Support play in soccer – the progressive defender

Youth coaches will often spend a lot of time working on how attackers can move into shooting positions, but they spend less time on how a defensive player can help during attacks.

This player has an important role in repelling attacks and getting in the way of shots, but when possession is won, there’s a crucial progressive role that, if perfected, can transform defenders into vital supporting players for your own attacks.

It’s all about the position they take up when play begins to move upfield.

Providing they’re not full backs, being central is key, but so too is filling space so that they’re neither playing too deep nor venturing too far forward. Here is a move that will really help young players get an idea of where they should be in both supporting the attack and covering in defence.


Getting started

  • On a 30 yards long by 20 yards wide pitch, play 3v2.
  • Start with the rear defender on his own goal line and tell his team mates to attack.
  • His role is to follow the two strikers, being available for exchanges of passes, but not progressing further than halfway up the pitch.
  • When a move comes to an end, restart with the rear defender.

The key elements

  • In this position the progressive defender has two roles: To be used as support should the ball need to be laid back, and also to cover any potential opposition breakaways.
  • Players need to think about the angle and distance of support.

Why this works

Players need to think about the angle and distance of support. Getting this right means the supporting player has a full range of vision, can receive the ball comfortably and has space to pass the ball to a team mate.

In addition, he can move forward into space in front, yet is positioned well so as to be ready for an attacking move coming back the other way.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

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