Defense is arguably the most important aspect of a Soccer game. While you need goals to win, if you have no defense, you have no chance!
There are 2 main strategies to defending your side of the pitch: man-to-man and zone – but you must learn one to master the other.
This is the foundation to any marking strategy and the basics we often learn to apply to all scenarios. It is exactly as it sounds, every player picks a player on the opposition and marks them for the game. This ensures that there is never a player unmarked and less confusion as everyone knows who their ‘man’ is. Although it can turn hectic, with players chasing around the field, it can also lead to great success in limiting open players. You are also able to match players with closer skill / speed to maximize defensive efforts on attacks.
This strategy is different from man-to-man in the way that you don’t necessarily cover the same player all game, you instead pick up any player that comes in to your zone. Say you are left back, any player of the opposition that comes in to your quadrant of the field, is now your mark. If they cross-over to the other side to receive a pass, you will not follow but your defensive partner will now pick them up as they are in their zone.
The similarities in this strategy are that you still want to stick close to your mark and ensure that every player is being marked.
While all strategies need communication, this one in particular is important as you need to communicate with teammates to pick up players entering their zone, as well as if you have multiple marks within your zone, you may need help from a teammate.
Regardless of style chosen by your team, there are main keys to marking that should be top of mind:
- Keep your eye on the ball / mark
- No turns – once your mark has the ball, don’t allow them to turn towards the goal!
- Close down fast on balls in the air – get that first touch
- Don’t dive in – jockey your mark and don’t commit too early to a challenge on the ball
- Wait until you have support before you go for the win
- Communication is everything!
At your next game, give these tactics a try and see what works best for you and your team!