Soccer Shift and Sag

A convenient term for describing what you want your players to do on defense. It has 2 meanings:

First, as attackers move the ball around the field, defenders should be constantly shifting to maintain good defensive coverage and the players farthest from the ball should "sag" back so they are in position to stop an attack on goal (this provides additional "depth" & concentration of defenders between the ball & the goal). This creates "multiple layers" of defenders in a position to stop an attack on goal. For example, if the ball is on the left side & the LF is the First Defender, then the LMF should be a Second Defender, the CF should also be a Second Defender, & the LFB should be the Third Defender. The CF should shift so he is within 5 - 7 steps of the ball & "sag" back a little so if the onball attacker tries to go to the left of the LF the CF is there to stop the penetration. The CMF should also "shift & sag" so he is between the CF & the goal (i.e., 10 - 15 steps behind the CF), & the CFB should do the same behind the CMF. On the right side, the RF should sag behind the CF, but not go past the center of the field (i.e., the imaginary line between the goals), etc. These relationships are shown in the diagram below. If the ball were on the right side, it would be reversed. Note that all defenders don't try to stay precisely between the ball & the goal (if they did you would have no "width" & your field "coverage" would be poor); however, they are in position to "recover" in time to stop an attack on goal.

Second, when a team loses the ball, the players nearest the ball should stay & try to be "First or Second Defenders" & slow down the attack. But all others should quickly "sag" back toward their goal (i.e., "Recover") to create multiple layers of defenders. This doesn't mean that everyone runs back in front of the goal; if they do it just makes it easy for the attackers to reach your Danger Zone. A rule of thumb is that the Fullbacks should drop back far enough that a long chip pass won't go over their heads. Also, keep in mind that even when the FB's have sagged back near their goal, you must leave some MF's & F's outside the Penalty Box in a position to win cleared balls & to receive passes so you can counterattack. If all your players are in the Penalty Box you won't be able to get the ball off your end of the field. (See "Defense", "Depth", "Support", "Support Distance & Relative Position" "Formations", "Zone Defense", "First Defender", "Recover", "Funnel" "Mark", "Formations" & "Pressure").

shift and sag diagram

O = Ball

This drawing assumes the other team has the ball & it shows relative defensive positions. It shows a pushed up defense which is sometimes not best for a rec team. (See "Formations"). Notice that there are multiple layers of defenders between the ball & the goal (i.e., "depth") as described above & that there is good coverage. Also notice that players move closer together when on defense. (They spread back out again to get "width" when they go back on offense). Defenders must always "shift & sag" with the ball, constantly moving up, back, left or right so they are in a position to "recover" in time to stop an attack on goal & are supporting each other.

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