Defending in Pairs

The following session comes from Sam Snow, US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching, and was presented at the Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic. Find out more about the Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic. 

Activity 1

  • Set up 10x15 yard grids
  • Play 1 vs. 2 in each grid
  • After three rounds advance to 2 vs. 2
defending in pairs

Coaching Points: Body posture of the pressure (1st defender)

Guided Discovery:

Q: What are the cues to go for the ball?

A: Out of control dribbling or slow pace of a pass or sloppy receiving


Activity 2

  • 3 Zone Game
  • Players stay in their zone (3 in each end zone, 2 in the middle zone)
  • Switch 1 defender with 1 attacker every 2 minutes
  • Attackers pass end zone to end zone, passes shoulder height at max
  • Defenders try to intercept passes
  • Focus on no gap between defenders to deny the penetrating pass
  • Stay compact
  • Pressure and cover
  • Proper communication by the 2nd defender: tighter or looser (distance to 1st attacker), right or left (direction to jockey the 1st attacker), contain or tackle (action for the 1st defender to execute)
defending in pairs 2

Coaching Points: distance and angle of support of the cover (2nd) defender

Guided Discovery:

Q: How can you improve the odds for the defense?

A: Force the dribbler onto his weak foot or jockey the dribbler away from support or away from good shooting angles or toward a boundary line.



Activity 3

  • 4 vs 2 to small goal
  • 30 x 20 yard grid
  • Goal = 4' x 6'
defending in pairs 3

Coaching Points: How do the pressure (1st) and cover (2nd) defenders switch roles - drop off & step up - V

Guided Discovery:

Q: Why should the cover (2nd) defender take charge?

A: Being in a deeper position she has the best view of the pressure by the 1st defender, the ball, the opponents and space.


Activity 4

  • 6 vs 6 match
  • 60 x 45 yards
  • Age appropriate goals
defending in pairs 4

Coaching Points: Reinforce good pressure and cover. The details to coach if the players are ready - proper angle to jockey in the defending third on the flanks or in the central channel.

Guided Discovery:

Q: Why should the cover (2nd) defender talk loud and often?

A: To be sure the pressure (1st) defender

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