Play the Way You're Facing
If there’s one thing a soccer player can do to simplify their game and make the game easier, it’s by playing the way you’re facing.
What does this mean? This means when you are under pressure from behind don’t try to turn or play a difficult pass but just play the ball back where it came from – as in the way you are facing. Keep the game simple.
For example, if you are checking back to receive the soccer ball you should play it back to a teammate and not try to turn and beat a defender who’s marking you tightly. But you can do this anywhere on the field.
If a midfielder receives the ball from another midfielder they can just play the ball back to someone in their field of vision. In most cases there’s no need to make the game more complex. If you're under pressure play the ball back and then move into a new space where you have more time on the ball. Play the ball and then get it back where you have more time and space.
Playing the way you’re facing is also a good idea when you are trying to take a shot off a corner kick or a cross. Rather than trying to redirect the ball to the far corner just keep it simple and head or volley the ball back towards the player you received the ball from. Of course, here you’re not actually playing the ball back to the player who sent in the corner kick or cross but just directing it in the same direction where it came from. So, if you are running towards the near post to head the ball off a corner you head it right into the near post – send the ball right back where it came from.
The concept of "play the way you’re facing" is essentially: give it and get it. If you watch players like Xavi and Iniesta of Spain and Barcelona they keep the game very simple. If they receive the ball they might just play it right back to the player they received it from and then get it back again when they are open a few yards away. This way they have a moment to look around and see the field when they receive the ball the second time.
Playing the way you’re facing is most common with forwards and midfielders, but defenders can do this too. For instance, if a defender receives a pass from the last man back, or even the goalkeeper, they often just play the way they’re facing and lay the ball right back to the keeper or to the defender who played them the ball. There’s no sense in trying to turn and beat the player who’s closing them down when they’re in their own defensive third. It’s too risky. Just play the ball back so that player can clear it away if needed.
What's more, by playing the way you're facing your team can move the ball much more quickly via one and two touch passes. If players are always trying to turn or beat another player the game will slow down. They will end up holding on to the ball too long or losing it.
But to play soccer this way, simple and with one and two touch passes, players have to communicate. Players have to let their teammates know they are under pressure or if they have time and can turn. Because it is of course ideal and good if a player can turn and beat another player, but there's just a right time and place for this. When a player makes a pass they should include a message with that pass, whether the player has time, can turn, or if they should play the ball back.
Most goals are scored through a series of three or four one and two touch passes. The ball is layed off by a forward, the midfielder plays the ball through to a winger, a cross is served in, and the forward hammers the ball home - back to where it came from or the way he is facing.
Another crucial aspect of playing the way you're facing is movement off the ball. If one player passes the way they're facing, they need players around them to make runs and move off the ball. When the forward lays the ball back to a midfielder, they need the winger to make that run down the line.
Next time you watch a La Liga, Serie A, or English Premier League soccer game, notice how many times players just keep the game simple and play the ball in the direction they are facing. They lay the ball off and then make a run. They get the ball and then give it right back. It's all about passing and moving - playing the way you're facing.