In Possession

Basic Principles


  • a vital part to successful attacks, helps to spread the defense and create lanes and gaps to exploit


  • individual creativity can make a huge difference, a move to beat an opponent, an unconventional pass, and fast thinking can be the difference.  


  • movement both on and off the ball is incredibly important.  Overlaps and crossing runs causes split second indecision by defenders and creates space to exploit. Even small movements to get a yard of space from a defender is key in staying in possession and progressing toward goal


  • positive runs, passes, and dribbles are the ways we exploit space and get in behind the defense when our teammates have worked hard to create the space through width and mobility


  • look to provide at least 2 options of support at good angles for any player on the ball, create triangles. Even if it is a negative option, we should prioritize possession.  Again good mobility comes into play.


  • players in and around the box should look to use one touch to either shoot or set up a shot. The game is about scoring goals after all

Offensive Vocabulary and Signals

  • 4 Types of Support/Passes

    • 1) Penetrating, a positive pass/option that splits defenders, 2) Diagonal, a positive pass/option that beats of goes around a defender, 3) Lateral, a neutral pass/option that changes the point of attack, 4) Possessive, a negative pass/option that allows the recipient more time on the ball

  • Switch

    • a directly played ball to the weak side of the field

  • Swing

    • a series of passes that move the ball across to the other side, usually by the back line

  • "Get Under"

    • negative support of player, usually the forward , in preparation for receiving a layoff

Phases of Attacking Play

- Build-up, Consolidation, Incision, Finish

  • Build-Up 

    • The build-up phase usually takes place in the defensive and middle thirds after we have collected the ball and decided to not counter, or just after a goal kick.  It is the first step in organizing the attack where we circulate the ball between the back players until we can find a player in the middle third of the pitch who is able to receive the ball and turn forward.  Width and depth are vital here for avoiding pressing forwards as well as mobility of the midfield players to shake defenders and provide an outlet.  Passes should be low-risk with 100% confidence.

Building out of the 4-2-3-1
  • Consolidation

    • This phase involves circulating the ball through the midfield with the goal of penetrating the defense's second line and being able to play forward.  There is specific focus on rotation and combining in the middle with the outside players again offering width and support. Passes can be slightly riskier going forward but should still be low-risk, 80-100%.

  • Incision 

    • Once we can get in an advanced position, having penetrated the second line, and able to play forward then we look to play the ball in behind the defense, possibly into the half spaces.  This is also the time for attacking players to make runs in behind.  There should be a change of pace between this phase and the others.  Higher risk forward passes are permissible as they have a higher chance of reward but should have at least 50% confidence.

  • Finish

    • Once we are able to penetrate the defense, we should waste no time and attempt to finish on goal, cross to a teammate, or lay the ball across goal.  The objective here is to get the ball in the net as quickly as possible.  Players inside the box with the ball are expected to have the confidence to shoot first time or the awareness to one touch pass to a better opportunity.  Shots outside the penalty area should be made with ~60% or above confidence and any opportunities inside the box should be siezed ruthlessly.  

Set Pieces

  • ​Standard Corner Kick
    • We will want to commit our tall guys forward, having one make a far post run and the other making a run across the penalty mark.  ​They can either look to score directly or knockdown for another attacker.  
    • It is important that we have options in between the 6 and the 18 for the second ball
  • Short Corner Option

    • Here we look to play short and combine in a way to bait the defense to leave their marks and opening up more options in front of goal

    • The delivery should look to loft far post for a knockdown on top of the 6' box

  • The Peel

    • ​This is a little bit of a trick play, something that we wouldn't want to use twice against the same opponent.  Basically each player peels off into the box one by one, starting with the player furthest out.  This should be done rather quickly. 

    • Again there is an option to play short, depending on the reaction of the defense

    • The idea here is to confuse the defense and to take advantage before they organize themselves