Soccer Individual Defending

SOCCER INDIVIDUAL DEFENDING

Control, Jockey, Contain, Delay

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In soccer, a defender needs to get on an opposing ball carrier as soon as possible to try to control them in a way that keeps them from doing whatever they please.

Individual defending, 1v1 against an opposing dribbler.

Individual defending, 1v1 against an opposing dribbler.

Prior to arrival, the defender must be fully aware of the status of the rest of their defensive teammates.  If the teammates are in place and have the opponents covered, the defender may promptly engage in “aggressive defending.”  If there are problems with the defense, the defender may engage in “attack stalling” in order for their teammates to recover and set up a proper team defense.

In aggressive defending, the defender quickly moves to cut off the ball; tries to tackle the opponent just as they receive the ball; tries to interpose themselves between the dribbler and the ball; or, tries to keep the opponent from being able to turn and face the goal.  This involves fast, and sometimes dramatic, action that is designed to immediately keep the ball carrier from making any next move with the ball.

  • To cut off the ball, the defender must anticipate that the opponent is about to receive a pass, fake that they are going into a defensive stance, and then sprint to the ball to possess it before the opponent.
  • Tackling in this case means meeting the ball at the same time as the opponent or kicking the ball away just as the opponent arrives.
  • Interposing is getting between the opponent and the ball, usually by turning back and running toward one’s own goal, in order to gain possession.
  • If the opponent goes to the ball and gets to it first, they often have their back to the goal and the defender may legally pressure – and even contact them – from behind in order to keep them from turning.

As an attack staller, the defender takes on the opponent in possession of the ball and uses techniques that delay, or control the dribbler, in such a way as to allow more defenders to arrive in support.  After attaining a proper position and defensive stance, Individual, one-on-one, defensive tactics include such things:

  • Stay goalside – With each movement, the defender must be constantly aware of their position on the field in relationship to the goal and adjust to ensure that they properly remain goal-side. See the “Goal Side” article.
  • Keep a clean stance – The defender must not get too close, must keep their feet in the proper alignment, and must maintain balance on the balls of the feet. If they are too close, there is insufficient reaction time to respond to a dribbling fake or feint.  By having their feet too far apart, the dribbler may perform a nutmeg.  By being unbalanced, the dribbler may effectively go to the other side.  The defender must always be conscious of the position of the ball and the options available to the opponent.  See the “Defensive Stance” article.
  • Don’t over-react to a dribbling fake or feint – The defender must not bite and get beaten. The defender must learn the moves that a dribbler might make.  See the “Intermediate Dribbling – First Fakes and Feints” article.
  • Deny a pass or shot – If the dribbler should make a pass or take a shot, the defender should try to block the ball whenever possible.
  • Slowly give ground – The defender carefully back-pedals, while jockeying or controlling the dribbler, using up available space behind, in order to obtain additional help or to prepare for a tackle.
  • Restrict the dribbler’s vision – Take actions that cause the dribbler to look at the ball, thereby reducing how much of the field they can see. This includes making a “flash move” with the hands and arms, literally pointing at the ball, or making a “fake tackle,” by quickly jabbing one foot toward the ball (and returning it to a proper stance).  These actions also have the benefit of slowing the dribbler.  See the “Introduction to Dribbling – Eyes Down” dribbler graphic.
  • Jockey – Movements are made left or right by the defender to try to force the dribbler to move in a way that they do not want to, keeping the dribbler from advancing or forcing them toward the sideline.
  • Shepherd – Running with the dribbler, usually shoulder to shoulder, in an attempt to move the dribbler in a certain direction, particularly toward the sideline or even out of bounds using legal shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
  • Steal the ball – If the dribbler should loose control of the ball for a split second or let the ball get just out of reach, the defender must immediately take it away.

A defender, one-on-one with a dribbler, can only backpedal or give ground so far.  This is usually determined by the defender’s relative position to the penalty area.  For older or advanced players, closer to the bi-line, this is just outside the area.  Farther out in the field it depends on the strength, power, and ability of opposing shooters, so this is usually at 25-yards from the goal.  At this point the defender must:

  • Stand one’s ground – Because of their position on the field, the defender stops backpedaling or jockeying with the opponent and prepares for a possible tackle. Otherwise, the defender stops retreating toward goal as all defenders establish a “line of offside.”  See the “Offside” series.
  • Tackle – Go for the ball when it is appropriate and necessary to do so. See the “Tackling” series.  It is mandatory that teammates keep a defender, who is on-the-ball, informed orally of what is going on in the overall defense and tell them when it is okay to tackle.  See below.

Proper oral communication from teammates to the defender on the dribbler is critical.  Because the defender is focusing almost exclusively on the ball, the dribbler, and the dribbler’s actions, they will not be aware of everything that is going on around them.  Accordingly, the 1 v. 1 defender needs all the verbal help and information that they can get.  This can come from the nearest defender, the up-field defensive organizer, or the goalkeeper, but it must happen because they have the view of the field from behind.   This usually takes one of two forms, based on the circumstances of play, to tell the defender to:  1.) Delay the ball carrier for help to arrive and for the overall defense to set up; or, 2.) Make the tackle.

DELAY:

“Contain” – ►

On-field Oral CommunicationAs a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by standing ground and confining the opponent to a small space.  By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so the defense can return, reorganize, balance and cover.

“Delay,” “Delay him” – ►

►On-field Oral Communication:  As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by slowly giving ground. By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so that additional defenders can return, reorganize, balance, and cover.

“Jockey” – ►

On-field Oral Communication:  As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by slowly giving ground and to force the dribbler left or right.  By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so the defense can return, reorganize, balance and cover.

“Stand him up” – ►

►On-field Oral Communication:  Asks defender to just contain an attacking player with the ball in order to allow help to arrive; jockey; control.

TACKLE:

“Challenge” – ►

On-field Oral CommunicationAs a supporting defender, this tells a teammate that support in defense has arrived and that a solid attempt to take the ball away may be made. This generally comes shortly after a “Jockey” or “Contain” call.

“Tackle” – ►

On-field Oral Communication:  Goalkeeper, defensive organizer, or defensive support player is telling a defender to stop backpedaling/jockeying/controlling and to go ahead and tackle the opponent with the ball.

“Take him,” “Take him on” – ►

On-field Oral Communication:  Goalkeeper, defensive organizer, or defensive support player is telling a defender to stop backpedaling/jockeying/controlling and to go ahead and tackle the opponent with the ball.

If the defender is beaten, they are to turn and give immediate chase.  They are to turn in the direction of the ball and the dribbler.  If a teammate comes to defend against the dribbler, the original defender should perform a defensive switch.  See the article on the “Defensive Switch.”   Future LINK

Instruction and Practice

  1. The coach must ensure that each defender understands how to approach the dribbler.
  2. The coach must ensure that each defender understands the proper stance for at least three basic locations on the field, the right, the center, and the left.
  3. Each defender must be shown how their location must change with the movement of the opponent.
  4. Each defender must be taught each of the techniques identified above.
  5. Without ball, have forwards move ahead, back, or sideways, at half-speed or less, to help defenders understand the movements that they must perform.
  6. Add a ball to the movements by forwards, again at half-speed or less.
  7. Increase the speed of movement on the part of the ball carriers.
  8. Demonstrate the need for defenders to “sneak peeks” or to use the field markings as guides, in order to understand their relative position to the goal and to maintain a proper “goal side” location.
  9. Each defender must be taught the circumstances and the meanings associated with each of the oral communication terms identified above.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Significant one-on-one time is required to teach beginning youth each of the techniques identified above.
  • If the coach is not comfortable demonstrating any of the techniques above, an appropriate assistant needs to be found and each of the items above discussed in detail in advance of presentation.

© Copyright, John C. Harves