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Combination Plays for Youth Soccer

Simple combination plays are synchronized moving and passing combinations completed by two or three players. The most common example of a combination play is the wall pass. Other examples include switching plays, through passes to space and three player combinations. Combination plays help beat defenders and create defensive confusion.

Wall Pass
The wall pass is a simple combination play. The player with the ball beats a defender by using a teammate, like a wall, to bounce the ball behind the defender. Attempt a wall pass when: 1) there is a beatable defender at the ball; 2) there is sufficient space behind the defender; 3) there is a teammate properly positioned to act as the "wall"; and 4) both players recognize the situation.

The player with the ball passes to the "wall" and sprints to the space behind the defender to receive a return pass. The defender at the ball should be beatable. The usual beatable defender is marking too closely. Other beatable defenders are slow, approaching too fast, or ball watching. The attacker also can make a passive defender beatable (too close) by dribbling to them to decrease the space.

The first pass should be made to the feet of the player positioned as the wall, using the inside-of-the-foot pass (push pass) because of its consistent accuracy. The wall player should be even with the defender marking at the ball. The distance of the wall player from the ball varies with the size of the space into which the return pass must be made. If the space is small, the wall player must be closer to play the ball more quickly. The second pass should be made to the space where the teammate is running.

Switching Plays
Crossing movements characterize switching plays. A player to the right of the ball before the movement began will end up to the left of the ball or vice versa. Exchanging the ball during the movement creates a "takeover". The crossing movement can be proceded by a square pass - a "pass and follow" combination.

Most combination plays are designed to beat defenders, but not switching plays. They keep possession, confuse or reshuffle the defense and exploit space that exists in a square position.

The context in which these plays occur reflects their different functions. They occur when a covered square player sees space on the other side of the ball and runs into it; when the player with the ball moves toward a square player; when a player is trapped with the ball in the corner or near the sidelines; or after a square pass, when the passer follows the pass and runs into a space.

These switching movements have many advantages. They are "onside" movements with no risk of running into an offside position. For that reason, they are especially useful when playing against the last line of defenders. Running behind the ball also keeps the runner in good defensive position if the ball is lost. They are confusing to defenders because they cross defensive lanes of coverage.

Through Pass to Space
The player with the ball passes to a player running into a space closer to goal.

Three Player Combinations
In a three player combination the basic play is a pass made to a player running into space. However, there is additional complexity as three players may work together to create the space and to disguise the run. More passing options are available. A player must therefore be aware of what space is accessible to their teammates and how to use them to get the ball to the player running into space. Attention can be diverted away from the player running into space by passing, by player movement or both.

Recognition of a simple principle - get the ball to a player running into space makes teamwork such as the three player combination possible.

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