Is it Better for Rec Soccer Teams to Defend Deep or Push Up?Hi to the Forum, This is Coach S. Here's basically what I'm struggling with: Defending Deep is an invaluable strategy for helping Rec teams win soccer games. Coach Al's trouncing of the U12 team shows this! But, at some point, I think we need to work on player development (Class E License buzzword!) and teaching a 12 year old soccer fullback to Play Deep is....somehow...not teaching the player the game of soccer as it's played at an advanced level. I'm defining Defending Deep here as having the fullbacks not go past the goal box. I would not want to put a Rec league fullback any other way than Defending Deep under the age of...I don't know U10 maybe...but what got me really thinking about this was something that happened at my weekly U14 pick-up game: We play on a very big field for U14 and I had some U12 players out playing with us. I was playing goalie for my side. The ball was consistently on the other team's side of the soccer field. I kept telling the 11 and 12 year old fullback playing in front of me to Push Up. He basically shook in fear almost to the point of tears at the thought of leaving the goal line! When the other team came on a counterattack, my left fullback prepared himself for the 13 year old with the ball to simply dribble at him, but instead the player took a nice wide open shot and put it in the bottom right corner (naturally I COULD have stopped it, but I wanted to teach my fullbacks a lesson). Any thoughts are appreciated! Coach S --------------------------------------- Hi Coach S, This is Coach A. I'd have to say that this would be a team to team decision. I simply don't have the speed with my Fullbacks to play pushed up to the midfield line. In the 1 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 1 I used the other day for the practice game, I could also say I used a 4 - 3 - 1, but with three layers in my defense. Playing a Flat Defense with my defenders that pushed up against 4 or 5 or 6 attackers would leave me with maybe 2 defenders that could keep pace. So, in my defensive "System of Play" I played the Sweeper to push up to the soccer Penalty Box line. I Pushed my two fullbacks up to the bottom of the center circle; and I pushed my Stopper up to the midfield line and if she was on ball, she could carry it into the offensive half as far as needed and then recover back to a safe defensive position. I'd say as far as player development goes... that teaching them the principles of defense and their defensive roles, in this case, and how that relates to play during a game is how we develop them to play... if they have the talent, skills, and speed, at advanced levels of soccer. These translate over to a Flat Defense that's pushed up or to a layered defense. My two pennies. Coach A --------------------------------------- Good points Coach A. I all too often try to look at these things as black and white rather than as a grey area. Coach S --------------------------------------- Hi Coach S, This is David at SoccerHelp. First, I would say that if you are leaving your Fullbacks in your soccer Goal Box, you are leaving them too deep. If they are slow, let them Push Up to the Penalty Box line and if your Center Fullback is fast, let him Push Up farther (for example, halfway to the Halfway Line, or to the inside of the Center Circle on your half of the field). Pushing Up and Defending Deep are different soccer Styles of Play. In brief, you should use the Style of Play that gives your team and players the best chance of being successful. The reason to "Push Up" is that it potentially allows your FBs to provide support for your attack. Another reason is that it creates a soccer "offside trap" that keeps opponents from hanging out near your goal. The danger of Pushing Up your FBs is that IF the opposing Forwards are faster than your Fullbacks, you might give up easy goals on Breakaways. (If an opponent Pushes Up the FBs and your Forwards are faster, a good attacking Style of Play is a fast counterattack, where you leave your Forwards Pushed Up when your goal is under attack and kick the ball to the Open Space behind the opposing FBs so your Forwards can run onto the ball for breakaways. Your Forwards should be able to outrun the opposing FBs because they are faster, and this teaches "Passing to Space"). There are lots of different degrees of "Pushing Up" and "Defending Deep" � it doesn't have to be all Fullbacks on the Halfway Line or all Fullbacks on the Penalty Box line. If your FBs are slow, let them Push Up to the Penalty Box line and if your CFB is fast, let her Push Up farther. How far you can safely Push Up your FBs depends on how fast they are. Also, keep in mind that the If your Fullbacks are fast, you can safely Push Up one of more of your Fullbacks beyond the Penalty Box Line (maybe even to the Halfway Line), and that is preferable to Defending Deep at the top of the Penalty Box if you can do it without giving up soccer breakaways. Coach A's approach to Pushing Up is based his player's speed and on what gives his team the best chance of success: "In my defensive "System of Play" I played the Sweeper to push up to the soccer Penalty Box line. I Pushed my two fullbacks up to the bottom of the center circle; and I pushed my Stopper up to the midfield line and if she was on ball, she could carry it into the offensive half as far as needed and then recover back to a safe defensive position." As Coach A mentions, there are lots of different degrees of "Pushing Up" and "Defending Deep" � it doesn't have to be all Fullbacks on the Halfway Line or all Fullbacks in the Penalty Box. You should use the Style of Play that gives your team and players the best chance of being successful. Actually, there are professional teams that Defend Deep at times. Recently, Chelsea defended deep against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Semi Finals in May 2009. Now, they didn't leave players on the Penalty Box line, but they are among the top professional teams in the world and they played a conservative defense (for them they "Defended Deep") against Barcelona in that game as opposed to aggressively Pushing Up, and it was a good strategy because they would have won except for 2 very bad calls by the referees. The situation you describe isn't likely to happen to you in your normal matches. If a team can consistently put the ball in the corner of the net from 20-30 yards out, you are going to lose to that team whether you Push Up or not. Play the Style of Play that gives your team and players the best chance of being successful and everyone will be happier and players will stay with soccer longer. How I Learned that It Wasn't Always Best to Push Up Fullbacks to the Halfway Line. I first started Defending Deep with a U-14 Rec soccer team because I was forced to -- before that I Pushed Up because that's what the "better" coaches did and I was told "it's better for the players". At U14 I was assigned 2 soccer players who were very brave but VERY slow and unskilled (our League assigned the players in an effort to balance the teams). The other coaches didn't want those players and even players on my team who had played with them before were worried about them being on our team. Those 2 players were smart and brave, but very slow, and couldn't dribble or pass very well. One was small and one was average-sized. Because they were slow but brave I decided to put them at LFB and RFB and I let them play the entire game there. I let my fast CFB Push Up but made the 2 slow FBs Defend Deep (stopping at the Penalty Box line) because they were SOOO slow. Those boys were an inspiration because they were brave and tenacious, and they did great as long as they stayed deep, and their teammates respected them and were glad to have them on our team. When they tried to Push Up the opposing Forwards blew by them like they were statues. The point is, those 2 players were successful because I let them Defend Deep (stopping at the Penalty Box Line), whereas every other coach had tried to Push them Up and they couldn't be successful when they Pushed Up to the Halfway Line � in fact, they were doomed to failure when they were Pushed Up to the Halfway Line � even I could have outrun them. That experience was an eye opener for me and the start of my idea that it wasn't best to always Push Up to the Halfway Line. After that, I always Defended Deep in Rec because I always had some slow Fullbacks, and I would have them stop at the Penalty Box line rather than Pushing Up to the Halfway Line. Now, if I had a Premier Team with really great, fast Fullbacks, I would Push Up to the Halfway Line. However, even our local High School team, which is often ranked in the top 10 in the Nation and a few years ago was # 1, uses a Sweeper who stays about 10 steps behind the Pushed Up Fullbacks, so that is a type of "Defending Deep", as opposed to a Flat Back 4. The point is, Do what gives your team the best chance of being successful � don't doom them to failure by trying to make them be something they can't be. Is Defending Deep detrimental for Rec players? Think carefully about what "Player Development" means - it really means developing skills. Every Rec player isn't fast or a great athlete. Pushing Up and Defending Deep are just different Styles of Play. Don't buy into the idea that you are doing your players a disservice if you don't Push Up. If your players are fast enough to Push Up, Great!!! But the only reason to Push Up or Defend Deep is because of Speed. Don't believe Defending Deep is an inferior style -- it isn't. Lower Level teams in the English Premier League will Defend Deep against faster teams because they have to in order to have a chance, and that's the top professional league in the world. I don't see how it helps your players if you Push Up slow Fullbacks to the Halfway Line and lose all your games. To What Age Can You Get Away With Pushing Up Slow Soccer Fullbacks to the Halfway Line? You can probably get away with Pushing Up slow Fullbacks to the Halfway Line until about U9 or U10. The reason is that most soccer teams simply don't have the skill to counterattack until U9 or U10. But by U9 or U10, if you Push Up slow Fullbacks against a well-coached team, you will give up lots of goals on breakaways. So, you will be able to beat poorly coached teams, but not well-coached teams. If your Fullbacks are fast, you can safely Push Up one of more of your Fullbacks beyond the Penalty Box Line (maybe even to the Halfway Line), and that is preferable to Defending Deep at the top of the Penalty Box if you can do it without giving up breakaways. David at SoccerHelp
How Far Should You Push Up?
Is Defending Deep real soccer?
Are Fullbacks being deprived if they aren't taught to Push Up to the soccer Halfway Line?
Do Professional Soccer Teams Ever Defend Deep?
For most teams, it isn't "all or nothing" � you should Push Up your Fullbacks as far as they can safely Push Up but at least to the top of the soccer Penalty Box
To what age can you get away with Pushing Up slow soccer Fullbacks to the Halfway Line?