Do you think you have to cross the ball before you get to the endline? Do you think you have to always cross the ball in the air? No, of course not.
Why not go for the nearly unstoppable stock ball, which is when you cut the ball back to a player running into the box on the ground.
This pass by Manchester United's Ryan Giggs in their Champions League match versus Chelsea is an example of stock ball, as he cuts the ball back to Wayne Rooney for a first time shot. The concept of the stock ball is to remove everyone else from the picture so to speak, so all the attacker has to do is pass the ball into the back of the net.
Sure, it's hard to beat players and get to the endline, but if you can get there, you're more likely to score. For this play you’re trying to lay the ball back to a teammate who is ready for a first time shot and making a run into the box.
As a team you can try to seek this kind of situation out. Get the ball wide to a midfielder, someone who can take the defender on and cut the ball back across the goal mouth. If you can cut the ball back across the goal, it makes it difficult for both the goalkeeper and the defense to keep their eyes on the ball and the player they’re marking.
Try to make the keeper and the defenders have to close you down. When they do, release the ball to an open player in the middle or at the far post.
Often, if the player trying to lay the ball back across the goal is marked well and it's tough to beat the player on the dribble. So if they can't get the ball across the goal mouth they can at least win a corner kick, since the ball will come off the defender and over the goal line if the ball gets blocked. Better yet, if they get tackled they might be able to win a penalty kick.
And, the player trying to cross the ball on the ground (the stock ball) can send the ball in early if the player is open, there's no set rule of course, you're just trying to get the ball to the player who is best chance of scoring.
There are numerous other ways to set this play up. For instance, a ball played down the line to a forward, who has made a diagonal run, so they can then turn and cut the ball back to a teammate across the goal mouth. This could be a quick early pass across the goal mouth before the defense has time to set and prepare for the play.
The ideal stock ball though is where the player has the ball on the goal line and is looking across the goal area for someone to cut the ball back to. Again, they're making the keeper and the defenders commit to them by dribbling the ball along the endline. Once the keeper or the defender commits they release the ball on the ground to a teammate making a run into the box.
As a rule, if you can beat your defender down the line then go for it - but if you can bend the ball around the defender or feint and get enough space to get the cross in, then go for that. Again, there's no hard and fast rule, the idea with the stock ball is just to get the ball to a player on the ground so they can score.
The stock ball is perhaps a play that teams can use towards the end of a game or after they've sent in a few early crosses or cut the ball in and taken shots already. It's a surprise play, where you drive right at the goal on the dribble and look to make the goalkeeper commit, and that's when you lay the ball back to a teammate.
When setting up for the stock ball play, know where your forwards are, so you can time the pass and have the ball meet them at the right moment and pace, as they move towards the goal and haven't stop their run yet: you want to hit them in stride with the cross so they don't have to stop. And it's easier to strike a ball when you running to it rather than waiting for it and less likely to get intercepted. Pick the the player out with your pass so they can first time the ball.
Although very hard to do, the stock ball is an ideal play that often leads to an assured goal. See if your team can score with the stock ball in your next game.