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Defensive Aspects of Youth Soccer

These basic defensive principles are for soccer coaches at any level.

Team Defense
The most important concept of team defense is to get behind the ball quickly, the moment it is lost to the other team. Teach your players that they should all attack when they have the ball, and all defend it when the opponent has the ball. The quickest way to recover behind the ball is to simply run straight back toward your own goal. The forwards will not need to recover all the way behind the ball because they will be marking opposing defenders.

The other major principle in team defense is to protect the defensive danger zone. The defensive danger zone is the area in front of the goal. If this zone is defended correctly, the goal will be under far less pressure. To do this teach your players to keep the ball out of in front of the goal, don't cross the ball in front of the goal, teach your defenders to clear the ball to the outside. One the ball enters the danger zone clear it quickly. This is not the place to dribble, teach your defenders to kick it hard and far. Don't allow yourselves to be out numbered in the goal area, get behind the ball.

Team defense also involves pressuring attackers in possession of the ball and covering for defenders if they get beaten with a dribble. Opponents must never be allowed a clear run on goal. The player with the ball is the most important and should always be marked tightly. If there is one defender and two or more attackers, the defender should always take the player with the ball.

Individual Defense
After recovering behind the ball, the defenders should immediately mark-up or track all unguarded attacking players. This is acheived by getting goal side of the player they are marking, whether or not that player has the ball. If the player does not have the ball, the defender should stay goal side and follow the rule: "The closer the ball, the tighter the marking". If the ball is close the defender should stay an arm's length from the attacker. Any closer and the defender can be turned easily. When the ball is on the other side of the field the defender can drop 10-15 feet off of the attacker.

Stance and foot positioning are important in sound defense. The weight is on the balls of the feet, the center of gravity is low, and the eyes are firmly on the ball. Feet should be positioned inside the attacker, blocking the path to the defensive danger zone. This forces the attacker to dribble out and to the sidelines



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