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Soccer Team Fundamentals

“Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” - Pele

Manchester United
Reuters Pictures

Play with intensity. Something that many players forget, is it's an honor to be able to step out on the field and play the game of soccer. Think about those times where you were injured, and were unable to play, how much you missed it. As a team, play each practice and game with the desire and passion that the game deserves.

Work for your teammates. For example, make your teammates’ lives easier on the soccer pitch by playing crisp passes, covering for them on defense, and or just encouraging them.

Communicate. Let your teams know if they have time on the ball and or give them direction. And again, shout positive, encouraging messages like, “Good stuff John”, “Good try”, “Keep it up”, and or “Well done”.

Contribute on both offense and defense. Every player on the team can contribute both offensively and defensively, from the forward force the keeper to make a bad clearance to the defender scoring off a corner kick. Does matter if you play in the back or up front, it's all about the team working together on offense and defense.

Support your teammates. This means moving to support your teammates on both the right and left sides and from ahead and from behind the play - present potential options for passes either back, to the side or ideally, forward.

Pass and move. Play the ball and then move into a supporting position or into an attacking position to open space for a teammate or create a potential goal scoring chance.

Think about the numbers. On offense, when you have the advantage of numbers, more players, then attack. On defense, when you are short players, hold and contain until support arrives.

Spread the field. When your team is in possession of the ball spread out and make use of the whole field. This means wide midfielders are almost touching the sidelines, on forward is standing near the last defender of the other team, and then one player in your defense is giving support as the last man who sees the whole field.

Stay Compact. As a team, play defense as a compact and tight unit so the opposing team can break through. You know the phrase everyone uses for Jose Mourinho’s philosphopy when he just is trying to pull over a draw, ‘parking the bus’. That means putting the whole team back on defense and staying compact. While you certainly don’t have to do that ever game, it is effective to move as an amoeba like unit up and down the field, always staying close together and swinging from one side to the other as a unit. This also means when the players push to pressure the opposing team then the whole team moves up as a compact unit.

Counter attack. Switch quickly from the mindset of defending to attacking one the opportunity rises. This means the keeper should throw or kick the ball out quickly when their is an advantage, the other team is pushed up for instance. Think about what players on the other team are pushed up, has the right back just made an overlap and lost the ball, that means there's no one back on that side, so you should attack that space. This all has to happen very quickly.

Don’t boot the ball away for no reason. Don't mindless clear the ball unless there is no other choice. Sure, sometimes it's helpful to boot the ball away to let your players get back and defend, but see if you can win the ball and keep possession. If you are going to clear the ball try to clear it into the corners of the opposing team so a forward can at least chase down the ball or you can push the other team back.

No stupid fouls. There is no reason to foul a player if their back is turned and they aren't in your attacking area. Critically, there is absolutely no reason to foul a defender when they are shielding the ball in their own defensive area. How many times have you seen a forward foul a defender and give them a way out when they back is turned near their own goal. This should not happen.

Leaders step up when needed. Coaches, captains and the leaders of their teams need to step in at certain moments, there are no time outs in soccer, so it is crucial for players to know when to step in and calm or excite your team. These moments are important especially after conceding a goal or scoring a goal. Team leaders should be vocal and keep everyone on the same page and not let their teams get to hyped up or too down – the idea is to focus on the end result, meaning winning the game and playing well.

Know your role. As a member of a team, what skills do you offer? If you are a ball winner, then do that. Win the ball and give it to the attacking midfielder. There's no need to try to do too much. Play within yourself and the team. If you are good passer, then get the ball and give it - keep the ball moving. If you are good at heading the ball then get up on corner kicks so you have a chance to score. If you are a dribbler, then when the time is right, use your skills.

Use your weapons wisely. Get the ball to players who have the ability to beat players one on one. Get the ball to their feet when they only have one defender to beat. As a team, this is something you can focus on, switching the ball from one side to the other so a player has a chance to take a player on, one versus one. On the whole, use the weapons you have, whether it's someone with speed, size, strength, a good left foot, what unique qualities do you have on your team and how can you use them to your advantage.

See individual fundamentals of the game here


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