Change It….To Find Space And Move The Defense.

Changing the point of attack is a basic concept that should be taught to young players, and is one that holds up at every level of the game.
First, players must understand “space.” Changing the point of attack is basically finding a larger space in which to play.

Physical restraints may limit what very young players can do in terms of playing a long ball into space. Where older players can play a long diagonal ball to the other side of the field, with younger players it may take two or more “kicks.”

Coaches of very young teams bemoan the concept of “bee swarm soccer”, which results in all of the players, both teams, surrounding the ball. There is space to be found even on a small short-sided field.

Teams often become one-sided, and play that becomes predictable down one side of the field or the other will result in defenders moving over and just covering that particular side of the field. That leaves space on the other side.

Eventually, good coaches will teach their players to “move the defenders” by keeping the ball moving, diagonally and laterally. Making defenders cover more space puts pressure on the defense, which is to the advantage of the team with the ball.

Space, and where it is on the field, must be recognized both by the player with the ball and players on the opposite side of the field to whom the ball will be played. Don’t waste a good cross because it was not anticipated.
While the long diagonal pass can open up the game by finding space on the opposite side of the field, the continuation of directional play from a shorter pass can accomplish the same thing. “Keep it going.” To begin to change the point of attack and then at midfield play the ball back into the path of a packed in defence, defeats the purpose of a change. You have accomplished only half of the task.

Older and more technical players can change the ball across the back with a series of passes, taking the ball from one outside defender to his/her counterpart on the other side of the field, playing the ball through central defenders. You are moving the defenders and finding space.

A word of caution, playing the ball across the back requires correct positioning and angles to the ball in order to prevent opposing forwards from stealing possession in their offensive third of the field.

So “change it”, find space and stop wearing the grass out on one side of the field by playing into a defense that has settled in. (November 15 , 2004)

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