Coaching Attack & Defense Using Small-Sided Games

The following training session comes from 2015 Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic Featured Presenter and US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching, Sam Snow. The 2016 Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic, March 3 - 5, takes place at the spectacular Mohegan Sun Resort Casino. Registration is now open!


The emphasis of the session will be on the Principles of Attack. Teach the players to use possession to set-up penetration. 4 v 4 will be the smallest unit of play in order to have width and depth for the attack. 

Activity 1

sam snow small sided games 1

End Line Game - 15 x 20 yards (the wider grid is to promote width, dribbling to beat the opponent & diagonal passing for the attack). The attack scores by stopping the ball on the end line.

End Zones Game - 20 x 25 yards, add a 2.5 yard end zone at each end of the grid. The attack scores by having an off-the-ball runner receive and control a pass in an end zone.

Guided Discovery:

Q: What are the cues to attack by dribbling?

A: 1 v 1 odds or poor cover by the defense.

Activity 2

sam snow small sided games 2

4 goal game; goals are 4'x6'; grid = 20 x 25 yards; the extra width is to help the players learn the cues on when to switch the point of attack.

Guided Discovery: 

Q: Why should support attackers show to the left and the right of the teammate in possession?

A: To create a triangle thus giving passing options to both sides of the 1st attacker.

Q: Why support to both sides?

A: It creates width which spreads out the defense.

Activity 3

sam snow small sided games 3

1 large goal (6x18) and 2 small goals (4x6); grid = 30 x 20 yards; with the 2 small goals near the touch lines, the simulation is for the attack coming out of the back third.

Guide Discovery: 

Q: How does spreading out the defense help the attack?

A: It creates passing lanes between opponents.

Activity 4

sam snow small sided games 4

5 vs 5 to 2 large goals (6x18); grid = 40 x 30 yards

Variation: Mark off free flank zones to improve the skill of crossing the ball. Also teach near and far post runs.

Guided Discovery:

Q: Why should attackers off-the-ball move early and ofern?

A: That mobility forces the defense around and that gives the player with the ball options.

Q: What could the 1st attacker improvise?

A: When in or around the opponents' penalty area so the risk could bring rewards or when there aren't other options or when the defense is expecting something else.

Progression 1

Guided Discovery: 

Q: What are the cues to attack by shooting?

A: Good distance and angle to the goal and/or a lack of tight pressure so the 1st attacker has time to get off a shot and/or the opposing goalkeeper has his/her view of the ball blocked by other players.

Progression 2

Guided Discovery:

Q: What are the cues to attack by passing?

A: The defense has good group shape so the attack must pass between the opponents of there is lots of open space behind the defense so let's get there quickly or the attack is numbers up around the ball so quickly take advantage of the situation.

Additional Notes / Key Coaching Points

Small-sided games (SSG) are any game played with less than eleven-a-side teams. The games are tried and tested with both grassroots beginners and top youth players in professional academies. The games are designed to stimulate the players and lead them down a path of learning.

"Intuition should come before tuition." - Sally Jenkinson, Author of "The Genius of Play"