Goal Side


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In soccer, being goal side is the most basic position for defenders, placing themselves on an imaginary line between the goal they are defending and the opponents they are defending against.

In soccer, defenders must position themselves between their opponents and the goal. This is known as getting "goal side."

Soccer Defenders Goal Side

In teaching youth to “get goal side,” it has been found useful to just say, “You have to get in their way!”  This is not necessarily intuitive for most young, new, players.  Stated in other words, a new player has to be taught how to properly and legally find the location that keeps an opponent from getting to the goal.

The first technique recommended to teach players to get into a goal side position, is to move defenders out from their own goal toward forwards standing closer to midfield.  The defenders must be instructed how to stop well before getting to the forwards and then to recognize their placement in relation to the goal they are defending.

In soccer, defenders who must come up to meet their opponents must not get too close to establish their "goal side" position.

Soccer defenders moving up to meet their opponents.

In soccer, defenders who are behind their opponents need to run past them and turn around in order to put themselves in a proper, goal side, position. They must sprint sufficiently beyond the opponents, in order to have enough time to turn, so that the opponents cannot just run right past them.

In soccer, sometimes defenders must run past their opponents in order to get into a proper goal side position.

Running past opponents to get into goal side positions.

Instruction and Practice

  1. Each defender must be shown proper positioning for at least three basic locations, the right, the center, and the left.
  2. Each defender must be shown how their location must change with the movement of the opponent. Further, they must learn to take quick glances, or “peak,” back at the goal to understand their relative position.  Note that this also can involve using the markings on the field, specifically the lines delineating the Penalty Area.
  3. Without ball, have forwards move ahead, back, or sideways, at half-speed or less, to help defenders understand the movements that they must perform.
  4. Add a ball to the movements by forwards, again at half-speed or less.
  5. Increase the speed of movement.
  6. Demonstrate the need for defenders coming to meet a forward to understand if they get too close to a forward with the ball, how easily the forward can run right past.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

Significant one-on-one time with beginning youth is recommended to teach the concepts of getting goal side.

Analogies in American sports to getting goal side include guards in basketball and cornerbacks covering wide receivers in football.  Defenders must be instructed, however, that they may not block the opponent or put their arms out.  Youth in particular who have been exposed to basketball will commonly try to guard opponents in a hands-out-wide position.

See:  “Defensive Stance” for the next skill in the Individual Defending series.  This is followed by “Soccer Individual Defending.”

© Copyright, John C. Harves