What Can I Do If My Team Goes Down To 10?

“I am coach of an under-12 girls team and we’ve just lost a player due to a broken leg. We’ll have to play with 10 for a while, so can you give some guidance please?”

– U12 Girls Coach, New Jersey, USA.


First of all, I wish your player a speedy recovery – breaking a leg at such a young age is extremely unfortunate. In terms of what happens now, I’m sure you’ll quickly find a replacement given the popularity of the girls’ game in the US.

But in the meantime, why not try to turn this into a positive for your other players? Split the game into two halves – shape with and without the ball – and create a siege mentality in the group, accepting and inviting the challenge to see how the team responds.

If you play more defensive, try 4-4-1 when on the back foot. When counter-attacking or in possession, try a 4-3-2 or even a 3-3-3 formation, and use the opportunity to show the girls how important it is to press the ball. They might find it tough being a player down, but overall, the more you can turn this into a positive, the more they’ll gain.

Try my MAN DOWN TACTICS session below from Soccer Coach Weekly, which will help you find the best tactics to use if you lose a player during a game.

Man Down Tactics

The white team has one less outfield player but is winning 1-0 can the red team take advantage or will the whites use the correct tactics to hold on and win?

Why use it

When teams are losing at half-time they have to open up the opposition defence. One good tactic is to get the ball wide and spread play, forcing the opposition to cover right across the back so they cannot get tight and shut up shop.

Set up

Set up an area of 40×40 yards with a 10-yard strip either side. At one end is a normal goal and at the other put two target goals at the end of the 10-yard strips. We’ve used 12 players.

Man Down Tactics

How to play

Play a 6v6 but the white team defending the big goal has a keeper and five outfield players set up 4-1 and must score in the target goals. The red team has six outfield players and no keeper set up 2-4 and they are losing 1-0. One player from each team must go in each channel but only one player from each team at a time. Start with the team of six. Switch teams after every five attacks.


This should be played at match intensity with good movement to pull defences apart. It encourages teams to go wide and attack from the wings. It’s a good set up to put pressure on the opposition and create space to exploit, but it also has players to stay back and defend so the team doesn’t leak goals.

Share this drill

Fresh coaching ideas every day





Unlimited web access + Weekly digital magazine

Included in your subscription:

Find out more

Follow us