Importance of a Stopper in 8V8 Soccer
2-1-2-2 vs. 2-3-2 Soccer Formation
Analysis, Evaluation and Tips
How to launch a counterattack and score more goals against a Pushed Up Team

(The following letter is very insightful and analyzes the differences in play of a U-12 Rec team using a 2-3-2 formation and a 2-1-2-2 formation, and Pushing Up all the time vs. adjusting to circumstances and occasionally Defending Deep. I want to thank Coach Mark who took the time to write. Notice that their record with the same team improved from 3-4 to 5-2-1 and they tied the best team in their league 5-5, an undefeated team that had beaten them 9-1 the prior season. Coach Mark says of that 5-5 tie: "This was a huge victory for us and a personal highlight of my 4 years of coaching." He describes the Style of Play his team used to launch fast counterattacks against the Pushed Up undefeated team.)

Hi SoccerHelp,

I coached my daughter's U12 girls Rec team the last 2 seasons (assistant in the fall season, head coach in the following spring season). I followed the advice of my neighbor (played college and now coaches) along with your recommendations for a 2-1-2-2 formation. Being the assistant in the first half, I created our lineup and convinced the coach to use a Stopper. Unfortunately, the coach played the Stopper forward essentially as a center midfield. My lineup was transferred into a 2-3-2 and we were constantly getting beat in our defensive zone. The spring session I was able to play the kids my way and offer the following report comparing both formations. I also include comments on adjusting this formation for tough opponents and those playing an offside trap. Thanks for SoccerHelp and the helpful information, even for those of us who are not premium subscribers. Your love for the game shows.

Here are my observations and analysis:

Comparison:

2-1-2-2 lineup with a strong, aggressive, defensive minded player as Stopper and at least one sharp shooter as Forward compared to a 2-3-2 formation.

Analysis, Findings and Tips:

The 2-1-2-2 formation provides greater depth and flexibility than 2-3-2. If the other team�s offense manages to pass one line, the next line is there to prevent further progress forward. This deep formation helps to keep the Center of the Field (length of the field net to net) in your team�s control. If the opposing team goes up the side, your team can simply shift left or right while still maintaining control of the central field area.

This formation enables your team to instantly adjust to an opponent�s strategy and abilities. If an opponent is not exceptionally strong, push midfielders up for a dominant offense. If an opponent is strong, adjust the stopper and defenders back further and pull the midfield back as additional defense. This latter tactic is especially useful in two cases:

Summary of Results for 2-3-2 Formation vs. a 2-1-2-2 Formation (U12 Girls Rec League):

The 2-1-2-2 proved to be superior over the 2-3-2: I had the same basic core team in fall and spring but the Stopper was pushed forward in fall (effectively making the line-up a 2-3-2) and played back on defense the following spring (true 2-1-2-2).

  • Fall record: 3 W & 4 L (last game rained out). We gave up many goals because the Stopper was not able to get back in time to cover breakaways and the remaining 2 defenders were often outnumbered. We played the best team in the league only once and were beaten 9-1 (they were undefeated).
  • Spring record: 5 W, 2 L, 1 Tie. Rotating our most athletic players in Stopper and Forward positions, we kept the ball out of our zone a majority of the time. There were some games where the opponent did not get a single quality shot on goal because they couldn�t penetrate our zone. Stopper played defense at center line and was instructed to clear the ball out of our zone immediately.

Analysis of Wins and Losses Playing a 2-1-2-2:

3 wins were major shutouts, 2 other wins were almost shutouts (we gave up only 1 goal each). One loss was only by 1 goal to a fairly strong team.

We lost 1 and tied 1 to the undefeated team which was played two different ways:

  • In the Loss we used Standard Midfield positioning. We were tied at the half but gave up 5 goals to lose in the second half.

  • In the Tie the Midfield played back with Stopper and Defense: They Pushed Up and we used the approach described above to launch fast counterattacks and beat their "offside trap". The result was that we tied 5-5. This was a huge victory for us and a personal highlight of my 4 years of coaching. Our level of play was much better.

Regards,

Retired Coach Mark

(David�s Reply)

Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing. Your letter has made my day. SoccerHelp is a "hobby" job for me -- I have a day job too and it re-energizes me to know that SoccerHelp is helping coaches. And thanks for the kind comments.

I've received some criticism from Travel Team and College Coaches for my ideas such as "Defending Deep". Some people think there is a "one size fits all" approach and that Rec teams should try to play like college teams. I think each team should do what is the most fun and allows them to be successful and to achieve their potential. In my experience, most kids would rather play a good game and would rather win than lose. It's discouraging to get killed and not have a chance. That's why some leagues try to balance the teams so they are competitive. My guess is that the "best" team you played had more fast, athletic players than your team and that is part of why they won so easily when your team "Pushed Up" -- they were simply faster. Your story shows that good coaching and motivation can allow an underdog to have a chance against a stronger team. When a team plays well against a stronger team, it gives them confidence and they start to listen to the coach because they see he can help the team play better.

Your analysis is very insightful and it's obvious that you are a student of the game.

You say you're "retired" from coaching -- that's a shame, you're an excellent coach.

I've set up a free 1 year Membership for you to Premium.

Thanks again and please share any more good ideas -- you're insightful and a good writer. I hope you coach again sometime or share your knowledge with other coaches. I will coach my granddaughter next year in U-4, so I�ll be coming out of retirement.

David at SoccerHelp


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