Individual Support in Defense



In soccer, once the first individual defender has properly set up to control the opponent with the ball, the second defender arrives to provide individual support in defense to the first defender.

Soccer support in defense.

Soccer Individual Support in Defense

The second defender positions themself behind and to the inside of the field in relationship to the first defender.  The second defender may also be referred to as the “support” defender or the “cover” defender.

The second defender must be properly goalside and must also be just far enough back to ensure that they can react properly if the first defender is beaten in either direction.  The location closer to the middle of the field is intended to force the dribbler to go outside, toward the sideline, as their first option.

Upon arriving, the support defender must ensure that they maintain an appropriate distance from the first defender, ensuring that they do not overrun the play.  The stance and body position taken by the support defender is the same as that taken by a first defender.  See: “Defensive Stance.”

Since the first defender is facing away from the second defender, the second defender must announce their arrival.  This is usually done by saying something like, “support” or “you have help.”

As the defender on the ball delays, jockeys, controls or otherwise moves, the second defender must adjust their position accordingly in order to maintain the relative position.  When the second defender is comfortable that they are ready to take up defense of the ball carrier if the first defender is beaten, the second defender may announce that the first defender can proceed to tackle.  This is usually done by saying something like, “take him” or “tackle.”

Instruction and Practice

Describe the requirement of “Support in Defense” and the responsibilities of the second defender.  Demonstrate by placing a stationary attacker with a ball, a first defender in proper position and stance and a support defender in proper position and stance.  (It is usually best to start just inside the halfway line, closer to a sideline.)

Establish positioning with players with first basic movement:

  • Set up an attacker with the ball to dribble to a designated location.
  • Send in the first defender, coming from nearer to goal, to establish a proper location and stance, also then taking a stationary position relative to the attacker.
  • Send in the support defender, also coming from nearer to goal, to establish a proper location and stance, relative to the first defender, also then taking a stationary position.
  • Ensure that the stances and relative position of the second defender are correct. Re-position as necessary.
  • Demonstrate that the second defender must not overrun the play.

Add relative movement:

  • Have the attacker move forward, then left, then right. The first defender responds accordingly.
  • Demonstrate the relative movement required by the second defender in response to the actions of both the attacker and the first defender.

Go to half-speed and add oral communication.

Go to full-speed.

Proper oral communication from the support defender to the first defender is critical.  This includes:

Support; or, You have support; or, You have help; or, Your help is here Tells the first defender that you are in a proper defensive position so that, if an unsuccessful challenge for the ball is made, you have it covered.

Jockey; Delay; Control; or, ContainAs a supporting defender, this tells the first defender to manage the attacker by standing ground (or slowly backpedaling) 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 that more defenders can return, reorganize, balance and cover.

Challenge; Take him (her) on; or, TackleAs 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.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • If the first defender is beaten, depending on the circumstances, the support defender is likely to take over. This may involve the two players performing a “Simple Defensive Switch.”  (Future link.)
  • Not that the second defender give the jockey/delay/control/contain call because they can see the field while the first defender cannot because they are focusing on the ball.

© Copyright, John C. Harves