General Strategy

Systems of Play

As a team we will look to implement two main formations this fall, each with their own style of play and strategy.  Both systems will use similar defensive formation and tactics for simplicity.  Below is a short summary of our systems and play style of each.  Go to the In Possession page and Out of Possession page to find more details on things like passing patterns, phases of the attack, defending, and pressing.


Short passes mixed with long diagonal balls and skipping lines to put strikers in behind defense.  Mixed between possessive oriented and attacking minded.

Brief Breakdown

Defensive Half: Back three along with DM and possibly one CM look to play short quick passes to open up options in the 2nd third.  Their job is to be able to play a teammate in the 2nd third who can turn and face forward.

Middle Third: Midfield players look to utilize the overload to free up a teammate able to play a ball in behind the defense.  May be done by bouncing with a forward or even a diagonal ball from #7 or #11.  Wide midfielders must stretch the field to provide width and look to send in crosses in the final third.

Offensive Half: Forwards look to provide bounce passes with midfielders and crossing runs to shake defenders and get in behind.  Forwards should prioritize staying central but may go wide to receive the ball as well. If this happens a CM should push up to create another option for crosses. 


Slightly more direct attacking options designed around making back line step before we penetrate with up-back-up patterns.  Quick combinations to attack, rotation of players, and inverted wingers.

Brief Breakdown

Defensive Half: Back four works with a rotating #6 and #8 to circulate ball until able to play forward to #9 or #10.

Middle Third: If #9 was reached, lay off to #10 and play forward to wingers cutting in.  If not, midfield 3 work to circulate the ball with support from wingers until we are able to play #9's feet, then look for combination in behind. Alternatively, overload one side to isolate winger/fullback on far side.  A quick switch through #6 or #8 becomes a 1v1 on the far side with the winger cutting in to go at goal.

Offensive Half: The forward looks to  make runs in between lines to bounce with #10 and set up the attack.  May show for wall passes with wingers if #10 is unavailable.  Should feel comfortable rotating into all four forward positions.

Principles of Play

The principles of play are essentially the checklist a player goes through mentally for each tactical situation that occurs in a match. Over many hours of appropriate training and matches, these principles should become second nature for players, and improved decision making quickens. The foundation to building a team is to ingrain within the players, the principles of play through the four components of soccer, technique, fitness, tactics, and psychology.

USSF Principles of Play

Applying the Principles of Play

  • 1st Attacker

    • Designated as the player with the ball

    • First priority should be to maintain possession of the ball

    • Second priority is to attack space going forward

    • May dribble to open space or engage a defender to draw him out of position creating seams

  • 2nd Attacker

    • Designated as one or two of the closest players to the ball

    • Should focus on providing immediate support by opening up to receive to feet

    • There should be support from different angles and positions

    • Should attempt to fill empty space in a manner which gives the first attacker options that are dangerous and threaten the defense (i.e. penetrating passes into seams and half spaces)

  • 3rd Attacker

    • Consists of the rest of the team

    • Create depth and width to spread the defense

    • Complicate the defense by continually moving into places difficult to defend

    • Move off the ball making dangerous runs into space

    • Move away from the ball forcing a defender to move with them creating space for a teammate

  • 1st Defender

    • Designated as the closest defensive player to the ball

    • Tasked with stopping any threats from the point of attack

    • Should attempt to intercept a pass from the offense, prevent the 1st attacker from turning, stop any possible shots, stop penetrating passes, and stop penetrating dribbling

    • Follows the five D’s of defending, Delay (slow the attackers forward progression), Deny (keep them from attacking dangerous spaces), Deflect (put body in front of shots), and Defend (tackle the ball).  All of which take Discipline, a defenders most valuable skill

  • 2nd Defender

    • Designated as the next closest defensive player to the ball

    • Tasked with providing support by way of cover for the 1st defender

    • Should practice appropriate distance and angle from the 1st defender as well as good communication with them

  • 3rd Defender

    • Consists of the rest of the defending team

    • Main purpose is to balance the field and deny space

    • Should seal off dangerous areas in front of goal

    • Should defend in the zone or man-to-man depending on the situations such as distance from the goal and players threat level

Extra Resources

The following links should provide excellent sources of audio and visual application of the principles of play and should serve as valuable assets to any player looking to up his game.