Soccer Coaching – How to Defend When Your Team Lacks Speed

by Coach Cip

I have been asked this by many coaches of younger teams especially U13. You cannot coach speed, so you have to change your tactics. Here are a few adjustments to consider. Keep in mind that no two players are identical, nor are any two teams identical. What works for one may not work for the other.

Now that you are playing 11v11 you are dealing with a much larger pitch than 8v8. Sounds obvious, but many coaches do not make the appropriate adjustments. From a defensive standpoint, you have more space to cover, so division of work load is crucial. As we all know there are some teams that are very physical, technical or have a mixture of both attributes. This will determine how you play without the ball.

You can try playing deeper or dropping off when you lose possession so that there is very little space in behind you to exploit. This means working on transition in practice, because you want at least 9 players behind the ball when defending teams with pace. This enables you to deny passing lanes and as a result slow the attack.

You can also ask that the midfield players work harder to close the opponents down, so that they play negative or square passes. This may require that you employ a five man midfield. The outside midfielders should close the opposing outside backs, as they approach the half line, to deny service. The reason for this is that most teams with pace try to play over the top. You can utilize screens in midfield, as well, to prevent easy access to speedy forwards.

If you have a very advanced group tactically, you can decide to use an off side-trap. I personally do not like it, because I believe that players at this age should rely on principles of individual and small group defending before being taught to depend on a system to do the defending for them.

The most important thing is to continue to develop the kids by teaching them how to play soccer. The component of physical speed evens out as players mature, so be astute enough to recognize this and keep your long term objectives at the forefront.

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