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Attacking The Soccer Ball – Why And How

I recently bought the Soccer U training DVD package and skipped ahead to the third DVD’s section on using the body, which is largely about attacking the soccer ball.

Soccer U training DVD

Soccer U DVD

Ever since I was in high school, I always heard our coaches shouting “first on the ball” so we could hear them even though they were on the sidelines. The first on the ball notion is what others call attacking the ball and being “aggressive” to win it.

By “aggressive” I mean

  1. Actively seeking the ball as opposed to waiting patiently for it to come to you an opponent to intercept it.
  2. Not being afraid to get shoved or kicked a bit,
  3. Nor being afraid to use your shoulders to outmuscle someone else for the ball.

Shoving, getting kicked and stepped on and accidentally running into other players are common occurrences in the midfield. Usually they’re not deliberate. But they happen. So you need to get used to it.

(By “aggressive” I don’t mean hitting, cheating or antisocial behaviour. And it’s not to carry over off the field into muscling people around etc.)

The problem many people have is that they’re too considerate. They worry that if they follow through, they might kick the other guy. That is possible, but:

a) That’s why we wear shin guards.

b) The other guy is taking the risk by aggressively challenging for the ball. Why can’t you be aggressive, too?

Here are some practical applications from my own experience and from Soccer U.

1. In the section of Soccer U’s DVD that I’m talking about, the coach teaches the concept of making a roof over the ball if it’s going to bounce. You:

  • Firm up your whole body to make a board,
  • Get in position and lean over the ball as soon as it bounces, and
  • Move into it so that it takes the least bounce possible.

The goal is then for the ball to immediately be rolling in front of you and under control, as the coach explains. Here’s what it looks like.

Roof Over Soccer Ball

Soccer U's player leans over the ball to get it asap and bring it down quickly in front of him.

Personally, I’d rather try and control the ball in the air before it bounces, using my head, chest or thigh.

But when that’s not possible, making a roof is the next best thing.

2. When receiving a pass on the ground, go towards the ball. Don’t wait for it to come to you.

There are a few reasons not to wait:

– If you wait, others can get in the way to intercept it.

– If the pass is soft, it might stop before reaching you. Since you didn’t run immediately to get it, you now need to run for it before an opponent gets there.

That wastes precious seconds during which opponents get back into position and mark (or “cover”) your teammates. Soccer is a game of small advantages in time and space, like chess. If you waste them you have to build them over from scratch.

– Even worse, if the ball stops in the middle, it often becomes a 50-50 ball between you and an opponent. Not only did you waste the initiative – you may lose possession!

– If you move towards the ball, you force opponents to react to your direction and usually to run towards you. That makes them easier to beat on the dribble.

Weak passes and passive play are silly ways to lose possession!

3. In a shoulder-to-shoulder race for the soccer ball, thrust your shoulder in front of the other guy’s chest and your arm in front of his.

The reason is simple – this physically forces the opponent to take a side or diagonal step to get around you.

Sidesteps or diagonal steps are slower than running straight.

By jocking for position this way, you’ll win more footraces.

How do you guys implement an active mindset on the field? What tips and techniques do you use to be aggressive and win more balls?

Posted in Soccer.

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