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Breaking The Line

Activity & Set Up

Field Setup: The playing area is divided into three horizontal zones: two end zones where the green and blue teams are positioned and a middle zone occupied by the red team.

Teams: There are three teams involved in this drill: the green team, the blue team, and the red team. The green and blue teams are allies, playing together against the red team. The green team starts with possession of the ball in their end zone, while the blue team waits in the opposite end zone. The red team is positioned in the middle zone one red player goes into the green team’s zone to challenge for the ball.

Activity: The green team works to maintain possession against the pressure of a single red defender. Their goal is to accurately pass the ball through the ranks of red defenders to a teammate on the blue team, positioned across the middle zone. Upon a successful pass, the play dynamically shifts as a new red defender steps into the blue team’s zone to challenge possession, while the previously active red defender falls back to the middle to aid in intercepting future passes. The drill proceeds with the blue team now attempting to return the ball to the green team, continuing the cycle of possession and defense without interruption.

Coaching Principles

This soccer activity practices the principle of penetration by challenging the green and blue teams to break through the red team’s defensive line via well-timed and accurate passes. Penetration is achieved when the green team, under pressure from a red defender, successfully passes the ball to the blue team, thereby bypassing the red defenders positioned in the middle zone. This requires players to recognize and exploit gaps in the defense, encouraging them to make decisive movements and passes that advance the ball into areas where the opposition is vulnerable. The constant pressure from rotating red defenders also simulates game-like conditions where windows of opportunity for penetration open and close quickly, necessitating swift decision-making and execution from the players in possession.

The secondary principle in this activity is securing the ball. Once the penetrating pass through the middle line has been made the team in possession will want to get the ball as wide or as deep as they can to secure it away from the defender who will be coming to try and win possession back.

Variations & Progressions

Introduce an extra red defender into the middle zone. This increases the defensive pressure on the green and blue teams, requiring more precise passing and better movement off the ball to maintain possession and achieve penetration.

After a set time or number of successful passes, switch the roles of the teams so that each team experiences the challenges of attacking, defending, and transitioning.

Decrease the width of the green and blue end zones, forcing players to make quicker decisions and more accurate passes in tighter spaces. This simulates situations where there is less room to maneuver on the field.

When attempting to pass the ball across the middle zone to the opposite end, the player in possession must use a one-touch pass. This rule compels players to think ahead, position themselves effectively, and improve their anticipation and first-touch skills. It also accelerates the tempo of the game, demanding quicker mental and physical reactions.

Coaching Points

Encourage players to assess their options rapidly and decide whether to pass, dribble, or shield the ball. This decisiveness is crucial in exploiting brief moments when defensive gaps appear, allowing for effective penetration.

Instruct the team to utilize the full width and depth of their zone to stretch the red defenders, creating more space and better angles for penetration. Encourage players to position themselves in a way that maximizes the distance between defenders, thereby opening more channels for penetrating passes and reducing the red team’s ability to intercept. This tactical approach can draw the red team out, disrupt their defensive shape, and increase the chances of successful ball progression to the blue team.

Instruct the blue team players to constantly adjust their positions, making angled runs and communicating effectively. Their movement should be purposeful, creating passing lanes for the green team and pulling red defenders out of position, which is essential for successful penetration and preparation for the next phase of play.

Coach the team on the value of possession, advising them not to force the ball through overly tight spaces where the risk of interception is high. Encourage them to circulate the ball, maintaining control and waiting for the defensive alignment to shift, which will eventually open more viable channels for penetration. Conversely, they should be primed to recognize and rapidly exploit larger gaps when they appear, executing quick, decisive passes that take advantage of the red team’s momentary disorganization. This dual-focus coaching point emphasizes tactical patience while being prepared to pounce on immediate opportunities, thus maintaining a balance between cautious buildup and aggressive penetration.