By Rob Smith
Great defensive players use a lot of instinct and effort, but practice and repetition can help improve your team’s defensive tactics. As with any soccer skill, foundations are important and the basics are what all levels of player give time improving. Here are 7 ways to take your team’s soccer defense to the next level.
The defense uses marking, or covering, to slow down an opponent and allow teammates to recover their positions. Technically, marking an opponent well requires the correct positioning and posture. Defenders should try to mark the offensive player nearest them by positioning themselves between that player and the goal. When teaching players how to mark, have them maintain a ready position, knees bent, and body leaning slightly forward. The eyes should be focused on the dribbler’s mid-section. Positioning can be adjusted based on the dribbler’s speed, ability, and location on the field.
Any act of taking the ball from an offensive player can be called tackling. Great tackling is all about timing. Players should step in whenever the attacker temporarily loses control of the ball and not be afraid to attempt to take the ball when they have the chance. Lunging at the ball, also called diving in or throwing the leg, is a poor tactic for gaining possession, and a good dribbler usually goes around a defender who does so.
Heading on defense is a great way to clear the ball away from the goal when in danger. The technical aspects of heading the ball are the same whether playing offense or defense, except that defenders usually want to head the ball up and away whereas offensive players want to head the ball towards the ground.
When players become good at timing and instinct, they should try to intercept a pass instead of waiting for an attacker to receive the pass before trying to get the ball. Defenders need to be alert for opportunities to intercept passes and then step in between the receiver and the ball before the receiver can get it. When looking for a great time to intercept, a good defender should look receivers that are moving slowly or not moving towards a pass to receive it.
Clearing the Ball
Clearing means sending the ball high and away from the goal when in danger from an opposing offense. It’s best, when a defender gains skill, to try to intercept a ball and take possession so that a counterattack under control is possible.
Goalkeepers need several basic skills to be successful. One includes the “ready position.” In this position the knees are bent and the body leans slightly forward. The, goalkeepers should come off the goal line towards the ball to narrow the shooting angle. Stopping shots is another basic skill. Shots will be ground shots, waist-high shots, and chest-high shots. As a keeper grows in skill, he or she will learn to hang on to all shots with the hands and it that’s impossible, deflect the ball out of danger.
The defender nearest the opponent in possession of the ball applies the pressure. Usually, the defender must be within 2 strides of the attacker. One player at a time should apply pressure and is applies by proper covering of the attackers, especially the one in possession of the ball.