How to Teach Creative Soccer Attacking
Is it a Good Idea to Teach "Triangles"?
Are Triangles the Objective, or a Result of Support?
Passing to Space vs. Passing to Feet
Soccer Concepts that Should be Taught at a Young Age
Passing to Space, Aggressive Receiving & One Touch Play are ways of thinking about playing soccer

(The following is from the Premium Forum. The links are to SoccerHelp Premium. If you're a Premium Member, you should only have to log-in once as long as you leave a link open)

Below is part of correspondence from the Premium Forum. It has been edited for this article.

To the Forum,

What I think Soccer Help has done for me is give me different concepts and different ways to teach them. My kids have done the "Dribble Around a Cone & Pass Relay Race" and "Dribble Across a Square" soccer practice games so much they groan every time I bring them up. But the concept of "Passing to Space" is a great one because it enables me to teach the concept of playing soccer based on "where my players can be" not just where they are.

I think Defending Deep hasn't worked for my team because then my team plays a lot more like the formation sounds "2-1-2-2"; however, When I Push Up my defenders, the 2-1-2-2 formation plays closer, albeit not exactly; to a 2-3-2 � the Stopper is like playing a recessed Center Mid and telling her to hang back a little and let the other 4 work the attack.

What this "hang back" in open space accomplishes is having a player who can often quickly reverse the field of play when our attack has lost the ball and the opponent's transition has begun. When I think about it, I believe that many of our goals are not because our attack itself is effective--it probably isn't. But the Stopper's ability to intercept passes or scoop up bad touches from the opponent's forwards and immediately convert that to a Pass to Space behind an opponent's defenders who are headed upfield while our forward is waiting for that pass has given us a number of one on goalie only situations (i.e., breakaways). So, even though I had weaker players at Forward, they could still score.

My real purpose here is to compliment this site for providing a different way of recognizing and teaching concepts. My girls are "outskilled" right now because they are playing girls who play more often under the direction of better coaches. The concepts I have gotten here have enabled me to help these girls be more competitive while their skill level improves. I will keep throwing out my revelations and probably the occasionally "over-engineered" thought process on the off chance that there's a dad (or mom) whose only interest in soccer is to help his daughter play a game she enjoys and that by a strange fluke my ramblings throw out a concept that he (or she) can use.


Coach B.


Hi Coach B,

Thanks for the kind words. Soccer Help is a lot of work and encouragement gives me the energy to continue.

I think you have excellent natural insights as a soccer coach and your ability to apply concepts from basketball is very useful.

I think you are correct that a creative soccer attack will involve "Passing to Space" instead of just "Passing to Feet", because Passing to Space causes players to learn to think about open space and how to use it. I think the concept of Passing to Space is a "concept"... a way of thinking, as opposed to "Passing to Feet". I think it is best to teach kids that Concept at the earliest age instead of teaching them that "a pass" is a "pass to feet". Once they start thinking a "pass" should be to "feet", it is harder to teach them to Pass to Space and Movement off the Ball. I think it is like teaching a language - the earlier you start, the better. I think other important concepts like Aggressive Receiving and one-touch play should also be taught as soon as possible because they are ways of thinking about how to play soccer. By "one-touch play", I don't mean to start with one-touch passing... what I mean is to teach kids that when they receive a pass they can move faster by one-touching the ball into open space either away from a defender or in the direction they are moving so they can accelerate faster. A good way to teach this is by playing the Dribble Around Cone & Pass Relay Race the game instructions explain how... it is a very effective way to teach the concept of "one-touch" because the players who one-touch their passes into space will win and those who don't will probably lose, so the game makes it obvious to the players why it is important.

About Defending Deep: You did absolutely the right thing for your team. Pushing Up the Fullbacks is a better way to play if a team can do it without giving up a lot of goals on breakaways.

You are right about SoccerHelp using a "different way". I spent a great deal of time going to classes but found that a lot of what was taught didn't apply to my teams. I started looking for ideas and concepts that worked better for my teams and shared them in SoccerHelp. Over the years my ideas have evolved based on what I have learned from coaches like you about what works best.

I was thinking about the "Triangles" discussion and what you and Dan said. If someone can teach that way effectively, I would like to hear about it, but it seems to me that Triangles are a natural "result" of providing support on attack. Here is a thought: If a coach teaches players to make a "Triangle" when attacking, I wonder if they will miss the points of what they really need to be doing on attack and if focusing on making a "triangle" reduces the creativity of an attack. Do players start to think making a "triangle" is attacking?

Below is the best way I found to teach the roles players should play when attacking, and I had success with it leading to creative attacking, even with Rec teams. These are stated in the form of "Rules" that I taught my players:

  1. When we have the ball, there should always be a First Attacker, Second Attackers, and Third Attackers. The player with the ball is the "First Attacker". The First Attacker's job is to "penetrate" (i.e., attack the goal) by passing, dribbling or "centering" the ball to a space in front of the goal. When one of our players has the ball, there must always be at least one Second Attacker who is close enough for a pass. (This is called "Support"). For example, if our LF is attacking down the left side on the opponent's half of the field, the LMF should "trail" her as a Second Attacker, stay a pass away, and be ready for a "Back Pass", while the other Forward should run toward the "Near Post" as another Second Attacker and the other MF should run toward the "Far Post" as the Third Attacker, to be ready for a "Cross" or a "Rebound". If we get a Breakaway, the Second and Third Attackers should stay 3 steps behind the ball so they won't be offside and can run onto the Cross. There can be more than one Second Attacker (which is defined as a supporting attacker within a short to medium-distance pass of the ball). We must have Second and Third Attackers to have an effective attack. Second Attackers as those within a short to medium passing distance and Third Attackers as those in scoring position or running with the attack but a long pass away from the First Attacker.

  2. Do NOT go closer than a short pass to the First Attacker because if you go too close one defender can cover both of you (I demonstrate this on the field by having a player "defend" me and having a Second Attacker come toward me while the rest of the team watches). By staying a pass away you give the First Attacker the option to pass you the ball and make it harder to defend our attack.

  3. When the First Attacker dribbles toward you, MOVE AWAY - don't just stand there - if you stand there you aren't crating a passing option (I demonstrate this while the team watches).

  4. When we lose the ball, the player closest MUST immediately become the First Defender and slow down the opponent's attack until we have time to recover. The Win the 50/50 Ball or be the First Defender 1 v 1 Attacking & Defending Game can help teach this.

  5. You can dribble to pull defenders toward you so teammates get open for a pass, but if you have an open pass, take it. We can move the ball faster by passing than by dribbling.

I appreciate you sharing your ideas and the results - thank you. That is helpful. I'm always open to new ideas. Also, I've learned that the best approach for one team or for one situation might not be the best for another.

Thanks again.

David at SoccerHelp