Soccer Tactics to Defeat Better Teams
How a Rec Team Beat a JV Team
11v11 Soccer Formations, 1-3-4-2
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(Hi, this is David at SoccerHelp. Below is a letter from a U15 coach and my reply. As you will see, he did something that rarely happens and his Rec team beat a JV team. His tactics had a lot to do with it. Basically, he gave his team a chance to win, and they did. He was hoping for a draw, but instead his team won 3-1.)

Dear SoccerHelp,

I was wondering if you could suggest a good formation for me.

I coach a rec u15 team and will be playing 2 JV private school teams soon that are well coached and plays rec between school seasons.

I have 17 girls on the team and have used 3-5-2,3-3-4, and 4-4-2 with success. against rec teams I have

-- 4 shutdown defenders 2 swap play goalie but will have a harder time against a better organized attack.

-- 2 mids that can run all day goal to goal and side to side with 1 having superb ball handling

-- 2 true forwards and a good mix of younger players that play from mid to forward.

My younger players aren't the strongest players but they hustle and don't quit.

As far as I can tell the JV team is using 3 forwards. They can both run up a lot of points on weaker teams but the other team that matches up the best with us has played them to 2-0 losses.

With these teams playing to a draw is as good as a win and gives our girls loads of confidence. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.




Hi Bill,

You have a good team and I can tell you are a good coach.

I will give you some ideas -

  1. First, I find the old numbering systems very imprecise and have noticed that even the Soccer Journal is using numbering that actually describes the formation. Example: instead of a 3-5 2, a 3-1-3-1-2 - or whatever it actually is.
  2. What are your fears about how you will give up goals? Is it on breakaways? If so, think about using a Sweeper to slow the attack until your FBs can recover. So that might be a 1-3-4-2.
  3. Do you need the width that comes from 4 flat MF's?
  4. Would a Stopper help you?
  5. Part of your decision will be whether to Push Up your FBs when you attack, and if you do, how far.
  6. Assuming you Push Up the FBs, I would think about more "depth" like a 1-3-1-3-2 where you are using both a Sweeper and a Defending MF - that gives you 5 defenders, 4 in midfield (1+3) and 5 who can come into the attack
  7. Against better teams you will do better if you are more defensive, but you still must be able to launch an attack. The best success I have seen by underdog teams is a conservative defense that leaves some forwards pushed up (near the halfway line when your goal is under attack) to keep 2 or 3 of the opposing FBs from coming onto your half of the field. Send at least a few long balls early in the game to keep the opposing Fullbacks worried about the possibility of breakaways so they will stay off your half.

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

David at SoccerHelp



I want to thank you for your information you shared and the very fast replies.

We played the first JV team today and won 3-1.

I used 1-3-4-2 you suggested and it worked great. It worked so well that it didn't matter that I was missing 4 players today due to the holiday weekend, 2 of which were my true forwards. I do prefer to play more aggressive soccer and push up my FB's. Today I had them stay back a little more with the sweeper supporting the D. The girls played great today and kept the ball moving forward. We would have won 3-0 but our sweeper bumped a ball in trying to help the goalie with a high floating shot.

I used 1 of my shutdown defenders as a sweeper and the other on the opposing teams strong side. My best midfielder was in the middle and scored all 3 goals for us. She's going to be great in HS or Select or both! My forwards did a good job of keeping their defense harassed and off their game to allow my inner mids to push up and score.

Thanks again for the replies and all the information on your web site. I'll be using a similar setup for the other JV team in a weeks time. This was a great win for us today!



Hi Bill,

Congratulations! Thanks for letting me know. It sounds like your team dominated. I know you are proud and deservedly so - it is a great achievement. My guess is that you our coached the other coach.

I would suggest you keep doing what you did today - it really worked great, especially considering that your 2 true forwards were out.

I look forward to hearing about the next one.


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