Following a discussion on Twitter with Daniel Gregory about the retreat line rule in youth soccer, and the pros and cons of that rule, I have posted a few thoughts about how we set up our team to ensure that the defender who receives the ball always has a pass they can make.
More generally, we always tell our boys about movement off the ball and to imagine that there is an invisible line between the ball and them at all times. If that invisible line has an opposing player on it, you need to move in order to find space to receive a pass. Having that invisible line in their head is a way of them constantly checking to see if they are in a good position to receive a pass.
Specifically for goal kicks, we set the boys up very narrow in a 2-2 formation (Square) with both defenders roughly in line with the goal posts. This leaves space on the wings, as the opposing players who are waiting to charge from the half-way line will generally mark our players. So if our players are very central, so will the opposing players be.
On the training pitch, we show the boys what that looks like on the 24/7 Coach app (see picture attached) and then set the boys up in that position so they can ‘feel’ what that set up looks like.
As soon as the goalkeeper kicks the ball towards the defender on the left-hand side, the opposing players have started to run towards the ball from the halfway line. It of course varies from team to team, but it is usually 2 or 3 players that bomb forward. At least 1 of those players will head for the defender who is about to receive the ball.
As the defender receives the ball, they are close to being closed down from the opposing players rushing from the halfway line, but if the pass from the goalkeeper is solid enough there should still be time to control and turn. As the defender is receiving the ball, the forward on the left-hand side makes a quick run out towards the touchline, creating sudden space, which the defender can then use to pass the ball through before the opposing defender reacts.
Id be very interested to hear your feedback on this, or any coaching points related to it in the comments?