Defending Deep is a conservative defense and the opposite of "Pushing Up". It refers to leaving your Fullbacks deep on your half of the field, usually within your "Defensive Third" and sometimes within your Penalty Box (you can give them specific boundaries to stay within, such as to not come past the top of the Penalty Box Arc unless it is to kick away a loose ball). The primary reason for Defending Deep would be if the opposing Forwards are faster than your Fullbacks (if the opponent's Forwards are faster, they can get "Breakaways" and score easy goals). Another reason might be if you don't have subs and leave your FB's deep to reduce their running and conserve their energy, so you don't have to sub them. The advantages of Defending Deep are that you won't give up goals on "breakaways" and that your Fullbacks will be in position to defend your goal. The disadvantage is that your Fullbacks don't support your attack as they do if you "Push Up". On Premium there is a great deal of information about how to teach "Defending Deep" and how to attack a "Packed In Defense". See Should You Push Up When You Attack?
Note for U6 and U8 Coaches about Whether to Push Up or Defend Deep:
If you are a U6 coach, don't worry about tactics, just have fun.
If you are a U8 Rec coach, you are probably better off to Push Up your Fullbacks to the Halfway Line when you attack instead of Defending Deep and having your Fullbacks stop on the Penalty Box Line. There are 2 reasons: The first reason is because your opponents probably can't attack as a team so the threat of giving up a lot of goals on breakaways isn't great. The second reason is that many U8 Rec coaches probably can't train their Midfielders and Forwards to drop back to a position to win cleared balls when their goal is under attack. Defending Deep only works if the Coach can train his Midfielders and Forwards that when their goal is under attack they MUST come back to a position where they can win cleared balls. If the MFs and Fs don't drop back to win the cleared balls, it is a disaster because the team Defending Deep can never clear the ball out of its Defensive Third and the opposing team will win all the balls your Fullbacks try to clear.
Remember, every situation is different and your decision should be based on your players and opponents, but if I coached a typical U8 Rec team, I would start by Pushing Up my Fullbacks when I attacked. IF I faced a great team that was scoring on breakaways, then I might consider Defending Deep, BUT I would only Defend Deep if I was able to train my MFs and Fs to drop back to a position to win cleared balls when our goal was under attack, because otherwise we would never clear the ball out of our Defensive Third. As I mention below, I might consider splitting the difference and Pushing Up halfway to the Halfway Line because that would stop most of the breakaways and your Fullbacks wouldn't be as far from your MFs and Forwards, so it would be easier for the MFs and Forwards to win cleared balls.
Of course, keep in mind that there are lots of variations of Defending Deep and Pushing Up and being "Pushed Up half way" and "Defending Deep half way" are the same thing – your Fullbacks would be halfway to the Halfway Line in either case. Pushing Up halfway to the Halfway Line would stop most of the breakaways and your Fullbacks wouldn't be as far from your MFs and Forwards, so it would be easier for the MFs and Forwards to win cleared balls. If you coached a U8 Rec team you would probably tell your Fullbacks that their job is to kick the ball forward or to slow down the attack until your midfielders can recover to help.
You can probably get away with Pushing Up slow Fullbacks to the Halfway Line until about U9 or U10 most of the time. 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 you have the speed to do so, Pushing Up your Fullbacks is definitely preferable. If you Defend Deep, Push Up your Fullbacks to at least to the Penalty Box Line – don't leave them on the Goal Box Line, that won't help you much and they will be in your Goalie's way.
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