The 10 Commandments for Attacking Soccer

1) Thou shall not spectate when thou should be playing. It is impossible to support your teammates on attack or when defending if you are watching play instead of adjusting your positioning each and every time the ball moves. A coaching phrase I use to remind players to do this is “When the ball travels, we travel!” It can be called, ‘When the ball travels” by a coach or player and answered “We travel” by the remaining team members

2) Thou shall check to the ball when winning loose balls and receiving passes. Waiting for a ball to come to you is inviting an opponent to win the ball. Perhaps even worse is running away from a ball thinking you are played through and allowing an opponent to step in behind you to win the ball. Inexcusable. We should never lose a possession due to not checking to the ball. Never.

3) Thou shall position yourself so your hips are open to as much of the field as is possible. If your hips are closed to the direction the ball is coming from, your play is predictable. Open hips to as much of the field as possible is a secret to successful possession. In this manner thou shall receive the ball across your body whenever possible. We call this being a back footed player. Receiving in this manner allows the player to stay in compliance with Commandment #3. Failure to comply with this commandment makes you a predictable player and one easily defended and dispossessed of the ball.

4) Thou shall make a safe pass upon winning possession of the ball. It is senseless to win the ball and attempt to advance into pressure. Make a safe pass and allow that receiver to establish the rhythm of the attack.

5) Thou shall not stop the ball between thy feet when receiving it. The path of the ball must be changed away from pressure when receiving it. This forces any defender in pursuit of the ball to change course thus buying the receiver space and time to play the ball. Failure to do so changes the pressure to make the play away from the defender and onto the receiver.

6) Thou shall support your teammates at proper angles. It is extremely difficult to make a straight pass, especially if the teammate is running away. This type of “vertical” support can devastate an attack. It is just as critical not to support the 1st defender in a vertical line as you offer virtually no support in doing so. The rule of thumb is 45 degree angles when defending and 45 degree angles or bigger when on the attack.

7) Thou shall not pass square in your defensive third nor in the middle portion of the field. Square passes are the easiest passes to cleanly intercept and immediately transition to attack on. Square passes tend to happen when there is a lack of diagonal support for the passer.

8) Thou shall play the way you face. This is a rule of thumb so there are exceptions. It holds especially true when you are under pressure. Drop or back passes are okay to relieve that pressure. Maintaining possession is what we want to do.

9) Thou shall not shoot from impossible angles. Intelligent defenses seek to deny shots in general and especially those from in front of the goal. Many defenses seek to limit shots against them to coming from a line that extends from the goal post to the corner of the 6 to the corner of the 18 or wider. Shots from those angles leave the goalkeeper with a greatly reduced goal to defend. You must seek to cross the ball when in this deep or take the ball to and along the end line for a cut back cross. Thou shall go to goal each and every time you get your inside shoulder in front of the opponent defending you. When you are breaking free and have the opportunity to eliminate the closest opponent to you, do so. It is not an option. It is mandatory.

10) Thou shall shoot the ball whenever in position to take a quality shot. When in front of the goal and from 25 yards in there should be no hesitation. No extra touch to set the ball up just right. No extra passes. Just put the ball on net. Toe pokes are fine. Knees are fine. Love headers for goals. Strike at the midpoint or higher on the ball to keep it low. Whatever it takes to get the ball on net. Just do it and do it at the first available moment.

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