Changed Soccer Defense to Defend Deep
How in 2 weeks how went from losing to winning and beat a team 4-1 that usually dominates them
No Longer Giving Up Goals on Breakaways
Benefits of Teaching Soccer Passing to Open Space
Switched to a Counterattacking Style
His Team Lacked Speed

See photos of our 29 kinds of iron on Motivational Soccer Patches

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Following is a letter I received from a Coach who had a humiliating loss, and my recommendations for improving his chances of success.

Hi SoccerHelp:

Just wanted to send you a note on the quick and dramatic results I've gotten after using the tips and strategies on your Premium site for just 2 weeks. I coach a 12U boys AYSO (rec) team in the Chicago area. We play 9 v 9, and I've got a mix of about 5 travel and travel-quality players, 4-5 average players, and 2-3 weak players. I've always used a 3-3-2 soccer formation with success, but early this year we were having trouble scoring goals, and worse, were consistently getting beat on the outside at defense for a lot of goals. One difference with this team from past teams I've coached is that we don't have much team speed.

After we lost 7-5 a few weeks ago, I started devouring everything on the Premium site, especially Quick Team Improvement Program, 22 Coaching Rules, Formations, and some of the key practice games (I'd already started using some of the free games, Dribble Across a Square, and Dribble Around the Cone and Pass.)

Well, the results have been unbelievable. The key things I've adopted are playing my defense deep and in, and working on long balls and through balls to the forwards. Defending Deep was contrary to my own soccer inclinations, but I have to admit that it has worked wonders. In practice, I've added Shoulder Tackle & Strength on the Ball, Pass to Space, Run With the Ball and Shoot Practice Game, Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1v1 Attacking and Defending, and Chips/Lofted Passes Practice Game.

Since adopting these strategies, we have won 3-1 (against a team from a neighboring suburb that usually dominates us with very skilled players), 4-1, and 1-0. We are no longer giving up breakaways, the kids are getting much more aggressive and strong on the ball, and they are getting the idea of passing to space to our faster forwards. I'm sure we'll hit some road bumps, but now I feel we can stay competitive in almost any match.

I will continue to work in new soccer games. I still have problems with some defenders who are drifting up too far or are failing to cover the middle/weak side when the attacker has the ball in the opposite corner. I am also still reluctant to go to a formation with a stopper (I use the middle defender as more of a sweeper), because I'm afraid my slower outside guys will get beat. Now I've got two of my most skilled forwards injured, so I'll have to contend with that too for a while.

But thanks for all the help! I will continue to read and learn.

Josh, IL, Premium Member


Hi Josh,

I greatly enjoy stories like yours and appreciate you taking the time to write. Stories like yours motivate me to continue working on SoccerHelp.

First, Congratulations on your success and on being open-minded enough to change. You would be surprised how many coaches are stuck in their ways and will continue to lose rather than look for new ideas. Not only do they not have as much fun as they could, but their players don't improve as much as they could. You sound like a coach who is always looking for good ideas - I try to be that way too.

The fact that in your last 3 games you have scored 8 and only given up 2, and beaten a team 3-1 that normally dominates your team, says a lot.

About Defending Deep - Until U14 I Pushed Up my Fullbacks when we attacked like I was taught to do. I learned about Defending Deep when I coached U14 Rec and lost to a team that Defended Deep and who had a great Stopper. That was our only loss that season and we had better talent, so it forced me to take a hard look at things and at why we lost, and at why a weaker team was able to beat us and keep us to 2 goals when we were averaging 5. Their Stopper was a baseball player who had no soccer skills, but was very fast, brave and aggressive - he was all over the Middle Third of the soccer field and dominated. It is one of those things I will never forget. When I studied it, I realized that Defending Deep made sense in certain situations and could be an effective Style of Play in certain situations. I learned that one of the keys to successfully Defending Deep was that when my goal was under attack, my Midfielders and Forwards had to drop back to be in position to win cleared balls or it was a disaster because our opponent would win all the cleared balls in our Defensive Third. One thing I've learned is that for many U8 teams, it is best to Push Up because their opponents usually aren't good enough to launch a fast counterattack and it is hard for U8 coaches to teach their Midfielders and Forwards to drop back to be in position to win cleared balls when their goal is under attack. Obviously, if a team has Fullbacks who are as fast as the opposing Forwards, Pushing Up on the attack is preferable to Defending Deep.

The idea of Passing to Space will be like a "light bulb" turning on for your players and once it clicks it will be fun to watch. Your attack will be much more fun, you will be able to quickly counterattack (which will either result in a lot of goals on breakaways or the opposing Fullbacks will have to stop being so aggressive), and you will score more goals because your attack will be faster and harder to stop because you will be using more of the field and not giving opposing players time to recover to defensive positions.

About Soccer Formations and Styles of Play - You are doing the right thing, which is using ideas that can help your team be more successful. As you know, there isn't a "magic" formation or a "one size fits all" formation. The soccer formation and Style of Play a coach selects should be based on his or her team and on the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. The best formation and Style of Play can vary some from game to game depending on whether a coach has players out and on the opponent and field width and length, and might vary from season to season. It is a good idea to be continually evaluating whether your formation gives your team the best chance of success, or whether it is

About Soccer Practice Games - If you find some more that help, Great! But my preference is to find the games that do the most for your players and play those a lot. One you might try is "2 Team Keepaway Practice Game" which is good for transitions and a great work out (in 2 minutes your players will be tired). I also recommend:

  1. Use Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race Practice Game to teach Aggressive Receiving, One-Touch and First-Touch
  2. Play Dribble Across a Square Practice Game with the square 17 steps wide and use that to teach your players to recognize Open Space and accelerate into Open Space (this will help teach them to use Open Space and to breakaway).
  3. See Shoulder Tackle and Strength on the Ball Practice Game for the new version I got from Coach Tony.

Thanks again for writing. Please let me know how the rest of your season goes and please share any ideas or observations you have. You are obviously an excellent coach and I'm glad SoccerHelp had helped your team.

David at SoccerHelp

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