positions: attackers & defenders

My view on positions is that there are only two: attackers and defenders. On the field, a player is an attacker if our team is in possession of the ball. If the other team has the ball, we are all defenders.

That means, for example, that when our goalie has the ball, she is an attacker looking for the best distribution option for us to penetrate into the Final Third. If the Striker takes a shot and it’s blocked and the other team gains possession. The Striker is now a defender whose job is to chase and regain possession of the ball, preferably close to the other teams goal.

As the ball moves around the field, we want to maintain the general shape and relative location of players. Players have freedom to shift and switch positions on the fly. For example, if our Striker starts dribbling towards the Left Wing, she has options to play farther ahead to support the Striker, or switch places with her to become the Striker.

Shape in the Attack

shape when attacking

Notice in the picture above that our shape when we have the ball should be deep and wide and fill the field. This opens up spaces on the field that we can then use to move the ball around and get into scoring positions. However, at this age level, we want to make sure the girls stay close enough to each other that the can make and receive passes to the next closest player.

The lines all over the field show passing and dribbling lanes created by our shape. We’re trying to work the ball up the field and get passes to the attacking areas inside the other teams Penalty Area so we can take shots on goal.The best places to get the ball into those zones is from the sides, corners, and end-lines shown by the darker passing and dribbling lines (usually by #11 & #7).


Transition is the time right as we take over or lose the ball to the other team. We must quickly organize ourselves for either attack or defense. This means that no matter where we are on the field, we need to make sure that we are immediately looking to penetrate the other teams defense and shoot, put pressure on the ball if the other team has it or get back to make sure our area of responsibility is covered. Transition happens fast and is typically where most goals (for us or against us) come from during games. A couple off key things to remember during Transitions are:

  • We need to get to the ball fast and first
  • If the other team has the ball apply immediate pressure and delay to give us time to recover on defense
  • If we get the ball in the Defensive Third we need to quickly pass the ball out and up to a safe zone
  • If we get the ball in the Middle Third we need to possess the ball and look to get the ball wide and up
  • Forwards penetrate the defense and get the ball to one of the attacking/shooting zones
  • In the Final Third, shoot, pass to someone that can, or dribble somewhere you can shoot. If all else fails, we want to maintain possession of the ball, get it to space and start again.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 3.49.05 PMScreen Shot 2013-08-14 at 3.49.24 PM

shape when defending in our defensive third

The best place to play defense is on the other teams half of the field. So our Forwards and Midfielders must immediately pressure any ball any time the other team takes it away from us in the Final or Middle Third. Then we go (transition) directly to attack mode.

When we are on defense, we squeeze into the center of the field and force the other team wide where they won’t have good scoring chances. The area inside the red zone is an area where we want to leave no player uncovered and no ball un-pressured. The really red area is where we are being ultra aggressive in getting the ball out of that space and to the sides of the field or to the green “safe” areas on the field.

The Attacking Mid and Center Forward should remain high and fill gaps between the defense and the center line. This allows for a quick counter attack from a long or stray ball from the back. It also serves as a pressure relief valve for the defense. Otherwise the attacking team just regains possession in our end and keeps the pressure on.


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