No matter what the level, soccer teams prefer to play at home. The “home field” is familiar territory where points are usually easier to gain. Playing away games mean a field that is strange. It means usually some inconvenient traveling which can distract players before the game, and it means usually the opposition will have more support to encourage them.
Young players of kindergarten or pee wee age might find playing away games to be very scary. Ensure your team that the field is no different than the one they’re used to and there’s nothing to worry about.
Unless your team is in a very elite league, you won’t have to worry about changing tactics for away games. If you are vying for a championship of some kind, it can be a different story.
It seems clear that a team must therefore approach an away situation in a different way to a home match. Top clubs will be able to know in advance how their opponents are likely to play on their own ground, and will be able to plan how to counter such tactics down to the smallest detail. At lower levels this fine degree of planning is usually not possible, but there are certain broad tactics which can help any team overcome some of the problems involved in playing away.
Remember that any tactical plan you propose to adopt for an away match must be geared to both the abilities of the players in your team. It’s no good giving specific tasks to players who do not have the specific abilities to carry them out.
Unless you’re certain that you are much superior to your opponents, it’s always wise to approach an away match with some caution. A simple example is to adopt the policy of selecting a forward as substitute for a home game, whom you might bring on if you are struggling to score, but selecting a defender for an away game who can be brought on to defend a lead.
The emphasis away from home is likely to be on defense, at least until the team has adjusted to the conditions and can play its normal game. Playing at home gives confidence. At home a club expects to win and will be more aggressive.
As an away team, you can counter this by restricting the space available for the home team to play in. Forwards should play a little deeper and players who play as wingers at home should drop back to help out in midfield.
In practice sessions and with drills, play simulated games using the away tactics. Then once the game starts your players won’t play as if they’re unfamiliar with the game plan.
Caution, rather than pure defense, is the best attitude to adopt away from home. A total reliance on defense will give the opposition a lot of possession and they will be able to apply pressure. Their defenders, who will have little to worry about if they’re never forced to defend, will be able to support attacks, and only a supremely organized or fortunate side will survive.
Caution, with the midfield players adopting defensive roles and forwards working back deeper, will give the team a chance to find their feet in strange surroundings. Then, if things are going well, the players can resume their normal roles. If the home team is still exerting a lot of pressure, these cautious tactics should keep you in the game by restricting the space the opponents have to play in, and by threatening counter-attacks.
It’s important to take points from away matches. Titles will never be won by teams who cannot win on an opponent’s grounds.