3-2

LUSC: 6v6 Team Shape by Brendan Donahue

*While researching images for 3-2, I found this wonderful article from Brendan Donahue.  I emailed him and received his permission to re-publish it here.  Thanks Brendan!

This is an article to provide coaches a few options to consider. It is NOT intended to be a training session for young players.

 The transition from the 4v4 game with no goalies to the 6v6 game can be a bit overwhelming for players and coaches. It is the first time the goalkeeper is introduced as a member of the team and throw-ins and goal kicks are introduced to the game. All of these new facets of the game can make for a difficult transition for everyone involved. Although the technical development of the players MUST remain the priority of all coaches, it is helpful to understand various ways you can align your team. Please note these formations are something a coach should be aware of, but not spend a great deal of time focusing on. Please encourage players to cover spaces and not remain in a certain position!

Remember to rotate all players so they experience playing in different areas of the field!

Here are a few options to choose from and reasons why you might select to align your team in this fashion. I have inserted triangles to show how players should remain connected to one another. This includes the goalkeeper:

Option 1: K-2-2-1 (back to front)

2-2-1
2-2-1

This formation will allow you to maximize the width of the field, while still having a strong amount of cover at the back (notice the keeper should not be planted on his goal line). One area you’ll be conceding in this system will be the central midfield. This might not be the best option at the youngest age groups. The single player up top can become isolated from his/her teammates and the team may struggle to create goal scoring opportunities.

Option 2: K-2-1-2

2-1-2
2-1-2

If you choose to align your team in this fashion you’ll be in a good position to control the middle of the field, while conceding the space out wide. Defensively this is a better option for young players. They learn to remain compact and not get beat down the middle of the field. If they move as a group they’ll be able to limit the space for the opposition to attack through. However, it is difficult for players to learn to “widen out” and create space once they regain possession. This can be a good option to select if you are playing against a stronger opponent. You will also have closer support when one of the players up front receives the ball.

Option 3: K-3-2

Let’s examine this formation a bit closer!

3-2
3-2

This (K-3-2) would be my preferred playing style.   You have excellent cover at the back while having good numbers to control the middle of the field. One of the keys components, if you choose to align your team in this fashion, is that you encourage the flank players at the back to “attack the space” in front of them.

(Pictured Below).

3-2 Building from Back
3-2 Building from Back

“Building out of the back” (pictured right): Notice how when the right wing player attacks the space with the dribble that the two other players at the back slide over to protect the space at the back. One of the reasons I prefer having the additional player begin at the back is that young players are generally more comfortable when they can see the field in front of them. If you start players higher (K-2-3) up the field, the front players will spend a lot of the game facing their own goal.

3-2 Shape
3-2 Shape

Midfield or beyond (pictured right): When the team is in the opposing half of the field it is okay for the central defender to step into the attack if he is under no pressure, but the other players at the back should recognize this and “pinch in”. Please observe how the goalkeeper does not remain on the goal line, but instead moves toward the top of the penalty box to remain closer to his/her teammates. 

Opposition in possession (below):

3-2 poor shape
3-2 poor shape

In this picture you see an example of poor team shape! White is defending too much of the field and the players are “disconnected” from one another. It is important when the opposition is in possession of the ball that players learn to try to get “compact” and defend as a group.

 Proper Team Shape (Below):

3-2 proper shape
3-2 proper shape

(Pictured right) Notice how the white players limit the space for red to play through by remaining closer together or more “compact”. If the central defender steps closer to the oppositions forward, it will discourage the opponent to play into him. Observe how the keeper adjusts his/her position when the central defender moves forward. The two forwards (on white) should try to remain close to one another and begin to work as a group.

Ball on the flank (opponents’ possession):

White continues to remain “compact” by shifting to the “ball side”. This will limit the attackers’ options on the “near side” of the field. By remaining as a unit you will give the opposition far less open space to play through and create more opportunities for your players to regain possession.

Final thoughts:

Before deciding on “What system to play” or focusing on your team defending you must recognize that defensive success is first and foremost based on quality 1 vs. 1 defending. Getting pressure on the player with the ball is vital if the rest of the team is to carry out their defensive responsibilities. Only when this pressure takes place can the remainder of the players get “compact” and take away space from the attacking team.

Offensively, it is easier for young players to find space on the flanks. It is important that coaches encourage this in training by choosing exercises such as the Four Goal game. The exercises should allow the players to “discover” the answers for themselves without constant instruction from the coach.

Comments and feedback are always welcome at bdonahue@lexingtonunited.org

Brendan Donahue

Al-Pacino

Learning as a Soccer Coach: And you thought you were good

Biggest problem in professional development, no matter the profession, is an unwillingness to recognize that you can still improve.  Masking inadequacies with over-confidence is all too common.  It is a disease the infects all types of work, even soccer coaching.  As a coach, are you open to new ideas?  Are you considering how you can improve individually?  Are you willing to collaborate and share with others things you have learned and honestly ask for help in areas you know you are weak?

The last phrase is the kicker because if you do not know where your weaknesses are then you will improve at a snail’s pace.  Are you willing to self-evaluate?

I was reading a profile of Al Pacino (The New Yorker, Sept. 15, 2014, “Caught in the Act”) and one of Pacino’s comments struck me.  Comparing Pacino’s rise and success to Brando, the author quoted Pacino as follows:

I believe I have not reached my stride, which is why I persist.  The day I turn to you and say, ‘John, what I just did in this role was a real winner,’ I hope you’ll have the courage and decency to throw a wreath around my head, and then so very quietly and compassionately shoot me.

This is from an actor who has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards (winning one).  How great does he think he is?  How great do we think we are?  If you think you are, then you are done growing.   Are we “persisting?”

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8v8, 6v6 and SSG: Coaching Fails or, Alternatively, Where a Little Bit of Information Goes a Long Way

225862_1070322646729_406_nSmall-sided (“Small sided games” or “SSG”) soccer has been introduced in the States.  It has, through the years, trickled down to even the smallest clubs.  Courses are taught praising SSG — and that we should “let the game be the teacher.”  We still have a long way to go.  Coaches attend courses and hear what they want to hear.  Then there are those who take it too far — whether by choice or laziness.

Letting the game be the teacher can be a crutch to a coach.  Why bother preparing coaching points, questions, activities — just let them play.  And, if I do that, then I am letting the “game be the teacher.”

But, if you coach/teach players U8-U13 (even older), “letting the game be the teacher” is not an excuse for lack of preparation.  It is not an excuse for ignoring the needs of your team.  In the U8-U13 ages, players are entering the world of team play — and advanced team play.  It is in these times, a little bit of information goes a long way.  What kind of information?

Here are some Coaching Fails for this age group where a little bit of information goes a long way.

1.  Your team concedes lot of goals on goal kicks.  The Coaching fail is not taking time to teach the players how to take a goal kick, where to take a goal kick, options to the kick, where your teammates can be, or maybe even a play.  I do not buy the excuse that we should avoid tactics at these ages.  A few minutes here and there, a bit of organization, and problem solved.  I have no problems with my teams conceding goals, but the kids work too hard to have them give them away because they do not have a few pieces of information.

2.  Your goalie doesn’t know when he can pick the ball up and when he has to play with his feet.  Again, a little bit of information goes a long way.  Even with rotated keepers, it doesn’t take much effort to teach them when they can pick up a ball — most kids, without the information — will assume that even an errant ball, or a rebounded ball off a teammate — is off limits.  What if a teammate passes to them intentionally – hopefully we are teaching our players to include the keeper.  Educate them on the Laws of the Game.  I hate seeing keepers concede silly goals because they just do not know.

3.  Your goalie doesn’t know she can play a higher line than the goal line.  Again, a little information goes a long way.   Plus, it is more fun for the keeper to get involved.  Just give the keeper a little of your attention in the game.

4.  Your team gives away the kickoff most times.  Players taking the kickoff do not know how far the touch forward has to be or can be.  Take a few minutes and teach them some options.  Better yet, give them 5 minutes at the end of practice and let them design their own kickoff.

5.  Your team does not know how to take an indirect free kick (or what the signal is).  Incorporate the hand signal in your scrimmage at end — randomly call fouls, direct and indirect.  I even let the kids act like they were fouled and they get to blame someone.  Then, teach them how to take an indirect kick.  Bring a phone – go to youtube – show them some cool ones.  Let them create their own.  Same for direct kicks – teach them the hand signal.  Show them some examples — let them make their own.  They love working on this.  

At the same time, let your keeper(s) practice setting up a defensive plan for the free kicks.  Teach them an offside line.  When do they want it?  How do they set it?  How can they make sure everyone is marked.  Let the keeper practice the instructions.  Put the wall in the wrong place — let the keeper fix it.  This can be incorporated into the flow of a scrimmage with little effort and disruption.

6.  Your team does not know how to set a wall.  Especially on an indirect kick — they can set the wall inside the box.  Let them practice.  Blow stops occasionally during scrimmage and let them work on it.

7.  This is a horrible one — your keeper doesn’t know how far out she can go before distributing the ball.  They think their area is the goalie box, not the penalty area.  Explain the difference to them.  Give them this information.  This is particularly true if you follow U.S. Youth Guidelines and rotate keepers.  A little bit of information goes a long way for a keeper.

8.  Your team loses possession because of illegal throws.  OK — so you have taught them to keep both feet on the ground — now teach them that the ball must go completely behind their head.  A little bit of information goes a long way.  I hate seeing kids making illegal throws because of this and not knowing what they did wrong (they say – “but my feet were on the ground!”).

9.  Your team concedes a lot of goals on corners.  Well  have you worked on it?  Do you have a plan?  Working on defending corners is great practice because you get to work on this key defensive point:  “can you see the defender you are marking and the ball?”  Or, for young players, how do you “mark” a player?  Give the information — give them a plan — then let them implement it, alter it.  Empower your keeper to control the exercise.

10.  Your team concedes a lot of goals off of punted balls (this is a small-sided games problem).  It bugs you — the other coach imploring his keeper to punt the ball.  It is a small field.  I hate it.  You hate it.  It is not promoting development.  It is particularly tough because players in this range have hard time judging balls in flight.  Plus, I do not want players this age heading punted balls.  So, what information can you share to help?  Have a plan.  If you know the field is small (8v8 and 6v6 fields vary), instruct your defenders to retreat when their keeper picks the ball up.  If your outside backs are pushed up, focus on your center back.  Have them retreat well inside your half.  Yes, you can tell them “don’t let it bounce” but part of the problem is that the player you put back there may have difficulty judging balls in flight (ask Sam Snow).  So, put them in a position to succeed.  There is nothing so demoralizing to a center back or a team to be winning possession, using creative attacks, involving their teammates, only to concede on punted balls to a “fast forward” to a team that emphasizes win at all costs.

Try this.  Tell your center back to retreat and, if under pressure, play the ball to safety.  If they can control it, great.  You get to teach the vocabulary “safety first.”

This is a real pet peeve of mine.  At U9-12, success from a punted ball is fools gold.  In a few short years, those center backs will have no trouble with the ball.  Why teams emphasize it is usually because the coach has made the game about him.

Well, those are just a few examples where a little bit of information goes a long way.  I am a big believer in incorporating the Laws of the Game into my sessions to educate the players on these items.  I think we, as coaches, have an obligation to share this information.

1107_gsoccer1 01

Lawsuit Seeks to change Heading Rules for Youth Soccer Players

1107_gsoccer1 01I always follow this theme – and have posted several times before – as there are not many activities in life that require you to bang your head into something else.  In soccer, the activity is unprotected.  I appreciate the efforts to add publicity to the risk of heading balls at young ages (or even older) and the risk of heading to concussions.  Ask yourself this:  how many things have you used your head to hit in the last 12 months?  Now, if your child plays soccer, how many have they?

Here is the article with information on the lawsuit.  This is a similar track to the football litigation.  The lawyers will go after the large entities, FIFA, potentially US Youth Soccer, etc., as they have proceeds to pay.  That is why you see them linking to FIFA in the suit.

Hopefully, this will continue to bring awareness.

Article regarding lawsuit

Blog topic regarding heading.

My prior posts on the issue:

February 28, 2014

June 11, 2013

March 8, 2013

May 9, 2012

 

Writing about youth soccer, player development, and the professional game.