West Fargo Soccer Club: Players

Thursday, February 25

Defensive Tips 

The primary job of the defender is to deny penetration. The defender will try to keep the attacker from shooting, passing forward or dribbling forward. The way the defender does this is to pressure. Here, positioning is everything. It is not enough for the defender to know what to do if they are not in the position to be able to do it. There are six priorities for the pressuring defender.

  1. Intercept balls passed to the attacker. If the defender can intercept a pass before the individual duel even occurs, obvious victory is obtained. The defender must be positioned goal-side of the attacker so that they can see the ball and their attacker, so that they can see the ball coming.

  2. Tackle the ball as the attacker makes their turn. This still wins it before the confrontations gets started, but is second to interception.

  3. Force the attacker to screen the ball with their first touch. Force the attacker to not be able to turn and face the defender. Make the first touch be negative (away from the defender).

  4. Tackle as the attacker is half way through their turn as the attacker attempts to face the defender. A good defender senses when the attacker has committed to turning and will then confidently win the ball the instant it comes into view. This is impossible to do unless the defender is within tackling range. Usually, a great deal of work must be done on behalf of the defender to stay within this range. As the attacker is shielding the ball, attempting to turn on the defender, the defender, as they are to stay within tackling range, must keep in mind “two nevers”:

    • Never lean on the attacker. Good attackers will use this over commitment to their advantage by spinning and playing the ball into the space left by the open defender;
    • Never lose sight of the ball.

  5. Steer the attacker into the least dangerous space. Once the attacker has turned, channel them into an area where they will do the least damage or into a supporting defender. This may, in many cases, be the sideline. In short, the defender now attempts to “set a trap”. Here, the speed of the approach is crucial. If the defender tries to close down an attacker’s space too quickly, the attacker will play the ball quickly behind the defender, using the defender’s speed to their advantage. If done too slowly, the attacker is given too much time to make a good decision.

  6. Recovery runs. If the defender is beaten, they must now try to get goal-side of the attacker. The recovery run should be toward the near post. The object is to get goal side, in a good defending position, as quickly as possible.


The decisions of the individual defender have to do with two things:

  1. Whether or not to try and make contact with the ball.
  2. How and where to position oneself.

In priority order, the defender will try to do the following; based on what position they are in relative to the attacker.
  1. Intercept
  2. Tackle on the first touch
  3. Force the attacker to screen; do not allow them to turn
  4. Tackle on the half turn
  5. If the attacker is already turned, screen attacker to get:

    • into position to make the tackle
    • into a position where the attacker is isolated or outnumbered
    • into a position where the attacker has only a few, or easily predictable option

  6. Destroy the attackers shot or pass by deflecting it.