Attacking Principles of Play

Coach key attacking principles including penetration, first time shooting, and scoring on the run, from this comprehensive manual by experienced US coaches
Ian Barker

Soccer is an invasion game, with the objective to breach the other team’s defence to score. This manual of 23 attacking training practices includes sessions on how to attack through midfield, developing strikers in today’s game, and the role of goalkeepers and defenders in attacking play.

Available in ebook or hard copy format with printable practices, this manual will help you to coach fundamental attacking principles, and should form an important part of your coaching library. It was developed as part of an exclusive United Soccer Coaches webinar series.

Ian Barker, Director of Coaching Education at United Soccer Coaches, explains the five core concepts.  1. Penetration, 2. Support, 3. Mobility, 4. Width, and 5. Improvisation, Creativity and Surprise.

Contributing coaches are Gwynne Williams, Executive Director, Issaquah Soccer Club; Charlie Slagle, Chief Executive, Capital Area Soccer League; Rene Miramontes, Director of Coaching, San Diego Crusaders; Robert Parr, Director of Coaching, Arkansas State Soccer Association.

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3 THE PRINCIPLES OF PLAY. An introduction to the principles of attacking play. By David Newbery

4 INTRODUCTION TO ATTACKING PRINCIPLES. Provides an overview of the 5 principles and how a coach can introduce them with youth players. By Ian Barker.

6 PENETRATION. Sharpen up your players in front of goal with this devastating attacking practice that gives them so many chances to shoot they can’t help but score.

7 SUPPORT. This good attacking and defending session from Team USA will teach your players the importance of keeping possession and helps with beating the offside trap.

8 MOBILITY. With just four passes before a shot has to be made, your players will learn how break from midfield with pace and precision.

9 WIDTH. Help your strike partners develop an effective understanding with each other in order to create the space needed to score goals like Robin van Persie.

10 IMPROVISATION. An end-to-end game that will help your players to develop a goal poacher’s instincts by limiting strikers to just one touch in the final scoring third of the pitch.

11 THE ROLE OF THE GOALKEEPER AND DEFENSE IN ATTACKING PLAY. Emphasizing the need for coaches to include goalkeepers in outfield practices. By Gwynne Williams.

14 SHORT PASSING WARM-UP. This simple activity will get your players ready for a possession session by focusing on their technique.

15 GOALKEEPER POSSESSION GAME 1. Ease your goalkeepers into the team possession principle with this progressive activity.

16 GOALKEEPER POSSESSION GAME 2. The modern goalkeeper must be able to control and pass effectively in order to launch attacks and retain possession as emphasized in this activity.

17 GOALKEEPER & DEFENDERS POSSESSION GAME. Ram home the principles of the goalkeeper as an additional outfield player with this fun activity.

18 ROLE OF KEEPER AND BACKLINE IN ATTACK. Use this great game to give the keepers a focal point for launching attacks and switching possession.

19 ATTACKING FROM YOUR BACKLINE. This session gives you almost endless opportunities to practice different scenarios that require the goalkeeper to take an active part in building an attack.

20 DEVELOPING STRIKERS IN TODAY’S GAME. This session emphasizes the role of central strikers and wingers in attacking the final third of the field. Presented by Charlie Slagle.

22 FIRST TIME SHOOTING. First time shots require a great amount of control and technique. The neutral player in this game will give players plenty of chances to master the technique.

23 BLIND-SIDE RUNS. To effectively use blind-sided runs players have to create space on the flanks. This activity will get them working together.

24 TIGHT SPACE GIVE AND GOS. The give and go is a vital tool for picking a route through tight defences. This activity will help your players master the skill.

25 SHOOTING FREE FOR ALL. Goalmouth scrambles are one of the most exciting things in soccer. Make sure you come out on top by preparing your players to react first and get the ball in the net when it drops at their feet.

26 SCORING ON THE RUN. Scoring on the run is all about timing. Use this exercise to get your players arriving in the right place, at the right time, to deadly effect.

27 FINISHING 1 V THE GOALKEEPER. Competent players should be expected to beat the keeper in a 1v1. Make sure that’s the case by rehearsing a 1v1 breakaway in this great activity.

28 MULTIPLE WAYS TO ATTACK THROUGH MIDFIELD. This session addressed attacking principles in team play, with specific focus on attacking through the midflield. Presented by Rene Miramontes.

30 POSSESSION GAME. This non-directional possession game provides a solid foundation for any possession-based session.

31 FOUR GOAL GAME. Targets and restrictions in different areas provide an exciting challenge for players to overcome in this intense game.

32 SUPPORT FROM WIDE. Wide midfielders have to be switched on in order to get forward and support the forwards when the defense is penetrated. Get them rehearsed in this simple game.

33 ATTACKING CENTRALLY. Penetrating attacks through the middle can be devastatingly effective. If you can create waveafter- wave of attack you’ll give the opposition centre backs no time to rest.

34 MASTERING TRANSITIONS. In fast paced matches, transitions can be the difference between victory and defeat. Get your team working on both sides of the ball with this effective game.

35 FINAL GAME: 11V11 Wrap it up with a straight-up game of 11v11 to see the different elements combined and your players’ decision making tested in a match situation.

36 THE REVIEW SESSION. The Attacking Principles Webinar series concluded with a review of the previous 4 presentations delivered by Ian, Gwynne, Charlie and Rene. Presented by Robert Parr.


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Ian Barker is somewhat unique having held leadership positions with US Youth Soccer and United Soccer Coaches and he has had extensive experience at youth and college levels.

He coached for 21 seasons with the men’s programs at the University of Wisconsin and Macalester College, before becoming United Soccer Coaches Director of Coaching Education in 2012.

Ian was the Director of Coaching and Player Development for Minnesota Youth Soccer Association for 10 years and is a Head Coach of Region II Boys Olympic Development Program.

His qualifications are extensive and he holds the USSF A License, United Soccer Coaches Premier Diploma and United Soccer Coaches Master Coach Diploma.

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