify this because it is important � This means that if the ball is toward the corner of your Attacking Third, your 2 FBs will be more toward the Center of the Field than your Stopper (the "Center" is an imaginary line between the 2 goals, and extends the length of the field). If the ball is in the Corner of your Attacking Third, your Stopper will have shifted toward the sideline so she is in position to win a ball that is cleared straight ahead. But your 2 FBs will be in an imaginary line between the ball and your goal, so they are in position to stop a Direct attack on your goal � this is important because a Direct attack is the most likely type of Breakaway � you want to encourage your opponent to attack down the Sideline because that will give your Stopper and MF time to "recover" by getting "goalside" into defensive positions. SO, stay strong between the ball and your goal to discourage attacks straight toward your goal. Stress to your Stopper that her job is NOT to score � her job is to be in position to win cleared balls that are cleared straight ahead and to feed those balls back to your Forwards and Attacking Midfielder (tell her that all the balls won't be cleared straight ahead, but her job is to worry about the balls cleared Straight Ahead) AND to Slow Down an attack to give your FBs time to "recover" to defensive positions.

3. Play the "Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending" game (http://www.soccerhelp.com/New_Articles_On_Soccerhelp_Premium.shtml) That game does what the name says -- it teaches players that IF they can't win a 50/50 ball, they MUST become the First Defender and slow down the attack. IF your players will immediately become First Defenders and slow the attack for even 5 seconds, it will stop a lot of breakaways.

It sounds like your MF's are pushing up too far and becoming Forwards and leaving a big hole in the midfield. That sounds like the reason they aren't able to recover to help defend. Is that correct? If that is part of the problem, this "Stopper" idea will fix that problem and will give you better field coverage and support for your attack and also stop breakaways. You are lacking rear support. The Stopper will be in position to win a lot of cleared balls and to give the ball back to your 3 attackers.

Designating one of your Midfielders as a Stopper should help.

When you are attacking and Pushed Up, your formation might look like a 1-1-1-3 or a 1-1-1-1-2.

Please let us know what you do and how it works.

David at SoccerHelp

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