Stretching Your Opponent…..Think Rubber Band.

Stretch is a good soccer term. One that every good coach should understand and teach his/her players.

Let’s make it simple. Take a rubber band and “stretch” it. The bigger you make the opening in the rubber band, the larger the box you can put it around.

But if you stretch too much, the band may break, but that’s like the defense, and more on that later.

In soccer terms when you have possession of the ball you want to stretch the field in width. By playing to the touchlines (sidelines) you open space that you can exploit against your opponents.

Keep in mind the term “playing to the touchlines” If you only stretch within 8-10 yards of the touchline you leave space between yourself and the boundary that is difficult for your players to utilize before the ball goes out of bounds. Remember, you can only use the space that is in front of you.
Defenses like to be compact. That restricts space and makes it easier to defend. It’s like trying to get a string that is already tied into a loop around that box. It is tough to do if the string won’t stretch.

In recent months we have addressed changing the point of attack to find space on the opposite side of the field. The change doesn’t have to be a long cross, but can be a ball played from the middle of the field to outside flank players….but they must be wide.

Now this doesn’t mean that flank players should just hang out on the touchline and not be involved. They need to learn to come into the middle, but when the ball is swung in their direction, they must stretch the field in width by going to the touchline.

And now the defense. The opposing defense wants to stay compact for a reason. They do it because it is good to restrict space, and your team needs to do the same thing, and not get stretched end-to-end. Defenders who are 60-70 yards from your forwards are out-of-touch, and your team is in danger of being broken.

Press your defenders up to compress your midfield when you have possession of the ball and are on the attack. Don’t lay back and allow opposing forwards to hang out in your defensive third of the field. That dangerous territory and it only aids your opponent’s ability to get the ball in position to score.

Train your team in short-sided exercises to get them to play wide on the attack. Remember, the dangerous ball you want your players to ultimately play is one from the outside into the box for a scoring opportunity. (December 15 , 2004)

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