thirds of the field

The soccer field is broken into three spaces:

  • Defensive Third
  • Middle Third
  • Final Third

the defensive third

  • Our Ball: Dribble Less, Pass More, Pass Long, and Pass Away
  • Their Ball: Pressure Immediately, Push Outside, and Delay

20120917-140856.jpgIf we have possession of the ball in the Defensive Third, don’t take risks with the ball. We want to get the ball out wide and away from the goal as quickly as possible. In our Defensive Third, dribble less and pass more, pass long, and pass away (to the outside and up the field).

If the other team has possession of the ball in our Defensive Third, we want to immediately put pressure on the ball. This gives us time to organize the defense, mark players, and close passing lanes. Our defensive players (and if the other team has the ball we are all defensive players) want to squeeze into the middle of the field to keep the other team from having space to move and pass the ball in front of our goal.

the middle third

  • Our Ball: Keep Possession, Pass, and Dribble
  • Their Ball: Pressure, Delay, Regain Possession

If we have possession of the ball in the Middle Third, we want to take a few risks but to also play it safe. We want to keep possession of the ball by passing and dribbling through the Middle Third to get the ball into the Final Third. We want to provide good support for passes (which means help from outside backs and wings), get the ball wide to the side lines, and play forward quickly.

If the other team has possession in the Middle Third, we want to immediately put pressure on the ball. We can take a few risks to take the ball away from the other team, but not so many that we make it easy for them to get into our Defensive Third. Pressure them, force the mistake, regain possession, and get the ball into the Final Third.

the final third

  • Our Ball: Penetrate into the Penalty Area, Shoot on Goal, Finish (Score)
  • Their Ball: Immediate Chase, Pressure, Get the Ball Back…then Penetrate, Shoot, and Score

If we have possession in the Final Third, we want to get the ball into a position to take a shot as quickly as possible. Keep the ball wide along the side lines and race towards the flags in the corners. This will stretch the defense out and create space for our players to get in front of the goal. From the corners or the sides of the Penalty Area, dribble or pass the ball in front of the goal and take shots. The Final Third is where we want to take risks to get the ball into dangerous spaces for the other team. Penetrate and put the ball on “frame” (the goal) as fast as possible.

If the other team has possession of the ball in Final Third we want to put immediate pressure on the ball to regain possession. Again, if the other team has the ball, we are all defenders. It is better to defend closer to the other team’s goal than ours. The player closest to the ball (probably the attacker that turned it over), needs to be the first to chase and put pressure on the ball. The rest of our players (now defenders) need to take risks to get the ball back.

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