The concept of defending is one of the more overlooked items in teaching players the game of soccer. We will break this section on defending down into team principles, individual principles and drills so that you can get an idea of how what concepts to get across and how to get them across.
What you will usually see at the intramural level, especially with the younger players, is everyone going for the ball at once. The second thing that you will see as the players get a little older is the more aggressive players stealing the ball consistently from the less aggressive, and the less skilled, simply by running straight at them.
This of course works at the younger levels, but as the players develop, and the skill differential decreases, this type of play actually becomes a detriment. Overly aggressive players who try to simply run down their opponents and strip the ball at the travel level often times find themselves missing completely and watching the backs of their opponents as they head down field.
This is not to say that aggressiveness is not important, merely to say that controlled play, especially on defense, is what we want to teach them at a young age so that they carry it forward with them as they progress.
What we need to get across to our youngsters is that defense, like the entire game, is dependent upon their teammates, as well as themselves, to do their job.
Concepts of Defending
You will hear the terms First Defender, Second Defender and Third Defender used in this manual and in any LIJSL coaching course that you take. The First Defender is the person nearest the attacking ball carrier. The initial job of the first defender is not to steal the ball, but to delay the opponent until his teammates arrive to help.
The Second Defender is the second person to arrive at the scene. The job of the second defender is to provide cover for the first defender. That is to cover up any mistake that the first defender might make.
When the second defender arrives on the scene, the job of the first defender changes from delay to pressure.
The job of the Third Defender is to provide balance.
Team Principles of Defense
The basic principles of team defense are as follows :
Collapse - Entire team collapses into less space in front of opponent's point of attack.
1st defender guides ball carrier into thickest part of defense or away from middle.
Covering defenders cut off "through" spaces.
Together, First and second defenders squeeze attack into tight. difficult space.
Concentrate - Gather forces in middle of the field and near the ball before attempting to dispossess the ball.